On this week’s Past Present podcast, Nicole Hemmer, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, and Neil Young discuss Hulk Hogan v. Gawker, parental leave policy, and the left’s love of Scandinavia.
Hulk Hogan v. Gawker
Hulk Hogan has won a $115 million judgment against Gawker Media for publishing a recording of him having sex with a female friend. Hogan asserted his right to privacy, but others have defended Gawker’s First Amendment rights. Neil pointed out the concept of privacy is a modern one that was originally encoded in the Bill of Rights as a protection against government intrusion by the military. Niki argued that notion expanded with the rise of newspapers in the late nineteenth century as citizens sought protection against their “invasion of privacy” for news stories. Niki noted Gawker’s response to the court’s judgment argued their opponents in court had won their case by presenting the Gawker website as an example of the distasteful and objectionable fare that proliferates on the Internet. Natalia situated the Hogan case and the history of celebrity sex tapes in the context of the nation’s obscenity laws, something John D’Emilio and Estelle Freedman’s book, Intimate Matters, argues allowed for the wide expression of sexual imagery in the public sphere.
The online retailer Etsy recently announced it would now provide six months of paid leave to mothers and fathers following a birth or adoption. Natalia contrasted the histories of the United States and Europe in order to explain why American policies regarding parental leave lag behind Europe’s. Niki noted the AARP had pushed for the passage of the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act in order to expand the circumstances around which employers could take off from work, including the care of an elderly parent. Natalia remarked on the surprising irony that a man, Gary Akerman, is considered the father of family leave because he tried unsuccessfully to be granted paternal leave to care for his newborn daughter in 1969, arguing that maternity leave discriminated on the basis of gender.
The American left loves Scandinavia while conservative critics prefer to point out Scandinavia’s darker aspects. Neil cited the Finnish writer Anu Partanen who recently argued American liberals wrongly think Scandinavians support their social democratic system because of a self-denial for the common good. Rather, Partanen maintains, Scandinavians do so out of self-interest. Many Americans also admire Scandinavia’s high educational rankings, but Natalia remarked that Pasi Sahlberg’s book Finnish Lessons showed how different the Scandinavian education system was from America’s, including the absence of private schools and a cultural aversion to competition. Niki likened this to the “tall poppy syndrome” philosophy prevalent in Australia and other Anglosphere countries.