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Tom Wolfe Remembers Hunter S. Thompson

Tom Wolfe writes an intriguing article in today’s WSJ upon the passing of Hunter S. Thompson, the self-described "gonzo journalist." I must confess that Thompson’s real heyday was before my time, so I know little about him, but Wolfe paints a picture of Thompson so vivid that one might mistake Thompson for one of Wolfe’s fictional characters.

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Judging by commentary appearing all over center-right media (MSM and blogs) on the inspiration Thompson’s "gonzo" journalism provided, I come to the reluctant and mystified conclusion that very many conservatives/libertarians despise in current MSM journalism what they praise in Thompson’s. I guess the entertainment value of his character and life outweighs any need for sensible notice of the tragedy of that life and its effects on the culture which consumed it.

I read "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" as well as "F & L on the Campaign Trail" in college and thought they were hilarious.

Then I saw the Johnny Depp movie of F&LiLV a few years ago and was appalled at the cruelty, the casual abuse of women, pointless vandalism, and so on. I thought "surely that can’t have been in the book; I recall it as amusing."

But when I checked my copy, I found that all the movie’s repulsive scenes and dialogues were lifted straight from Thompson’s pages.

To me it was a lesson in how our tastes--and hopefully behind them our characters--can change in the direction of greater maturity and moral awareness over time.

Some of the more outrageous thinks that as a much younger man I found funny I still do think are amusing. But not Thompson. He had a certain kind of raw literary invention, I grant Tom Wolfe that much about HST. But HST’s sorry stabs at making sense of 9/11 (he quickly fell back into utterly conventional--in his circles--Bush hating) reveal how sadly inadequate HST’s work and worldview really were and are. As Thompson himself might have said, there were grim meathook realities waiting out there that he couldn’t really ken or even begin to suggest how to tackle.

Requiscat in pacem.

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