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Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue Hardcover – February 27, 2018
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A stunning story about how power works in the modern age--the book the New York Times called "one helluva page-turner" and The Sunday Times of London celebrated as "riveting...an astonishing modern media conspiracy that is a fantastic read." Pick up the book everyone is talking about.
In 2007, a short blogpost on Valleywag, the Silicon Valley-vertical of Gawker Media, outed PayPal founder and billionaire investor Peter Thiel as gay. Thiel's sexuality had been known to close friends and family, but he didn't consider himself a public figure, and believed the information was private.
This post would be the casus belli for a meticulously plotted conspiracy that would end nearly a decade later with a $140 million dollar judgment against Gawker, its bankruptcy and with Nick Denton, Gawker's CEO and founder, out of a job. Only later would the world learn that Gawker's demise was not incidental--it had been masterminded by Thiel.
For years, Thiel had searched endlessly for a solution to what he'd come to call the "Gawker Problem." When an unmarked envelope delivered an illegally recorded sex tape of Hogan with his best friend's wife, Gawker had seen the chance for millions of pageviews and to say the things that others were afraid to say. Thiel saw their publication of the tape as the opportunity he was looking for. He would come to pit Hogan against Gawker in a multi-year proxy war through the Florida legal system, while Gawker remained confidently convinced they would prevail as they had over so many other lawsuit--until it was too late.
The verdict would stun the world and so would Peter's ultimate unmasking as the man who had set it all in motion. Why had he done this? How had no one discovered it? What would this mean--for the First Amendment? For privacy? For culture?
In Holiday's masterful telling of this nearly unbelievable conspiracy, informed by interviews with all the key players, this case transcends the narrative of how one billionaire took down a media empire or the current state of the free press. It's a study in power, strategy, and one of the most wildly ambitious--and successful--secret plots in recent memory.
Some will cheer Gawker's destruction and others will lament it, but after reading these pages--and seeing the access the author was given--no one will deny that there is something ruthless and brilliant about Peter Thiel's shocking attempt to shake up the world.
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“In this age when people compete to be contrarian, it’s rare to encounter a genuinely startling proposition. That’s what makes the premise of Ryan Holiday’s ‘Conspiracy’ such a delight...’” —The Washington Post
“Brilliant and terrifying.” —Rich Cohen, author of The Fish That Ate the Whale and contributing editor of Vanity Fair
“A fantastic read.”—The Sunday Times
"Startlingly deep cultural history of conspiracies, examined through the lens of the brutally effective Gawker takedown, with full access to the main players." --Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz
“An artful examination of how true power really works and how it affects all of us.”—Michael Lombardi, host of GM Street on The Ringer and former Cleveland Browns general manager
“Every one of Ryan Holiday’s books is appointment reading for me. If he writes it, I make the time to read it.”—Brian Koppelman,producer and creator of Billions
“CONSPIRACY will captivate you, terrify you, intrigue you, and piss you off. It’s a sizzling, can’t-put-down, read-it-in-one-sitting story. Ryan Holiday has crafted a hell of a book!” -Brad Thor, #1 New York Times bestselling author of SPYMASTER
“Ryan Holiday is one of his generation’s finest thinkers.”—Steven Pressfield, bestselling author of Gates of Fire
“This book is the Art of War for any twenty-first century conspirator....A brilliant meditation on strategy, with numerous lessons.”—Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power and Mastery
"Riveting...an astonishing modern media conspiracy...that is a fantastic read. Holiday is a fine writer. He brilliantly elucidates... [with] a reporter's eye for detail." --The Sunday Times of London
“More than mere business history, Holiday elevates the story into something far more lasting, casting Thiel's actions into the timeless mold of the conspirator: the man who, armed with patience and an indignant urge to reshape the world, co-opts allies, musters resources, lulls adversaries, and ultimately strikes when the time is right, changing everything. 'Conspiracy' will be the last word, the veil-lifting exposé, on that Gawker/Thiel war all of us read about, but none of use really understood, until now.” – Antonio Garcia Martinez, author of Chaos Monkeys
About the Author
- ASIN : 0735217645
- Publisher : Portfolio (February 27, 2018)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0783118457
- ISBN-13 : 978-0735217645
- Item Weight : 1.15 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.31 x 1.09 x 9.38 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #205,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on March 5, 2018
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Most know the initial story - a private tape of Hulk Hogan released in the media - but the full story and its implications are well covered here. Holiday refers to Peter Thiel's love of chess more than once in the book, and this story also reminded me of a chess match. It's never a 'page-turner' in the traditional sense, but a very subtle battle between two opponents that swells over ten years. (I would highly recommend reading this rather than listening to it for that reason - there is enough depth to the story that it works best on the page, otherwise you will miss things).
