The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Fear and Loathing: Journalism in the Age of Trump Derangement Syndrome

Posted on | February 20, 2019 | Comments Off on Fear and Loathing: Journalism in the Age of Trump Derangement Syndrome

“In the context of journalism, here, we are dealing with a new kind of ‘lead’ — the Symbiotic Trapezoid Quote. The Columbia Journalism Review will never sanction it; at least not until the current editor dies of brain syphilis, and probably not even then.
“Do we have a libel suit on our hands?
“Probably not, I think, because nobody in his right mind would take a thing like that seriously — and especially not that gang of senile hags who run the Columbia Journalism Review, who have gone to great lengths in every issue during the past year or so to stress, very heavily, that nothing I say should be taken seriously.”

Hunter S. Thompson, “Fear and Loathing in Washington: The Boys in the Bag,” Rolling Stone, July 4, 1974 (collected in The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time)

You know who Hunter S. Thompson hated? Journalism professors.

He went out of his way to insult the academic a–holes at the Columbia Journalism Review, which published a review by a professor disparaging Thompson’s lack of objectivity in covering the 1972 presidential campaign for Rolling Stone. By the way, no one has ever proven Ed Muskie was not addicted to Ibogaine, and Big Ed never sued for libel, so we are entirely justified in concluding it must have been true.

As I remarked in July 2012, while I was up to my eyeballs in covering a presidential campaign, “there is nothing wrong with 21st-century journalism except (a) the continued existence of the Columbia Journalism Review and (b) the shortage of good, cheap mescaline.” Right-wingers aren’t supposed say things like that, but I got into the journalism racket long before I became a right-winger, and I started doing serious drugs in 10th grade, so even though I long ago became a responsible member of the bourgeoisie, I never lost my fondness for Hunter Thompson and his drug-addled anti-establishment radicalism. The fact that Thompson was a leftist has not diminished my appreciation for his work, despite my status as a sober adult and a conservative stalwart. What I liked about Thompson when I was a teenager I still like about him, namely that he wrote in a way that was fun to read.

“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like ‘I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive….’ And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas.”
Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (1971)

That’s it — grab the reader by the eyeballs in the very first sentence, so that he is absolutely compelled to keep reading the whole thing.

Too many journalists nowadays take it for granted that their readers will want to read whatever godawful clickbait they publish on the Internet, and yet when they get laid off, they won’t admit that the miserable quality of their work has anything to do with it. #LearnToCode is “harassment,” according to Twitter, and anyone who criticizes the media for publishing defamatory falsehoods is accused of “gleefully seizing.” If you’re gonna seize something, you might as well do it gleefully, but I digress . . .

Given his notorious hatred of journalism professors, what might we expect the late Hunter S. Thompson to say about Timothy Denevi, an assistant professor of creative writing at George Mason University who has recently published Freak Kingdom: Hunter S. Thompson’s Manic Ten-Year Crusade Against American Fascism? Is Professor Denevi afflicted with brain syphilis? To my knowledge, he has never denied it, and he might also be addicted to Ibogaine, for that matter.

At any rate, Professor Denevi’s book was recently reviewed under the headline “How fear and loathing of Nixon sent Hunter S. Thompson crazy,” which got linked at Instapundit by Ed Driscoll with the comment, “Something tells me that Dr. Gonzo would have consumed plenty of illicit substances no matter who had won in ‘72.” Indeed, and Thompson was such a natural-born hell-raiser he disliked more or less anyone associated with government or big business. For example, although he had originally liked Bill Clinton, he subsequently compared him to the Emperor Caligula and denounced Clinton as a “poison scumbag” and an “evil disaster.” It’s impossible to imagine that Thompson would have had anything good to say about Hillary’s 2016 campaign.

The review of Professor Denevi’s book was written by Anne Margaret Daniel who is — you guessed, didn’t you? — a professor at The New School, where she is currently teaching a course entitled “Gender and Modernism.” Professor Daniel has degrees from Harvard, Georgetown, the University of Virginia School of Law, and Princeton. Basically, she retired from a career of attending college — the “permanent student” type — and now is spending her AARP years teaching other people who want to avoid getting an actual job. But again, I digress . . .

