We’ve got to talk quickly about Peter Thiel.
All year I’ve been using Thiel’s key interview question as a writing prompt.
Q: What important truth do very few people agree with you on?
A: “Most people believe in x, but the truth is the opposite of x.”
Thiel’s been in the news quite a bit lately. Specifically, we found out that he’s a supporter of Donald Trump, and that he’s been secretly backing Hulk Hogan’s company-crippling lawsuit against Gawker because of a grudge he’s held for about a decade. As it turns out, he might be a megalomaniac, or a cartoon supervillain, or something, depending on who you ask.
Several of my readers have sent me links to these sorts of articles, with appeals along the lines of “You can’t write about him anymore! He’s a madman!!”
So here’s today’s important, controversial truth: You can still learn tremendously good things from bad people. Bad people can have good ideas.
That’s not to say you subscribe to the whole of their philosophies or their practice. And it’s not to say you are, or will become, a bad person yourself. It is to say that flatly rejecting a person’s ideas in one field because of something disagreeable they did in a far different arena is technically illogical. (“Some ideas are bad” and “all ideas are bad” are correlated, but the former doesn’t automatically predict the latter). It may even be immoral.
This is not to say that I agree, or disagree, with the things Peter Thiel has done. Extolling or condemning his virtues are not crusades I care to join, and to that end, I’ve gone back and edited out unnecessary references to Thiel in my other essays on the subject.
Nonetheless: I believe the question and the search for answers are no less profound and meaningful today than they were before. I plan on continuing to think and write accordingly.