FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Re-Visiting Gonzo

I was going into my senior year of high school in 1972. The school I attended was on a military installation in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. When classes were done for the day, I would usually go to the base library to hang out. The library was right next to the high school. The librarian was a draftee whose number was too low to avoid being drafted into the army. He was thankful to be in Germany and not Vietnam. Anyhow, we became friends over our shared love of books and rock music. So, he always set aside the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine for me. When I was done with the issue he put it on the shelf. In 1972, the main reason for reading Rolling Stone was Hunter S Thompson’s coverage of the US presidential campaign. George McGovern was my candidate, if I had one, but Hunter S. Thompson was my man. His commentary raged, ravaged and saw beyond the bullshit put out in the press by the candidates. The writing was angry, humorous and even psychedelic at times. Campaign journalism has never been as much fun to read since that 1972 campaign.

I was reminded of this while reading a newly-published collection of interviews featuring Thompson. Titled Hunter S. Thompson: The Last Interview and Other Conversations, the book is a quick study of the political and cultural tempests of the past fifty years. Although he died in 2006, Thompson’s comments are even truer today than when he first uttered them. Like the novelist Philip K. Dick, Thompson observed the times he lived in and, wittingly or not, ended up predicting the future. Also, like Philip K. Dick’s, that future (which is our present) is brutal, crude and under the yoke of a technological authoritarianism. Perhaps the most prescient such example of this is Thompson’s response to a question from his interviewer, the great Studs Terkel, in 1967. “The people who are being left out, “says Thompson. “And put behind won’t be obvious for years. There will be a million Hells Angels. They won’t be wearing the colors but they’ll be people who are looking for vengeance because they’ve been left behind.” (p. 10) Every single person reading this review must know at least a couple folks like this. Indeed, as the editor points out in his introduction, those are the people who voted for Trump.

Thompson’s two greatest (and best known) books were published in a matter of perhaps three years. The first, which has become a text right up there with The Great Gatsby, is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. This book deserves the comparison to Gatsby because it too, is an examination of the greatest of all American myths—the myth of the American dream. Where The Great Gatsby has the green light on the dock opposite Gatsby’s mansion, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has the receding wave of Sixties innocence in the face of the US death cult the American Dream had long become. The second book is titled Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972. As noted above, political campaign reporting has never been as interesting to read ever since. Both of these books are discussed quite a bit in this collection of interviews. So is Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga. Other conversations about Thompson’s later work as a sportswriter opinion writer that fill out the book; so do a few comments about his media personality.

Of the latter conversations, it is the one titled “Fear and Loathing after 9/11” that seems the most important. Nominally a discussion about his 2003 book Kingdom of Fear, Thompson discusses the George W. Bush administration, the buildup to the upcoming invasion of Iraq, and the end of any real democracy in the United States. He savages Bush, calling him worse than Nixon and points out the impending fascism the Dubya administration represented. It is not a hopeful conversation. Then again, those were not hopeful times. (Of course, Obama proved how little hope matters in the twenty-first century—some folks are still digesting that.)

Earlier in the book, Thompson takes on Bill Clinton, showing him to be the shallow money-grubbing liar that he is. God only knows what he would have to say about Trump. However, given that Thompson is thirteen years dead, he’s not talking. It is up to today’s journalists to carry on. This text can provide the inspiration to do that.

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail