Remember how the Marquess of Queensberry outed Oscar Wilde back in 1895, essentially ruining his career and life? Well, fast forward a hundred years, throw in a pro wrestler, and a couple billion dollars and we have the 21st century equivalent. But this time, Queensberry is (probably) not going to come out on top.
Related | Today in Gay History: Oscar Wilde Convicted of Gross Indecency
So, back in 2007, Gawker outed tech billionaire Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and an early Facebook investor. According to Thiel, that article, and a series of others about him and his friends, "ruined people's lives for no reason."
Owen Thomas, the writer of the original Gawker piece--which really beat around the bush with the headline, "Peter Thiel is Totally Gay, People"--insists, however, that he did not "out" Thiel.
"I did discuss his sexuality, but it was known to a wide circle who felt that it was not fit for discussion beyond that circle," Thomas told The New York Times. "I thought that attitude was retrograde and homophobic, and that informed my reporting. I believe that he was out and not in the closet."
Still, even if Thomas thought that attitude was "retrograde and homophobic"--and even if the intent of his article was to celebrate Thiel and highlight that in Silicon Valley, "a gay investor has no way to fit into the old establishment"--what or who gave him the right to clap back by shattering Thiel's glass closet?
Sure, everyone should come out, because visibility helps destigmatize queerness and helps the children--won't someone please think of the children?! But coming out, publicly or privately, is a personal decision and no one deserves to be outed. Well, with the possible exception of closeted bureaucrats passing discriminatory laws against oppressed groups, and really, in the age of Grindr, that all kind of just works itself out. Pun intended.
[On a not-completely-unrelated note, Peter Thiel is also a staunch Ted Cruz supporter and is a pledged delegate for Donald Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention, so we might just have to officially add "evil" before his "billionaire" title.]
Anyway, Thiel's public outing really got under his (I'm assuming) luxuriously soft (evil?) billionaire skin, so when Gawker released professional
racist wrestler Hulk Hogan's sex tape, he saw his chance to strike. Thiel funded the wrestler's lawsuit against Gawker, to the tune of about $10 million he found (I'm assuming) between some sofa cushions.
"It's less about revenge and more about specific deterrence," Thiel told The Times on Wednesday. "I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest."
Thiel went on to call his involvement with the Hulk Hogan sex tape lawsuit, and other suits that he refused to name, as one of his "greater philanthropic" efforts. That philanthropy, however, opens up a whole can of worms about First Amendment rights and the role of hedge funds and investment firms financing other people's lawsuits, not to mention the morality of outing people, and the sanctity of celebrity sex tapes.
So, over 100 years later, Oscar Wilde, as usual, was right: "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." And those stars are in sex tapes.