Hello, Central? Get me the Gossip Desk!
If time permits I will try to return to this post in which Megan McArdle attempts to protect the honor of her circle's revenue stream. For now, let's take a quick peek. It seems that organizations fat with donor cash who use that cash to sue their way to economic freedom might be smeared by the Peter Thiel/Gawker blowup.
In fact, there is a very long history of third parties using lawsuits to achieve public policy ends. As Eugene Kontorovich points out at the Volokh Conspiracy, if you’re a fan of legal aid societies, ACLU and civil-rights suits, or massive class action litigation, you’re a fan of third parties financing lawsuits -- often, yes, with carefully hand-picked test cases. And while much has been made of Peter Thiel’s revenge motive, it is also not unheard of for people with a personal stake in an issue to donate money to advance that cause through lawsuits. If someone who was a victim of racial oppression by the state of Mississippi later funded lawsuits aimed at fighting racism in the state, we’d be clapping, not wringing our hands.
Or maybe you're a fan of Citizen's United, or perhaps the Institute for Justice and all their bretheren, who are kind enough to keep Megan McArdle and her devoted partner, P. Suderman, boy runaway-spouse-to-be, hip deep in paper towels and kitchen appliances. Speaking of which, you know how I keep pointing out McArdle's blatant conflicts of interest? Somebody either had a word with our Randian princess or her highness's highly developed sense of self-preservation kicked in.
Disclosure: My husband worked at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which was subpoenaed, before we met, and his current employer, the Reason Foundation, was also targeted. However, the column I wrote was written before the subpoena dropped on Reason, so I only disclosed the CEI connection in the original.But I am wrong from time to time. Maybe it was the elusive butterfly of ideas, flitting hither and yon from cranium to cranium, pollinating the delicate flower of inspiration.
McArdle decides that both sides are wrong and right and nobody can do anything ever.
Peter Thiel can legitimately argue that he believes Gawker shouldn’t be allowed to publish gossip, and that he would like to advance the public interest by curbing this sort of thing through lawsuits. I disagree with his goal, as I’ve said, but it’s hard to come up with an actual principle that would justify stopping him -- other than “People I disagree with shouldn’t have the same rights as people I like.”
And that matters because -- as we so rarely seem to remember these days -- a vast, diverse country needs to be governed under broad and neutral principles. We can’t choose the winners and losers first and then jerry-rig a system that will produce the outcomes we want. Unfortunately, that’s what most people are doing when they talk about both Gawker’s journalistic standards and Peter Thiel’s lawsuits. My position on both is the same: I don’t really approve, but I also don’t see a way to stop it without endangering a lot of really important civic processes. So we’ll have to live with it.Or endangering a lot of really important sources of money.
You heard her, folks. If you have a sex tape of Megan McArdle, game on.*
*I'm joking. For the love of God keep it to yourself.