The press speaks truth to power. And in doing so, helps uphold the rule of law. But what happens when people can sue publications into bankruptcy – effectively silencing them. Should that be allowed? Should wealthy people or corporations be able to silence publications they don’t like?
In the documentary, “Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press” the connection between money and the media is explored. At the centre of the documentary is the Hogan trial. Particularly, Peter Thiel’s funding of Hogan’s litigation. Used to exact vengeance against a publication he allegedly hated.
The documentary sets out how Hogan’s case was carefully constructed.
1) Hogan chose a friendly jurisdiction – Florida.
2) Hogan had a judge in his favour (implied by the documentary), who excluded evidence that supported Gawker.
4) Hogan struck a deal with the “videographers” of the tape to help bolster his case.
5) Hogan purposefully dropped allegations that would entitle Gawker to be indemnified by its insurer.
Despite Gawker being a gossip site, constitutional lawyer Floyd Abrams remarks that the silencing of Gawker was very dangerous. He explains: “We don’t pick and choose what sort of publications are permissible because once we do, it allows the government to limit speech.”
Given the danger of silencing free speech, should Hulk Hogan’s lawyers have acted differently? It appears in the documentary that Hulk Hogan’s lawyers did not know that Thiel was funding the litigation. But one wonders, were they wilfully blind? At the time of the litigation, it was rumoured that Hogan was in financial strain. And people were wondering, how he was affording his legal counsel (in the millions of dollars).
I highly recommend the documentary. The documentary is a chilling look at the connection between free speech, power, and the media.
(Views are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization.)