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Hunter Thompson and PJ O’Rourke: The limitations and influence of HST

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Hunter S Thompson was a one trick pony. He did a fairly amusing trick, but it was pretty limited. It went something like this: Get journalistic assignment to cover a political campaign. Get really wasted on as many exotic chemicals as you can lay hands to. Engage in confrontational drunk and disorderly conduct and make a nuisance of yourself. Write it all down, with some made up crap thrown in to make it extra colorful. Add some dark, broad predictions of an apocalypse, and you’ve hit literary pay dirt. Oh, and if you can shoehorn in some kind of a quote from the candidate who is the nominal subject of your diatribe, that would probably be considered good form. [“Remember Alice? This is a song about Alice.”]

Boy howdy, did this approach get O-L-D with a quickness. It could be entertaining in a Rolling Stone article, but was not near enough to carry a real book. And that was in the 60s and 70s. He was still writing the same article again and again to the very end. From an ESPN column “Welcome to the Big Darkness” dated July 22, 2003:

The American nation is in the worst condition I can remember in my lifetime, and our prospects for the immediate future are even worse. I am surprised and embarrassed to be a part of the first American generation to leave the country in far worse shape than it was when we first came into it. Our highway system is crumbling, our police are dishonest, our children are poor, our vaunted Social Security, once the envy of the world, has been looted and neglected and destroyed by the same gang of ignorant greed-crazed bastards who brought us Vietnam, Afghanistan, the disastrous Gaza Strip and ignominious defeat all over the world.

The Stock Market will never come back, our Armies will never again be No. 1, and our children will drink filthy water for the rest of our lives.

The Bush family must be very proud of themselves today, but I am not. Big Darkness, soon come. Take my word for it.

Note the utter lack of actually saying anything. There’s no indication of exactly what which specific “greed-crazed bastards” have actually done to screw the pooch. Indeed, it’s an utterly generic screed with no active connection to any particular facts. He could have substituted “Nixon” for “Bush” and dated in 1970. He could have said “Clinton” and dated it in the 90s.

Essentially, Hunter Thompson was the literary precursor of punk rock. It made a pretty big splash, but there was nowhere for the purebreds’ uncut nihilism to go. The Sex Pistols knocked ‘em dead with Never Mind the Bullocks, but the rejection of all values (particularly journalism and musicianship) left them with no follow up.

The logical extension of the Sex Pistols style and worldview left them needing the suicide of Sid Vicious to legitimize their work, and give it one final shock. It was the big, final publicity stunt. Likewise, obviously, with Hunter Thompson. There’s not much place else to go after “Big Darkness, soon come.” Note that this comes out a command rather than a prediction. Where else could this end but with his brains splashed on the wall?

As amusing as Thompson could be in his prime (if you didn’t think about where it was inevitably headed), he was still intellectual junk food. You sure couldn’t use Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972 as any kind of history book about the presidential campaign of 1972. There was a minimum of any kind of actual relevant facts, and there’s a good chance that he’d made half of them up anyway.

Did I mention that Thompson liked to just make crap up? McGovern campaign manager Frank Mankiewicz described Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972 as “the least factual, but most accurate” account of the race. Many liberal supporters have defended Thompson likewise as expressing truth that transcended his frequent and purposeful dishonesty. Riiiiight. Is a detailed explanation of the extreme weakness of this position really necessary?

Nor did his work provide any kind of philosophical insight into “the death of the American dream.” Hunter Thompson seeing big winged bats because he’s taken too many hallucinogenic drugs does not qualify as any statement on where things went wrong in the country- unless you’re taking it as commentary on the scourge of drug abuse. It’s just fairly clever masturbation.

On the other hand, Hunter S Thompson definitely has had some good effects. Most obviously, he’s been an inspiration for a lot of young would-be writers to pick up a pen. That’s certainly to the good. Of course, the inspired college boy might take the lesson that being a great writer depends on seeing how many drugs you can take while striving for the most outrageous denunciation of The Man you can find.

Still, he was fairly innovative in the basic form of journalism with his subjective first person narrative style. Along with Tom Wolfe, Thompson was the architect of “new journalism.” Thompson made writing look like great joyous fun. There’s a fair amount to learn from Thompson, even in his failures.

