Towards a Gossip Panopticon for the Good of Monogamy and All Social Contracts Forever!!!
Last night, Gawker outed Condé Nast CFO David Geithner as someone who once put a down payment on a night of sex with another human being.
The assignation never happened, and the only actual bad behavior alleged would be, I guess, possibly, in New York state, “patronizing a prostitute in the third degree,” a Class A misdemeanor. (Yup, just the act of paying is the crime, if you have an “understanding” to have sex later.) That carries a maximum fine that is less than Geithner already paid the escort.
Nobody liked this story, although for lots of different reasons. Mostly everyone out there on Twitter is trying to make a connection between this and Gawker’s infamous Hulk Hogan “sex tape” case (which Hogan will never win), or with GamerGate, or with Reddit. Nope! Gawker editors from top to bottom believe this story is within their publishing mandate, so they published it. The sole publishing rationale is that he was “fucking around on his wife.” (Something the story doesn’t even establish.)
I spent some time thinking about stories I would happily, or at least guiltily-happily, read about David Geithner and this escort, if the stories happened to be true. This is in order of what I would be most comfortable reading to least comfortable.
• 9/11 Planner Who Happens to Work at Condé Nast Hires Gay Escort
• Enraged Wife: My Husband Has Been Spending Our Money Unsuccessfully Hiring Sex Workers!
• Anna Wintour Fires Local Man for Pilfering from Condé’s Kitty for Hookers!
• Local Man Stiffed Sex Worker on the Bill!
• Famously Heterosexual Man Revealed Exclusively To Be Less Than Straight!
• Condé Nast CFO Provides Material Support, Endorsement for Wingnut Jew-Hating Conspiracist!
• Local Teens: Our Dad Is a Gross Cheating Pig [Snapchat video]
These are all pretty tried-and-true, moralistic, comeuppance-oriented gossip stories. They’re classics of tabloid. Maybe boring. The story they published sounds like one of these stories, but of course it isn’t.
Can you publish like this? Of course you can! There’s no actual reason Gawker shouldn’t devote itself to straight-up doxing, dark gossip and bad deeds. It’d be a worse but more exciting world if there were a well-organized, well-funded force for fear and menace operating near journalism. What if one of us doesn’t conform? They can keep us all in line whenever we stray.