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In Which Sarah Palin Is Too Weird To Live And Too Rare To Die by alexcarnevale
September 12, 2008, 11:59 am
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Take A Page From the Hunter S. Thompson Playbook

by Alex Carnevale

A friend of mine bought me a Rolling Stone subscription as a gift last year. I quickly discovered that the magazine was better utilized as a coaster. The only real use I’ve gotten out of it is the time I took the Obama cover and put it on my little brother’s face while he was sleeping, so that when he woke up, he was kissing BO.

So it has come to this: all it takes is a woman murdering a moose in cold blood to create a more exciting alternative to the Democratic Party? Is that really enough to turn a candidate who watches The Wire into John Kerry? We want caricatures as our leaders, argued Hunter S. Thompson, and so he made them.

Hunter’s overblown style eliminated his main weakness as a writer – a lack of nuance, and made for all-in-fun re-fashionings of the American political scene. Still, he took elections seriously.

We are currently headed for one of the more polarized elections in our history, with McCain leading in North Carolina by twenty points. This divide is largely cultural, as the two major candidates agree on 90 percent of the issues, and their disagreements on the rest are minimal.

It was that cultural divide that HST played on, smoking weed with Jann Wenner and dropping acid with friends real and imaginary. And yet Hunter’s counter-culture was distinctive for including an American machismo: he titled his suicide note ‘Football Season Is Over’ partly because he loved the NFL so much. This is a problem for every cultural critic – he is a permanent, inescapable part of what he loathes in his criticism. (See Steinem, Gloria and folks like Christopher Hitchens, Robert Downey Jr. and Bryan Singer who became what they loathed.)

There’s always some noise about “what if so and so were alive today?” And to be fair, Hunter’s writing on Bush hardly ranks as memorable. But it is just as sure that the Democratic Party needs him now. When Kerry laid down and got eaten alive by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Obama and Biden are trying to prove they’ve learned that passivity need not be a Democratic calling card. Practically, however, it’s resulted into Biden slamming Sarah’s down syndrome baby. That’s just not the kind of change we need.

So consider taking a page out of Hunter’s playbook. In the following essay, taken from his classic Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, he starts a rumor that Ed Muskie, George McGovern’s opponent in the 1972 Democratic Primary, was an Ibogaine addict, and that Hubert Humphrey was addicted to speed. Perhaps Andrea Mitchell could suggest that Palin is a salvia fiend. To wit:

from Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail

by Hunter S. Thompson

Not much has been written about The Ibogaine Effect as a serious factor in the Presidential Campaign, but toward the end of the Wisconsin primary race — about a week before the vote — word leaked out that some of Muskie’s top advisors had called in a Brazilian doctor who was said to be treating the candidate with “some kind of strange drug” that nobody in the press corps had ever heard of.

It had been common knowledge for many weeks that Humphrey was using an exotic brand of speed known as Wallot . . . and it had long been whispered that Muskie was into something very heavy, but it was hard to take the talk seriously until I heard about the appearance of a mysterious Brazilian doctor. That was the key.

I immediately recognized The Ibogaine Effect – from Muskie’s tearful breakdown on the flatbed truck in New Hampshire, the delusions and altered thinking that characterized his campaign in Florida, and finally the condition of “total rage” that gripped him in Wisconsin.

There was no doubt about it: The Man from Maine had turned to massive doses of Ibogaine as a last resort. The only remaining question was “when did he start?” But nobody could answer this one, and I was not able to press the candidate himself for an answer because I was permanently barred from the Muskie campaign after that incident on the “Sunshine Special” in Florida . . . and that scene makes far more sense now than it did at the time. Muskie has always taken pride in his ability to deal with hecklers; he has frequently challenged them, calling them up to the stage in front of big crowds and then forcing the poor bastards to debate with him in a blaze of TV lights.

