February 4, 2003

The Return of Hunter Thompson

Hunter Thompson has a new book out and is interviewed in the current Salon. Thompson is a very welcome presence in a situation in which the level of hypocrisy and pretense has reached such a peak it feels as if the earth may explode at any minute. Thompson may not be the kind of guy you would like to share an apartment with, but you could count on him to speak the truth, even about politics, and that is extremely rare, almost nonexistent in the mainstream media today.

Thompson put his finger on the problem with the mainstream press in a statement he made in an unsentimental eulogy of Nixon in Rolling Stone. "Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism -- which is true, but they miss the point," Thompson said. "It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place." (--Hunter S. Thompson, "He was a crook," Rolling Stone, June 16, 1994.)

Thompson's new memoir is titled "Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century." Referring to the Bush mob he wrote: "Who does vote for these dishonest shitheads? . "They are the racists and hate mongers among us -- they are the Ku Klux Klan. I piss down the throats of these Nazis."

Salon's Thompson interview is "premium", meaning pay for view. But you can get a trial view by watching a fairly painless 15-second commercial. Here are some selections:

Salon says, "The godfather of gonzo believes America has suffered a 'nationwide nervous breakdown' since 9/11, and as a result is compromising civil liberties for what he calls 'the illusion of security.'"

A little farther down, Salon says: "Of course, the writer has distrusted power all his life, and it may come as no surprise that he now believes the administration is 'manufacturing' the Iraqi threat for its own political gain and the economic gain of the 'oligarchy' (read: the military-industrial complex)."

It quote Thompson as saying: "The oligarchy doesn't need an educated public. And maybe the nation does prefer tyranny. I think that's what worries me."

In regard to the sacrifice of civil liberties that has taken place after 911, Thompson says, "It's a disaster of unthinkable proportions -- part of the downward spiral of dumbness. Civil liberties are black and white issues. I don't think people think far enough to see the ramifications. The PATRIOT Act was a dagger in the heart, really, of even the concept of a democratic government that is free, equal and just. There are a lot more concentration camps right now than Guantanamo Bay. But they're not marked. Now, every jail, every bush-league cop can run a concentration camp. It amounts to a military and police takeover, I think."

The interviewer refers to Lincoln's suspension of habeus corpus during the Civil War. Thompson says, "If there's a visible, obvious threat like Hitler, but in my mind the administration is using these bogeymen for their own purposes. This military law is nothing like the Constitution. They're exploiting the formula here: The people are afraid of something and you offer a solution, however drastic, and they go along with it. For a while, yeah. My suspicions are more justified every day with this manufacturing of dangerous killer villains. The rest of the world does not perceive, I don't think, that some tin-horn dictator in the Middle East is more of a danger to the world than the U.S. is. This country depends on war as a primary industry. The White House has pumped up the danger factor because it's to their advantage. It's to John Ashcroft's advantage. There have always been pros and cons about the righteousness of life in America but this just seems planned, it seems consistent, and it seems traditional."

The interviewer asks what the controllers get out of all this. Thompson says, "They get control of the U.S. economy, their friends get rich. These are not philosopher-kings we're talking about. These are politicians. It's a very sleazy way of using the system. One of the problems today is that what's going on today is not as complex as it seems. The Pentagon just asked for another $14 billion more in the budget, and it's already $28 billion. [Defense spending rose $19.4 billion, to $364.6 billion in the 2003 budget]. That's one sector of the economy that's not down the tubes. So, some people are getting rich off of this. It's the oligarchy. I believe the Republicans have never thought that democracy was anything but a tribal myth. The GOP is the party of capital. It's pretty basic. And it may have something to do with the deterioration of educational system in this country. I don't think Bush has the slightest intention or concern about educating the public."

If you can get to it, the whole interview is worth reading. Thompson is priceless. I'm glad he's still alive.

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