by Charles Carreon
July 23, 2015
Condé Montrose Nast, founder of the Conde Nast publishing empire, found his métier selling advertising for Collier’s Weekly back at the start of the last century. He had a knack for finding the unexploited niche. He bought Vogue and Vanity Fair and grew them into arbiters of culture. House & Garden, Glamour, Travel, and other special interest publications harvested a fortune in advertising revenue. He died in 1942, having lost most of his fortune in the Great Depression. Today, “Conde Nast Publications” the dba of “Advance Magazine Publishers, Inc.” is at the center of an international media corporation such as the founding Condé could not likely have imagined. But in an ironic twist, the old advertising man’s ghost may have put the stake in the heart of that feckless media outlet known as Gawker.
Don’t Shit Where You Eat
Let’s start by discussing Gawker’s faux pas du jour, outing David Geithner, brother of the former Treasury Secretary, for the sin of trying to meet with a gay porn star at the Four Seasons and make love like crazed weasels, as Akbar and Jeff might have put it. Somehow, all of the news media appears to be missing the obvious angle on this story, that clearly illustrates the wisdom of that old aphorism: “Don’t shit where you eat.”
Nick Denton, Gawker’s founder, has told the world that he engaged in some soul-searching, and realized that Gawker had crossed some line that only he can see:
“The point of this story was not in my view sufficient to offset the embarrassment to the subject and his family…”
But the New York Times captured this far more salient quote:
“If the post had remained up, we probably would have triggered advertising losses this week into seven figures.”
Gee, why would Gawker have been at risk of suffering over a million a week in advertising losses? Since their total ad revenue last year was only $45 Million, it sounds like they were essentially about to have their plug pulled. Well, maybe this factoid has something to do with it: David Geithner, the victim of the gay-outing story, is Conde Nast’s Chief Financial Officer. Which is discoverable by googling “David+Geithner+LinkedIn”. See my stellar research results above, with David’s features compassionately blurred. Hmmm, you would think that an editor like Tommy Craggs, who teaches Journalism at NYU, and purportedly resigned in a fit of pique when Gawker pulled the Geithner piece, might have sniffed out the fact that they were about to embarrass a man who is not only politically connected at the highest levels of U.S. politics, but also was in a position to throttle Gawker’s flow of advertising dollars. David Geithner has a contact list with many billion dollar names in it. When a man like David Geithner is unhappy, cornered, endangered, he does have resources to strike back. And he did.
Gawker Media’s Offshore Incorporation In the Media-Unfriendly Cayman Islands – A Strange Choice for A First Amendment Fundamentalist
Gawker Media, parent company for Gawker, Deadspin, and Jezebel, relies on the First Amendment to legitimize what it does: embarrass and pick people apart whose primary sin is having a name that can serve as link-bait. Gawker’s so dedicated to the American Way, and so fearless of legal consequences of its irresponsible web-speech, that it’s incorporated in the Cayman Islands. As we know, that’s where corporations hide their money to avoid paying taxes in the U.S. But what you may not know is that it’s got very media-unfriendly libel laws,  and maintains a list of banned books, magazines, and trade publications that it is a crime to import into the islands.  Ah, well, as Mark Twain breezily said of his choices for the afterlife: “Hell for company, Heaven for climate.”
Wrestling With A Greater Force
I do think Hulk Hogan, who’s suing Gawker Media for publishing a sex tape of the wrestler grappling in the nude with the wife of a friend, might want to consider filing suit in the Caymans. Hogan’s lawsuit, filed in Florida, has apparently put the fear into Denton. When trial was delayed earlier this year, the New York Post quoted Denton: “‘I will be able to take a summer vacation after all,’ he said, visibly breathing a sigh of relief.”
During this lawsuit, signs of desperation have emerged. Denton has disclosed disappointing financial results for Gawker Media in an apparent effort to minimize the risk of a large punitive damages award.  Gawker has tried to prevent the Cayman Islands incorporation of Gawker Media from coming before the jury, and his lawyers have pushed the strained theory that Hogan, whose true name is Terry Bollea, conspired with the FBI to alter the evidence :
Gawker Lawyer: “In my judgment Mr. Bollea has used the arms of the federal grand jury to try and suppress [evidence] … I didn’t know that the FBI was in the business of doing that…”
The Court: “Well, I would be very surprised if that’s what’s going on here. I realize why it’s in your best interests to say something like that, but I would be very surprised to say that’s going on.”
