In the history of giving a hostage to fortune, John Cook, a former editor of the former online poison party known as Gawker, merits a special place. He has this to say about his professional aims: “I wanted to write true things about bad people . . . being bad or obnoxious or cruel or unkind.” When enemies had been so identified, he says, “We could give ’em ‘what fer.’”
Unkind! Gawker saying its mission is to make war with the unkind is like the Queen of England decrying nepotism. Gawker’s very escutcheon was cruelty, obnoxiousness, unkindness. It published stories too nasty and sleazy for tabloids, and wrote them up with sophomoric zeal for vulgarism and profanity. I happily worked at tabloids for many years, but I felt ashamed of myself every time I read Gawker. I can hardly imagine what it must have been like actually to work at such a flatulence farm, a scum ranch, an academy of pus.