Why Nick Denton is good and/or evil

by Mathew on January 16, 2008 · 9 comments

Without going into too much detail, I’ve taken some lumps for supporting Gizmodo during the whole CES affair (see past posts too numerous to mention), and I admit that my defence of their prank with the TV-B-Gone remotes was somewhat less enthusiastic than it could have been — if only because the sophomoric nature of the situation didn’t really jibe with the great post on a free press and unfettered inquiry that Brian Lam of Gizmodo wrote after the fuss died down.

That kind of sums up a lot of my thoughts about Gawker and its overlord Nick Denton: sometimes it’s great, and sometimes it’s really not. Two recent items written by Denton — and described by Peter Kafka at Silicon Alley Insider — summarize this dilemma, since they come from pretty much the opposite ends of the spectrum. One has gotten him in hot water with Scientology, and the other in hot water with Facebook.

The first item was a post about Tom Cruise, and included a video clip in which the actor talks about Scientology and how it is the only solution to the world’s problems, how he deals with SPs (i.e., “suppressive persons” — cult jargon for those who are negative on the church) and other topics, using that really determined voice and piercing gaze that I associate with his crazy motivational speaker character in Magnolia.

The clip was removed, but Denton found another copy and posted that, and says he will continue to do so despite any attempts by Scientology to force the site to take it down. Denton is also posting copies of the correspondence between Gawker and the church, in which the site claims it is justified in using the footage because it is reporting on a news event. In this one I am 100 per cent behind Denton, even if he is doing it primarily for the traffic. So in this particular case, Denton = good.

And the second item — the other end of the Gawker spectrum? A post about Emily Brill, the daughter of media mogul Steve Brill. The item seemed primarily designed to make fun of the girl for going on a vacation with her friends and for losing some weight, and used screenshots from her profile on Facebook. That breaches the site’s terms of use, of course — but that’s not the part I really care about. It just seems like an invasion of someone’s privacy for no real purpose. So she went to Cabo or whatever with her rich friends — so what. Denton = evil. See my problem?

  • former gawkerite

    I find it sickening that Nick and everyone else at Gawker cloak their shameless stunts for attention as being part of some sort of grand journalistic tradition. They could care less about journalistic ethics — believe me, they through those out the window whenever there are page views to be had.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    I'll put you down under “Denton = evil” then, shall I?

  • http://www.hikerproject.org David "Lefty" Schlesinger

    When someone can't be relied upon to behave themselves decently with even moderate consistency, then I'd say their “evilness” outweighs their “goodness”. Looking a Gawker's recent antics (sabotage, invasion of privacy, etc.), I'd have to assume that any goodness was pretty much inadvertent, simply a consequence of the Law of Large Numbers…

  • http://www.storyofmylife.com antje

    You know, in all seriousness, Nick Denton is a smart guy who knows how to find people's weak spots. And – he will exploit them. But when he was writing for ValleyWag I know a lot of people were concerned about being targeted by him – mostly because he was so often spot on, and cruel about whatever he was skewering.

    But – Silicon Valley is a bit too full of self importance sometimes. I worked on a lot of events with a lot speakers – most of them wonderful as indviduals – but often you put them in a room full of their colleagues and boy oh boy the social and life-as-a-bigger-picture limitations are painfully obvious. Denton threw some oil on that rain parade and maybe the valley needs someone poking at it when it starts to lean towards the too self-righteousness side.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    I agree, Antje — sometimes it is refreshing. Why is why I'm so conflicted :-)

  • http://www.storyofmylife.com antje

    Frankly I can't imagine how bad it might be without him, so I'm glad he and his crew are all there taking the piss out of everything; keeps people on their toes…. still wouldn't want to be on his bad side tho!

  • Pingback: Video interlude: Tom Cruise parody - - mathewingram.com/work

  • Paul

    There are some just deserts being served here by an apparent once or former Denton insider.

    http://nickguidodenton.tumblr.com/

  • Paul

    There are some just deserts being served here by an apparent once or former Denton insider.

    http://nickguidodenton.tumblr.com/

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