Gawker’s Labor Troubles and the GamerGate Revenue Hit
Gawker Media is a real cool company to work for anyway, or at least that’s what Gawker’s unpaid interns thought until they decided to file a class-action lawsuit under the Fair Labor Standards Act for their unpaid years of working at Gawker from 2008 - 2010. The lawsuit has been certified as a class action, and Gawker is now battling over procedural issues, such as whether, as Gawker's lawyers argue, the plaintiffs should be prevented from using the “inflammatory” Twitter hashtags “#fairpay” and “#livingwage” to notify their fellow class-members of their eligibility to participate in the case. Seriously -- “fair pay” is inflammatory? You can see Nick Denton peering down at the New York plebes swarming the sidewalks below his corner office, grumbling to himself, “Fair labor, my ass! Communism!”
Gawker’s lawyers also are trying to prevent the plaintiffs from linking to online material about Gawker’s “GamerGate” troubles – that the lawyers characterize as an “unrelated political issue.” Whatever the judge concludes, the financial community paid plenty of attention to GamerGate. What happened there? Poor little old Gawker has been crying the blues, claiming it got “rolled” by the “dishonest fascists of Gamergate,” that Gawker author Max Read called “a campaign of dedicated anti-feminist internet trolls using an ill-informed mob of alienated and resentful video game-playing teenagers and young men to harass and intimidate female activist, journalists, and critics.”
Well, that’s not a very nice thing to say about your readership, is it now? Gawker has been the news outlet of choice for alienated and resentful video game-playing teenagers. Gawker claims that the Gamergaters injured its revenues with an effective, damaging campaign to get major advertisers to pull their ads from Gawker, but it seems equally likely that it was angry social warriors who set about damaging Gawker’s advertising revenue picture. It's hard to know where the truth lies when all the reportage on the issue is from Gawker itself, that is simultaneously trying to keep psycho gamer bullies from destroying its business model without alienating those casually sadistic mainstream readers who think that scandal and public humiliation are good fun so long as they don't get "out of hand." Trotting out the schizophrenic Gawker party line, Read wrote:
“Mercedes-Benz—listed on the site as a former partner, and therefore a target—briefly paused its ads on a network that serves ads to Gawker. I've been told that we've lost thousands of dollars already, and could potentially lose thousands more, if not millions. Consequently, the editorial director of Gawker Media, Joel Johnson, took to the front page of Gawker to clarify that Sam Biddle does not want to bully anyone, and that Gawker Media as a company and institution is not pro-bullying.”
Gawker’s (former) Editor Tommy Craggs’ Journalistic Ethics: “The Measure of Scurrilousness Your Brand Will Bear”
Tommy Craggs, the Gawker editor who reportedly “resigned” when Denton pulled the David Geithner smear piece, is one of the die-hard Free Hate-Speech editors who have been substituting malice and injury for insight and clarity in the journalistic profession. He has a job at NYU teaching sports journalism, because he became an important guy when he worked at the Gawker sports-site, Deadspin, where he apparently fostered sports scandals for a living. Craggs was gifted in this field, because he was quicker to publish the questionable statements of unreliable witnesses than his competitors, or perhaps, allowed his reporters to imagine having heard things that were never said.
Just about a year ago, while at Deadspin, Craggs was forced to retract an article about a Republican Congressman, Cory Gardner, entitled “Is a Colorado Senate Candidate Lying About His Football Career?”The football “career” referred to by Deadspin, that usually covers college and professional sports, was Rep. Gardner’s high school career as a varsity footballer. Gardner had joked that his school was so small that he played both offense and defense positions because there were not enough student players to allow them to specialize. Gawker’s “source,” a fellow who knew Gardner back in his high school days, later denied misinforming Gawker about the facts, telling the Denver Post that during high school, Rep. Gardner “was not a starter, but he played in those years.” The Daily Caller’s Alex Griswold laid into Deadspin "reporter" Dave McKenna for his “reportage” of totally false facts after Rep. Gardner posted a photo of himself dressed in football gear, wearing his high school jersey:
“It isn’t entirely clear why McKenna thought a Senate candidate’s offhand comment about his high school football days was worthy of such serious inquiry to begin with, but perhaps his characterization of Gardner’s views as ‘homo-hatin’ and climate-change-denyin’ conservatism’ ought to give you a clue.” 
Yes, you can see there’s nothing like being too eager to throw a brickbat to screw up your aim. Typically, Craggs blamed the source for the slanderous publication: “After the story was published, the main source we’d relied on reversed himself on a key point….” Because, you know, Gawker’s always right.
