Boy, do we need Hunter S. Thompson now. Fight crazy stupid with crazy genius.
HST, who savaged Nixon in dispatches to Rolling Stone via the mojo wire in the early ’70s, took himself out with a .45 in 2005.
Yet his writing still cuts through the toxic red tide of the GOP, all the way from Tricky Dick to Donnie Dumbass.
Check out this headline on his piece in the October 10, 1974 issue of Rolling Stone, which plays perfectly 2018:
And so does the second paragraph, reacting to news that Gerry Ford had pardoned Nixon:
If I followed my better instincts right now, I would put this typewriter in the Volvo and drive to the home of the nearest politician — any politician — and hurl the goddamn machine through his front window … flush the bugger out with an act of lunatic violence then soak him down with mace and run him naked down Main Street in Aspen with a bell around his neck and black lumps all over his body from the jolts of a high-powered “Bull Buster” cattle prod.
And these lines that also sting today:
- A gang of fascist thugs treating the White House and whole machinery of the federal government like a conquered empire to be used like the spoils of war for any purpose that served the needs or whims of the victors.
- “Who votes for these treacherous scumbags!”
Thompson starts the piece with a quote from Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the tale of a deranged demigod named Kurtz, who turns up again as Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now.
Some pointy-headed essayists have likened Trump to Kurtz. But, to me, he’s more like Ootah, the lily-livered, strutting tribal chieftain/village idiot in the movie of Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King.
The man who would be king, Daniel Dravot (Sean Connery), eventually slaps Ootah around and sends him packing – as Thompson would thrash Trump as a low-rent crypto-Nazi coward.
And, while he was at it, HST would metaphorically wash Sarah Huckleberry’s mouth out with Lava, vanquish the vampires – Ivanka, Jared, Kellyanne, Stephen Miller, Mike Pence – spike the West Wing water coolers with acid and unleash a plague of rabid ferrets in the Rose Garden.
Then he’d launch a literary Nuremberg trial of the co-conspirators in Congress – Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan and the rest the Republican residents of Jonestown on the Potomac.
This is no time for journalism pipsqueaks.
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.
This is my copy of Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, with Thompson’s artist sidekick, Ralph Steadman, recreating HST’s signature “on behalf of the Good Doktor.”
I met Steadman, an affable Brit, in the spring of 1995 in the Random House offices in Toronto. I was writing features for Canadian Press and he was promoting a couple of books: one on whisky, the other on wine.
But, much to the displeasure of his publicist and his wife, both in the conference room during my interview, Steadman and I talked nearly non-stop about Thompson and their adventures. We laughed a lot.
Since HST’s suicide, Steadman has tried to keep the gonzo going.
His remembrances of Thompson are in a 2006 memoir titled The Joke’s Over and a 2012 documentary, with the Hunterphile Johnny Depp, called For No Good Reason.
A retrospective of his work was on display in Washington this summer, and moves to Kentucky and Oregon next year.
At 82, his contribution to the current state of American politics is this representation of Trump as a grotesque piglet soiling his American-flag diaper.
Regrettably, there aren’t thousands of words from his former wheelman to take the caricature on a mind-blowing road trip.