R.I.P. Hunter S. Thompson, Outlaw Journalist
Hunter S. Thompson took muckraking to an outer edge in the early 1970s, when he was among the first to detect the rancid odor of White House corruption. His screeds against the sitting president were overwrought and tinged with paranoia, but Nixon’s resignation would vindicate his torrid animadversions. As California’s secretary of state, I had to yank the notary public commission of Nixon’s personal lawyer. It seems that he notarized a backdated deed of Nixon’s papers so that the president could qualify for a charitable deduction—illegally. These were unusual times.
Thompson’s personal life was not as grounded as his work, but as Dr. Gonzo often observed, via Dr. Johnson: “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.” In the end, it seems, the pain caught up with him out on Owl Farm. Like a Chekhov story, the firearms he favored during a turbulent life figured in the manner of his untimely exit.
In recent years, Thompson had penned a column on politics and sports for ESPN’s website. The current political scene horrified him – as did the Oakland Raiders – and he pined for the company of his late fellow football addict, Richard Nixon. “Big darkness soon come,” he predicted in a column last year.
Thompson’s gone and so is much of the 60’s. He had the roughest of edges but such raw journalism—in some unimagined form—might be just the antidote to mendacious media interface.