It's about lack of ethics in journalism.
Let us return to Megan McArdle's defense of her honor, a difficult endeavor since she has none. Josh Marshall pointed out that McArdle's meandering Gawker/Thiel post utterly ignored the only pertinent issue, the secrecy of Thiel's presence behind the lawsuit against Gawker and how it affects the suit.
McArdle is not going to say anything definitive; she will hedge, backtrack, and qualify any statements so she weasel out of taking responsibility for her words or actions. She cherry-picks and nitpicks her target until she judges it is sufficiently damaged and then considers the entire matter settled and done in her favor.Reading @joshtpm, you’d think I had defended Thiel, rather than arguing that it’s procedurally difficult to stop him https://t.co/RPQr5d9C3p— Megan McArdle (@asymmetricinfo) May 31, 2016
McArdle thinks that if she doesn't actually say that she is defending Thiel, she can say anything in his defense. McArdle used numerous methods to defend him. For instance:
1. Nothing to see here! These are not the droids you're looking for. You can go about your business. Move on.
To read the Internet as a journalist over the past 48 hours is to conclude that the media is on the verge of a holocaust. Not the boring old holocaust of falling ad revenues and clickbait-oriented business models, but a brand new holocaust, in which rogue billionaires are going to sue us all out of existence....
The proximate cause of the sky falling is the revelation that Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel has been funding lawsuits against Gawker, apparently with the intention of destroying the company. ...
However, I don’t think this is an existential threat to journalism. I don’t think there’s an easy way to stop this sort of thing without stopping a lot of other stuff we’re rather fond of. ...
But I’m far more sympathetic to Gawker’s victims than to Gawker on this point, as I so often am when they self-righteously cloak repulsive clickbait in the proud trappings of First Amendment principle....
Fortunately, I also don’t think this is the End of Journalism As We Know It....
So while I can easily agree that this is an existential threat to Gawker, and may even have a chilling effect on other gossip sites, I’m not particularly worried that it’s a profound threat to the media in general. Most media do not traffic in material which has no obvious news value besides pointing and laughing at someone’s private life. Adam Smith famously remarked that there’s a lot of ruin in a nation. There’s a lot of ruin in a national press corps, too....That's a lot of exculpation for someone who said she didn't defend Thiel.
Since McArdle is on shaky grounds when she needs to defend her work, she always tries to find a way to deflect her readers' attention from unpleasant facts. For instance:
2. Not that I did what you said I did, but if I had it wouldn't have made any difference.
Twenty years ago, we could probably have assumed that this was the case. Now public opinion of the media is pretty low, reflected in verdict
— Megan McArdle (@asymmetricinfo) May 31, 2016
Marshall's argument about secrecy is the main point, not a side note. The public identification of Hogan's backer would have been factor in the case. McArdle's idea of the legal system match her ideas of the political system: There are two teams, yours and mine, and everyone thinks their side is the best for no reason except feelings, and everyone wants to be the winner and hates the other side.
For McArdle, a trial is a contest between a right side and a wrong side and the jury picks whoever they like best based on what side they are on. Since nobody can know anything ever, one assumes making a decision in law is also like making a decision in politics: you guess and are either right or wrong.
It's not that McArdle defended Thiel, but even if she did it doesn't matter because juries hate both billionaires and the media so they would have awarded in Hogan's favor no matter who backed him. Therefore it didn't matter that Hogan's backer had an ulterior motive for going after Gawker and it didn't matter that McArdle ignored the conflict of interest. There is no way to know this--Marshall's point, of course--but McArdle is paid to bury the truth in bullshit.
3. McArdle is so eager to support the libertarian billionaire that she declares it should have been illegal for Hogan to sue Gawker. Nobody has the right to privacy because it's censorship to prevent a journalist from printing anything, even a sex tape. If anyone were to publish private information about McArdle-her sexual habits, her credit information, video of her riding a bus and discussing gentrification with an "urban" man--it would be censorship to stop them.
Journalists invade folks’ privacy all the time -- that’s sort of our job -- and drawing lines about whose privacy may be invaded, and when, is not easy for people with a strong commitment to free speech norms. Slippery slopes are real, and when they’re well-greased, you’d be amazed at the kind of acceleration you can get.It's all about fascism, you see.
So while Hogan may indeed have the legal right of things, I don’t agree with any law that gives him this power. I want Gawker legally protected -- not because I approve of what Gawker did (I strenuously don’t), and not because I believe that the press has special rights that other people don’t, but because I want everyone to have the right to speak without fear of censorship. It doesn’t matter whether that censorship comes from the government or deep-pocketed plaintiffs using the power of the law.4. McArdle defends Thiel's right to finance the Hogan lawsuit by ignoring the main issue, Thiel's secrecy, to defend Thiel's right to finance the Hogan lawsuit, a point not much in dispute. This tactic lets her pretend her enemies are being hypocritical, since they kicked up such a fuss about Citizen's United and since the Virgin Islands sued CEI. Even journalists are hypocritical, she says, since they only care about the case because it affects journalists.
So while I can easily agree that this is an existential threat to Gawker, and may even have a chilling effect on other gossip sites, I’m not particularly worried that it’s a profound threat to the media in general. Most media do not traffic in material which has no obvious news value besides pointing and laughing at someone’s private life. Adam Smith famously remarked that there’s a lot of ruin in a nation. There’s a lot of ruin in a national press corps, too.Yes, we know the media is all about the news value, not pumping up traffic to increase revenue. But even if they are, it's okay because the media can absorb a lot of rotten journalists. Megan McArdle is living proof.