Did you know that we're in a bubble? No, not a technology bubble, you overeducated ninny. “A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed,” Peter Thiel, the Paypal co-founder, Facebook board member, and venture capital billionaire told TechCrunch in 2011. “Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It’s like telling the world there’s no Santa Claus."
There's no Santa Claus?! Enter the Thiel fellowship, disrupting the education bubble that's destroyed so many bright young minds. "College can be good for learning about what’s been done before," Thiel's website explains, "[but] it can also discourage you from doing something new." You know, cool, cutting edge ideas, like Thiel's hope that young people's blood can make him live forever. That's why the Thiel Foundation pays $100,000 to drop out of school to pursue a startup idea! And this season, one of those ideas, which was presented at tech company incubator Y-Combinator's famed "demo day" according to Business Insider, is for a very exciting idea that is near and dear to Thiel's heart: Third-party funded lawsuits, such as the one Thiel himself secretly bankrolled against Gawker Media in paying legal fees for Hulk Hogan.
While an appeals court ruled that a sex tape involving Hogan that Gawker published was protected by the first amendment, Hogan's lawyers were able to press on, eventually winning a massive $140 million jury award that bankrupted Gawker. The site was sold in an auction to Univision for $135 million according to Recode, with flagship site Gawker.com getting killed off in the process. "Peter Thiel has shut down Gawker.com." Gawker writer Tom Scocca framed it. "A lie with a billion dollars behind it is stronger than the truth."
"This is the final act in what Thiel wished to present, and succeeded in presenting, as a simple and ancient morality play, a story of hubris meeting its punishment," Scocca continued, alluding to a New York Times editorial in which Thiel explained his reasons for funding the lawsuit against Gawker: The website had outed him as gay, which they apparently deemed notable due to his wealth and status inside a homophobic community of venture capitalists.
The Gawker lawsuit turned more attention toward third-party litigation, the practice by which Thiel was able to support Hogan's suit without disclosing his role. Legalist, though according to this Businesswire entry it didn't start out this way, is now a company that promotes such practices. As its website explains, "In brief, litigation finance is the practice where a third party provides capital to a plaintiff involved in litigation in return for some financial recovery from the lawsuit. Litigation financing levels the playing field in litigation, and allows plaintiffs to access the capital necessary for legal fees, growth, and operations before the case is resolved."
Eva Shang, Legalist's cofounder and a Thiel fellow, tells Business Insider she isn't out to destroy websites to promote free speech like her benefactor. Not yet, anyway. "That's the kind of thing we're staying away from here," she said.
Still, others appear more concerned:
hey this doesn't threaten democracy or anything https://t.co/b30T5UeXcC— Christopher Mims (@mims) August 24, 2016