I had read a little and already seen the Netflix documentary on the case, but here is what I really liked about the book:
* The story of the 'why did Peter Thiel do this' is much more complicated than can be explained by a documentary. Even after you remove all motives except for the personal, Holiday points out there were significant financial motives as well.
* Why choose the battlefield that they did? Thiel had almost limitless options to accomplish his ends, but chose a very specific means.
* I had not realized before reading this how much this case signals the clash between the right to privacy and the right to freedom that is still heading towards collision.
* Thiel is a fascinating guy, full of contradictions. One of my biggest takeaways is that I want to just learn more about him and read more about his Christian faith.
* There is not an easy answer to the question of who was right in this case, and Holiday does a good job of holding that tension for the entire book. Despite how despicable Gawker was in many cases and how easy it is to delight in their downfall, there is a real question of whether the ends justifies the means.
* The ultimate loser in this story, to me, is the legal system. It's very apparent that no one except for someone with very deep pockets could have made this happen. Depressing to realize that even a public figure like Hulk Hogan basically has no chance without being bankrolled by a billionaire in a case like this.
If you are interested in the story already, definitely pick this one up. There is a lot here that really adds to the public record and it is well worth your time to consider the larger questions it raises.
However I digress. This book reads like a highschooler trying to reach a word count while sounding as pretentious as possible and I wouldn't recommend you purchase it.
The story itself is well known…well, the Cliff Notes version anyway. But Ryan delves into the details, the twists and turns, and the emotional ups and downs like a pro. He brings in historical references and philosophies of people like Machiavelli, Seneca and General Sherman with deftness and brevity. He could have gone the path of many other writers by giving us a history lesson on each, but he instead weaves the past with the present succinctly without getting boring. The way he paces the story reads like a crime novel…suspenseful and unpredictable, even though we know the ultimate end.
Brilliant, entertaining and profound.
Buy this book. You won't be disappointed.
Top reviews from other countries
On the other hand, it bills itself as a "meditation on conspiracy", quoting from sources and historical examples to put the story in context. Ryan Holiday runs a newsletter outlining his recommended books, and it's clear he's got his inspiration from many of the books on that list. The writing doesn't always come off - some of the sentences are a little awkward, and some of the comparisons seem a little superficial.
But the book does work - it's clear, the story unfolds at a good pace but there are real insights here. If you've ever been caught up in office politics, this book will help you see what's going on. Even though most of the characters are not particularly likable, you do learn to see the world through their eyes - not an easy task!
I liked the way the author draws upon a really wide variety of quotes and examples though, ranging from modern politics, to Shakespeare, to ancient Greece and the American civil war.
All in all, worth reading for quite an interesting story, but I wasn't blown away by the conspiracy itself and some of the writing is a little unpolished.
There is something about the way it's written that bugged me too; it seemed inconsistent in style. For example in the middle of a full-page-paragraph it reads:
"They know they could as Hogan for a comment. They knew they could have done some basic reporting after receiving the tape"
The switches between past and present tense really grated with me, in the way that once it's been noticed it can't be unnoticed.
It's definitely an interesting tale, and if you're better than me at skim reading the irrelevant bits and you don't mind the style it's probably a pretty good book, but towards the end I muttered to a friend "Can he not just finish this book?"