A couple of weeks ago, I finished up Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue. I’ve been thinking about it since; it’s the kind of book that leaves a mark.
First, the subject matter seems like a fabrication. The secrecy and connections behind a billionaire funding a millionaire’s lawsuit against a press organization is a pretty far-fetched tale. And yet, it happened.
In 2018, with our diametric news media, it’s probably important for more people to understand what happened between Thiel, Hogan, and Gawker. The way our media works today, ten years later, doesn’t seem all that different. The news still drives towards the most outrageous, obscene or controversial snippet to pull in ad revenue, it just has most of it’s focus on politics today. Russ Roberts calls this the Outrage Epidemic. On the level of the media and broadcast, there’s a lot to learn from the Gawker years here that we can still apply today.
Second, and perhaps more important, Holiday asks his readers to consider the notion of a conspiracy. Would the world be better off with more conspiracies or less?
We have a natural negative connotation around a conspiracy, and in fact the normal definitions assume wrong or illicit intent. But Holiday generalizes, and suggests that a conspiracy is simply a plan to change something and it’s consistent, long term, and sometimes secret execution. Peter Thiel was trying to make the world better by destroying Gawker. If more of us thought this way - even about our own lives - would the world be a better place? It might be.
One of my own conspiracies is to become a published fiction author. This is a long term plan, and recognizing this takes the pressure off and let’s me focus on taking it one step at a time. It’s something I need to be consistent about over the long term; writing something like a novel required daily input for weeks, months, or years. And it’s far better for both the outcome of this conspiracy and for my own psyche that this goal remain at least semi-secret (some already know I want to do this, and the intersection of that set of people with the set that would read this is large).
I’ve never thought about long term plans and goals this way, but I find it useful.