“We might live in a world of too few conspiracies, not too many.”
Conspiracy is a compelling story mushroomed into a grand theory that often feels unwarranted and unwanted.
The court battle between Gawker and Hulk Hogan (secretly funded by the billionaire investor Peter Thiel) over the non-consensual publication of a celebrity sex tape stands at the intersection of many of today’s social tensions: independent press vs fake news, online harassment vs free speech, tech elite vs the masses, privacy vs celebrity. There is a lot to unpack here, especially for someone with the kind of access the author does for this book. There is also a danger of writing something trapped in its own time, contributing to a conversation that has moved on a month from now. Ryan Holiday has made it clear he is interested in writing perennial sellers, and Conspiracy aspires to be one.
As a result, Holiday doesn’t just explore the facts of the court case, but accompanies each step with a narration that constructs a grander theory of conspiracy: the ingredients of a conspiracy, the steps and sacrifices that come with maintaining one and their utility in society. Along the way he brings in anecdotes from Sun Tsu’s Art of War, tactical strategies used during WWII and Machiavelli discourses from the 1500s.
But rather than be enlightened by Holiday’s interpretations, I found them to be more like interjections, trying to convince you of a broader narrative that I couldn’t wholly trust. Events felt filtered through Holiday’s tinted glasses, leaving little room for the reader‘s own interpretation.
That didn’t stop Conspiracy being a gripping read. It’s more than worth the time investment for the inside scoop alone. But I empathise with Holiday’s desire to go beyond the inside scoop, to write something that will remain relevant for years to come. I just need more convincing that his ideas are applicable beyond the facts of this particular case. Something more than theory.