Michael Thevis built a lucrative pornography empire in the 1960s and ’70s only to spend the end of his life in prison. His family opened his personal diaries to a journalist for the first time to get the whole, crooked, tragic story.
The media entrepreneur’s vision for the future of content and journalism:
DENTON: The Panopticon—the prison in which everybody is exposed to scrutiny all the time. Do you remember the website Fucked Company? It was big in about 2000, 2001. I was CEO of Moreover Technologies at the time. A saleswoman put in an anonymous report to the site about my having paid for the eye operation of a young male executive I had the hots for. The story, like many stories, was roughly half true. Yes, there was a young male executive. Yes, he did have an eye operation. No, it wasn’t paid for by me. It was paid for by the company’s health insurance according to normal procedure. And no, I didn’t fancy him; I detested him. It’s such a great example of Fucked Company and, by extension, most internet discussion systems. There’s some real truth that gets told that is never of a scale to warrant mainstream media attention, and there’s also no mechanism for fact-checking, no mechanism to actually converge on some real truth. It’s out there. Half of it’s right. Half of it’s wrong. You don’t know which half is which. What if we could develop a system for collaboratively reaching the truth? Sources and subjects and writers and editors and readers and casual armchair experts asking questions and answering them, with follow-ups and rebuttals. What if we could actually have a journalistic process that didn’t require paid journalists and tape recorders and the cost of a traditional journalistic operation? You could actually uncover everything—every abusive executive, every corrupt eye operation.
[Not single-page] The Comedy Central star on his TV character’s clash with reality, the pain of losing his father and brothers at a young age, and his fear of bears:
“PLAYBOY: How did bears become a recurring motif on the show? Was it just to have something to talk about that wasn’t topical?
“COLBERT: For the very first show, we were trying to find something that had a repeatable structure. We had this bit called ‘ThreatDown,’ when he talks about the number one threat to America that week. We were considering another story, something from Florida about a Burmese python that had grown to 13 feet long and swallowed an alligator and the alligator had eaten its way out of the snake. It was a really crazy story with horrible pictures. Then a bear story came up that wasn’t as flashy, but we went with it. Partly because bears are very resonant to me, because I really do have a bit of a bear problem. And it just seemed like a richer fear to us. We always said that anything my character is concerned about qualifies as news. If he says bears are the number one threat to America, then that is the case.
“PLAYBOY: He’s justifying his own anxieties?
“COLBERT: Exactly. ‘I want to make you afraid of the things I’m afraid of.'”
Thus any theological critique of Playboy that focuses on its “lewdness” will misfire completely. Playboy and its less successful imitators are not “sex magazines” at all. They are basically anti-sexual. They dilute and dissipate authentic sexuality by reducing it to an accessory, by keeping it at a safe distance. It is precisely because these magazines are anti-sexual that they deserve the most searching kind of theological criticism. They foster a heretical doctrine of man, one at radical variance with the biblical view. For Playboy’s man, others—especially women—are for him. They are his leisure accessories, his playthings. For the Bible, man only becomes fully man by being for the other.
Teodorin’s 68-year-old father, Brig. Gen. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, seized power of Equatorial Guinea in a 1979 coup and has made apparent his intent to hand over power to a chosen successor. Obiang has sired an unknown number of children with multiple women, but 41-year-old Teodorin is his clear favorite and is being groomed to take over. That’s a scary prospect both for the long-suffering citizens of his country and for U.S. foreign policy. As a former U.S. intelligence official familiar with Teodorin put it to me, “He’s an unstable, reckless idiot.”
PLAYBOY: Does your net worth of multi-billions, despite the fact that it’s mostly in stock and the value varies daily, boggle your mind? GATES: It’s a ridiculous number. But remember, 95 percent of it I’m just going to give away. [Smiles] Don’t tell people to write me letters. I’m saving that for when I’m in my 50s. It’s a lot to give away and it’s going to take time. PLAYBOY: Where will you donate it? GATES: To charitable things, scientific things. I don’t believe in burdening any children I might have with that. They’ll have enough. They’ll be comfortable.