Gawker’s slander of Rep. Gardner was overlooked as a bit of necessary roughness inflicted by a man who had earned his bones by toppling a modern-day legend -- Manti Te’o – the Notre Dame football player who was fooled by a love-besotted gay Internet prankster, who impersonated a young woman to flirt online with Teo, a guileless Mormon, then kicked the hoax over the top, telling Te'o the girl had died in a heart-wringingly tragic fashion. Te'o's teammates took over at that point, making her their posthumous mascot, for whom with the latter-day fervor of chivalrous knights seeking the grail for the glory of their lady, they battled their way to Catholic grid-iron glory on the fields hallowed by Knut Rockne, as played by Ronald Reagan. When presented with the possibility of breaking this story, Craggs, without texting a picture of his penis, IM'd his source: “Oh man, I have such a hard-on. I want this story. I want it I want it I want it.”
Craggs was hailed for having scooped ESPN and the major media, but in the aftermath of the celebration, it turned out that there was no evidence that Manti Te’o himself was anything other than a victim of the hoax. The National Sports Journalism Center (NSJC) questioned Craggs about whether it was journalistically proper to quote a “friend” of Manti’s as saying he was “80% sure” the footballer was in on the hoax,  and Craggs was dismissive of the charge, replying, “This is a concern troll’s complaint. It’s moronic.”  Craggs responded to the NSJC reporter’s questions with bellicose rants, disclosing without being asked, that he never tried to contact the football player, Notre Dame, or family members who might have offered his side of the story. Explaining the "no rules" rule that Gawker lives by, he inadvertently revealed what can only be called a sociopathic editorial policy:
“We’re a tabloid at heart. You ask if we have a policy. There is no policy for this, or for anything, really. The whole point of the company is that we trust our reporters to be smart and judicious without having to adopt the ethical pretense that what they’re doing is anything but a sort of professionalized rudeness. I’ll get killed for this, but: Journalism ethics is nothing more than a measure of the scurrilousness your brand will bear. That’s it. Ethics has nothing to do with the truth of things, only with the proper etiquette for obtaining it, so as to piss off the fewest number of people possible.”
Well, the day came when Gawker pissed off not only a large number of people, but a large number of rich people who buy advertising from Gawker. And Craggs was right – they didn’t want to reveal the truth, they wanted to hide it, because a very powerful man was being hurt. The smell of shit had invaded the cafeteria.
In trying to figure out why Tommy Craggs is a bellicose, self-justifying turd-slinger, we can shortcut heavy analysis. He doesn’t really like to work, and he thinks he’s a journalistic genius who oozes worldly wisdom. You pick up on that when you read the "syllabus" for his sports-writing class at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, where he described the six weeks of classwork with a repetitious recitation that aims to be droll but comes off as smug and lazy:
Tentative syllabus, subject to complete revision if I come up with some better ideas:
Week 1: Blogging. We'll talk about the advantages and disadvantages of writing about sports from your couch.
Week 2: Beat reporting/statistics. We'll talk about the advantages and disadvantages of writing about sports from a press box. We'll look at statistically informed sportswriting, and the idiotic civil war that erupted a decade or so ago over the rise of analytics.
Week 3: Column writing. How to craft an argument. How not to craft an argument. How not to come off like a dull, sermonizing crank less interested in sports as an entertaining spectacle than as an apparatus of moral justice.
Week 4: Features. We'll dissect some of the great works of sports journalism.
Week 5: Investigations/FOIA. We'll look at the many underutilized tools at an enterprising sportswriter's disposal.
Week 6: Scandal reporting/presentation of final assignments.
You know, this class Tommy Craggs is teaching is supposed to be happening “this summer,” so there may be time to catch that last class on “scandal reporting.” He’s really mastered the art, at this point, I think all would agree. As the New York Times said in its July 21, 2015 front page article entitled "2 Gawker Editors Resign Over Article's Removal":
“When Gawker posted an article on Thursday night about a married male media executive’s futile attempt to hire a gay escort, it was hoping to create a scandal.
But this was not the scandal it had in mind.”
The 80/20 Rule
Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? According to this rule, said to apply generally to dynamic systems, 80% of the traffic runs on 20% of the roads, businesses earn 80% of their profits from 20% of their customers, etc. It applies negatively as well – a business gets 80% of its problems from 20% of its customers. In this case, Gawker is getting 80% of its problems from 20% of its content, and I suspect that much of that toxic 20% has been flowing from the pens of Craggs’ bilious minions.
