How Hulk Hogan Broke the Internet

Ok guys – in a quest to be more committed to updating this blog, I went through old drafts of blog posts I would start and then for some reason or another got distracted and never finished.  Below is one I had started last year I think and never got to completing it, but I think it’s worth revisiting to finish.

This is a tale about how Hulk Hogan started a war and took down a media empire (unintentionally).

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I recently had lunch with some coworkers when the topic of Hulk Hogan came up. Mainly my coworker was pointing out that I had trouble saying his name, instead having the tendency to pronounce his name like “Holk” instead of “Hulk.” Sue me – I have a selective accent at times (on account of the fact that I wasn’t born in this country!).

Regardless of how he came up, it led to quite the intense conversation about what’s been transpiring with him lately – which I realized may or may not be a well known story. There’s a lot of confusing parts to this story, so I broke it out into 4 digestible sections.

Part I: Hulk Hogan

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Remember Hulk Hogan? His glory days were mostly in the eighties and nineties as a wrestler on WWF. Not going to lie, I was a fan of him myself when I was a kid and use to watch WWF on the weekends with my brother and dad (Hulk and The Undertaker were my favourites!).

Even after his glory days passed in the 90s he apparently was still  involved in the wrestling world in some weird way, shape or form (participating, hosting, making appearances etc) all the way up to 2014.  He was probably hitting up the appearance circuit hard because homie was living a VERY VERY lavish lifestyle.  In 2008 his estimated network was about $30 million but his continued lifestyle of spending more than he made combined with his divorce meant that in 2011, he admitted that he was practically bankrupt! (btw can someone introduce him to Gail Vax-Oxlade and nominate him to be on the show Princess? I truly think that would make an amazing ep).

Anyways, this brings us up to 2012 when Mr. Hogan was engaging in some very weird and sordid activities.  Essentially he was friends with a shock jock radio host that I guess may be big in the US for a likely niche (possibly hick) market, his name being Bubba Love Sponge.

Essentially Bubba (real name Todd) and his wife were apparently such good friends with Hulk, that Bubba essentially sanctioned and encouraged his wrestler friend and wife to get it on while he hung out in another room. The rumor goes that the radio host actually found out about the affair earlier on and was enraged, so he wanted to plot some way to get back at the wrestler.  Somehow him plotting his revenge equated to encouraging his wife and friend to continue their sexcapades while he pretended he didn’t mind and waited patiently in the other room.

What Bubba was actually doing was secretly filming the sexcapades all go down with the intent to profit off the film. Apparently at the end of the the video you could hear him tell his wife, “If we ever need to retire, here is our ticket!” Eeks – sabotage! And admitted guilt! Also – so gross.

Sidebar to this story: this sex tape also spotlighted Hulk Hogan having (among other things) a racist rant about his daughter dating a rapper. This rant (note, not the sex tape itself but the racist rant featured in the tape specifically) is what led to the quick dismissal from the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) and him vehemently denying he isn’t racist… but then later copping to being a BIT racist and blaming it on his upbringing. ***Bleh – make up your mind Hulk! You’re either a racist or you’re not, you can’t just be a hint. It’s like me saying I was a TAD pregnant.***

So essentially Bubba goes and shops around the video and eventually sells the tape to Gawker, who obviously thinks it’s somehow worth paying for and releasing to the public because hello – it’s Gawker and if it’s salacious and remotely slimey sounding then it MUST be gold. So the tape gets released, and this marks the beginning of the end for Gawker!

 

Part II: What’s a Gawker?

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So Gawker Media is an online company and blog network. It owns a bunch of websites including the notable Gawker.com, but also: Deadspin, Lifehacker.com, Jezebel.com (my personal favourite actually) and a bunch of other ones I’ve never actually heard of.

Each site featured content catered to a different interest group and based on the popularity of people I know who read at least one if not some of their sites, commanded very high readership. Deadspin was all about sports. Gawker focused on celebrities, entertainment and media.  Jezebel was also about celebrities, entertainment and media but featured content from a female or feminist lense. Lastly Lifehacker was a site dedicated to software and life hacks – essentially general tips for living I guess a more efficient life.

I’m a pretty avid reader of Jezebel and I’m not going to lie I’ve definitely read at least a handful of Gawker articles because hello – celebrity, entertainment and media! It’s definitely been a source of information in the past for me.  So that’s why I was actually surprised that I was so unaware of the battle that Gawker has been having with Peter Thiel.  Specifically, the battle that the creator of Gawker – Nick Denton has had with the Silicon titan.

According to wiki, Nick Denton is a “British Internet entrepreneur” – founder and proprietor of Gawker Media and the managing editor of Gawker.com.

Roughly nine years ago, Gawker published this little itty bitty article here that essentially outed Peter Thiel as being gay.  It wasn’t a long article nor was it particularly remarkable. Also – the person who wrote the article wasn’t even Nick Denton himself, but one of his editors – Owen Thomas.  But apparently it was Nick Denton’s response to the article and his sanctioning of the article to get published that really grinded Thiel’s gears.

