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Conspiracy

Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue
Narrated by: Ryan Holiday
Length: 11 hrs and 39 mins
5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)
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Summary

An NPR Book Concierge best book of 2018! 

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 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

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Grant Hall
  • 06-04-18

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.

31 of 31 people found this review helpful

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  • Alex
  • 09-04-18

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.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Robert Levin
  • 10-03-18

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.

23 of 26 people found this review helpful

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  • B. Piehler
  • 23-03-18

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.

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Joe Rensin
  • 27-03-18

Worst audio book ever

I was really excited to read the story, it is a fascinating conspiracy to avenge a wrong. The author wrote what is EASILY the worst book possible, and then to make it just a bit worse still, he narrates it in a monotone slow deliberate voice. Every sentence has a parenthetical to some obscure reference in ancient history.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous
  • 11-03-18

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.

12 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Dustin white-morrison
  • 22-03-18

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.

15 of 20 people found this review helpful

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  • Daniel
  • 22-03-18

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.

15 of 20 people found this review helpful

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  • Kat - Audible
  • 13-03-18

Captivating account of one of media’s strangest sagas

I was an avid Gawker reader who was horrified to learn that billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel had secretly bankrolled the Hulk Hogan lawsuit that brought down the website with a shocking $140 million verdict in 2016. I considered myself reasonably well informed about the ins and outs of the affair, as well as my opinion on the subject and its players. Nevertheless, Ryan Holiday's insanely good Conspiracy had me gasping at the audacity and intricacies of Thiel's plot -- from the ambitious young businessman who cooked up the scheme to the astonishing patience, calculated cunning, and ruthlessness required to pull it off. Holiday also reexamines Gawker from a 2018 lens, deconstructing its problematic approach and how errantly it drove the nail into its own coffin. Hubris plays a part in both sides, it turns out, and in Holiday’s hands the story takes on the outsize dimensions of Greek tragedy. With the Machiavellian concept of conspiracy as his foundation, he combines anecdotes from history and literature with lucid analysis and fascinating character studies of Thiel, Hogan, and Gawker founder Nick Denton to craft a riveting narrative of one of modern media's most explosive episodes. Holiday narrates his own work, and while at times I found his delivery somewhat heavy-handed, I believe this is uniquely his story to tell. Highly recommended.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Joe Daly
  • 31-12-18

Fascinating story marred by clunky narration

As someone familiar with the underlying facts, I read the reviews of the audiobook with delight and anticipation. Indeed, the story offers up anti-heroes, villains, mystery men, celebrities, all underpinned by a wide range of moral and ethical issues. A linear account of Peter Thiel's unerring campaign to bring down the online publisher that outed him, Conspiracy delivers a fascinating tale, supported by superb research and the input of all of the major players. Holiday's account of Hulk Hogan during an emotionally-devastating low point is nothing short of inspired, allowing readers to see the possibilities of redemption buried within Hogan's ugliest flaws. Behind top notch writing and a fastidious attention to detail, Conspiracy offers one of the more riveting non-fiction tales of the year.

That said, the performance borders on cartoonish and offers an excellent argument against authors reading their own material. With infuriating consistency, Holiday sounds like he's reading someone else's manuscript for the first time, ending sentences early and splitting up words within the same phrase. "Hogan decided to go. To the store. It was there that he decided. To get a gallon. Of milk." At times it it feels like he's interrupting a sentence to turn the page. His tone is great and with some coaching, Holiday could have delivered a home run. Instead, the choppy and often confused cadence ends up badly distracting from the dramatic heights of the story. The fault is almost certainly that of the producer, who should have never let this recording go to market. You might not notice it at first but as the pattern unfurls with each new sentence, you might well find yourself wishing you'd bought the hardcopy.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful