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Publisher's Summary

In the tradition of Janet Malcolm's The Journalist and the Murderer and Robert Greene's The 48 Laws of Power, author Ryan Holiday examines the case that rocked the media world - and the billionaire mastermind behind it 

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 page views 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 listening to this audiobook - 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. 

©2018 Ryan Holiday (P)2018 Penguin Audio

What members say

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

good story, bad narration

it was a compelling story but I found it hard to follow at times due to the way it was read.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Windy, Fancy Quotes, & A Contradictory Conclusion

A windy rendition, spiced up by throwing in quotes by famous people, about the back story of the Hulk Hogan case. It has many “stream of consciousness” passages about what people might be thinking and then about what other people may think about that, etc. It tries to be philosophic but contradicts its principles in a scree against President Trump criticizing him for advocating actions against NFL players who disrespected the National Anthem. However, he approves of the NFL ruling that would suspend players for having the flag on their cleats during 911 and for wearing blue ribbons on their helmets for the police who were slaughtered in Texas. Of course, Hillary lost the election because of an invisible right wing conspiracy. Obama, who authorized wiretapping of a political opponent, is said to always “go high”. He really has to follow the media ideology because, as he knows from the Gawker case, they would crush him without much effort.

He reads like he is drinking water out of a canteen. After every phrase, he stops to take a swig leaving the reader waiting for him to swallow and begin again.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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The last hour should have been dropped

This was a very interesting look at the Hogan, Thirl, Denton, Gawker story. I really don't know why the author went off on a Trump tangent in the last hour. Unnecessary to the story and came across as an excuse for him to virtue signal how he finds the "Alt Right", which apparently includes everyone to the right of Hillary Clinton is, appalling. That's fine, I really don't care what his opinions on that group are, I just found it attenuated to what is otherwise a very good book.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Too long for the amount of material presented

What would have made Conspiracy better?

This book is way too long, and the story of Peter Thiel and Gawker is way too diluted with philosophical detours on conspiracies in general. I have a suspicion that Mr Thiel's conspiracy, an exciting story, would probably take two or three hours to tell, but the book is 11 hours... It almost feels like Mr Holiday tries to imitate the broad scope of Robert Greene books or Lawrence Freedman's Strategy. The problem is, Mr Greene and Dr Freedman discuss general principles with plenty of specific examples (Thiel's story would make a one-page example there), while Mr Holiday uses one major story to venture broadly in the matters of the strategy of conspiracy. The first such venture seems interesting, then it gets repetitive. Moreover, most of those ventures don't present anything paradigm changing; oftentimes, they reiterate common sense.
So to answer the question on what would make the story better - a good editor.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

Mr Holiday found an interesting and relevant story, and presented a good collection of facts on it, interviewing both sides, etc. This is what's good about this book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Rambling and political

The storyline is fascinating but the performance is terrible. It seems like Holiday repeats himself often while trying to make a point. In a bizarre twist he tries to tie Trump's presidency to Thiel's conspiracy. It is a stretch at best.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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One of his best

A book that literally only he could write. No one else could. A summation of his entire career.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Great book until the end.

Had he ended it after the trial the book would have been amazing. But then he had to tear into trump to make some sort of point.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Unnecessary

It certainly felt that the writer was contracted to produce more content than was actually necessary to tell this story. As one example of how this novel drags, the writer gets on his soapbox for the final two chapters in order to deliver a bizarre anti-Trump rant that he attempted to tie in, albeit very poorly, to the overall series of events.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • STAMFORD, CT, United States
  • 04-12-18

Long Night in the Dorm?

Ryan Holiday narrates his tale of the takedown of Gawker like a college senior keeping his younger classmates awake with an all-night monologue in the dorm. He has a world-weary, slightly nasal, slightly condescending voice that sounds like he is keeping himself going with No-Doz (remember that?). He speaks with odd rhythms, pausing every couple of words midsentence, as if to let the listener absorb the points he is making. He casually drops in obscure factoids of history (the Spartans lost an important if forgotten battle through overconfidence), and he quotes repeatedly from smart conspiracy philosophers (Herodotus, Seneca and repeatedly Machiavelli).

I mention the dorm because there is something sophomoric about this entire story. Peter Thiel, the outed billionaire, goes on a vengeance quest that costs millions and smacks of an immature need to boost his self-image by destroying a company—and all the jobs that go with that—that did him wrong. Nick Denton, the arrogant and blinkered owner of Gawker, is stubborn, smug and seemingly incapable of empathizing with the victims of its often pointless gossip. Hulk Hogan, who comes off as a minor character in his own story, has dignity, but he is also the one who could not resist sleeping repeatedly with his best friend’s wife.

There is much to learn from this book. Holiday has a broad knowledge of philosophy, world history and literature, and he doesn’t mind showing it off. This gives his story a little more gravity and oomph than it may deserve. Much of the philosophy focuses on the methods and risks of conspiracies. Peter Thiel’s conspiracy to take down Gawker and Nick Denton is well-planned and well-executed, following a Machiavellian playbook. In light of the damage done by Gawker to so many celebrities, Thiel is almost sympathetic. But he ultimately loses that sympathy because of the implications of his secret vendetta. If Thiel can take down Gawker, will other billionaires with extreme political views use their wealth, secretly, to go after other, more responsible media outlets that may offend with their opinions? Can they destroy these voices merely by financing multiple questionable lawsuits and pursuing them relentlessly? Holiday raises these troubling issues but has no clear solutions.

So this was a thoughtful, surprising and challenging book. I only wish Holiday had engaged a professional narrator who would have focused the listener more on the story and less on his own quirky voice.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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I almost couldn’t make it through...

Although I liked the content, the delivery by the author reading the book was terrible. His breathy cadence really annoyed me and many times I found myself thinking, just stop the madness now. This is a book that I would definitely need to listen to again simply because I am sure that I missed a lot due to the reader....but I will more than likely never listen to again because I just do not think I could stand to listen to the author reading it again.

Ryan, if you want to narrate your books - please take some lessons, get a coach, have someone help you edit the audio....something...but my main advice would be to stick to writing and let a professional narrator do the narration.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful