Fear and Loathing

Hunter S. Thompson. You might recall the man, especially if you are of the Boomer generation. He was a journalist. Of sorts. A reporter. Kind of. A chronicler of American culture, filtered through a self-proclaimed haze of drugs and alcohol. His most notable piece of reporting came in the form of a book entitled Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. His journalistic style came to be known as “gonzo journalism”. He’d go places and observe, through that aforementioned “haze”. He was funny, irreverent, far, far out and definitely able to distill reality down to its essential outrages and absurdities. Las Vegas, a place of profound excess, self-importance and unrelenting self-indulgent superficiality was a natural target.  The book remains a cult classic from the early 70’s.

He also wrote Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72. This bit of gonzo reporting took aim at the Democratic primary contest between Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern. Hunter had a zany good time reducing that event to its most inane elements. 

Unfortunately, Hunter Thompson committed suicide in 2005. If alive, he’d be 79. Well, if he took all the drugs and boozed it up as he portrayed his lifestyle in his writings, he’d likely not be a very robust 79 year-old man. Still, if only he could be alive , and perhaps with an infusion from several cans of Monster energy drink and maybe a molly or an 8-ball, he’d be out there taking on the most absurd, surreal, ugly, divisive, destructive and dangerous “race for the White House” in our country’s history. The mind reels at what Hunter Thompson would make of Donald Trump, the self-proclaimed sexual-assaulting misogynist, the vilifier of Mexicans, Muslims and even some of our military members. Trump, the hate-mongering, xenophobic, self-absorbed hideous spawn of reality television, who has been coddled by the mainstream media and, apparently has a faction of the FBI carrying water for him.  He’s natural-born fodder for the gonzo cannons, a flesh and blood cartoon character who, rather alarmingly, has given rise to a form of neo-facism represented by his virtually all white, all male, bottom feeders.

Hunter!. You are sorely missed, now more than ever. There is barely any actual, responsible journalism being practiced today, and not a glimmer of gonzo mojo outside of the The Onion, a clever pseudo-journalistic take on, as its editors put it, Our Dumb World.

Fear and loathing?  Ironically, as horrific a candidate as Trump has shown himself to most sincerely be, his opponent, one Hillary Clinton is not exactly a basket of delights, but for completely different reasons than Mr.Trump. I would assume Thompson would also exploit her warts with  laser beamed gonzo-ism. Hillary, the corporatist, the hawk, the secretive, the slick and slimy embodiment of the fraudulent “party of the people” national Democratic organization. Status quo. Quid pro quo. Pay to play. Business as usual. A candidate so (blatantly) weak and flawed that a 74-year-old self-proclaimed SOCIALIST,  U.S. senator pushed her to the brink in the primary process, one that was tilted in her favor by the Clinton-backing powers that be, and aided and abetted by that same corrupted media that tried staging a blackout on senator Sanders until he could no longer be ignored.

Between these two cringe-worthy candidates for President, each in their special way able to be disliked by most Americans, the never-to-be-written Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, 2016, nonetheless exists in what seems to be an election, 2016, induced national paroxysm of existential dread and nausea. The Trump supporters have it thinking about her and her supporters have it thinking about him. Even many “dump Trump” types, now being forced to vote for her in order to save the U.S. from the fascists, will do so with their noses pinched. Can’t you smell that smell? Open a window! 

Fear or Loathing. That’s him and her, respectfully, as I see it.

But that rotten stench emanating from this election is countered, for some of us at least, by a gonzo scent wafting about. It’s out there, and whether you grew up with the Mickey Mouse Club, M.A.S.H, Madonna or Nirvana, whether you vote for fear or loathing or for the fringe or forsake the voting booth altogether, this failed process has to be changed. A lot needs to be changed.

There’s not much to feel good about  right now–if you have any real sense of logical reasoning. It’s not the lesser of two evils, it’s the evil of two lessors.  That may sound pessimistic but, like Hunter Thompson, analyzing his subject matter trough the gonzo prism, I am unable to see anything but the absurdity, the farce, the fraud and facile means by which this moment has come to be. This mess certainly come did not come about overnight. 

Hunter Thompson made his reader’s laugh at his subject matters, with a truthful subtext on the how, where, why, who and when of it all. But the more I think of it, I’m not sure Thompson, or anyone else could induce laughter right now. This election stopped being at all funny a while back. The joke, I’m afraid, is on we, the people.









About jharrin4

mass communication/speech instructor at College of DuPage and Triton College in suburban Chicago. Army veteran of the Viet Nam era.
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2 Responses to Fear and Loathing

  1. Julie Samuels says:

    The best reason to vote this time is so we can continue to build the alternative progressive Green party. If Stein/Baraka recieve 5% – which is entirely possible, we will be eligible for Federal funding. This means that in 4 years (if we have that long- as you point out) we will actually have a chance to be in the debates and to afford the media necessary to let everyone know we exist. And during the next four years we will work to elect the people down ballot and local, who practice social justice and environmental sustainability. We will be more likely to succeed if people vote Green this time – – Stein / Baraka – a few million dollars can go a long way when you aren’t funded by the military-industrial complex.


  2. catt23 says:

    Methinks… averting a Trump victory (i.e., a fascist renaissance) by the only available means, which is casting a vote for H Clinton, is best described as “eat sh** and die.” Democracy in action? What would Hunter Thompson do?


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