Childhood hero to millions turned reality star turned racist Hulk Hogan took the stand in his trial against Gawker yesterday. The Hulkster says he was tricked into making a sex tape with his friend Bubba the Love Sponge’s wife. A good lesson to all of us to remember: Don’t have sex with someone named Bubba the Love Sponge’s wife if you don’t want to be filmed, but none-the-less a distressing slip-up for Hogan when Gawker then published the tape.
Gawker’s argument, that because Hogan talked about his sex life on Howard Stern therefore his leaked sex tape is fair game, is an shaky at best. Gawker founder Nick Denton has that the case could bankrupt the company if the court hands out the asked-for $100 million judgement.
There are no real winners here to be sure. Any hope that the dog-chasing-it’s-tail Gawker-style celebrity journalism industrial complex might have learned it’s lesson was dashed as soon as the trial began: The site is live streaming every moment. Like one of those cows with a window inside it, Gawker is letting is see how the shit is made.
The real tragedy isn’t Hogan’s loss of privacy or Gawker’s first amendment claim but the normalization of these kinds of celebrity cases. One only need to look to the Erin Andrews trial. Today a court handed down a $55 million judgement against the hotel where she was staying when a stalker look peephole footage of her undressing and posted it to online.
It’s fun to laugh at Hogan and his war with a gossip rag, the regularity of celebrity hackings and leaked sex tapes is alarming. While it’s true some celebrities court such attention, but when it’s without their permission, no matter how open they are about their sex lives, it’s still a violation of the highest order.
Perhaps the best case scenario would be if people stopped watching tapes or we moved to punish hackers more harshly. Although some states have moved to criminalize revenge porn, change doesn’t seem likely anytime soon.