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Peter Thiel will discuss “quest to shut down Gawker” at SXSW

Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Nick Denton
Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Nick Denton

SXSW, which covers tech, movies, music and much more, got some slack last year for booking then-FBI guy James Comey to speak as part of SXSW Interactive to discuss cybersecurity. The issue — mostly raised by music people who wouldn’t even get to see him — seemed to be that Comey helped get Trump elected by raising doubts about Hillary at the last minute. SXSW had landed the head of the FBI to speak about government tech at their conference (one year after Obama was a guest at SXSW), but it was a fresh wound and some people were just pissed about it. He ended up cancelling anyway.

Today a new list of 2018 panelists is out, and we were very surprised to see somebody on there even more controversial. Trump ally Peter Thiel is not only going to speak, but the description literally says we’ll get to hear about “his quest to shut down Gawker.” Ouch. Listen, I get that the founder of PayPal is much more than just a Trump-supporting billionaire who funded the destruction of an entire popular media company that wronged him (no, I’m not talking about Joe Ricketts), and hearing what he has to say about it is a topic worth exploring, but as part of an official SXSW panel?

Full event description:

Ryan Holiday and Peter Thiel (News & Journalism) – Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying; The Obstacle Is the Way; Ego Is the Enemy; and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His upcoming book Conspiracy will be released on March 6, 2018. Peter Thiel is an entrepreneur and investor. He started PayPal in 1998, led it as CEO, and took it public in 2002, defining a new era of fast and secure online commerce. In 2004, Thiel launched Palantir Technologies, a software company that harnesses computers to empower human analysts in fields like national security and global finance. Ryan Holiday will interview Peter Thiel on privacy, and his quest to shut down Gawker.

Ryan’s upcoming book also happens to be about the shut down of Gawker.

Full new SXSW announcement, which also includes Ted Leo, below:

Austin, Texas – November 9, 2017 – South by Southwest® (SXSW®) Conference and Festivals (March 9-18, 2018) has added more Featured Speakers to their programming lineup, including CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, Forerunner Ventures founder Kirsten Green, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute Walter Isaacson, Vox editor-at-large Ezra Klein, serial entrepreneur Loic Le Meur, former New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez, political strategist and commentator Symone Sanders, entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel, music producer Young Guru, James Beard Award-winning TV personality Andrew Zimmern, and many more.

“This diverse and dynamic group of speakers represents many of the burgeoning trends we see coming out of SXSW in 2018,” said Hugh Forrest, Chief Programming Officer. “From leaders in blockchain and AI ethics to supporters of women’s rights around the world and more, we’re excited to showcase more of the exciting ideas that make our event the foremost destination for creative people.”

Yesterday, SXSW announced the addition of Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, to the Keynote lineup. Mayor Khan joins previously announced SXSW Keynotes Darren Aronofsky (Film Keynote), Ta-Nehisi Coates (Convergence Keynote), Barry Jenkins​ (Film Keynote), Esther Perel ​(Interactive Keynote), and whurley ​(Convergence Keynote). His Keynote will take place on Monday, March 12.

SXSW Conference programming is organized into 24 Tracks divided between Interactive, Film, Music, and Convergence, presented in a variety of session formats. Continuing last year’s initiative, SXSW is offering expanded access to events for all registrants. Attendees will receive primary access to programming associated with their badge type but now also enjoy secondary entry to most other SXSW events.


Sadiq Khan (Convergence Keynote) – Sadiq Khan is the Mayor of London, having been elected in May 2016 with the largest personal mandate in the history of British politics. He began his career practicing law with a focus on human rights, then served as a Member of Parliament representing a constituency in south London for ten years.

Featured Speakers

Christiane Amanpour (News & Journalism) – Christiane Amanpour is CNN’s chief international correspondent and anchor of the network’s award-winning flagship global affairs program Amanpour. She is based in the network’s London bureau. Amanpour’s fearless and uncompromising approach has made her popular with audiences and a force to be reckoned with by global influencers.