You can see in the comments section that Denton fired a response back to Owen Thomas elaborating on his theories:

Not such an odd match. Boyfriend is, or was, earlier this year, a guy called Matt, working in finance, in New York. The only thing that’s strange about Thiel’s sexuality: why on earth was he so paranoid about its discovery for so long?

If Silicon Valley is the bastion of tolerance it likes to believe, and if the tech industry cares only about money, it’s surprising that Thiel would have kept his personal life a secret from journalists and his closest colleagues, for so long. He was so paranoid that, when I was looking into the story, a year ago, I got a series of messages relaying the destruction that would rain down on me, and various innocent civilians caught in the crossfire, if a story ever ran.

So, why the paranoia? Thiel has many conservative friends, some of them socially conservative, not simply libertarian. So maybe he’s been worried about ostracism by then. Another possible explanation: his friends claim that investors in his fund, some from the Middle East, might not be as tolerant as Bay Area locals. It’s equally plausible that Thiel is just trying to keep his personal life from a religious family. The one explanation that nobody in the tech industry wants to hear: the Castro may be a few miles up the 280 highway, but the Valley is, in social makeup, a world away.

 

Essentially, this article featured in Gawker is what began Thiel’s quest to take down Denton and subsequently Gawker Media – a quest that would take almost A DECADE to complete! But when you have a boat load of money – you can afford to wait it out I guess 😐

Part III: Peter Thiel – who dis guy?

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Ok at this point everyone and their mom has heard about Peter Thiel like he’s some sort of folklore mystical unicorn.  Here are some fast facts:

He is a mega rich Silicon Valley titan – making most of his major money and success by co founding Paypal. He was also the first outside investor of Facebook so… we all know how well that turned out. Suffice it to say – MEGA RICHNESS.

Well connected – allegedly him and all his rich venture capitalist friends, mostly from Paypal days who have now spun off to do their own mega rich things are all super tight – which has led to their circle being dubbed the Paypal Mafia. Elon Musk is a notable member of this club. These tech bros have each other’s backs.

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He is patient. How do I know this? Well, because the Gawker article was released in 2007 and it motivated him to spend almost the next decade of his life to quietly and secretly fund several lawsuits against Gawker. Finally in May 2016 he admitted to this – and confirmed he had spent more than $10 million dollars funding various lawsuits against Gawker.

The last part is the most important tie to the Hulk Hogan – Gawker – Thiel story because allegedly, without Thiel’s involvement the story would have easily died. At the time when Hogan was suing Gawker for releasing the video, he was pretty much bankrupt. He was easily willing to settle the lawsuit with the promise of several million dollars – and that would have been the end of the story. THE END!

But wait – no not the actual end, because Thiel being some super patient sociopath who was waiting in the corner for years to find his opportunity finally saw it.  When he realized that Hulk Hogan was suing Gawker and would likely settle, he decided to SECRETLY FUND his lawsuit agains the media empire.

And guess what? Obviously when you have BILLIONS OF DOLLARS that you can afford to casually toss tens of millions of dollars without blinking an eye, you can pretty much destroy the world if you wanted to – and use Hulk Hogan as a pawn to do so!

Part IV: THE END of the story (FINALLY! sorta)

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And that leads us to how Hulk Hogan WON the lawsuit against Gawker – a lawsuit worth $140 million dollars.  The $140 million dollar court decision was essentially the guillotine that ended the head of Gawker – metaphorically and literally.  Nick Denton had to shut down Gawker and pretty much all of his subsidiaries and file for bankruptcy in order to pay for the court decision. This meant that everyone working under those companies that Gawker owned were left out to dry.

This is what bums me out about the whole entire story. It’s not that Hulk Hogan is a total piece of garbage. It’s not that Nick Denton is also known to be a total slime ball in the journalism industry (it’s nobody’s right to out someone’s sexuality btw). It’s not even the part about Peter Thiel who seems like a total sociopath, but even worst because he’s a SMART one that has billions of dollars.

No, the part that upsets me the most about all of this is the people who got let go from their jobs! These innocent people had NOTHING to do with the stupid sex tape Hulk Hogan made, nor did they have anything to do with the obsession that Peter Thiel had with ending Nick Denton’s career.  But poof! Just like that – their roles and jobs were ended because of some VERY bizarre string of events that involved a glorified 80s wrestler and a man named Bubba no less.

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So that’s it – that’s the end of my bedtime story, and finally after a year I’m glad I can finally move this draft to publish state.

To end – here is another picture of Peter Thiel. Is it just me or does he totally look like a sociopath?  Maybe it’s just me, but those eyes look like they’ve executed a few people. Maybe he and Tom Cruise should start a club or something.

Peter-Thiel

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