Most obviously and completely, PJ O’Rourke has fully realized the promise in Thompson’s approach. He picked up the subjective first person style, including the willingness to openly state opinions and the use of his personal anecdotes in telling the story.

For one thing, O’Rourke has made far better use of the personal anecdote than Thompson. He’s mostly used them slightly more sparingly, usually in some way that actually contributes to telling the story he’s covering. O’Rourke has described some drunken escapades and drug humor, but just a little for flavoring.

O’Rourke has used a lot broader range of personal stories, generally in a relevant manner. My favorite example comes from Parliament of Whores, in which he describes how he got shoulder deep up a cow that he was helping his friend artificially inseminate. This was relevant as an introduction to the farm bill Congress was working up- and as a metaphor for how US agricultural policy worked.

This was something that HST was just generally not going to do. He wouldn’t even intend on actually exhibiting the simple discipline involved in studying the details of a farm bill. That would be too much like eating rather than drinking or smoking your vegetables.

Critically, O’Rourke has used HST’s palette in the service of actually reporting stories and communicating useful information. The humor and wild analogies and metaphors serve as the spoonful of sugar making palatable the explanation of dry but signifcant government policies.

Parliament of Whores, for example, describes the practical operations and policy initiatives of the US Congress in the 1989/90 term. These many years after reading the book, I can still spill you back his explanations about S&L regulation being left to schoolchildren and pet mice coping with people making loans to finance the farming of fur bearing trout.

Most importantly, I actually retained at least some rudimentary understanding of just how the infamous S&L debacle worked. PJ’s personalized gonzo style allowed many people to keep their eyes open long enough to actually get some reasonable explanation of what happened in these arcane but extremely expensive scandals.

In fact, Parliament of Whores could be used productively as a history book. It provides a useful account of the the congressional sausage factory, with personal opinions and wild analogies clearly delineated from the facts. It’s a classic example of what Hunter Thompson’s new journalism can accomplish, if separated from the shortcomings of the architect.

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  • Dr. Tongue Kiss

    yawn.

  • Tyler Liar

    Double yawn. Another tired and lame article on Hunter S Thompson were drugs eclipse everything else.

  • Eric Olsen

    interesting comparison

  • http://www.wallybangs.blogspot.com wally bangs

    Good post Al. Including the Welcome To The Darkness piece was a really nice touch. Only somebody completely blind to reality, historically ignorant, or somebody wanting to just grind an axe would actually believe things are worse today than they were decades ago. I’m no huge fan of huge corporations, and I do despise seeing the same franchises all across the country (buy local and independent), but the actual standard of living has improved dramatically since my childhood. And how poor are our poor? We always support the local Angel Tree program every Christmas where I work and there are always numerous requests for video games. If you’ve got a Playstation 2 I don’t consider that poor. I grew up during the 70’s and I remember many a night when all I had to eat for supper was butter and bread. As for the folks yawning, you are beating a dead horse for people with death ears.

  • http://www.wallybangs.blogspot.com wallybangs

    I forgot to add: I read recently that one problem with the USA is that we have gone from people feeling they have the right to pursue happiness(which we do), but that we all have the right to pursue pleasure, which of course are not the same thing.

  • Eric Olsen

    Tyler, you’re right: it was drugs, alcohol and guns that came to eclipse everything else.

  • Shark

    Al, if you wanna reach the ‘top of the charts’, you should give up beating a dead horse and post Al Barger’s “100 Greatest Guitarists List”. That should keep your post active for decades.

    It would also be more honorable, and probably has less of a chance of making you sound like an idiot with a tight sphincter who’s trying to hard too be provocative.

    Extra points for not using the phrase “”Nietzchean [sic] resentment”, though.

    PS: Ayn Rand still sucks.

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/djradiohead DJRadiohead

    I don’t really care all that much about HST. I am sorry he’s dead.

    PJ O’Rourke, on the other hand, has been a favorite of mine for years.

  • http://faeryface.diaryland.com Katharine Donelson

    As a style pioneer, if HST can count P.J. O’Rourke as part of his legacy, I’d say he did a pretty fine job pioneering. Nearly everything I know about economics I know because of Eat the Rich.