hunter’s wife Anita and her blog

But there was none of that in Florida. When the Boohoo began grabbing at his legs and screaming for more gin, Big Ed went all to pieces . . . which gave rise to speculation. among reporters familiar with his campaign style in ’68 and ’70, that Muskie was not himself. It was noted, among other things, that he had developed a tendency to roll his eyes wildly during TV interviews, that his thought patterns had become strangely fragmented, and that not even his closest advisors could predict when he might suddenly spiral off into babbling rages, or neocomatose funks.

hunter and jann wenner

In restrospect, however, it is easy to see why Muskie fell apart on that caboose platform in the Miami train station. There he was – far gone in a bad Ibogaine frenzy – suddenly shoved out in a rainstorm to face a sullen crowd and some kind of snarling lunatic going for his legs while he tried to explain why he was “the only Democrat who can beat Nixon.”

It is entirely conceivable — given the known effects of Ibogaine — that Muskie’s brain was almost paralyzed by hallucinations at the time; that he looked out at that crowd and saw gila monsters instead of people, and that his mind snapped completely when he felt something large and apparently vicious clawing at his legs. We can only speculate on this, because those in a position to know have flatly refused to comment on rumors concerning the Senator’s disastrous experiments with Ibogaine. I tried to find the Brazilian doctor on election Bight in Milwaukee, but by the time the polls closed he was long gone. One of the hired bimbos in Milwaukee’s Holiday Inn headquarters said a man with fresh welts on his head had been dragged out the side door and put on a bus to Chicago, but we were never able to confirm this. . . .

Hunter S. Thompson killed himself in 2005.

A Rapture Hard To Recapture

by Christopher Hitchens

In early August of 1990 I went to Aspen, Colo., to cover what looked as if it would be a rather banal summit involving Margaret Thatcher and George Bush. (The meeting was to be enlivened by the announcement of the forcible annexation of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein, who would go on to trouble our tranquility for another 13 years.) While the banal bit was still going on, the city invited the visiting press hacks for a cocktail reception at the top of an imposing mountain. Stepping off the ski lift, I was met by immaculate specimens of young American womanhood, holding silver trays and flashing perfect dentition. What would I like? I thought a gin and tonic would meet the case. “Sir, that would be inappropriate.” In what respect? “At this altitude gin would be very much more toxic than at ground level.” In that case, I said, make it a double.

The very slight contraction of the freeze-frame smile made it plain that I was wasting my time: It was the early days of the brave new America that knew what was best for you.

Spurning the chardonnay and stepping straight back onto the ski lift, I was soon back in town and then, after a short drive, making a turn opposite the Woody Creek Inn (easily spotted by the pig on its roof). And there, at the very fringe of habitation, was Owl Farm and its genial proprietor, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.

Once inside these well-armed precincts, I could drink and smoke and ingest any damn thing I liked. I finished a fairly long evening by doing some friendly target-practice, with laser-guided high-velocity rifles, in the company of my host. An empty bottle didn’t stand any more of a chance outside than a full one would have had within. It was vertiginous, for me, to be able to move from one America to another, in point of time and also of place, so rapidly.

It had been in 1970 that Thompson first ran for local office in Aspen, and stood against the wave of bourgeoisification that would soon make it a place where the locals could no longer afford to live. Local police officials tried to harass him in numberless ways, only to find that they were dealing not with some hippie or freak, but with one of the charter members of the Colorado National Rifle Association.

Thompson was to pursue this feud, with absolutely Corsican persistence, for many decades. If he had done nothing else, he might be remembered as a village Hampden, or a minuteman of the Rockies.

But, as Carey McWilliams of The Nation had recognized a long time before, Hunter was more than just a “character.” His proposal to write about the Hell’s Angels for the magazine, once accepted, was more than a brilliant piece of observant and participant journalism. It helped to curtain-raise the ’60s, and perhaps most especially the hectic excess of that decade in California.

Keen as he was on the herbivorous and antimilitarist side of that moment, Thompson wasn’t at all blind to the noir aspect, and helped prepare readers for the Manson and Altamont dimension. He’d been in this mood since at least November 22, 1963, when he first employed the words “fear and loathing” to express the way he felt about whomever it was who had murdered the president.

