...and revenge is the main engine of justice, the mechanism of deterrence...
A week ago, I noticed some news reports that "Thiel is funding Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker". I am a fan of Peter Thiel and of course, my relationship has been strengthened when I spent a week in a group he helped to gather (and funded the meeting) and talked to him. But I find lawsuits annoying and I didn't know who Hulk (some green supervillain?) or Hogan (holographic noise?) or Gawker (no idea) was.
Well, Gene made me interested in the story.
The basic facts seem simple. Hulk Hogan, apparently a wrestler and an actor, had sex (like many people before him) and the aggressively obscene magazine named Gawker has acquired the video of it in some way and profited from it. Hogan obviously didn't like it and sued Gawker. And Peter Thiel is or was helping Hogan to fund the lawyers, partly because years ago, Thiel himself was a victim when Gawker revealed some totally confidential information about Thiel's sexual world. (It seems that the court decided that Gawker has to pay over $100 million.)
I am disgusted by this kind of media and I avoid it carefully – which is, in my opinion, the optimum "default" policy to deal with things that can produce mess but that may remain decoupled if you try. But it's impossible to avoid these things entirely. So for example, almost every day, I see a TV commercial promoting one of these "magazines" for the bottom of the Czech society by offering a "demo" – this or that celebrity has suffered in this or that way because of something with their partners or relatives or a disease etc. I get angry for a minute whenever I hear something like that.
I strongly believe that most of the people who work in this kind of "gossip about celebrities" industry are filth and parasites who should be eradicated in some legal way (even though I also fully realize that some of the celebrities love this press about them to remain visible). These hyenas have basically murdered Princess Diana, singer Iveta Bartošová, and made the lives of thousands of other celebrities much less pleasant.
I don't know the Czech let alone U.S. laws about the protection of the people's privacy but that can't change the fact that I have moral opinions about what is right and what is not right. For someone to profit from spreading very confidential data from other individuals' totally private acts and matters is disgusting. It is a form of parasitism, it is harmful towards the victims, it is a form of a theft because the secret information let alone video files don't really belong to the tabloid hyenas, and I am just against it.
The reasons why similar "journalists" sometimes lose in the court has nothing to do with the suppression of the free speech. They often have to pay because they have harmed other people. One can't hide everything behind clichés about the free speech.
I'm OK with those who say that the publication of these things is free speech – as long as they respect my opinion and the freedom to point out that these tabloid hyenas are filth that should be eradicated. They may speak as much as they want and as much as they can as long as they are made dead. So I am obviously in favor of legally kosher steps that can prepare some hard time for these "journalists". It seems absolutely unacceptable when I see that these hyenas have almost no natural enemies who would try hard to go after their necks.
So I obviously root for Peter Thiel. If he sacrifices his own money to defend the victims of Gawker, it obviously is an example of charity. Also, it seems absolutely legitimate and natural when this funding is done by someone who has been a victim of a closely related company in the past.
An obvious analogy is the funding of the cancer research. Some wealthy people may pay a lot of money for the cancer research because they or their beloved ones have been affected by the illness themselves. So they know what kind of an enemy cancer is. They want a revenge. Gawker is absolutely analogous to cancer. It hurts some people and they are obviously more likely to want or pay for such a revenge, i.e. cancer research.
Jeff Bezos pretends to be a hero and recommends to develop a thicker skin and not to invite these "journalists" to the dinner. (BoingBoing has an article uncritically reporting Bezos' monologue.) That's great and easy to say if you have never become a victim of similarly personal invasions. But just think about the cancer analogy and how it works. Bezos may also attack the sponsors of cancer research and say that they just want a vendetta and the best protection against cancer (and really the only possible protection) is to develop a thicker skin.
You know, sometimes it may be possible to develop a thicker skin against cancer or Gawker. But much of the time, it isn't. Cancer often enters the life of the people who have lived healthy lives and did everything they could to develop a thicker skin but it wasn't enough. Similarly, Thiel or Hogan may decide not to invite the filthy would-be "journalists" themselves to the dinner. But they can hardly isolate themselves from all the people who have been affected by the "work" of Gawker.
At the end, Bezos' claim that the thicker skin is the only cure against the aggressive media is simply not true. Lawsuits are another weapon that is sometimes much more effective.
Whether you admit it or not, the publication of the confidential material has consequences for the victims that can't be avoided. A genuine psychological or social harm is taking place (at least in some cases). I've compared the consequences to cancer. You may compare it to the rape, too. Jeff Bezos may recommend the female rape victims to develop a thicker skin on their vaginas so that they won't even feel the rapist who hasn't even invaded the female body. He has only entered the convex envelope of the female body, Jeff Bezos would argue, but because there's no female flesh in the empty volume inside the vagina, the rapist has really remained outside the female body and if the woman remains rational and positive, there's no reason to be concerned.
