Scrogues Gallery

Relax – this won’t hurt

On September 12, 2001, the day after The Attacks, Hunter S. Thompson wrote:

The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now — with somebody — and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives. It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy. … We are going to punish somebody for this attack, but just who or what will be blown to smithereens for it is hard to say. … This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed — for anyone, and certainly not for anyone as baffled as George W. Bush. All he knows is that his father started the war a long time ago, and that he, the goofy child-President, has been chosen by Fate and the global Oil industry to finish it Now. He will declare a National Security Emergency and clamp down Hard on Everybody, no matter where they live or why. If the guilty won’t hold up their hands and confess, he and the Generals will ferret them out by force. Good luck. He is in for a profoundly difficult job — armed as he is with no credible Military Intelligence, no witnesses and only the ghost of Bin Laden to blame for the tragedy.

Thompson would be dead by his own hand less than four years later, leaving us at a time when a voice like his was needed badly. But Thompson was tired… and perhaps unwilling to endure a repeat of the corrupt and cynical Nixon era, with some of the very same goddamned characters involved and a new cast of rat bastards even more pernicious than John Mitchell and Bob Haldeman. How hellishly sad it is to realize your beloved country cannot help but repeat its same miserable mistakes generation after generation. I wouldn’t want to stick around for long, either. Somehow, Hunter made it to 61.

Though he is now probably most associated in the public mind with his druggy nightmare ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,’ Thompson was the finest political writer of his time, or perhaps any time, in American history. His classic On the Campaign Trail ’72 is required reading for any serious student of political science. He had a wonderful knack for deconstructing the motivations and machinations of politicians, cutting right through the bullshit, boiling away the platitudes and disingenuity, dressing down larger-than-life personalities with refreshing glee.

Nixon will be remembered as a classic case of a smart man shitting in his own nest. But he also shit in our nests, and that was the crime that history will burn on his memory like a brand. By disgracing and degrading the Presidency of the United States, by fleeing the White House like a diseased cur, Richard Nixon broke the heart of the American Dream. — Rolling Stone, 1994

It was his maddening independence that set him apart from all other writers of his age. No one told Hunter Thompson how to do his job, and the Deadline — the looming, terrifying spectre that strikes fear and loathing in all writers — was something to be toyed with till the last second. Paradoxically, though, he became trapped by his own reckless image, to the point where he was a recluse for years and trusted few people. When he did allow himself to make public appearances, he wasn’t sure who he was supposed to appear as.

Fortunately, in his later years, he became more productive, and with new friends in a younger generation, stopped giving a damn about the gangbang eunuchs and his own dark doubts. Then along came George W. Bush, 9/11, ill health and old age, enough to fell even the staunchest of souls. He left us on February 20, 2005. Though we knew it was coming and wondered how he persevered for as long as he did, his departure still hit us hard, and for some of us the empty feeling still lingers.

The title of this piece was the final sentence of our latest scholarly rogue’s suicide note.


Maybe there is no Heaven. Or maybe this is all pure gibberish — a product of the demented imagination of a lazy drunken hillbilly with a heart full of hate who has found a way to live out where the real winds blow — to sleep late, have fun, get wild, drink whisky, and drive fast on empty streets with nothing in mind except falling in love and not getting arrested… Res ipsa loquitur. Let the good times roll. — Generation of Swine, 1988

6 replies »

  1. Hunter was perhaps the finest political analyst of our time, yes, but he was more. He was a remarkable anthropologist, to boot. I’d read a lot of his work, but had somehow not gotten around to Hell’s Angels until I was in my doc program at CU. The program was heavily influenced by cultural studies scholarship and driven by ethnographic qualitative research approaches, and it was in this context that I first read his amazing inside look at this intriguing subculture. I told my colleagues then that Hell’s Angels was one of the best ehtnographies I’d read, and I stand by that assertion today.

    We also tend to forget that, before he went all Gonzo on us, he was a fantastic pure journalist, something I comment on in a piece I did for Editor & Publisher after his death.

    The thing I’ll remember him most for, though, was how he really put the screws to “objective journalism,” being the first figure of any stature to point out that the rules of professional journalism as we have come to know it were subject to severe abuse. By the time he got around to Better Than Sex, Hunter’s best days were well behind him, and the book is a shadow of his greatest work. But as it was about to go to press, Nixon died, and it seemed essential that he address the passing of his great nemesis.

    In that epilogue Hunter cracks off one of the most important bits of journalism criticism in the past couple of decades:

    Some people will say that words like “scum” and “rotten” are wrong for Objective Journalism — which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.

    He was absolutely right, as was so often the case.

  2. “Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits — a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage.” – HST, ‘F&LiLV’

    We could do this all day, you know. Favorite person to quote.

  3. more on journalism, excerpted from A Million Little Pieces of Feces:
    “Nothing matters except that
    paycheck. Whatever Woodward and Bernstein fantasies any poor fuck
    harbors coming out of Journalism School, gets squeezed out with the
    slow, steady drip of publishing reality, like the last drop of life’s
    blood spilling out onto the floor, taking with it any last molecule of
    integrity that has somehow survived. Take your lofty ideals, your
    unbound ambitions, your wistful dreams and pack them all like stinky
    sardines in a small tin and run that bastard over with a goddamn
    7,000-pound tractor.

    Because if you were as smart as you thought you were, years ago, when
    you grabbed that sheepskin, it would have “EE” written across its top.
    You would have really been an engineer. Or a pharmaceutical salesman. Or
    an organ grinder. Something that isn’t dependent on advertising revenue.”

  4. Still don’t believe Hunter.S pulled the trigger …doesn’t fit the man …and why whilst talking to his woman on the phone …with his grand kid in the house …nope …the above passage written the day after 911 …Cui bono …just like Gary Webb but Gary Webb shot himself TWICE in the head…both determined men….a great loss…
    Owl Farm