Gawker Gets Punk’d on “Unspiked”


First, let me say that I love Mark Ebner. He’s the dude who punked Scientology by walking into its Celebrity Centre in Los Angeles pretending to be a German rock and roll guitarist. He pulled off the stunt beautifully, resulting in a Spy Magazine article that, for my money, is still the best, most hilarious Scientology expose ever written.

Ebner also wrote several pieces for a newspaper in Los Angeles where I was employed as a staff writer. That newspaper, New Times Los Angeles, doesn’t exist anymore, but during its short life (1996-2002), Ebner, Ron Russell and I had loads of fun exposing Scientology’s shortcomings.

One of the articles New Times LA published was a piece by Ebner that had been spiked by Rolling Stone. It was about a genius kid named Philip Gale who had been born into Scientology, went to MIT, and then jumped off a building at the school to kill himself on the birthday of L. Ron Hubbard. Great piece — even nine years after we printed it in 1999, it certainly remains familiar to me.

Which is why I immediately recognized it as it was reprinted earlier today as the second of Gawker’s installments in its new “Unspiked” project.

On Tuesday, the second day of existence for Tina Brown’s new website, The Daily Beast, Brown had printed an interview of Jennifer Lopez that had been spiked by Elle, supposedly for its spicy revelations.

Nick Denton reacted immediately by announcing that Gawker would start its own series of spiked pieces. I don’t blame Denton for considering Tina Brown’s enterprise a threat to his own. So points to him for reacting immediately to counter a spiked story with a series of his own.

Only, this second installment of “unspiked” pieces has already seen the light of day twice — not only in a 1999 issue of New Times LA, but Ebner posted it to his own site a couple of years ago.

So it seems a dubious entry in a series that Gawker itself is calling a “repository of newspaper and magazine articles which through no fault of their own didn’t make it fully into print.”

Hey, there’s nothing wrong with Gawker resurrecting nine-year-old newspaper and magazine stories if Denton really thinks that’s going to head off Tina Brown’s challenge.

But a part of me can’t help thinking Ebner, that old-school punkmeister, just pulled off another of his fine stunts.