On Rooting For Meteors…

Way back in 1987 when I was still a kid, I was picking up the paper for my grandfather, and one of the headlines on the front was about the NBA Finals featuring the Boston Celtics and the Los Angles Lakers.

Not fully understanding the rivalry among the Detroit Pistons faithful for both teams at that age, I asked my grandfather who he was rooting for.  He looked at me with a wary eye and said simply,

“The meteor.”

“Rooting for the meteor” as I came to learn it stemmed from that rather gruesome place where you really don’t like either side of a contest, where there’s a sense that in a way you lose regardless of who wins.  I’ve kinda struggled with this scenario outside the sports world as the disaster between Gawker Media and the various lawsuits that have driven it to bankruptcy, as well as the billionaire that had been bankrolling many of those lawsuits in secret.

On one hand, we have Gawker.  While I have on occasion enjoyed their attempts at legitimate journalism, and have commented on articles from Jezebel, Kotaku, and Deadspin (among others), at the same time the media organization has run and stubbornly clung to “articles” that not even tabloids would have touched simply because they served no purpose other than spite… one of which being “outing” the not-so-secret sexuality of the billionaire that went after them in retaliation, Peter Thiel.

Make no mistake, Gawker’s done more than enough things that should have gotten them buried years ago.  From attacking executives that had no significance simply because they were a rival, to posting segments of sex tapes because apparently transcripts just simply weren’t telling enough… this is a well deserved result for the company.

But then, on the other hand, we have billionaire Peter Thiel, who despite claims that his sexuality wasn’t particularly a secret seemed to go out of his way to make sure it wasn’t discussed.

Had Thiel simply sued Gawker himself, and put his own stamp on this, I would have been wholly in his corner.  But instead, he started bankrolling other lawsuits, making sure that the arguments arranged would avoid insurance payout and directly hurt Gawker’s pocketbook in the process, so that he could operate largely anonymously until his scheme had basically reached fruition.

The tactic itself (using a superior bankroll to effectively bully smaller parties into submission) is hardly new, and is pretty despicable.  To do so in secret is even worse in my mind.  The idea that someone with enough money could effectively destroy someone else without even needing to show their face makes me ill, especially considering that “small” independent media is increasingly becoming the only way to find journalism as free from bias as possible.

It’s a worrying precedent to be sure, and a play I really don’t want to see become prevalent in the already thick playbook for the wealthy of our society.

So yeah… I guess I’m rooting for the meteor in this one.

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