Hunter S. Thompson is a shining example of how a citizen is supposed to behave


"Hunter Thompson: U.S. journalist, writer, and anarchist, born in Louisville, Kentucky; originator of highly sarcastic, self-indulgent, ironic "gonzo" journalism; while under influence of alcohol, drugs, or sleep deprivation, describes what he sees through haze of rage and delusion." — Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia (The Learning Company, Inc., 1999)

Some people don't like Hunter Thompson. They are afraid that a bald dope fiend who owns peacocks might know America better than anyone else. Over the last four decades, Thompson has chronicled America's fear addiction and its pushers, who profit over a nation's anxiety. A cretin would describe him as a self-indulgent anarchist, a chicken-shit appraisal that is an ignorant dismissal of Thompson's importance. The man is important - and not only in a literary sense. The chronicles of his American odyssey are so rich in adventure and experience that the mass of knowledge acquired has given him soothsayer qualities. What he says deserves serious consideration.

Not only is Thompson responsible for writing one of the most daring novels of the 20th century, Fear and Loathing

click to enlarge words-thompson_330jpg
New observations of America by the man who loves to shoot guns and read the Revelation of St. John The Divine.
in Las Vegas, but his gonzo journalism rejuvenated the non-fiction world. Fear and Loathing is only one room in the house that Hunter built. The majority of Thompson's canon is journalism. His articles, including those for Rolling Stone magazine and the San Francisco Examiner, have been collected and released in three different previous volumes.

His latest book, Kingdom of Fear, is an astounding autobiography that also serves as cutting social commentary of present-day America. The defining moments of Thompson's life are detailed, from his first encounter with FBI agents at age 9 (an incident involving a federal mailbox and a speeding bus) to reactions of the 9-11 attacks. He explains his love affair with fast motorbikes and velocity, and how it reflects his personal philosophy that fast is better than slow: "Being shot out of a cannon will always be better than being squeezed out of a tube." The momentum of that philosophy placed him in Saigon just before its fall to the Viet Cong, and it took him to Grenada on the heels of the invading United States military.

Thompson's life has been one continuous dare, and he suggests that his epitaph should read: "It Never Got Fast Enough for Me." While some worry about 401k plans and if they have the right kind of duct-tape for a biological attack, Thompson rides a Ducati superbike on an isolated mountain road wondering if he can push the beast into sixth gear. He refuses to let fear control his life. By recalling his fear-defying feats, Thompson illustrates what happens when worms of paranoia infest the hearts and minds of America. A kingdom of fear is the result, a crippled life where rational thinking is hijacked leaving suspicion and terror as the basis for all thought and action.

In Kingdom of Fear, Thompson declares that things are worse now, which is a startling position given that he has lived under the doom of Vietnam and the corrupt presidency of Nixon. He describes George W. Bush as a dangerous clone who "does what he is told to do, says what he is told to say, poses the way he is told to pose. He is a Fool." Any comparison between Bush and Nixon, Thompson says, is an insult to Nixon. Indeed, the former President looks like a liberal when judged against Bush. "Nixon was the creator of many of the once-proud historical landmarks that these dumb bastards are savagely destroying now: the Clean Air Act of 1970; Campaign Finance Reform; the endangered species act; opening a Real-Politik dialogue with China."

The day after 9-11, Thompson wrote that a very expensive war, with hazy and undefined parameters, would follow. He states that George W. Bush only knows "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." Thompson adds that Bush and Republicans "will declare a National Security Emergency and clamp down Hard on Everybody, no matter where they live or why." His prediction has come into fruition - aside from dictating an inflexible and irrational stance at the United Nations, at home Bush has created an atmosphere where opposition to war is construed as unpatriotic. There are no national leaders who object to war found in major media outlets because no one dares to question authority. The only objection comes from snooty Frenchmen and protesters who suspiciously look like naïve hippies. There is no balancing view, only a media reporting the inevitability of war. Fear has clamped down hard.

"We are not just Whores for power and oil," writes Thompson, "but killer whores with hate and fear in our hearts." The doctor of gonzo is what the left needs now: a strong voice of clarity, not whiney diatribe on how a war against Iraq is really about oil. The war is not so much about greed but more to do with fear possessing a country's soul. Thompson refuses to let terror rape his conscience. He is not a self-indulgent anarchist but a warrior for common sense who questions authority, a shining example on how a citizen is supposed to behave.


Hunter S. Thompson's 'Kingdom of Fear': enlightenment at $25 a hit


Hunter S. Thompson's latest book, Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century, is an abridged almanac of the writer's epic transgressions, a sordid sampling of drug-addled musings and vivid personal anecdotes sired over a lifetime of flamboyantly antisocial behavior. Kingdom may not sustain the same youthful, frenetic resonance as the Doctor's post-'60s classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or his fascist-bashing '80s effort, Generation of Swine, but it doesn't disappoint. Overall, the work is lucid, crass, hilarious, and unaffected - everything the marginally enlightened public would expect from the autobiography of an aging cultural icon.

From nostalgically unrepentant prepubescent brushes with the law as a boy in Kentucky, to his campaign for sheriff on a "Freak Power" ticket in Colorado in the '70s, Thompson enthusiastically recalls specific events that helped shape his preternatural psyche. Also discussed

By Hunter S. Thompson
Simon & Schuster
$25, 384 pages
ISBN: 0684873230
in lurid detail is his time spent as the night manager of the infamous sex-o-rama, the O'Farrell Theater in San Francisco, as well as his own Fourth Amendment legal battle in the '90s, an arguably landmark case in which San Antonio-based attorney Gerry Goldstein served as council for the prematurely dammed.

In truth, considering everything Thompson has willfully ingested during his years on earth, simply being clear-headed enough to actually sit down and write a book is truly a feat in and of itself. Kingdom provides hard evidence that not only did Thompson survive the '60s with intellect intact, he managed to party through the following three decades with radical resolve intact, while most of his peers were busy listlessly kicking the bucket or unceremoniously selling out. His ongoing sentience legitimizes a life spent in flagrant and joyful violation of the status quo, and Kingdom of Fear remains true to his unrelenting, yet categorically disorganized revolutionary spirit.

Some critics have questioned the integrity of the book for what they call a lack of commentary on the scary state of American current affairs, but that is just plain silly. Critics cannot expect a man in his 60s to sound like a man in his 30s. Believe it or not, even within the fuzzy periphery that is the counterculture, a sort of maturation does actually take place. When a man like Thompson shows any true restraint in discussing subjects like 9-11, the death of American civil liberties, or the right to render one's own home or body a hostile environment, cover your head, because a brimstone shit storm will surely follow closely behind. Here is a man, who, after all, probably spent the better part of his intellectually formative years licking spilled LSD off filthy public restroom floors - always fully aware that you can't buy enlightenment for $3 a hit. Nothing is ever that easy - even for a genius. •

Tags: , ,



Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.