I’ll be honest. I bought this book because of the title. I was bored, stuck in an airport with a delayed flight, killing time in a bookshop and the title called to me from across the store – after all who doesn’t like a good conspiracy?
Despite its random impulse purchase status, I loved this book.
First of all the cast of characters is unbeatable. The book is based on the true-life conspiracy of how Peter Theil (my favourite genius billionaire) spent ten years and two million dollars on a scheme to bring down Nic Denton, the founder of the online gossip blog, Gawker, over a flippant, unflattering post. Hulk Hogan, the orange-hued giant of Wrestle Mania fame also plays a somewhat unlikely starring role.
Despite the almost comic cast, and almost implausible (yet verifiably true) plotline, the books true genius lies in how the author, Ryan Holiday skillfully unpicks the issue at the heart of the story: The uncomfortable, irresolvable conflict at the heart of libertarian ideology.
The two central antagonists (there is no protagonist here, everyone involved was highly antagonistic in every sense of the word) of Conspiracy, Peter Theil, and Nic Denton, are both passionate libertarians. However, their libertarian views are irreconcilable. Peter believes in the individual’s right to privacy. Nic believes in the individual’s right to free speech, in freedom of information, and that all secrets should be shared.
The events and ultimate outcomes covered Conspiracy is what happens when these two sub-ideologies collide: When one, very wealthy, libertarian exercises his own right to free speech at the expense of another, very wealthy libertarian’s privacy.
The book is a thoughtful commentary on our monstrous content-marketing-and-consuming-culture that thrives on chewing up and spitting out celebrities and secrets, selling souls in exchange for clicks. Read it and re-evaluate your own role in the media and marketing machine that is the Internet.