Feb 20

Gonzo Journalism

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

Hunter Stockton Thompson

It was early in his adult life that Thompson realized he was not good at much of anything, so he took to writing. Hunter S. Thompson shared his genius with the world through what is now known as “Gonzo Journalism”. His most famous work, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was a prime example of gonzo at its best. His contempt for authoritarianism and his love of firearms are enough for me to forever hold hm in high regard. He became an iconic figure in the landscape of American oddballs and crazies. He was contemptuous of many politicians, (most notably, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton) especially when they asserted their brand of “statesmanship” or when they feigned piety. Thompson exhibited a significant degree of irreverence toward certain social norms. This type of irreverence has a certain uniquely American quality about it. As a rule, Americans are not keen on being told what to do or how to live their lives. A free society should cherish the oddballs. They may be a barometer that indicates the health of the culture.

After reviewing his book, The Proud Highway, Time Magazine cast him as the “Uni-bomber of contemporary American letters”. The book, is a compilation of some 2,000 letters, written early on in his career. These letters were written before he really knew where he was going or how to get there. Many of the letters are hilariously funny and reveal the roots of his wit.

For many years, the character Uncle Duke in the comic strip Doonesbury was actually a caricature of Thompson.

His book titled, Hell’s Angels, was a fair and accurate account that revealed the seedy underbelly and inner workings of that motorcycle gang. The time he spent with the Oakland chapter of the H.A.s dispelled any romantic notion of the “boys will be boys” attitude they may have enjoyed in some circles. The two years he spent hanging out with the H.A.’s came to an abrupt termination by means of a severe beating he suffered at the hands of the brutes he had been writing about. He was lucky he lived to tell about it.

Many say that Thompson was like a teenager who never grew up. That is probably quite true, though I don’t see that as a terrible character flaw. Three years after he took his life, Rolling Stone Magazine published a segment of the suicide note, titled Football Season is Over. It read in part, “No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun — for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your (old) age. Relax — This won’t hurt.”

Suicide is often characterized as an act stemming from an unstable mind. Usually attributed to depression or some form of mental illness. In many cases that may be true. However, there are individuals who see the world differently and from their perspective, there comes a time when life becomes a drag and finding enjoyment in living seems for naught. In terms of accepted cultural norms, suicide has long been a taboo in the west with only rare exceptions. To presume to judge someone for their choice of life or death is presumptuous at best. If we do indeed acknowledge the principle of self ownership, then taking one’s own life is a personal prerogative. A gunshot to the head is rather messy and a little consideration for those left to deal with the aftermath may be in order.

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