In the course of my many interviews with Thiel for my book Conspiracy I would observe his extraordinarily sharp mind in action. There are a few things that are worth pointing out.
First, one of the most profound intellectual influences on Peter Thiel is a French thinker named René Girard, whom he met while at Stanford and whose funeral he would eventually speak at. If you haven’t heard of his work, he is famous for his theory of mimetic desire, which holds that people have no idea what they want, or what they value, so are drawn to what other people want. A more crude way to say it is that you don’t have any real preferences and desires of your own, and you are always looking at others. It’s this, Girard says, that is the source of almost all the conflict in the world—people wanting the same things. In one way, this would forge Thiel’s modus operandi: shun social convention and think from first principles. People say that Thiel is “contrarian” but it’s more accurate to say he is anti-mimetic.
I mean, take a look at the unique path he has shaped for himself, and I will focus on his earlier days here. In some ways it is very traditional and highly competitive with other people— from Stanford to Stanford Law to judicial clerkship to a high-powered law firm—but it is also marked by bouts of rebellion and doing the opposite of “what he is supposed to do.” At Stanford he created and published a radical conservative journal called The Stanford Review, then he wrote a book that railed against multiculturalism and “militant homosexuals” on campus despite being both gay and foreign born. His friends thought he might become a political pundit. Instead he became a lawyer. Then one day, surprising even himself, he walked out of one of the most prestigious securities law firms in the world, Sullivan & Cromwell, after seven months and three days on the job. All these are examples of his decisiveness to make his choices based on first principles—not how you’re supposed to do things but what is true.
Second, another interesting method in his intellectual toolkit, is that he uses the Steel Man technique when arguing or explaining a complicated issue. This surprised me given that he had taken to calling Gawker, the website that outed him as gay, terrorists and such. But really, he was always very open-minded when it came to discussing things. For instance, if you ask Thiel a question—about Gawker or Trump or whatever—he doesn’t just pull up some half-formed opinion. Instead, he begins with, “One view of these things is that . . . ,” and then proceeds to explain the exact opposite of what he happens to personally believe. Only after he has finished, with complete sincerity and deference, describing how most people think about the issue, will he then give you his opinion, which almost always happens to be something radically unorthodox—all of it punctuated with liberal pauses to consider what he is saying as he is saying it.
Thiel seems to eschew social media and most popular culture as well. A friend would say that Thiel is averse to “casual bar talk” and I think part of the reason for that is that he is not well versed in the topics that typically make up those conversations. In one of our meetings I made an observation about how the HBO show Girls gets much more media attention than the the CBS show The Big Bang Theory even though the latter has a much, much larger audience than the former. This observation fell flat because Thiel was not familiar with either show. However, when I mentioned an obscure chapter in Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy, Thiel could cite it from memory and discuss at length. The same went for the Battle of Valmy, an early episode in the French Revolution. This is because Thiel is extremely well-read and again, tends to focus on talking about and thinking about deep, obscure topics rather than superficial, trivial matters.
It could also be said that Thiel’s default state is to embody contradiction. Even when he does describe his opinion, he prefaces it with “I tend to think . . .” or “It’s always this question of . . . ,” as if what he is about to tell you is simply capturing where his opinion falls the majority of the time when running a thought exercise on the topic, as if he is always in the process of deciding what he thinks. Doing so is what makes him such a brilliant investor, considering each trade and investment anew from a dozen perspectives, seeing what others aren’t able to see and to do it on a regenerative basis. A friend would say that “Peter is of two minds on everything. If you were able to open his skull, you would see a number of Mexican standoffs between powerful antagonistic ideas you wouldn’t think could be safely housed in the same brain.”
All these traits combine to make someone who is not only traditionally intelligent, but also unique and singular in his views on the world. He once told Wired that, “The things that I think I’m right about other people are in some sense not even wrong about, because they’re not thinking about them.” That’s a good encapsulation of Thiel’s approach. He’s smart because he thinks about the things you and I aren’t thinking about, and thinks about them in a way we likely wouldn’t.
My new book Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, which the New York Times raved about, is out now. Not only is the book an epic page turner, it’s designed to be a deep meditation on strategy and power inspired by the decade-long conspiracy engineered by the billionaire Peter Thiel to take down Gawker. Order your copy now.
DeSantis has worked on his Trump Impression On-Stage
It’s so creepy! It’s like he’s studied all of Trump’s traits & has incorporated them into his persona. I mean look at his first commercial he put out for governor. There he teaches his baby to build a wall & a bunch of other cringy stuff. Isn’t that a sign of a sociopath or some other kind of “path”, that they become like the ppl they want to be like? Kinda like in Single White Female, where Bridget Fonda became like her roommate? Whatever it is, it’s extremely disturbing!Heard someone call him diet trump
Homie OBVIOUSLY called Trump’s tailor before this event….
He stands that way because he suffers from ILS ( Invisible Lat Syndrome)
He penalized schools for trying to protect their students from a deadly virus. What a piece of 💩!Sounded like a threat of violence against a man who is leaving. Why? His is grasping for MAGA’s! He will be on about Hillery any moment now. SMH…
attempting to incite violence again are we desantis trump ?i hope it comes back to you ten foldI swear if you listened to the DeSantis speech with no video and only audio you almost couldn’t tell the difference between him and the orange clown.Stochastic terrorism on Desantis’ part. That’s illegalMAGAS just love mud slinging, hate, name calling and insultHe’s playing up to Keri Lake saying he and Trumpf both have BDE (I thought it was some kind of STI but never mind) He can’t do the height himself so he has to be as nasty as TrumpfEveryone should refer to Desantis as Baby Trump from now on to get under his skin as well as create anxiety for Trump that his rule is about to be handed over.
(Mimetic) Strategy when People STARE to INTIMIDATE YOU… SIMPLE HACK Avoids Street Fights
Eye contact is a major display of intimidation. It provokes fights and enforces dominance. This week we discuss how to defend yourself against this form of social aggression when people are looking for a fight. It’s all very simple psychology. Try this simple trick it works.
How Cops Create Mayhem From a Simple Inconvenience
Police refuses to call superviser at beginning of the stop, but says they will after the driver provides license and registration.
At the end of the contentious stop, the officer admits he never called a supervisor.
Do you still want a superviser?
That’s what I figured. That’s why I didn’t call them.