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Conspiracy — Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the anatomy of intrigue

Yes, real life is messy, yes, there is more stupidity than evil in the world, and no, there are no billionaire/vampire/reptile cabals running the show behind the curtains (if only). Yet individual humans do have needs, and some of those needs are secret, and when meeting a secret need involves more than one person, when each of those persons is tasked with keeping their role a secret, and when that role is exacting revenge, well then, you have a genuine conspiracy.

There have been many conspiracies in my lifetime, most of them having to do with Serbian politics: the conspiracy by the heads of Serbia and Croatia to break up Yugoslavia; the conspiracy by parts of the Serbian surveillance apparatus to overthrow Slobodan Milošević; the conspiracy by the Serbian mafia-political complex to assasinate the prime minister; the conspiracy by parties yet unknown to hide the numbers of Serbian Covid-19 victims… You cannot fault the average Serb for seeing conspiracies everywhere, and you can empathise at least a tiny bit for being sceptical of masks, vaccines, the existence of the virus itself.

The last time the average American was exposed to a big conspiracy that was named as such was in 1974, and it was so bungled and comically inept that you cannot fault them for thinking conspiracies are relegated to history books. This is what Ryan Holiday suggests in his book, while unravelling the conspiracy by Peter Thiel to secretly bankroll civil lawsuits against Gawker Media until they are bankrupt. But is this true? After all, weren’t Purdue Pharma, Ferguson PD, the 25th amendment gang, and the Capitol insurrectionists, to name a few, all involved in more or less successful conspiracies?

“The idea of a conspiracy,” Thiel is quoted saying in the book, “is linked with intentionality, with planning, working towards longer-term goals. In a world where you don’t have conspiracies maybe also those things disappear.” Holiday adds: “The truth is that Gawker already believed we lived in that world. And so do far too many people.”

I object to that evaluation of my fellow humans, because most people are well aware of the fact that we do indeed live in a world full of conspiracies. If the last few years have taught us anything, it is that people over-read them. But they are conspiracies perpetrated by multinational corporations, rouge state officials, the actual states, and, Holiday’s book now tells us, condescending billionaires.

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