Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue
By: Ryan Holiday
Portfolio (February 27, 2018)
Conspiracy, tells the story of Hulk Hogan’s game-ending lawsuit against Gawker media. The “conspiracy” part of it is that Hogan did not bring the lawsuit on his own. Billionaire Peter Thiel payed the legal bills as part of a silent and concerted effort to destroy Gawker after the website wrote about his private life in 2007. The insider look at what happened made for a stimulating read, as details of events were compared to similar situations in world history. I am, however, not able to twist into a few of the moral equivalencies Holiday makes. Nobody should be allowed to use and publish stolen videos more than they are allowed to trade stolen cattle. Gawker will forever be the bad-guy in my mind, and Thiel the hero. Holiday also finds his disdain for Trump hard to hide in the last few chapters searching for irony that Gawker and Trump are two sides of the same coin. I suppose time will let us know if he is right.
Two of my favorite quotes:
How do you respond when told something is impossible? Is that the end of the conversation or the start of one? What’s the reaction to being told you can’t—that no one can? One type accepts it, wallows in it even. The other questions it, fights it, rejects it. This choice defines us. Puts us at a crossroads with ourselves and what we think about the kind of person we are. “Anyone who is threatened and is forced by necessity either to act or to suffer,” writes Machiavelli, “becomes a very dangerous man to the prince.”
Even if Thiel were just an ordinary investor, dinner with him would make anyone nervous. One quickly finds that he is a man notoriously averse to small talk, or what a friend once deemed “casual bar talk.” Even the most perfunctory comment to Thiel can elicit long, deep pauses of consideration in response—so long you wonder if you’ve said something monumentally stupid. The tiny assumptions that grease the wheels of conversation find no quarter with Thiel. There is no chatting with Peter about the weather or about politics in general. It’s got to be, “I’ve been studying opening moves in chess, and I think king’s pawn might be the best one.” Or, “What do you think of the bubble in higher education?” And then you have to be prepared to talk about it at the expert level for hours on end. You can’t talk about television or music or pop culture because the person you’re sitting across from doesn’t care about these things and he couldn’t pretend to be familiar with them if he wanted to.