Peter Thiel, Outing, Journalism…DO THE MATH …
Wow, in a New York Times op-ed yesterday Peter Thiel actually addressed The Daily Beast (DB) mess. In case you’ve been in a hole the last few days, the Tina Brown-created internet site owned by Barry Diller assigned a straight reporter to entrap athletes on Grindr in the Rio Olympic Village, claiming he never hid who he was or what he was doing, though only telling the few who asked him directly. This was a piece with no reason to exist other than as leering clickbait. There were, however, plenty of reasons it shouldn’t have existed–ranging from privacy concerns, to disrespecting the entire LGBT community, distracting world-class athletes from the thrill of victory, on up to putting athletes from particularly homophobic countries at risk of physical harm and potentially life-changing discrimination.
It was clear Thiel would be connected as I posted on Facebook the other day. He recently came out about his jihad against Gawker for outing him and had a big jump in name recognition from his prime slot speaking on the last night of the Republican convention.
THE DAILY BEAST INITIALLY POSTED ITS “APOLOGY” WITHOUT THE WORDS, “WE’RE SORRY” …OR “APOLOGIZE”
The problem is that none of it adds up…
Starting with the op-ed piece:
1. Thiel compares his outing to that of the Olympians.
2. Thiel reasserts his over-the-top response to his own “outing” was justified.
3. Thiel acknowledges it was worse for these athletes.
But these DO NOT SUM to his conclusion…nor to the conclusions in The DB’s “A Note from the Editors.”
A. Knowing Thiel reacted to his outing by Gawker by spending more than a decade and tens of millions of dollars to destroy Gawker Media, it’s no surprise Thiel hits The DB and editor John Avlon hard with, uh… a commendation (and oh, we should all give ourselves a a pat on the back too. The system works!). Thiel writes….
“… a public outcry led to its swift retraction. While the article never should have been published, the editors’ prompt response shows how journalistic norms can improve, if the public demands it.”
B. And since the system worked, Thiel can spend his real energy in the op-ed reiterating the righteousness of what he’s done. And in that case the more he can show The DB has acted nobly, the more he can prove that he has changed journalism and was right to bring down Gawker for outing a wealthy white guy who was known to be gay already by many in his Silicon Valley demimonde, an unlikely place for an extremely white, wealthy guy to face discrimination of any sort. Or “Peter Thiel says journalism will be just fine, since he’ll decide what’s good journalism” as RECODE puts it.
At The Daily Beast, it seems, the buck stops with no one.
What Thiel has to say sounds good, especially the part about editors hearing a public reaction, caring, responding and retracting the story, uh, until you know that not one of those things actually happened.
Start with REALITY and subtract…
C. The DB’s “A Note From the Editors” of non-apology refers to causing possibly “inadvertent” harm to its subjects. The harm was direct and leeringly intentional.
D. The DB didn’t “swiftly” retract. Editors waited all day after the outcry to pull the post. And, they were absolutely aware of the outcry 12-18 hours earlier since they tried to rewrite it all away a few times before giving up.
E. The apology wasn’t one. It was unsigned. The “Note” was mostly big ideas that were not part of this story — notably The DB’s alleged commitment to LGBT folks, journalism, etc.
F. Insanely it turns out that the “Note” was even less when first posted. If the title, “A Note…” doesn’t tip you off, how about the fact that the editorial team at The DB posted its apology without the key words, “We’re sorry” or “apologize” and without any of the stuff about “the athletes who may have been inadvertently compromised.” The initial version, found in Google cache, is from August 12, 1:33am GMT ( 9:33pm in NY,) right about the time the
apology “Note…” was first put up.
And, that’s not the only big change change between then and what’s up today. Nope. The “Note…” initially put up to explain this “unprecedented” action ended with a WASPy straight-boys-will-be-straight-boys “We screwed up. We will do better.” so let’s just get a soda pop. Since then some one caught that and changed it to “We were wrong. We will do better.”
It’s better for the edits. But, it is still unsigned. Still, no one is taking the blame. The writer’s name does not appear. The editor’s name, John Avlon, from earlier notes is gone too.
At The Daily Beast, the buck stops with no one.
Why would Thiel be so easy on them? I mean, if anyone knows the pain and trauma of being ruthlessly outed and hurt, it should be him. I can think of a few reasons from not caring to the pedigree of ownership.
The folks at “Sorry Watch” blog know a thing or two about this stuff of apologies and wrote a great analysis. They award this attempt “Olympic bad-apology gold, Daily Beast.” It ends:
” A good apology names the offense, apologizes to everyone (not just “those we offended” or in this case those “who may have been inadvertently compromised”), makes clear that the apologizer knows precisely what impact their actions had; explains the steps being taken to insure that the offense will not be repeated; and works to make amends. This apology fails on EVERY. SINGLE. COUNT. “