Thursday, August 6, 2015

When It Comes Crashing Down, And It Hurts Inside ...

Ill-obtained home videos reveal the Hulkster has said some pretty discriminatory things in the past. But are we overlooking some larger issues amid all the brouhaha? 

By: Jimbo X

In late July, recording transcripts were leaked which indicate Terry Bollea -- recognized the world over as iconic pro ‘rassler and Thunder Mixer spokesman Hulk Hogan -- said the dreaded and unforgivable “n-word” during a bout of pillow talk with Bubba the Love Sponge’s wife sometime in 2006.

Instantly, the Hulkster’s reputation was irreparably tainted. Just hours after the news hit, the WWE -- whose financial success can be almost entirely attributed to Hogan’s run with the company in the mid-1980s -- completely purged him from their website. That makes Hogan just the second grappler in company history to be “de-personed." The other was a man who murdered his wife and son in cold blood.

When Hulk's slur-laden spiel hit the 'Net, social media denizens the world over had a field day. Hogan became a top-trending topic on Twitter, with thousands upon thousands of keyboard warriors giving him the what-for 140 characters at a time. Among those who virtually savaged Hogan was The Iron Sheik, ironically enough, the man Hogan defeated for his first WWF championship way back in 1984.

The 75-year-old Twitter icon received more than 2,000 retweets after stating that he wished he had broken the Hulkster’s leg in that classic match-up (which, as an aside, features the Sheik sporting a boner for a majority of the tussle.) Interestingly enough, few brought up the fact that the Sheik himself used the very same term Hogan was eviscerated for using to describe African-Americans in a series of YouTube interviews, and even used the slur to disparage a cast member of The Howard Stern Show on air.

Hogan is but the latest in a long line of celebrities brought down by insensitive racial comments. Whether or not Hulk weathers the storm -- as did Charlie Sheen, Elvis Costello and Eric Clapton after they made some unquestionably bigoted remarks -- or has his career finished a’la Mel Gibson or Michael Richards is still up in the air. Somewhat lost in the media narrative, however, is a much more intriguing story about privacy rights.

You see, that homemade XXX tape featuring Hogan and his prejudicial remarks was allegedly recorded without his knowledge. Someone ended up leaking the video to Gawker, who sensing the incredible journalistic significance of the story, purchased it and decided to publish portions of it online. As with the Donald Sterling flap from a year ago, whatever comments Hogan made appear to have been made under a presumption of confidentiality -- and just like in that brouhaha, the mass media juggernaut is focusing on the social justice crime of the violated’s bigoted remarks and not the actual justice crime of the violated’s privacy being invaded (and in Hogan’s case, being exploited for financial gain on top of it all.)

It’s probably not a coincidence that Hogan’s racial tirade got leaked at the same time a gargantuan suit Hogan filed against Gawker was set to begin in Florida. After years of twists and turns, Hogan eventually wrangled website founder Nick Denton -- whose C.V. includes breaking "news" about "outed" Silicon Valley executives and anonymous hit pieces against political rivals that even the ultra-liberal National Organization of Women said was "public sexual harassment" -- into court over damages stemming from the initial 2012 sex tape post. Unless the website maestro can prove that Hogan’s sexual adventuring was “newsworthy” enough to justify invading the Hulkster’s privacy, he may have to pony up as much as $100 million to the now-disgraced pro wrestler.

Just four days before Hogan’s racial rant hit the Web, Gawker did an about-face concerning a “story” they published about a Conde Nast executive who allegedly propositioned a male adult film star. The article was soon yanked, with Denton stating the post constituted an “unjustifiable outing of a private individual in turmoil, in front of a potential audience of millions.”

For the Hogan legal team, it was a knockout blow. The head of the company you’re suing publicly admitted they crossed the line and showed poor judgment in what they published. Denton might as well have signed over an eight-digit check to the Hulkster and his fleet of attorneys right then and there.

With the dagger of Damocles dangling overhead, the folks at Gawker -- just out of nowhere -- recalled Hogan saying some prejudicial things in the nearly decade-old sex tape, and voila! Hulk Hogan becomes the most loathed person in America overnight. Pure coincidence, I am sure.

Race is obviously a huge issue in the States, but for a moment, let’s try to put the incessant rhetoric aside. Sure, Hogan’s remarks may have been disgusting, but (much to the chagrin of suspiciously melanin-deficient social justice warriors)  it’s still not illegal to say ignorant, absurdly overbroad things about entire ethnic groups.

However, defaming someone for the sake of monetary gain most certainly is. So is invasion of privacy -- doubly so when it results in profiteering on behalf of those doing the invading. The Hogan v. Gawker case could actually be an extraordinarily important case concerning online harassment as well, maybe even setting up a new national precedent for civil penalties stemming from Internet trolling. Whether or not he’s racist is beside the point, as Hulk’s fate down in that Pinellas County courtroom spells major ramifications for each and every person out there with a social media account.

The race-baiting angle makes this a tempting target for jokes, but belying it is a much, much more significant story about our expectations of privacy, and just how much protection an individual is afforded if someone maliciously publicizes something they thought was just between them and their closest confidants.

Try not to break a leg celebrating Hogan’s fall from grace, folks. After all, the same cyber-intrusion that befell him might just represent your own fate someday.

Whatchu’ gonna’ do, bruther, when somebody posts something reputation-damaging online about you?

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