Excellent, Jeff. Except that we feel that this argumentation is sick. Even the space surrounding the sexual organs – outside the flesh – must be protected as something that belongs to the victims themselves, much like the houses in which they may shoot an unwelcome guest. The rapist invades the deep private space of the victim and he reduces her freedom to move in a certain way or the freedom not to have a kid or not to undergo any abortion, and many other things.
Very analogously, the Gawker and similar "journalists" have prevented Peter Thiel from living a neutral life in which some confidential information about his sexuality is kept private. And yes, I generally think that such things should be kept private. For Hogan, the publication of the sex tape had some other obvious consequences but I don't want to go into detail.
People are better off if they have a thicker skin but there are cases in which the skin wasn't enough, a conflict emerged, and the third parties may pick whom they root for. I root for Peter Thiel and I think that Jeff Bezos roots for Gawker which simply means that he has chosen the (morally) wrong side.
A Keith Emmer at Reuters criticizes Thiel as a new "robber baron". Emmer believes that the capitalists in the past were "evil" and the new wealthy men from the Silicon Valley are expected to be transparent and politically correct. And Thiel is a black sheep.
I find these statements rather stunning, especially two days (and one blog post) after the contract with the EU devil. Several Silicon Valley companies have signed an agreement with the fascist would-be elite that would love to govern the whole European continent, an agreement that sketches new and absolutely non-transparent ways for this unholy coalition to censor much of the Internet. And this is just a fresh example.
To make things even more absurd, during the very same interview, Bazos revealed plans to "save the Earth" by moving all industries and power plants to the orbit. I am sorry, Bazos, but if you have so thin skin that you can't live with the fact that we use factories and fossil fuels, you should better shut your mouth – especially when it comes to the thick skin – and shoot yourself out of the Milky Way which is too dangerous for you.
What do you think is more intrusive, having an innocent coal power plant a few miles from one's home, or live with millions of people who have seen your sex tapes?
Thank you very much but I prefer robber barons over this new would-be elite that wants to build a new totalitarian system – in this case, one that makes Hitler and Stalin look like modest losers because the new system should optimally be a global one. I would prefer robber barons but I know that Peter Thiel is a much better – and also more ingenious – person than any robber baron has ever been.
In the aforementioned Reuters commentary, Emmer describes Thiel's charity as a vendetta. Sure, it's probably a revenge to some extent. I've already said that it's more natural for the former victims to fight against the culprits. But I want to say something more general, something I have mentioned in the subtitle.
The point is that "vendetta" and "revenge" may sound as negative words but at the end, these are just negatively sounding synonyms for justice. At the end, justice means that if someone does something wrong to someone else, a punishment or a compensation should emerge. This is nothing else than revenge. Whenever courts punish criminals, they are performing some kind of a revenge. Buddhists may believe that the revenge takes place automatically (because of Karma) but it may have been a misconception that has slowed down the Indian civilization markedly.
At the end, our Western civilization may cite the Bible, Exodus 21:24, as the source of the principle:
People may be said to have conscience but at the end, every person's conscience is shaped by the potential punishments he or she has experienced. If someone knows that an act XY won't lead to any consequences (not even to criticism by the people whom someone cares about), he will simply be doing XY if it is convenient for him or her. The frequency of XY will probably go up.
This applies to Gawker's and other tabloid "journalists'" attacks against the celebrities' privacy, too. Revenge is really the only force that regulates these activities and prevents them from growing out of control. That's why it's completely wrong for Bezos, Emmer, or anyone else to demonize revenge. An excessive revenge may be bad but an appropriate revenge is right. Revenge is the practical core of justice and even though revenge may be said to be negative, it is playing pretty much an equally positive role in improving the world as any "positive acts" that Bezos and others could talk about.
The basic point is that the revenge against an evil person or a person who has done something bad is a good thing – and (or "even though") sometimes an easy thing to do. Exactly in the same way, hatred against the people who deserve hate is a good thing (sometimes it is "easy to emerge", too). Some people mentally live in an utopia in which no negative things such as "hate" exists. The very attempts of many people to "remove hate from the world" (think about the laws about the hate speech) are often symptoms of someone's wanting to eliminate the hate against everyone and everywhere.
But this utopia has nothing to do with a functional society which simply can't exist without love and hate – just like calculus can't exist without positive and negative numbers.