Still at the anonymous sourcing level, but starting to develop some plausibility.
Look, I actually don't disagree very strongly with Thiel's argument here:
"I don’t understand people who would spend their lives being angry; it just seems unhealthy."
As a standalone sentence, I think a _lot_ of us would agree with this. Alas, when Thiel actually said that, it was part of a longer statement.
""I think they should be described as terrorists, not as writers or reporters," Thiel said at the time. "I don’t understand the psychology of people who would kill themselves and blow up buildings, and I don’t understand people who would spend their lives being angry; it just seems unhealthy.""
That's no longer a basically sensible, middle of the road thing to say. That is batshit crazy. Is it obnoxious to be outed? Sure. But it was sort of a given that someone was going to aggressively out Thiel, because he was such a classic instance of the closeted gay guy who gives extensively to conservative politicians and is frequently quite mean-spirited in a politically conservative vein. Which, actually, sort of makes the "I don't understand people who would spend their lives angry" seem a little hypocritical, on top of being embedded in a batshit analogy comparing a media organization to a terrorist operation.
I have no idea if the rumor is true, but it is certainly an interesting development in an already incredibly bizarre situation.
ETA: Not a rumor any more.
I actually don't have a problem with someone with resources funding the legal defense (or, in this case, defense in the form of taking the offense) for a person who lacks resources. I'm trying to imagine the circumstances in which I would fund someone's legal battle and _not_ want my name on it (to be fair, I can _easily_ imagine people who might want me to pay their legal costs and not have my name associated with that!). I'm coming up empty so far, which aligns with my perspective on being outed.
People who are not regular readers of my blog and/or who don't know about my past should be clear: I have a _really clear idea_ of the kind of punishment meted out to people who come out as other-than-straight when their family and entire acquaintance since birth is rabidly opposed to other-than-straight. Been there. Done that. There wasn't -- and will never be -- a happy ending for me or my sister, in which our parents tell us they want us to be a part of their lives. We are by no means alone in this situation. I have zero sympathy for people who continue to support institutions which oppress people based on gender orientation, expression, etc.
Further followup: http://www.businessinsider.com/peter-thiel-confirms-secret-battle-against-gawker-sparks-outrage-over-free-press-facebook-board-member-2016-5
I don't necessarily think you _should_ read the comments thread, but it gives a flavor of what kind of feelings are in play. A _lot_ of people don't like the Denton empire, and would like to separate what they do from "journalism". A fair number of people think that there is some kind of line that can be drawn between what is "private" and what journalists are allowed to cover. A small number of people are troubled by the idea that this might lead to limiting who can help support a law suit they are nominally unconnected to, in an effort to harm the defendant.
That last is probably the most interesting component of this particular dust up. We have laws against filing suit that you don't expect to win, that are designed to exhaust the resources of the defendant (SLAPP: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_lawsuit_against_public_participation). However, we don't have laws against what Thiel is doing. I'm a lot more comfortable with what Thiel is doing, once it is widely known that he is doing it -- when that kind of money flow is obscured, it is deeply problematic.
But this strategy -- fund attacks until the defendant shuts up -- is troubling from a free speech perspective. My understanding of the current lawsuit is that it hinges on privacy.
Given how easy it is to draw a line between publishing a sex tape of a celebrity and publishing naked photos stolen from someone's phone, and how desperately most of us would like to put a stop to the latter (and, honestly, probably the former, too, because even people who like watching the sex tapes should be starting to get sick and tired of the ensuing decades of celebrity that we all have to endure), I think that Thiel has picked a pretty solid case to go after Gawker on.
I don't care for Thiel (and that's not a new feeling for me). I definitely think that some of the Gawker coverage is pretty despicable (but I think that about basically EVERY news organization). I _don't_ want to see laws saying you can't contribute to someone's legal efforts (altho I'd be fine with requiring some transparency for support above a certain level either individually or collectively). I _do_ think that state laws against publication of private facts that are not of public concern are laws that are worth having and enforcing -- even if that means we wind up spending a fair amount of time litigating the question of "public concern".
I think that if billionaires are above board about the lawsuits they contribute to and their goals in doing so, I don't see a real difference between them and a well-organized political or charitable activist organization bundling small donations to accomplish the same goal. I don't see an overall threat to freedom of publication in our society in this situation. But I'll keep paying attention, in case someone makes a compelling case to the contrary.