Documentary Review: Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press (2017)

Due to this being a documentary, I’m not sure if my regular plus/minus/other system will work, so I’ll try something a bit different.

A Netflix original movie, directed by Brian Knappenberger, Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press is a 2017 documentary detailing the Hulk Hogan vs Gawker Media lawsuit, and its implications around the notion of free speech and freedom of the press, according to the United States First Amendment.

I admit, I was following this case as it happened (and I was personally very much on Hogan’s side), but I will try to be impartial.

First things first, the whole video is a very biased view of the Hogan/Gawker case, as well as politics in general. Phrases like “bad people” are used exclusively in regards to Bill O’Reilly, Donald Trump and Hulk Hogan – perhaps not coincidentally, all Republicans. All of the Gawker employees seem to think they have the right to say whatever they want about people simply due to differing beliefs, political or personal. The background music seems to intend for you to feel strongly towards one party or the other, with a menacing synth beat when Hogan/his affiliates are on screen, and a more lighthearted, uplifting sound as the Gawker team are seen.

In fact, the whole tone of the documentary has a very “how could this happen to us” vibe, despite an early portion mentioning that Gawker media websites made themselves famous (or infamous, as it may have been) for writing scathing stories about famous – and rich, which is important for later – people – the ones they dubbed “bad people”. This makes their absolute shock and awe that Hogan has a wealthy benefactor paying his legal bills so much more confusing. Once that benefactor is determined to be Peter Thiel, a wealthy Silicon Valley CEO, the documentary spends a length of it’s run time talking huge amounts of shit about this guy, making him out to be some sort of monster who wants to steal the blood of children. No, that’s not hyperbole.

I’ll admit, I did feel bad for AJ Daulerio, the former writer for Gawker, who originally wrote the article mentioning the Hogan tape. In his deposition, he is asked if there was any celebrity sex tape he did not believe was news worthy, and he says “yes, if they were underage”. When pressed for the minimum age, he (obviously “jokingly” or in a sort of “obviously not completely serious” or “caught off guard” sort of way) says “under four”. Now, that is: 1. a stupid as fuck thing to say; 2. on camera; 3; in a deposition, 4. when discussing sex tapes, but he very clearly did not mean he would watch a five year old sex tape, for example. It is this sort of “obviously that’s not what I meant” talk that is the basis for much of this, including but not limited to Hulk Hogan discussing the length of his penis (Hogan, not in character, stresses that is not the case).

This legal system way of “what exactly did you mean when you said [x]” is presented in frustratingly close detail, and it was hard to not feel frustrated with the Gawker lawyers on behalf of Hogan as he tried to distinguish between his character, Hulk Hogan, and himself personally, Terry Bollea. Parallels are made to Donald Trump and his “television personality from The Apprentice” and “current President of the United States”, but like everything else, it seems to infer that Hogan was as bad as Trump is currently perceived, rather than bring Trump “down” to only Hogan levels of bad.

Finally, the entire final third of the film focuses on Sheldon Adelson’s purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. I did not care for any of this, especially as half the people interviewed seemed like jerks, and I was only interested in the Hogan/Gawker lawsuit.

Should you see this film: If you have a vested interest in Hogan, Gawker media’s fall or American Constitutional law, then you may get something out of this. As someone who followed the trial, and admittedly had a decision half made before watching, I found it to be a very one sided affair, and probably not as truthful as the title would make you think.


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