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Tyler Cowen

Seven Lessons About Blackmail

Such as: When someone’s privacy is violated, the main villains are not always Internet companies.

Billionaires can be pretty useful.

Billionaires can be pretty useful.

Photographer: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images North America

Every now and then, a few apparently random news events come together and influence how you see the world. My most recent lesson is that blackmail and blackmail risk are a lot more common than I had thought.

The first relevant news event is the allegation by Jeff Bezos that the National Enquirer has been blackmailing him with the threat to release photos of his private parts (there is much more detail to this story). Several other people have since alleged that the Enquirer has engaged in additional unscrupulous extortion tactics. This could be part of a broader pattern, involving other media and intelligence services.