Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dope, Guns and Politicians in the Streets

I read a lot of political books.  Two authors I particularly respect are Noam Chomsky and Hunter S. Thompson.  You could not get two further from each other in the humanity spectrum.  Chomsky is an intellectual, one whom requires a dictionary on hand to decipher.  Thompson is a pill-popping, gun-toting motherfucker who pursues politicians like sharks.  Given the nature of politics, pill-popping and firearms seems to be the only sensible way to deal with the sausage makers.

There is perhaps no better book on the election process than Fear and Loathing: On the Campaing Trail '72.  Thompson on the 1972 presidential campaign is a Thompson unleashed.  You've got Hart, Carter, Nixon, and McGovern.  You've got Thompson attacking not only the process and the hacks, but also the mainstream media.  And you've got the introduction of the mojo wire.  After reading this, it's no wonder that politics became a "cool" thing for young journalists to cover, and while many would try to mimic Thompson, none could quite do it.

Thompson has been a big influence on my writing (though not always apparent).  And though this was not the first book of his that I read, it was the one that caused me to create a Thompson section on my bookshelf (I don't have everything he wrote, but I am working on it). 

Rolling Stone originally ran Thompson's pieces before they were compiled for the book, and for that the magazine deserves my respect.  (The magazine has since fallen from grace with me.)  I can think of few other magazines at the time that would have tried something like this, and fewer that would have had the patience to deal with the madman.  His pieces came in right down to the wire, and they were often just notes that had to be assembled into something resembling an article.  Brilliant.

Thompson is, of course, no longer with us.  His work lives on, though.  Hopefully it is still inspiring.  What politics really needs these days is a good dose of Thompson.  Imagine him covering the Tea Party.  Exactly.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on a link and purchasing something may earn me a small commission.  I did not receive Thompson's book to review.  I think that is apparent from what I wrote, but the FTC thinks everyone is a dumb as its members.

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