Brian Behlendorf (Startup & Tech Sectors) – Brian Behlendorf was a primary developer of the Apache Web server, the most popular web server software on the Internet, and a founding member of the Apache Software Foundation. He has also served on the board of the Mozilla Foundation since 2003 and the Electronic Frontier Foundation since 2013. He was the founding CTO of CollabNet and CTO of the World Economic Forum. Most recently, Behlendorf was a managing director at Mithril Capital Management LLC, a global technology investment firm.

Daniel Glass (Music Industry) – Daniel Glass is Founder/President of Glassnote Entertainment Group, a full service independent music company that began in 2007. Glassnote Entertainment Group includes Glassnote Records, Insieme Music Publishing, Present Artist Management and Resolved Records.

Kirsten Green (Startup & Tech Sectors) – Kirsten Green used a unique and unconventional blend of professional history and acquired investment experience to launch San Francisco-based Forerunner Ventures in 2010, where she currently serves as Founder and Managing Director. Noticing that emerging purchasing processes were linear and ripe for improvement, Green developed a pacesetter mentality and analytical eye to remain ahead of experience-driven retail trends and identify compelling brand platforms and visionary entrepreneurs.

Ryan Holiday and Peter Thiel (News & Journalism) – Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying; The Obstacle Is the Way; Ego Is the Enemy; and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His upcoming book Conspiracy will be released on March 6, 2018. Peter Thiel is an entrepreneur and investor. He started PayPal in 1998, led it as CEO, and took it public in 2002, defining a new era of fast and secure online commerce. In 2004, Thiel launched Palantir Technologies, a software company that harnesses computers to empower human analysts in fields like national security and global finance. Ryan Holiday will interview Peter Thiel on privacy, and his quest to shut down Gawker.

Walter Isaacson (Startup & Tech Sectors) – Walter Isaacson, University Professor of History at Tulane, has been CEO of the Aspen Institute, chairman of CNN, and editor of Time magazine. He is the author of Leonardo da Vinci, Steve Jobs, Einstein: His Life and Universe, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, and Kissinger: A Biography. He is also the coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made.

Guy Kawasaki and Symone Sanders (Government) – Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool. He is a brand ambassador for Mercedes-Benz and an executive fellow of the Haas School of Business (UC Berkeley). Symone D. Sanders is a strategist who rose to prominence during her tenure as the national press secretary for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.

Ezra Klein (Government) – Ezra Klein is the editor-at-large and co-founder of Vox, the news brand from Vox Media known for explaining the news and going deeper into the stories that define the world today. Klein focuses on writing, reporting, and podcasting, and offers creative guidance to Vox’s Emmy-nominated video programming.

Dylan Marron (Social Impact) – Dylan Marron is a writer, performer, and videomaker whose work blends social activism and entertainment. He voices Carlos on Welcome to Night Vale and created Every Single Word, a video series that edits down popular films to only feature the words spoken by people of color. Marron creates, hosts, and produces interview shows like Sitting in Bathrooms with Trans People and Shutting Down Bullsh*t, as well as his signature Unboxing series. In his critically-acclaimed podcast Conversations with People Who Hate Me he calls up folks who have said negative or hateful things about him on the internet.

Loic Le Meur, Adam Cheyer, Daphne Koller, and Nell Watson (Intelligent Future) – This group of extraordinary leaders and AI experts will discuss and debate the burning questions around AI. Do we need to fear the rapid progress in AI? Does AI replace humans or augment us and is now the right time to be worrying about ethics, or is it still too early? They’ll examine where AI is being practically applied in industry now, along with the “unexpected” applications. Looking to get into the mix? Hear how to start an AI company and why it is a good idea. What’s next? Learn how biology and medicine are a big AI frontier and more.

Ted Leo and Money Mark with Molly Neuman (Music Industry) – The challenges and opportunities in the music business are well documented and discussed. Who are the real leaders who are taking risks and forging new models of business and careers? How can we have a healthier ecosystem for all? Artists are on the front lines with their fans and community making the case for their careers and offering new ways of running their businesses to positive effect for us all.

Matthew Libatique and Snehal Patel (Making Film & Episodics) – Matthew Libatique is a cinematographer best known for his work on Black Swan, Iron Man, The Fountain, Mother!, and Requiem for a Dream. Libatique was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography for his work on Black Swan, for which he won his second Independent Spirit award. Snehal Patel is a filmmaker, technologist and instructor with over twenty years of experience filming video and film.

Miguel McKelvey (Workplace) – Miguel McKelvey is the Co-founder and Chief Culture Officer of WeWork, a platform for creators that helps people make a life, not just a living. McKelvey oversees diverse initiatives across the company, ensuring that WeWork’s foundational values are infused into all aspects of the company’s culture, design, products and operations.

Alex Rodriguez with Mark Hoffman (Sports) – Former New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez, one of the greatest players in the history of the game, reflects on his storied career—the highs and the lows—and how he’s leveraging what he’s learned to mentor a new generation of sports stars on his new CNBC primetime series, Back in the Game. CNBC Chairman Mark Hoffman will moderate the conversation.

Bruce Sterling (Startup & Tech Sectors) – Bruce Sterling, author, journalist, editor, and critic, was born in 1954. Best known for his ten science fiction novels, he also writes short stories, book reviews, design criticism, opinion columns, and introductions for books ranging from Ernst Jünger to Jules Verne. His most recent book, Utopia pirata – I racconti di Bruno Argento, is a collection of Italian fantascienza stories.

Gary Vaynerchuk (Startup & Tech Sectors) – Gary Vaynerchuk is an entrepreneur, four-time New York Times best-selling author and CEO of VaynerMedia. Vaynerchuk is also a prolific angel investor and co-founded VaynerRSE, a $25M investment fund. Currently, he hosts two shows on his YouTube channel, #AskGaryVee and #DailyVee.

Wendy Williams (Music Culture & Stories) – Wendy Williams is a media mogul, actress, comedian, entrepreneur, designer, and New York Times best-selling author, who is best known for her long-running Daytime Emmy® nominated talk show, The Wendy Williams Show. Prior to achieving success in daytime television, Williams built a devoted fan base throughout a successful 23-year career in radio, with the top-rated daily radio show The Wendy Williams Experience. Williams will discuss female empowerment in the entertainment and music industries.

Young Guru (Music Industry) – The Wall Street Journal calls Young Guru “the most influential man in hip-hop you’ve never heard of.” Often referred to as “The Sound of New York,” legendary audio engineer Gimel “Young Guru” Keaton is most known for his work behind the boards with Jay Z. Guru’s ability to communicate complex technical terms not only to artists but students, creatives and business professionals has led to his reputation as the foremost leader bridging the gap between hip-hop and the tech community. Through this love for technology and innovation, Guru cofounded Era of the Engineer – a social enterprise designed to shed light where culture and technology intersect.

Andrew Zimmern (Food) – A four-time James Beard Award-winning TV personality, chef, writer and teacher, Andrew Zimmern is regarded as one of the most versatile and knowledgeable personalities in the food world. As the creator, executive producer and host of the Bizarre Foods franchise on Travel Channel and Andrew Zimmern’s Driven by Food, he has explored cultures in more than 170 countries, promoting impactful ways to think about, create and live with food.

SXSW dedicates itself to helping creative people achieve their goals. Founded in 1987 in Austin, Texas, SXSW is best known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. The event, an essential destination for global professionals, features sessions, showcases, screenings, exhibitions, and a variety of networking opportunities. SXSW proves that the most unexpected discoveries happen when diverse topics and people come together. SXSW 2018 will take place March 9-18, 2018.

SXSW 2018 is sponsored by Capital One and The Austin Chronicle.

SXSW just announced a new round of performing musicians as well.

Peter Thiel also appeared at SXSW 2013, back when Trump was just a reality TV star and Gawker was still a site we could read:

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