It’s been a few days now since I read Conspiracy by Ryan Holiday. And by a few days, I mean months and months. But I found myself rambling on about it the other day while on the phone with my mother. So, I figured I could ramble on a bit more here.
I was trying to explain to her about who Peter Thiel is and how he was an early investor in PayPal but also an early investor in seasteading, too, which is tied to just one of those weird life goals I have to live on the first seastead and document the wild explorations into new forms of government being practiced in international waters. Something, something, sustainability, cryptocurrency, libertarian mecca. There will just be so much content. Content for days (again, months and months).
The point is, I was telling her about Holiday’s book and Thiel’s conspiracy to takedown Gawker, and it reminded me of what an interesting read it was. It was so different than Holiday’s other books, some of which are my very favorites: The Obstacle is the Way and Ego is the Enemy. So much gold in those books. But Conspiracy has something unique to it, and I’ve never read a book quite like it before.
In this book, Holiday tells the story about how all the way back in 2007, Peter Thiel conspired to take down Gawker and its founder, Nick Denton, after they ran an article titled, “Peter Thiel is Totally Gay, People.” The clarification is that he wasn’t hiding it…he just didn’t want to be known for it. And really, would anyone want private information about themselves publicized by a publication like Gawker? Don’t answer that.
Thiel gathered a team including an LA lawyer and someone called “Mr. A.” And they are afforded a great opportunity (albeit rather tragic for Hogan) when Gawker invaded Hulk Hogan’s privacy in 2012. Conveniently, Thiel stepped in to bankroll all of those legal proceedings—definitely a move Denton didn’t see coming.
I’ll leave the rest of the book for you to read yourself.
But the really interesting thing about the book is that Holiday was approached by both Thiel and Denton who began to share their sides of this story. So, he was in a unique and convenient position to write about this very long, drawn-out ordeal. And of all the people to write it, I’m glad it was Holiday. I feel like he’s flexed a new muscle, and I can’t wait to see what comes of it next.
Finally, I’ll just say this. The book is really a commentary, too, on how power works in our day and age. Who has it? Who thinks they have it? What does power really look like? And are conspiracy theories so far-fetched after all? Some of them might be, but if anything, this draws attention to the fact that some people will go through great lengths with incredible layers of secrecy to accomplish something that’s important to them.