Forum: Hunter S. Thompson, Rest in Peace
He was a hero of American journalism in a historical moment still filled with hypocrites and whores.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
In the same month the planet gets to know the “journalist” James/Jeff Guckert/Gannon, Hunter S. Thompson decides to make The Big Bit-Spit and eject from the planet. This could be sacrilege, and I hope his family will forgive me, but there is something wretchedly fitting in the confluence. Thompson, the acerbic counterculture writer who popularized a new form of journalism in books like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, fatally shot himself Sunday, Feb. 20, 2005, at his Aspen-area home, his son said. He was 67.
Hunter was a drunk and a drug-sucker. He would go to cover an event and slather himself with LSD. He went to the ‘72 GOP convention as a wild-eyed liberal and elbowed his way into the activist bullpen, grabbing a sign reading ‘Garbage Men Demand Equal Pay’ before charging the floor with the Nixon-shouters to howl “Four More Years!” at John Chancellor. He wanted to write about motorcycle gangs, so he went out and joined the worst of them, and got his ass stomped in. And wrote about it.
Hunter Thompson is the reason I write politics. Period. He was the most honest man in the business. Everyone else had and has an angle, a reputation, or a source to protect. Hunter stripped it down to the raw throbbing nerve and let it fly. How is this for prose:
How many more of these goddam elections are we going to have to write off as lame but ‘regrettably necessary’ holding actions? And how many more of these stinking double-downer sideshows will we have to go through before we can get ourselves straight enough to put together some kind of national election that will give me and the at least 20 million people I tend to agree with a chance to vote for something, instead of always being faced with that old familiar choice between the lesser of two evils? I understand, along with a lot of other people, that the big thing, this year, is Beating Nixon. But that was also the big thing, as I recall, twelve years ago in 1960—and as far as I can tell, we’ve gone from bad to worse to rotten since then, and the outlook is for more of the same.
It is a nervous thing to consider: Not just four more years of Nixon, but Nixon’s last four years in politics—completely unshackled, for the first time in his life, from any need to worry about who might or might not vote for him the next time around. If he wins in November, he will finally be free to do whatever he wants…or maybe ‘wants’ is too strong a word for right now. It conjures up images of Papa Doc, Batista, Somoza; jails full of bewildered ‘political prisoners’ and the constant cold-sweat fear of jackboots suddenly kicking your door off its hinges at 4am.
The main problem in any democracy is that crowd-pleasers are generally brainless swine who can go out on a stage & whup their supporters into an orgiastic frenzy—then go back to the office & sell every one of the poor bastards down the tube for a nickel apiece. Probably the rarest form of life in American politics is the man who can turn on a crowd & still keep his head straight—assuming it was straight in the first place.
That’s the stuff. Rip it down, Bubba, and let the fur fly. For the record, the aforementioned is from Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972, possibly the most purely excellent book on politics to be found anywhere.
Amusing, then, that Hunter decides to cash his check in the same week we learn about James or Jeff Gannon or Guckert or whatever. What would Thompson have made of this feeble wretch? Of a man who reports on the White House with a fake name? Who was so clearly the go-to guy for McClellan or Bush when the questions got too hot? Who copied and pasted his ‘news reports’ from boilerplate GOP press releases? Who somehow got within 20 feet of the president of the United States using a false name while peddling his wares online as a male prostitute for $200 an hour?
Hunter once wrote in The Great Shark Hunt about walking in on two Secret Service agents sharing a joint back and forth in a hotel room. Maybe that’s how Gannon/Guckert/Whoever got within pistol range of the leader of the free world. No other explanation seems to satisfy.
It comes down to this. The Bush crew has been caught in bed with the proverbial “live boy.” Someone in that White House either eased Gannon/Guckert/Whomever through the “hard pass” application process, which requires a thorough background check, or else smoothed the way for him to get day pass after day pass after day pass. Some complain that Gannon/Guckert/Whomever is being victimized for his political views. This misses the point. Someone let a working advertising whore into the White House, and then was stupid enough to let him walk around alive and free after he blew his own cover. That’s the point.
My hero died tonight. He was a flawed man, a maniac, in so many ways the antithesis of what a journalist is supposed to be. Worst of all, he told the truth. There is now one less warrior on this planet filled with Guckert clones, drones who get fed shit and regurgitate it wholesale for the masses because that is what we are trained to eat.
Rest in peace, Hunter. Thank you for everything. We’re going to deal with this Gannon/Guckert/Whomever person, and then move down the line and deal with the rest of the whores. You died on the eve of the birth of a new journalism, populist in nature, beholden to the truth and thanking the Google gods every step of the way. I wish you had stuck around to see it, but I’ll tell you all about it when we meet at that clearing at the end of the path. Until then…
William Rivers Pitt is the author of War in Iraq—What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition is Silence. He is a senior writer at truthout.org.