    And, this may sound ridiculous, but I keep reading criticism of Hunter S. Thompson’s work and I can’t help but think of criticism of Dorothy Parker’s work. He talked about the same things over and over again (Parker was criticized for writing on narrow topics), he didn’t offer any alternatives to fix the problems he pointed out (to quote from the penquin classics intro to Parker’s complete short stories, “those [women, like Parker] who point out the absurdities in life without offering an accompanying twelve-step program to fix it all up are deemed ethically irresponsible”). Now, Hunter S. Thompson is not really worthy of a comparison with Dorothy Parker. Her catalogue is much more varied and noteworthy, but I find the parallels interesting nonetheless.

  • Steve Clackson

    HUNTER S. THOMPSON
    Hunter did not simply blaze a trail he ignited it.
    His passion, wit and insight grabbed a whole era of flower power poets and writers and stood them on their jaundiced ears.
    A life of substance abuse silenced a voice that was brilliant and a life that was tragic, but lets never forget that voice.

    HUNTER S. THOMPSON

    Hunter was a Gatherer who rode the road,
    Choppers and Angels were his Motherlode,
    Stomped and Ripped his story was told,
    Damaged and Dangerous from carrying the load.

    So set him high on the funeral pyre,
    Strapped upright on his steed,
    Use Pretenders books to stoke the fire,
    Gonzos spirit has been freed.

    Steve Clackson

  • Bill

    Al misses the point. He’s been pounding on HST all week. Yawn.

    The fact remains that Thompson was influential. It was HST and All the President’s Men that drove a generation into journalism in the 1970s — the generation that today runs major media. Hence, the nice remembrance pieces from people like Walter Issacson, et al.

    HST’s books remain strong sellers. They’ve made 2 movies about him. His influence on journalism was beyond drugs, booze and violence. He was a structurally brilliant writer, on par with Fitzgerald. If two books defined time periods in the 20th century, it was Gatsby and FLLV.

    And at the end of the day, I find myself asking, who the fuck is Al Barger?

  • http://www.iamrighturpie.blogspot.com/ jadester

    It *could* be argued that with HST’s style of writing, it’s not facts, exactly, that are important. Unfortunately i haven’t read any more than the snippets i’ve seen in articles like this, tho i’ve seen the Fear And Loathing film (excellent) and fully intend to check out one or two of his books; because of this i can’t say for sure, but it looks to me like his main “thign” was to write more or less exactly what was going through his head, rather than trying to dress it up or dress it down or explain it. Inevitably, this would mean a large number of people not particularly liking it, but that’s the price you pay for being brutally honest about your own petty little world.
    Inspired by HST, amongst many other people and events and stories and films, i’m actually trying something out myself. It’s not quite so vitriolic though (or drug-fuelled for that matter)

  • sonny

    let it go, already, al.

    p.j. used to amusing. he’s now boring.

    hunter was never less than entertaining and often quite more.

  • HW Saxton

    Personally speaking,I don’t see the HST
    influence on O’Rourke as being all that
    strong. Thompson kept his same old (I do
    mean OLD)views on matters politics for
    the length of his entire career. On the
    other hand PJ is a well known convert
    to the right and long ago grew out that
    “Gonzo” phase(entertaining as all hell
    when he was doing it).

    I find PJ O’Rourke to be a much funnier,
    more insightful and politically mature
    writer.Thompson on the other hand really
    seemed to be in a rut regarding his own
    writing and he was cannibalizing his own
    written pieces towards the end of his
    career.At least that is how they read to
    me,his ESPN work in particular.

  • terry brennan

    Al Barger is, to coin a phrase, A Big
    Fat Idiot. He obviously cannot read, or lacks the attention span it requires. That’s the problem with the GenX group–don’t read, don’t REALLY want to read broadly, LOVE video anything, and don’t have a clue what History is, and Barger’s first paragraph overtly shows this.

