Elsewhere online
May 27, 2016

Opinion: Thiel Backing Hulk Hogan Suit Is not Philanthropy

A Salon writer takes issue with tech billionaire Peter Thiel’s assertion that his bankrolling of Hulk Hogan’s sex-tape lawsuit against Gawker Media is “one of my greater philanthropic things that I’ve done.” The characterization echoes Silicon Valley giving that is more self-interested than socially motivated, according to culture writer Scott Timberg.

Mr. Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and early investor in Facebook known for his libertarian views and unusual, entrepreneurial approach to philanthropy, acknowledged to The New York Times this week that he paid for the former pro wrestler, whose real name is Terry Bollea, to sue Gawker for publishing a sex tape of him. A Florida jury found for Mr. Bollea in March and awarded him $140 million.

Mr. Thiel, who has donated to free-speech organizations, was outed as gay by a Gawker-owned gossip site in 2007 and told the Times the provocative media organization has done the same to friends of his. He said he funded a team of lawyers to locate and help “victims” of what he termed the media company’s “bullying” coverage.

Mr. Timberg says Mr. Thiel’s view fits with “what philanthropy means to today’s Silicon Valley,” likening it to tech firms donating to Bay Area charities but demanding huge tax breaks to remain in the area, or investors who argue that financing firms like Airbnb helps reduce income inequality. “Only in Silicon Valley could a libertarian – someone supposedly dedicated free speech and a free press – work to shut down a media empire and call it a public service,” Mr. Timberg writes.