I Challenge Nick Denton of Gawker to a Verbal Duel

The world according to Brits: Lurid news, intended to titillate, isn't newsworthy

Nick Denton

Gawker founder Nick Denton is fighting back against Peter Thiel. (Photo by John Pendygraft/Tampa Bay Times/pool photo)

Living in the United States one is constantly reminded that this is where winners are born, saviors are sired and tiger blood was created in a man so perfect he was named Sheen. Even prospective presidents can be as rude as they like, speak complete rubbish, incite violence, have a rudimentary knowledge of email security and still be completely electable. This is a revelation coming from Britain, the country that has invented most of the worlds sports only to become middling to mediocre at nearly all of them—apart from curling, the sport of kings and aspiring cleaners.

The disparity between winners and complete losers has been completely exposed this week in the arena of press freedom in the internet and social media age. Obviously emboldened by my rallying cries over the refusal to bow to the pompously entitled Super Injunctions in the cases of Furnish and Bonneville, once again the American press has shown why we want them on that wall, we need them on that wall.

The British public has been languishing under the misapprehension that their football (soccer) gods are wholesome and upstanding butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-their-mouths types, sort of. However, an Oklahoman who hasn’t the foggiest who Robbie Keane is, can know that he cheated on the model Claudine Palmer just before their wedding. The Alaskan is privy to the the fact that an English team manager, Alan Pardew, has a penchant for his lovers posing naked when his team wins and that he has used the English courts to protect his extra-marital affairs for years. The Virginian knows Gareth Barry pleaded to the court that were the fans to know he was a love rat, he would be booed and chanted at cruelly, poor dear. The Floridian, who has no idea that the England goalkeeper is Joe Hart, has been regaled with tales that Katie Price (the British pale imitation of Pamela Anderson), who wanted to spill the beans that she was the other woman, was gagged—and not erotically.

Where did the greatness of the British press go and how have they allowed themselves to be neutered? Those fabled rags such as The Sun, The News Of The World, The Star, The Daily Sport, who invented Page 3 and made the British upper lip ever so slightly stiffer, have been brutally and systematically judicially castrated. This was all probably because the paparazzi were blamed for the death of Princess Diana and that is when the rot set in, aided by a curious admixture of humorless judges and the achingly anodyne European Convention On Human Rights.

But two weeks ago the English Supreme Court gilded the lining of the cloud for both American journalists and the industry of making, borrowing or acquiring babies. In the ruling to keep the Elton John-David Furnish super injunction in place, relegating the English journalists out of the premier league, Lord Mance based his view on the wildfire spreading of news in the social media age upon those most modern of sources of King Canute, ably augmented by his mate Lord Lester’s recently published and very unread book.

In so doing, he made two critical errors, first that lurid news, intended to titillate and entertain, as long as it is based in fact and proper research is not newsworthy. This reminds me of an old friend who successfully argued that his jokes may be puerile and infantile, yet still remain funny. Simply because a story is invasive and pries into the private life of a celebrity does not render it merely tawdry gossip as long as the piece has undergone proper fact checking and adheres to professional standards.

Secondly—and this is where Brangelina and their horde would punch the air for joy if they were living in England—due to the privacy rights of the young children of John and Furnish, the super injunction was deemed necessary to stop them from being exposed to the inevitable media storm. One can just imagine the conversation between the philandering celebrity and the other parties in the threesome: “Did anyone bring protection?” “Yes, Tommy is next door sound asleep with his teddy bear!” “Phew, lube up and break out Twister.” This is a frankly ridiculous borrowing of rights from the child in order to protect the parent to such an extent that the children should be paid for the blanket of protection they provide.

In a curious twist on this side of the pond, another British chap, Nick Denton of Gawker fame who pushed the bounds of privacy too far even for America, called out Peter Thiel, the technology billionaire for having the audacity to fund Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against him. Denton threw down the gauntlet and challenged Thiel to a debate on independent journalism and liberty, and I stand here ready to accept that challenge on behalf of the PayPal founder, who is unknown to me, and probably will stay that way. It makes perfect sense. Both of us are British, therefore there is no obvious accent advantage. Denton is a journalist who has dabbled in litigation and I am a litigator who dabbles in journalism. We could sell tickets to a charity of your choice Nick, say the Gawker-Hulk Hogan Verdict Repayment Trust and we could do it just before Wrestlemania. Give it a thought and you can reach me through the epitome of the vanguard of American journalistic freedom against the British, the editor of the Observer.

Robert Garson is Managing Partner of Garson, Ségal, Steinmetz, Fladgate LLP, an intellectual property and international litigation firm in New York. He is also a barrister qualified in England and concentrates on IP and First Amendment matters.

I Challenge Nick Denton of Gawker to a Verbal Duel