    I’m staring at a bookcase that has every
    single book HST ever wrote, including his two volumes of compiled letters chronicling his life and views from 1955
    to 1976. “One Trick Pony?” Hey, Al, how many journalistic tricks do you know?
    Here is the simple nut about Thompson and why none of us have ever or will ever be able to surpass his lucid and wildly entertainly style– (and yes, any
    idiot can see that his later years from
    1988 on were getting boring and repetitive–anyway, to wit, when asked what it takes to be a Gonzo journalist, Thompson replied, “You must have the skills of a master journalist, the eye of an artist/ photographer, and the heavy balls of an actor.” Do any of the
    critics here have one or even two of these traits? Ahh, yes, and Thompson left out just one ittsy bittsy other skill that’s kinda necessary in order to
    write like he did in the 60’s and 70’s:
    a genius for seeing the Truth behind complex political bullshit and the ability to write about it in a lucid and wildly entertaining way.

    All of you should not embarrass yourselves any further until you read his works. Then come back and comment on the man. But that would be hard WORK,
    eh? Much easier to watch the movies/videos, isn’t it?

  • Squane

    Hey–were you attempting an “HST” of your own? I couldn’t help but notice some of the inaccurate information in your screed, especially concerning the “one trick pony”/political “explaination”. In actuality, the minority of Thompson’s writing was overtly political..take a look at the pieces filed from South America, for example, or the Hell’s Angels book. Or for that matter, any of the other Dow Jones Corp. stuff or Scanlon’s pieces (many of which were included in Shark Hunt). Sure, he was occasionally tired-sounding and repetitive, but so what? Even your vaunted O’Rourke seems like a mouldy dishrag on many occasions, but I overlook those for the times when he’s good.

  • http://www.ynot.motime.com David Fiore

    my major problem with Thompson is not with his perception that all is not right with America–but with his absurd conviction that anything here (or anywhere!) was EVER anything but wrong…

    like all cynics, Thompson was far too nostalgic for his own good… and this makes him sound like a peevish jerk who came late to the party, missed all of the “good times”, and decided, as a consolation, to get fucked up on whatever the cool people didn’t drink or inhale and just forget about the whole mess…

    I won’t miss him

    Dave

  • Sheldon Bartleby

    Wow. So all you’ve said is “I understand HST”. You really don’t. You’re projecting qualities you expect upon him. How can one invent a new style of journalism by falling back on all the conventions you expect to see?

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    Yeah, you cheese eaters expect an innovative genius to fall back on journalistic conventions like “truth” and “facts.” Idiots.

  • Maurice

    Love PJ O’Rourke. HS who? Maybe I’m too young.

  • Jillian

    This piece is an example of the laziness and superficiality that has left American media in its current sorry state. Hunter Thompson created a genre that made us realize the inadequacy of standard-issue “non-partisan” journalism. In order to cover their asses, journalists far too frequently give us a laundry list of facts that provide readers with no substantive information. A journalist’s job, in addition to fact-finding, is to get to portray a situation as it effectively is. Thompson does this. Something as highly-publicized as a presidential campaign hardly needs more empty network news hackery, and desperately needs another HST to help us understand what is actually happening to our country.

  • Shark

    Al “Sonny” Barger: “…you cheese eaters expect an innovative genius to fall back on journalistic conventions like “truth” and ‘facts.'”

    Facts and Truth — like Reality — are highly overrated. Someday, if you EVER FUCKING DEVELOP ONE IOTA OF IMAGINATION, Big Al, you’ll understand.

    (Oh, wait, you’re an Objectivist. Never mind.)

  • Tristan

    ummmmmmmmmmm………
    wait a second …!!!!

    maybe it was all those mushrooms and orange sunshine, and purple doubledomes, and blur flats, and church paper that i did as a teenager~~~~

    but don’t i remember something about a murder trial way back years ago—
    involving a Hell’s Angel named SONNY
    BARGER ~~~~~~~~~~~ ??????????

    ( i think his true “colors” came out when he just wrote:

    Comment 20 posted by Al Barger on March 4, 2005 01:23 PM:

    Yeah, you cheese eaters expect an innovative genius to fall back on journalistic conventions like “truth” and “facts.” Idiots. ” ~~~~~

    now THAT sounds like the SONNY BARGER that was in all the papers for being a Hell’s Angel MURDERER……….

