Hunter S Thompson once said that he hoped he would be the only journo ever to do Gonzo. When he said this, Gonzo was barely defined – the usage predates the Muppet Gonzo, and was used first to describe a piece Hunter had written on the Kentucky Derby called The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved by a Boston journalist called Bill Cardoso. Cardoso claimed it was Bostonian Irish slang for the last man standing at the end of a drinking binge. I wonder if the Muppet was named after Hunter’s style? Gonzo is kinda Hunteresque.
There is a case to be made for a resurrection of Gonzo: Hunter very much was into straight talk, he wanted Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to be unedited and raw – a straight recounting of his time in Las Vegas. There is just a small problem with this – Hunter was not inhabiting reality as we know it, Jim. Hunter was high as a kite, on the first page he tells us he is seeing huge bats attack the car, and that the and the lawyer have amassed a huge drug collection of various uppers and psychedelics. In Hunter’s words: ‘Very soon, I knew, we would both be completely twisted.’
Here is the problem – the “last man standing after a binge” is not going to be the most reliable reporter, but he can manage, if he is the talented Hunter S Thompson, amusing and thought provoking. Hunter relied on the reader being able to discern reality from Gonzo trip. I suppose our hero was always a forgiving and hopeful kinda freak, unfortunately, I think he was a little too hopeful.
Hunter failed in his attempt to produce an unedited stream of consciousness factual as he saw it through impaired eyes story, as to do so he would have incriminated himself to a dangerous degree. I am sure his lawyer would have told him that redacting and blurring reality was the only way to publish without significant jail time for himself and others.
Seeing the world through Hunter’s eyes was a blast and a trip. He was fond of saying he didn’t believe any journalism could be objective, so taking himself off the hook with his twisted reality. Hunter was writing to entertain above writing to inform. He used satire to make his points. The whole reefer madness anti marijuana kick of the times, with the ill effects and dangers being vastly overstated clearly bugged him, and Fear and Loathing was partly his case for Marijuana, but I am getting ahead of myself…
Hunter’s little trip, I believe has had some modern day consequences, if you bear with me and take a little detour around recent political events.
Hunter was not wrong, after all how can journalism be truly objective? We are reading the news through the lens of other’s eyes, through their foibles and agendas, their likes and dislikes. Just look at the disaster which was Fox news under Trump’s Presidency.
Any pretense of journalistic impartiality was thrown to the wind, it became not so much Gonzo as pure agitprop from the Trumpian cause of spreading hatred and half truths. We needed someone to be Hunter. Someone to throw themselves at reality and report back from the cutting edge of a moral and legal no man’s land. In the end there was nobody. Battle lines were drawn, and the troops instead of holding up the banner of Truth and Freedom of Speech, were flying party colors and hurling word-bombs against each other. In the end I started to feel a deep and lasting disgust with the News.
By the time we got to the QAnon mind games and truth-fuckery and the ridiculousness of “Democrats Ate my Baby” as if we were forced to participate in some weird National Enquirer made into a legit form of information gathering, and a group of crazies went and stormed Democracy, I started to feel I was being forced to watch some strange movie where Gonzo had gone wrong, the experiment had escaped from the can, and vast numbers of people were trying to rewrite reality whilst consuming vast amounts of psychedelics.
I started to enjoy waiting for the next “Q Drop” just so I could have a small giggle and wonder at who on earth was the evil genius behind this experiment in mass delusion. It was almost funny to see what they would come up with next, and who would bite. Almost. Until it all got far too serious. The image of Donnie as superhero saving the USA from human-adrenaline addicts was funny…until it wasn’t.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas I think holds the seeds for the start of this rumor (I would say Chinese whispers, but that is a little spicy for my tastes). In Chapter 5, Hunter’s Lawyer sources a small bottle of extract of Human Adrenaline that he calls Adrenochrome. Hunter tells us that the only way to obtain this rare extract is from live and very scared human beings. This is where any normal freak giggles and takes Hunter and his Gonzo with a pinch of salt. Unfortunately there are human beings out there with not so much imagination, and who can’t take a joke. What our counter culture human experiment of his own making is actually doing is trying to poke fun at reefer madness, coming up with a skit where he finds an actual dangerous drug, which actually really hurts people in it’s manufacture, and overdoses on it. This is just having a bit of gonzo fun at the expense of the weed smokers are degenerate evil destroyers of society kinda attitude which polite society was throwing at the freaks, the heads and the hippies.
This Adrenochrome and pineal gland skit is found in the chapters entitled: A Terrible Experience with Extremely Dangerous Drugs, and carries onto the following chapter 6, Getting Down to Business, Opening Day At the Drug Convention.
Now, if you don’t know the whole Q mythos has this drug, Adrenochrome, as the basis for every evil thing at the heart of the matters their Lord and Savior, Trump (who may or may not be Q in their twisted minds) is trying to fight. By the time these wierdos have latched onto Hunter’s adrenochrome, it becomes a substance the rich and elites, particularly the Democrats, are torturing and allegedly molesting and killing small children to obtain. See what has happened? Someone read the Gonzo Hunter, and built a new mythos around Hunter’s fiction. Page 131-132 of Fear and Loathing:
None of this stuff ACTUALLY happened. Hunter and Dr Gonzo did a lot of peyote and acid, uppers and downers, ether and booze, and things got freaky. You know what else didn’t happen? No people turned into Lizards in Circus Circus. No bats flew at the car. It was hallucination and satire. Hunter needed to have everything he wrote with a huge pinch of salt to be taken with every copy sold. Hunter documented things as he experienced them, reality through Hunter’s faded out eyes. Hunter was not objective. When he said no journalism was objective, he did include himself in this assessment.
The acid trip gone wrong that is so out of control, it gets a bunch of other people twisted fifty years or so later! That is some trip! Peyote and LSD in such huge amounts it causes a bunch of unimaginative people to storm the Capitol fifty or so years later, well indirectly at least. See what I mean? Journalism is subjective.
One man’s joke is another’s revolution.
Hunter describes being in a bar, posing as a cop from the drug convention, and proto-trolling the barflies that in California potheads are eating people and cops are cutting their heads off. These men take him seriously, and wonder whether or not to tell their wives.
Of course Hunter enjoyed the chase, the act, the pose, the tease. He enjoyed winding people up and seeing the results, but even Hunter could not envision anyone taking this seriously. The joke seems to have at least partially died down, and people distancing themselves from what was clearly a huge experiment or else a Gonzo wind up and see what shakes, but we are still left with the nagging feeling that the main stream media is not objective, that they are not telling the Truth, the Whole Truth and nothing but the truth. That is because the media is run by human beings. Humans with their own agendas, and who see the opportunity to skew things towards the greater good as they see it. The Truth has been sacrificed to Influence, and is flailing around in cyber space looking for a home.
I just try and remember that your purveyor of content might well have amassed a huge drug collection and be currently seeing bats that don’t exist. I am not sure where that leaves us in this age of Disinformation. I suspect we are all half up the proverbial creek without a paddle.
Stay weird … but not too strange…