A Maddening Riddle, Hunter Thompson Believed Journalists Needed to Get Subjective

The Democratic party that emerged 50 years ago from its national convention in Chicago was a party so badly bloodied, and so riven by its factions and hatreds, that it never stood a chance that fall when Richard Nixon sailed past Hubert Humphrey like a hurricane in August. I'll be thinking about that convention this Saturday at the annual GonzoFest held in Kentucky to honor the late author and journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who died in 2005. I'll be part of a panel talking about the '68 convention, and have been thinking about Thompson and his legacy a lot this season. When Richard Nixon died in 1994, he wrote that "If the right people had been in charge of Nixon's funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and jabbering dupe of a president." Thompson conceded such language was out of place for a journalist. "People will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism - which is true, but they miss the point," he wrote. "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. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful."It makes me wonder, as many others have, what Thompson might have written had he still been alive to consider the 2016 election or the early days of the Trump administration. Would his kind of Subjective have allowed him to see Trump better than those of us still keeping watch? It's hard to know. Thompson was a bag of contradictions and a maddening mix of genius and disappointment. I first met Hunter S. Thompson when I was a 21-year-old stringer for the Associated Press, having hitched a ride from the college town where I was then living to Louisville, my hometown and Thompson's too. The news editor in Kentucky had agreed to pay me $25 to cover a reading the famed outlaw journalist, well past his prime, was giving that night. His comments about Texas, and his prediction that Bill Clinton would win the 1992 election, would make news all over the country.   Continue reading...

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