  • Tristan

    oh …nooooooooooooo !
    i just found good ole’ Al’s
    webpage for him running for SENATE …!!

    http://www.morethings.com/index2.html

    “Welcome to MORETHINGS.COM

    AL BARGER – LIBERTARIAN FOR US SENATE

    Official campaign website

    *****************************************

    isn’t THAT “special’ …. !!!

    heh ….heh………

    was he a Hell’s Angel MURDERER …???

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    No, I’m not the infamous Sonny Barger, though I dig on any opportunity to claim outlaw heritage.

    I AM proud particularly to note that my late grandfather used to run bootleg liquor in Kentucky during the prohibition.

    THE ARCHIVED SENATE CAMPAIGN SITE

    Oh, yes. And don’t forget to download my tv ads.

  • Tristan

    DAMN~ ~ ~ !!!!!
    talk about a small world of “coincidences, eh …!!!!

    TWO Sonny Bargers–
    one a Hell’s Angel that was up for Murder
    (and we know the Angel’s had death threats against hunter after his book revealing their secrets~~~~) —-

    and NOW a “NEW” Sonny Barger—running for Senator—-
    but who ALSO totally trashes all of hunter’s works AND his whole personality and worth as a human being ~~~~
    what a “coincidence” ~~~~
    (wonder just how many Al (SONNY) Bargers there actually ARE running around, eh ….! maybe there was some type of CIA Cloning Experiment going on …????)

    Go for it SONNY~~!
    following right in the footsteps of the great Kennedy bootlegging tradition~~
    a workable political formula~
    especially if you were a partner with Sam Giancana ~~~

  • ngtowl

    I read “hells angels a strange and terrible saga” when I was 12 years old and have read thompson ever since.He was a tough read at that age , but I read between the lines and saw someone who had the balls to spend a year with these people for a story that he was invited to write , then get almost beaten to death because a man slapped his wife and kicked a dog and hst did not like it and hit the man… i would love to see pj o’rourke or dan rather for that matter do that for a story! War correspondents aside he had more talent and raw nerve than most before him.

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    Tristan- Imagine what havoc we’ll wreak when the CIA lab releases another 1000 of us…

  • http://darkeroticism.blogspot.com swingingpuss

    Great riposte, Al – Tristan’s going to be scanning his/her volumes of Paranoia for references to the CIA cloning lab:))

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    Thanks Swingingpuss. We’ll be monitoring Tristan’s library check-outs and email to assess whether he’s getting too close.

  • http://selfaudit.blogspot.com swingingpuss

    I have a feeling that you’ll find missing or not-returned copies of David Icke in Tristan’s local library.

    Strangely, even my local library is missing David Icke books – hmmm….

  • Tristan

    WoW
    Did we just turn the entire conversation OFF
    or was it another Black-Ops operation
    by those dastardly devils in DC

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    Howdy again, Tristan! Have you found out any new information that the Hell’s Angels or CIA should know about?

  • Tristan

    nope sonny~~~~

    actually- the Illuminati just went ahead and bought me off–
    figured it was the cheaper way for them than hiring a hit man!

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    Did they pay you in beer, like the Stones at Altamont?

    Mmm, beer….

  • Tristan

    crack and tequila ….!!!!

    (fresh made CIA crack ~~ the BEST! )

  • Tristan

    Photographer for White House child sex ring arrested after Thompson suicide:

    http://tomflocco.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=107&mode=&order=0&thold=0

  • Scott Bennett

    This critique of HST is almost entirely true and it’s well written. However, it makes the same mistake that every serious journalist-groupie makes when criticizing Hunter Thompson and his works.

    Nobody reads Hunter to get the Truthful account of any event or circumstance; that would be absurd. I call Hunter a journalist only for convenience sake.

    Hunter (almost) always writes interestingly, and he doesn’t participate in self-censorship; and that’s about it. Think about it though, how many totally unrepentant criminal writers are out there who have the readership and still write whatever the hell they want without fear? I can’t name one now that Hunter’s dead.

    The book you reviewed is in my opinion an awesome work, despite your complaints about it. Nobody that I know reads and expects the things you do out of Hunter….
    …. PJO is a cripple by comparison.

