Monday, February 21, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson is dead.

We don't have to believe it if we don't want to, but then that's conservative talk. Dr. Hunter Stockton Thompson shot himself in the kitchen of his Aspen bunker yesterday. He is dead. I would like to report that he screamed across the firmament of a clean blue sky in a thundering scimitar of dirty orange flame as hypocrites beat their breasts and women wept, but unfortunately he went by his own hand for some silly reason he didn't make clear. One hopes there might be some kind of posthumous documentation still to be published that might enlighten us as to his motives in leaving us when arguably we needed him most.

Today's absurd world, frankly, looks like Thompson might have designed it for his own ends. Billions in crispy greenbacks pile in the dank basement of a conquered tyrant's marble palace as every paramilitary shyster from Hereford to Pietermaritzburg by way of Fort Bragg cram onto mystery jets for their share of the action. Slick press secretaries field plant questions from gay porno veterans, the New York Times confidently declares that a man painted orange from head to foot will revolutionise European politics by dint of talkshows, and the poor are fatter than the rich. As the good doctor put it, it looks like the site of some disastrous zoological experiment involving whiskey and gorillas. The terrifying news is that he was right, right, right all the way up.

Who can forget one of his many verdicts on Richard Nixon? "It is Nixon himself who represents that dark, venal and incurably violent side of the American character that almost every country in the world has learned to fear and despise." Indeed. (You can read the obituary here.) But who could have predicted that, some ten years later, even he would seem greatly preferable?
"Richard Nixon looks like a flaming liberal today, compared to a golem like George Bush. Indeed. Where is Richard Nixon now that we finally need him?

If Nixon were running for president today, he would be seen as a "liberal" candidate, and he would probably win. He was a crook and a bungler, but what the hell? Nixon was a barrel of laughs compared to this gang of thugs from the Halliburton petroleum organization who are running the White House today -- and who will be running it this time next year, if we (the once-proud, once-loved and widely respected "American people") don't rise up like wounded warriors and whack those lying petroleum pimps out of the White House on November 2nd.

Nixon hated running for president during football season, but he did it anyway. Nixon was a professional politician, and I despised everything he stood for -- but if he were running for president this year against the evil Bush-Cheney gang, I would happily vote for him."
Link Very true. If nothing else, Nixon and Kissinger would never have got involved in a crusade to Spread Democracy - why spread stuff you don't yourself believe in? I don't care if Thompson was adolescent, degenerate, arrogant or elephantine - all well-deserved epithets - because it was all brilliant and outrageous (to use the phrase from Tom Wolfe's review of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He promised to jangle the buggers down to the core of their spleens, and delivered in spades.

Some people, of course, manage to miss everything. Try this report on the Doctor's passing in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of the great global papers of record: link.
"Thompson, so meinte es schon Richard Nixon zu wissen, repräsentierte die „dunkle, bestechliche und unheilbar gewalttätige Seite des amerikanischen Charakters”
In English this says that "Even Richard Nixon claimed to know that Thompson represented the "dark, venal and incurably violent side of the American character". No he didn't. At least he didn't dare say so. The FAZ has successfully misattributed our lost leader's seminal judgement on Nixon to Nixon himself. This is the kind of howler that would send some men to the crossroads at dead of night to sell their souls, but then, this is journalism and he'll probably get over it.

Finally, Thompson's ultimate judgement on our times, from a interview: "One of the problems today is that what's going on is not as complex as it seems." Exactly. It really is that bad.

A minute's silence? An insufficient memorial, and wrong in kind as well as quantity. I propose perhaps a minute's noise in which all basically decent citizens scream out our justified hatred and rage. Oh, and before I quit: write. As it says on the little button on the Blogger Dashboard: create.

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