Ed Driscoll

Fear and Loathing at the New Criterion

Stefan Beck writes that the New Criterion’s readers have been emailing asking where their send-up of the late Hunter S. Thompson has been. He replies that they’ve had a couple of reasons to not immediately come out (as we did) to bury Dr. Gonzo. One is that his prose had long become a parody of its self. (Beck sites, as many of us did when blogging about Thompson, how much he enjoyed Hell’s Angels. But that was written nearly forty years ago.) Beck adds:

the better reason to avoid a long disquisition on Dr. Gonzo is that, if reactions to his suicide are any indication, there will be no convincing his adulators of how tragically wrong they are about him. Writing a bit, plummeting into alcoholism, holing up in a fortified compound, and shooting oneself in the head may seem to a certain species of teenage boy like a romantic trajectory. In real life, where the rest of us dwell, Thompson’s suicide should serve as a warning to his fans that both his hysterical bile and his self-destruction were signs not of genius, but of an inability to see the world clearly or to love much in it. All the critics lavishing praise on the Good Doctor should stop and consider whether they’d like to emulate his example.

One example that many of those “lavishing praise on the Good Doctor” would like to emulate is remarked on without comment near the end of an otherwise fairly well-balanced essay about Thompson in the Rocky Mountain News:

When he contemplated the Kentucky Derby or Las Vegas or the 1968 Democratic convention or the popularity of Richard Nixon, Thompson recognized what so many journalists at the time felt but were rarely drunk enough to say in print: that there was something dark and disturbing at the core of many of the apparently innocuous slices of Americana they had been assigned to cover.

The key phrase is “at the time”. James Lileks noted last year, that shortly after Thompson’s meteoric rise, Thompson’s sneering tone became the tone of journalism:

He can say what he wants. Drink what he wants. Drive where he wants. Do what he wants. He