  • Rob H.

    Curious.. Al Barger puts together words and sentences in a fashion that would suggest that he actually is a person of some knowledge, yet he goes on to make statements like:

    …”You sure couldn’t use Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972 as any kind of history book about the presidential campaign of 1972. There was a minimum of any kind of actual relevant facts, and there’s a good chance that he’d made half of them up anyway.”

    I don’t know, but to me it sounds remarkably like someone looking at a portrait by Piccaso, and writing him off as an artist of any significance by saying, “you sure couldn’t look at this painting as any kind of a guide as to what people really look like”.

    What HST produced was “art”, pure and simple – and, as you obviously don’t understand the concept of art – Pablo Piccaso could probably explain it best – “Art is lies that tell the truth”. Get it Al? I didn’t think so.

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    Rob, thanks for the kind beginning words, and I do think I understand the basic concept of art. No one expects a Picasso painting to be realistic like a photo.

    Hamlet and Macbeth might be called “lies that tell the truth.” However, no one would generally ever call them “lies” because there was no deceit. These works are presented and understood as fiction.

    However, when Dan Rather presented patently bogus documents about Dubya’s National Guard service, that was not being artistic. It was simply willfully lying.

    Likewise, when HST claimed in his famous Nixon obit that RMN had engineered the killings at Kent State, that was not art. It was just lying and slander.

    HST got assignments as a journalist to cover events and campaigns. He ran up expense accounts traipsing around to do interviews and tell what happened at these events. Then he just made crap up anyway.

    You just goddam don’t do that, and expect not to get called out for it. Telling the truth is the most basic requirement of reporting.

    If you want to make stuff up, then write a clearly labeled fiction novel with made up characters. Tom Wolfe, for example, will never get this kind of grief for dishonesty for, say, Bonfire of the Vanities. Now, THAT was some lies that told the truth.

  • gonzo marx

    ummm..ya will find most of HST’s work in the Fiction category..not all of it tho..Hell’s Angels is spot on Journalism by anyone’s standards..

    i find Campaign Trail ’72 to be chock full of actual “reporting” as well as over the top psycho rants and outright …quite blatant …falsehoods obviously meant in the realm of satire and humor..

    whicvh i had always thought to be his Intent…more editorial commentary than the “who, what, where, when” bit of “reporting”

    i will also take a bit of exception that he was ever sent out to be a “straight” style of journalist…only he and the editorial staff/publisher of Rolling Stone can say that for certain…

    and they kept paying him..

    as to his political acumen…from 68-72 ALL reporters and journalists agree that Hunter was THE man to ask for handicapping most of the congressional and senate races…quite a few of them wrote in their own columns how much money they had lost to him during that time period…and that he was often consulted for accurate odds

    as to his style…either you liked it or you hated it…but it was defniately all his

    and i, among others…often saw plenty of Truth in the good Doctor’s mad rantings…

    your milage may vary

    but i still MOurn that the mojo wire will eternally scream for more Words…and knowing that out at Owl Farm the peacocks are weeping..

    Excelsior!

  • Rob H.

    …but that’s the beauty of it – don’t you see Al!!! Joseph Conrad can write “Heart of Darkness”, and basically say, “ok, before you read this, let me tell you…it’s fiction… and then Peter Arnett can report on Vietnam and say, “ok, before you read this, let me tell you, this is a brutally honest factual account”… and HST blurred the edges, he intentionally and masterfully wrote, and didn’t tell you where the story began and the reporting ended… saying nothing to the reader, really, but… read and think and decide – am I lying, or aren’t I?? And it is like looking at Piccaso – you look at the messed up canvas that HST gave us, and wonder if the truth is as strange as the fiction – or was it the other way around?

    And what is real journalism anyway, is it Nancy Grace on CNN, or some other talking head giving us their spin the topic du jour… and if you’re looking for Objective Journalism – don’t read HST – he tells you this himself in F&L on the Campaign Trail, “Don’t bother to look for it here—not under any byline of mine; or anyone else I can think of. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.”

    Indeed.

  • Rob H.

