WaPo owner Jeff Bezos takes Gawker's side against Thiel

His advice: develop a thick skin, and spend your time doing something more productive

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
June 1, 2016
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After it was revealed that Peter Thiel had backed a lawsuit against gossip news website Gawker, basically for revenge, the reaction, at least among his peers in Silicon Valley, were mixed. Among those in the press, not surprisingly, the reaction was less one sided: they did not like seeing a billionaire use his money to destroy a publication he didn't like.

That's why it's so interesting to hear from someone with a foot in both words: Jeff Bezos, the man who founded Amazon, and who also bought the Washington Post for $250 million in 2013. Where would be come down on the issue?

 Speaking with Walt Mossberg, Editor at Large at Recode, at the Code Conference on Tuesday, Bezos made it clear: he does not agree with Thiel's actions.

 "Do you think somebody, who happens to be a billionaire, ought to be able to fund a series of lawsuits, regardless of their merit, whose real purpose is to put that company out of business, and destroy them, for personal reasons?" Mossberg asked.

"I don't," is how Bezos responded, though he declined to talk specifically about the Gawker case, which he said he did not know enough about. He, instead, spoke about the larger ideas behind what had gone on.

"You know the old saying, it's contributed to Confucius, who know if its really Confucius or not, 'Seek revenge and you should dig two graves: one for yourself.' You always have to ask yourself how you want to spend your time. How do you want to spend your time, and your energy? And do you really want to do that trying to right some, even if it's legitimate, wrong?" he said.

"I think most people if they step back, take a deep breath, they would say, 'I'm going to go on and do great things. I'm going to do amazing things in the future.'"

His other piece of advice: let it go.

"The best defense to speech that you don't like about yourself, as a public figure, is to develop a thick skin," he said.

"It's really the only effective defense, because you can't stop it. Because you are going to be misunderstood. If you're doing anything interesting in the world, you're going to have critics. If you absolutely can't tolerate critics, then don't do anything new, or interesting."

Finally, he also addressed the issue of free speech.

"You always have to remember, this country has the best free speech protections in the world because of the Constitution, but also because of our cultural norms and you don't want to erode those," he said.

"You don't want to create any climate of fear, or chill, with respect to free speech norms. And the most important thing to remember about that is that beautiful speech doesn't need protection; it's ugly speech that need protection."

Ultimately, allowing people to say ugly things is partly what makes us a great society, he argued. 

"We don't have to like it, we don't have to invite those people to our dinner parties, but you should let them say it."

Split opinion on Thiel

With Bezos coming out on the side against Thiel, he joins Mitch Kapor of Kapor Capital, and Homebrew founder Hunter Walk, as those who have publically said they don't agree with what he did. 

"All this chatter about Thiel vs. Gawker makes me think of Alien vs. Predator (not that there's anything wrong with that)," Kapor wrote in a Tweet

On Thiel's side are Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures, who got into a Twitter debate with Recode's Kara Swisher about the topic. She did not take Thiel's side.

Marc Andreessen, Thiels' fellow Facebook board member, and founder of Andreessen Horowitz, along with his partner, Ben Horowitz, also backed Thiel.

You can watch Bezos' comments below:


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