Ignorance Has A Price
We might say that the problem comes from Craggs’ belief that “Ethics has nothing to do with the truth of things, only with the proper etiquette for obtaining it…” Such a blithe attitude towards truth, and the reduction of ethics to a matter of procedure, will always lead to self-destructive arrogance that ignores first one norm of conscience, then another, then another, until at last, the entire sense of responsibility to society for one’s actions completely collapses.
A person reduced to that condition cannot even remember basic rules like, “Don’t shit where you eat.” A company like Conde Nast may not have a cool site name like Gawker, or its own troll army, but it can still protect its CFO from an Internet lynching. David Geithner was not a man to be trifled with. He sits where the original Conde Montrose Nast sat – in the office where the money gets counted, and the checks get written. In this age, and every age, ink-stained wretches have done the dirty work of the powerful, and rarely rise up against them. Like Buzzfeed, that got busted pulling posts that slammed its advertisers, Gawker has been revealed cravenly bending its knee before power. I can hear satisfied laughter issuing from the grave where Condé Montrose Nast rests.
People Who Live in Glass Houses Shouldn't Fund Stone-Throwing Competitions
David Geithner had the power to take down a Gawker post after it had already been read 400,000 times. That is a not inconsiderable power, as the departure of Craggs the Ogre indicates. True vileness will not abide suppression, and whatever Geithner did to pull in the chokechain on Denton's penile shaft, Craggs felt the pressure on his own throat. The separation of Denton and Craggs at this point may have required surgical intervention from lawyers working overtime to manage the extraction.
Whatever the terms of Craggs' departure agreement, I assure you they were not amicable, or unprofitable to Craggs. Denton has too many problems living like gremlins in his office, threatening to hurl him down from his ultramontane heights into the surging crowds of nobodies below, to tolerate any more endangerment of Gawker's fragile financial status. He's got to get rid of the crazies now, and the king of the crazies was Craggs. When Denton sent his missive to those disgruntled by the takedown of the Geithner post, telling them that he certainly understood that they might want to enjoy freer speech elsewhere, I do believe he was saying "don't let the door bump you in the ass on the way out."
Now you've got to wonder whether David Geithner is going to clean his own house. After all, he stood silently by, counting cash, and fiddling with spreadsheets, while Ellen Pao was burned alive at the stake by Reddit communities whose bandwidth is paid for by Conde Nast, that owns that entire stockyards/slaughterhouse operation. That is the business that Reddit is in, right? It sure as hell smells like about 10,000 cows shitting on each other, about to die. While Ellen was burning, Geithner was fiddling like Nero, you might say, because Ellen was his employee, and the symbol of corporate authority at Reddit. By spending his time hooking up with boytoys instead of managing his business responsibly and humanely, he created a hazardous environment for himself. When it exploded into flames around him, he should have thought, "I shouldn't have let all of those flammable materials build up at Reddit, and I should have realized that what happened to Ellen could happen to me." But he probably still hasn't thought that.
Even now, the crucifixion of David Geithner is being sold as the moment of redemption for a sick Internet. Thanks to the sacrifice of a young, noble, white man, the minds of the mighty have been turned towards a weighty problem. Additionally, the psychic murder of Ellen Pao is being covered up by the glad tidings of Geithner's resurrection. His suffering, and the subsequent reestablishment of the primacy of money as the final bulwark of moral worth, has put the publishing world right. The bullies have been reduced to servants subordinate to the right of the lord to have first place in human society. Thou shalt not cast stones at the mighty.
But David Geithner looks all about him and sees the broken windows that once provided lovely views, and feels the howling wind that they once kept out. Surely he is free now to separate himself from the mob of unruly stonethrowers, and like Denton, who has found repentance at the bottom of an emptying checkbook, adopt a practical morality. People who live in glass houses are ill advised to fund stone throwing competitions.
1. “A Reprobate’s Best Friend,” by D. Marchant http://www.compasscayman.com/cfr/2012/0 ... libel-law/
2. “Banned Books, Libel, Voodoo, remain criminal in Cayman Islands” http://repeatingislands.com/2015/02/19/ ... n-islands/
3. http://observer.com/2015/07/breaking-de ... ney-moves/
4. http://theralphretort.com/gawker-in-a-b ... te-704015/
5. http://gawker.com/how-we-got-rolled-by- ... 1649496579
6. “Deadspin Badly Fumbles Hit Piece on Republican Candidate” http://dailycaller.com/2014/10/15/deads ... candidate/
7. http://www.shermanreport.com/deadspin-s ... volvement/
8. http://sportsjournalism.org/uncategoriz ... my-craggs/