The reported 2005 suicide of self-proclaimed "gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson fell oddly silent in mainstream media after a series of perfunctory, standard headline articles about a classically outspoken American misfit who was anything but standard.
The continued silence is nearly as deafening as the noise Thompson made through his exploits as rancher, author, would-be sheriff, dedicated drug-head, and friend of actor Johnny Depp, who played his acerbic buddy in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, based on Thompson's best-seller of the same name, and shot Thompson's ashes over a Colorado mountain with a cannon amid a fireworks display.
After a good read of any of Thompson's many books, the question is this: Is it more inconceivable that he would snuff himself or that no one on this sleep-walking, dullard-racked planet would at least question whether he did?
How does a writer so revved in the juice of life, so steeped in the hyper-electric current of creative inspiration, so brimming with wild-eyed passion against the death machines of gray-suited and barely gray-mattered modern America, a writer who condemned Nixon largely because he was a quitter, commit the ultimate act of quitting? How does his public scrape together enough cotton to stuff between itself and the brain matter on the wall to swallow his very tidy official demise without the flicker of a question mark?
Have there been so many discredited conspiracy theories that they all cry wolf in a single retroactive howl that drowns the deafening growl of the monster that may have devoured Thompson? Are such theories themselves seen as so “liberal” that even liberals are afraid of uttering anything that could provoke the grays to hold up a mirror and say, “See — liberal, aren’t you”?
This by no means is a declaration of government culpability or conspiracy. For one thing, too many governments had plenty against Thompson, and there’s no way local, state, and feds could have gotten along well enough to do anything together.
No, consider this an exercise in the simple critical mechanism of asking questions whenever things don’t quite smell right. The pat statements and the fact that they seemed to have issued from Thompson’s family and authorities in a single convenient lump, together opening a steel door and shouting, “He killed himself, we told you everything, the end,” and slamming the door shut — the stench might be faint, but it’s in the air like drops of cat piss in a room layered with Febreze.
As flaming ironies go, Thompson’s dying “by his own hand” in a place where he raised so much blistering hell with so many people (and so many powerful people) over so many years, a place where he felt it necessary to live in an armed compound — because he didn’t want to get his brains blown out — has solar flares whirling around it like atomic Medusas.
This guy went out of his orbit to piss off (and on) authority, to pick a fight with it all the way up to what he publicly called “the horrible Bush family.” He tangled with wealthy developers and bristled openly at power and influence worldwide and in his own heavily armed back yard.
He was not ill. He was recovering from back surgery — a process people with self-snuff intentions don’t normally go through. He was happy, his wife said. According to reports, he was talking on the phone with her when supposedly he decided to end his life without a word, talking about working on his column for ESPN2 when she got home — another thing dead people find difficult to accomplish — then changing his mind and deciding to die instead.
Question marks about Thompson’s end, in fact, flickered all over the Internet. But why have mainstream media spent the three years since his death ignoring such great oil for their own machinery? Because a cryptic note found later could be interpreted as a suicide note? Since when has "maybe" been a brick-wall word to journalists, especially given the sudden and violent demise of a counter-culture hero with an FBI file the size of a semi?
Sure, the bulk of the fourth estate has crumbled into a vast gray wash of worship for officialdom, a gibbering army of proselytizing kissers of every gray-swatched ass on the planet, makeup-smeared sleepwalk automatons with balls smaller than BBs.
But come on. This mess has everything but a bloody message scrawled on the wall next to Thompson’s brains that says, “Hey, numbskulls, at least be a little suspicious.”