At times it took giants, and at times it took 8-on-2 steel cage matches, but under cover of his legacy as the perpetually outgunned but never outmatched American hero, Hulk Hogan has been able to basically rule over wrestling as a feudal lord. At costs incalculable, Hogan has effectively quelled any real consequence for a career rife with bullying, blackmail, and pathological egomania. Because he’s never been named the bully that he is.
Now he’s suing Gawker for $100 Million—a prize that if attained could devastate Gawker and all online journalism in suit—for posting highlights of a sex tape between him and his best friend’s ex-wife.
This could be the greatest spectacle of Hogan jobbing out the odds. The scope of Gawker’s influence, and the consequence of their defeat, is beyond measure.
Gawker is not in the right. In a perfect world, we would destroy sex tapes on site and call out the leakers as fucklemons. No one should profit from a woman’s sex life without her consent and participation. Full stop.
Gawker deserves to be held accountable.
It still remains, however bold a foot you put down, that in a world where the system of justice is purposely imperfect so as to not be relied upon to disrupt systems of power, the tools and mediums of propagating rape culture are also used to expose and challenge it.
Surveilling male celebrities, especially athletes and entertainers, is the most reliable means to hold them accountable for their transgressions. Without the momentum of a public reaction to seeing an athlete assaulting his partner, the legal apparatus often find no reason to submit to the hassle of dragging themselves through the media circus of celebrity trials.
So where would a judgment in Hogan’s favor draw the line? What about social media personal messages? Will celebrities like Hogan, whose purported sexual proclivities are at the core of their public persona, be allowed to leverage their fame and power to entice, or pressure, young women into sex without fear of scrutiny from the press?
Will an underage girl have to rely on showing her Instagram account to the police to get any sort of accountability from someone with a net worth in the millions? In a time where police officers body slam teenage girls in swimsuits and are repeatedly revealed to be stalkers and rapists with no societal reprimand of their professions?
To fit all of the wrestlers accused of sexual and intimate partner violence into one battle royal, you would bankrupt yourself just trying to order enough rings to hold them all. Even the federal government lack the strength and resources to rein in the industry and all its excesses. The business is getting better at dealing with their issues—substance dependency, bullying—but to challenge a man’s ego is beyond clandestine payouts and mock courts. To display evidence of a man’s sexual prowess, or absence thereof, for public consumption requires the legitimacy of a trial.
But this line of thinking, where we must interrogate every sexual encounter as Schroedinger’s rape, leads to needlessly invading the privacy and integrity of women’s lives, judging and ultimately punishing them for their needs and desires.
Gawker is not and must never be, even in the light of this trial, viewed as arbiters of discretion. They, and we who operate within an industry they influence, are the natural born enemies to privacy. Even as some of us fight to preserve that privacy. We are all “the good cops” of our mind’s eye.
But this isn’t privacy. Hulk Hogan is able to sue Gawker for $100 Million because this isn’t about privacy. Where was Paris Hilton’s “privacy” when a court threw out her lawsuit for $30 Million against Kahatani, Ltd., and instead facilitated the company paying Paris Hilton a portion of the profits they made selling a video of her having sex?
Where was the privacy of the countless women victimized by Hunter Moore’s site Is Anyone Up?, allowed to run for two years before law enforcement could find a way to argue that distributing women’s personal information for the purposes of harassment was against the law?
If a man hosts a site where your phone number and naked photos of you are given out, the state will collect $500,00 from him. But if you post a video of a man having sex, that man will sue you for $100 Million.
Gawker has already paid double Hunter Moore’s court-ordered fine in fighting the lawsuit. This isn’t about privacy.
The Hulkster is relying on a mutual societal assumption that sites like Gawker are sleazy, underhanded, and long alienated from the concept of a moral compass. Hogan’s professional reputation as someone almost addicted to betrayal offers him insight into the mind of the media consumer. We feed in godless frenzies over the inane bullshit sites like Gawker provide, not even pausing to swallow our food before we turn around and rant on how they are the bane of all society. We castigate our own consumption, as if this end our complicity, or at least let it leave the room and re-enter the room under a mask.
If changes are to be demanded of celebrity journalism, it must come from us, the consumers and the purveyors. We must hold Gawker accountable for the lives that it has marred that are not Hulk Hogan’s. We must insist on our refusal to participate in tar-and-feathering of those who have more visibility but less power.
Hulk Hogan taking $100 Million from Gawker will not hold the industry accountable, just as fining a few offenders from a multi-national corporation does not hold those business accountable.
If a lawsuit this big should succeed in a space that public in a court that swayed by public opinion, people will lose their jobs. A lot of people. And not necessarily editors named Josh or Chad who give a voracious green light to stories about what prescription drugs some woman in a TV show is on. It will be reporters and critics and alternative media sites that lack the financial foundation of Gawker had before Hogan lazily leg dropped them for the biggest payday of all.
Hogan winning establishes the precedent that a man’s ego is worth more than anyone else’s privacy.
It allows for Heather Clem, the woman in the tape and also a victim of invasion, to be set up by the media as an obsessive fan who tricked one of the most media-savvy performers of our time into ruining his reputation and his marriage.
Hogan’s fame and status allow him to have sex with beautiful women. And now he’s hoping he can collect a $100 Million payday for it.
He is embarrassed. He is a victim. But Hulk Hogan is not the underdog. And he is not, as he has so boasted over the years, fighting for the rights of every man.
He’s fighting for his right to demand a higher standard of recompense than the women victimized by celebrity journalism, including the women in his own life affected by our desire to see if his work rate outside the ring matches his claims.
We wrestling fans who grew into reporters are now become Kevin Sullivan: it was you, Hogan, who created us. Your decades of tyranny over wrestling have finally manifested into a reality none of us ever thought would be possible. We used to scream, we used to boo, we would get as close to the ring or TV as we could to tell you that you suck, that you’re ruining wrestling, that we hate you.
And now you’ve hopped out the ring to come into the crowd and show us what’s what.
What are you gonna do, when the bitter ruins of Hulkamania collapse around you?