“The only things I’ve ever been arrested for,” said Hunter in one late interview, “were things I didn’t do.” It would take a very long article to describe all the deeds for which he could have been indicted, and all the days and nights when he could well have ended up dead. I hope that it isn’t true that he became depressed and miserable about the pain and immobility of a broken leg, and that the only lethal crime he ever committed was against himself in a dark hour, but the thing seems depressingly plausible, and there would always have been a firearm, and ammo, within easy reach.

I’m not that crazy about the gonzo school, or any other version of the new journalism either, but Thompson’s signature style was not always, or not entirely, about faxing unedited notes or having his life insurance cancelled by Jann Wenner. He was, above all, a highly polished hater, and could fuel himself as well as ignite others with his sheer contempt for Richard Nixon and all that he stood for.

This involved, for some years, a life where there was almost no distance between belief and action. And it is why his 1972 book on the campaign trail holds up so well. But even then he knew, as he was to keep repeating, that “the wave” of the insurgent ’60s— “a fantastic, universal sense that whatever we were doing was right: that we were winning”—was a wave that had not only “broken” but had “rolled back.”

This was a rapture that was hard to recapture. In Wayne Ewing’s oddly effective movie, Breakfast with Hunter, it is possible to detect the sensation of diminishing returns. The old enrage doesn’t really look that comfortable as he is card-indexed by the historian Douglas Brinkley (who edited his collected letters, for Chrissake) or venerated as an icon by George Plimpton.

He doesn’t even seem all that keen on being played by Johnny Depp in the celluloid version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He’s fine when hanging out with Warren Zevon, but he appears a bit lost when he’s discharging fire extinguishers, or hurling blown-up fuck-dolls around the scenery, as if this sort of thing was expected of him. “He was never one to hang around when it was time to go,” a mutual friend e-mailed me on Monday. The realization that this might have occurred to him before it occurred to us is a very melancholy one.

Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair.

awesome hunter paraphrenalia site

he writes on two levels

Christopher Buckley:

One of the things that made Thompson an ”outlaw” hero to this reviewer’s generation was the demonic zest of his invective and contumely. The DNA of Thompson’s adjectival lexicon is made up of the following, often in sequence: ”vicious,” ”rancid,” ”savage,” ”fiendish,” ”filthy,” ”rotten,” ”demented,” ”treacherous,” ”heinous,” ”scurvy,” ”devious,” ”grisly,” ”hamwit,” ”filthy,” ”foetid,” ”cheapjack” and ”hellish.” Favorite gerunds and other verb forms of abuse include ”festering,” ”stinking,” ”crazed,” ”deranged,” ”soul-ripping,” ”drooling,” ”rabbit-punching” and ”knee-crawling,” to say nothing of even more piquant expressions

Joe Klein on Hunter

Rich Cohen and Hunter

The NYT accounting of the weird funeral

He died alone, writes David Carr

rare early short story by Hunter

FOOTBALL SEASON IS OVER

young hunter

No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun—for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax—This won’t hurt.

from their classic 2005 album, Set Free

“She’s Half (demo)” – The American Analog Set (mp3)

“Sharp Briar (demo)” – The American Analog Set (mp3)

the history of the American Analog Set

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

Harris Feinsod on the famous Chighur haircut.

Alex is not a fan of modern Westerns.

No Country For Pwned Men.

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3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

You’re right that there wasn’t always a greater nuance or cavernous depth to HST’s work. It all pretty much remained bluntly surface, but that surface was glossy hilarious at times. His first novel was a decent faux Hemingway effort, but I think it’s safe to say that he took that Dr. Johnson quote a little too seriously.

Comment by Marco Sparks

Great post and great blog, thanks a lot for the mention. I’ll be doing the same.

Comment by hstbooks

[...] Hunter S. Thompson [...]

Pingback by In Which Just What You Want To Be, You Will Be In The End « This Recording




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