    Oh. and by the way. I’m sure that Nixon didn’t call up the National Guard and say, “go kill me some students”, but the Machiavellian weasel that he was certainly set the tone for the G. Gordon Liddy’s of the time to basically accept that the ends always justified the means… which really was the fundamental concept of the Watergate break-in – so in that sense, I accept without question that Nixon “engineered” the Kent State killings…

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    See Rob, you almost had me going along with you there in comment 43- and then you blew it with 44. I understand the point about supposed “objective” journalism, though there’s a difference between opinion or bias vs MAKING UP FACTS.

    You could reasonably say that Nixon was a weasel, and that his shenanigans got a lot of people killed needlessly- in Cambodia, for example. It’s a weaker, but perhaps still legitimate judgment that his heavy handed techniques set a very bad example that encouraged stupidity like Kent State.

    That’s NOT what HST did, however. There’s truth, there’s artistic license, and then there’s just outright damned lies.

  • Rob H.

    ok. well Al, we’ll just have to agree to disagree then.. I think HST is, perhaps, an acquired taste – my point I suppose is I don’t even think the newspapers tell the truth, and at least Hunter gave us pretty broad hints that much of what he wrote was exaggeration to the extreme… was amusing, and, at least in my humble opinion, thought provoking.

    My god, I just got finished watching the world renowned expert on brain function and medical ethics, “Pat Boone” on freaking CNN telling us why we must save Terry Schiavo and why it is clear that she is on the cusp of complete recovery… Pat Boone wouldn’t lie would he?

    Lord, I miss Hunter already.

  • gonzo marx

    Rob H.

    as yer gonzo..i prescribe a quart of wild turkey, taken internally…dose with 3 grams of sinsemilla imbibed as a “burnt offering”…then go skeet shooting on a golf course…

    it won’t cure what ails ya…but ya will get some laughs..

    and we could all use some laughs in this Kingdom of Fear

    Excelsior!

  • Rob H.

    …good point GM – especially with all these greedheads on CNN.. pod people I’m sure, Pat Boone must have died decades ago, no? Talk about living in a vegetative state.

  • gonzo marx

    i have no real personal vendetta with Pat Boone..

    but ya gotta reserve a special place in Hell fer a guy that made his bones sucking the marrow out of REAL rock and roll by pasteurizing what better Musicians than he had created (ie: covering black rhythym and blues musicians for white radio)

    but i digress….

    Excelsior!

  • HW Saxton

    RE: Comment 49. I’d like to second that
    motion sir.

  • gonzo marx

    all opposed?

    passed by Unanimous Consent

    and don’t call me “Sir” …i knew my parents..

    Excelsior!

  • Johnny Come Lately

    Sorry to open old wounds, but I wandered across this thread and felt compelled to get into the fray.

    I have to agree to an extent with both sides – if we can briefly assume there are those for and against Hunter’s style of reporting – on the point made by Al that Hunter is guilty of innacurate or false reporting. Yes, he told “lies”. But any intelligent reader knows this. It was still a very insightful way of making you question how many other lies we were being fed through spin and misinformation. HST says outright that he does not expect to be told what is true and what is not. Sorry to appear cynical, but is that not the way politics in America still works? From what I know about HST, he was rabid when it came to political injustice. To my mind, he took pride in craftily using his style of prose/journalism as a vehicle with which he could beat the bastards at their own game.

    One point I must call you on, Al, is the notion you have that Thompson did shoddy research. That is not at all what I have read on the man, and I have read plenty. I’m not among the great number of HST sycophants who seem to think he was some sort of ‘genius’ or that he has revolutionized journalism. In many ways you are accurate in saying the ‘gonzo’ style was limited to a one-hit wonder. In fact, as Ralph Steadman points out, the term was coined after the fact, by Bill Cardosa, upon reading the ‘Derby’ article in Rolling Stone, and HST took it as his own. Hunter was an aspiring novelist who got trapped into journalism, and he always was quick to point out that he was not thrilled with writing for a living. “Old whores don’t do much giggling”.

    But what I will argue, is that he was a smart man, and he was very accurate when he wanted to be. A stickler for accuracy when it mattered to him and when he believed it was essential to the reader. And as I say, a smart reader could read between the lines and easily see when he was embelishing.