It’s probably wrong of me to apply Hunter S. Thompson’s instinctive hatred of journalism professors to Thomas Denevi, who has sought to enhance Thompson’s reputation. You might wish to read Professor Denevi’s lengthy account of how Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was written, which I found interesting, but which isn’t as good as reading the book itself. (Whatever happened to Lucy, the runaway teenage “Jesus freak” with the Streisand paintings who got molested after being fed LSD by the “Samoan lawyer”? Don’t tell me Thompson imagined that whole weird scene; it was too vivid not to have some element of truth.) Thompson always evaded the question of how much journalism and how much fiction was in the Vegas book, because Nixon was president, after all and, if taken seriously as journalism, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a detailed confession to multiple felonies. And really, what about Lucy? If she’s still alive, she’d be about 65 now, and perhaps still babbling incoherently about getting raped by a fat Mexican in a Vegas hotel almost half a century ago. Then the nurses give her another Haldol injection and she slumps down drooling in her cell in the state mental hospital . . .

The depravity and decadence to which Hunter S. Thompson was a witness at its inception has now become the New Normal. Every day, the headlines are filled with strange and savage tales of heinous things happening in places like Oldsmar, Florida, where just last week, a guy got arrested for having sex with a dog and posting the video online.

Also, Bernie Sanders is running for president again, which is perhaps not as heinous as raping a Siberian husky, but it’s close. Anyway, this is another one of those weird digressions that has nothing to do with Professor Denevi’s book about Hunter Thompson, but before you buy his book, shouldn’t you first read all of Hunter S. Thompson’s books? I’d recommend Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72, as well as Hell’s Angels, just for starters. The Great Shark Hunt includes the earliest stuff Thompson wrote as a roving correspondent in Latin America, and if you’re really interested, I’d also recommend The Proud Highway, a collection of Thompson’s early correspondence that gives some insight into what his life was like prior to becoming notorious.

Maybe after you’ve read everything by Thompson, you’ll be ready to read a book about Thompson, written by a university professor of “creative writing.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but as a journalist? Denevi sucks. He tried to write some Thompsonesque coverage of the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland and, among other things, managed to miss the “Unite to Stop the Hate” march down Euclid Avenue — whereas more or less by accident, I was there, and got pictures. The next day, my report for The American Spectator included this:

After a protester from the far-left group Code Pink attempted to stage a disruption Monday inside the Quicken Loans Arena, ABC New reporter Terry Moran claimed this incident was symbolic of what “a dark night” the convention had been. “Donald Trump has been a candidate whose approach has divided many people, drawn protesters,” Moran said, terming the lone protester’s act an illustration of “the kind of unsettled emotions that Donald Trump has sparked in many people around the country.” Of course, kooks from Code Pink — founded in 2002 by radical leftists Jodie Evans and Medea Benjamin — have staged disruptive protests in all kinds of settings, but Terry Moran blamed their bizarre antics on Trump.
Meanwhile, on NBC, Tom Brokaw was accusing Republicans of communicating “a pretty divisive message.” According to Brokaw, the GOP convention made “no attempt to really pull the country together.” CNN is following the conclusion of each night’s RNC proceedings by doing a “Reality Check,” essentially a pro-Democrat pushback against major statements made by speakers at the Republican convention. Does anyone — anyone — believe that CNN will be diligently fact-checking Democrats when they convene next week in Philadelphia to nominate Hillary Clinton? Of course not. No one expects honesty or balance from the major media anymore. Every day brings new proof that most political journalists are simply “Democrats with bylines,” as Professor Glenn Reynolds calls them.
No one watching network coverage of this allegedly “dark” and “divisive” convention would suspect that the Republicans gathered in Cleveland this week are having a grand time. Restaurants and bars along Euclid Avenue and the 4th Street corridor are crowded with delegates and guests. Every day, there are cocktail receptions and every night, there are invitation-only parties, and so the people actually attending the RNC are seeing an event that is fun, fun, fun, while folks at home watching TV are being told that this convention is about fear, fear, fear. . . .

There is simply no truth in what the liberal media say about Republicans, and that’s kind of an important story, you see? The national media establishment have become propagandists and stenographers for the Democrat Party to such an extent that they go blundering from error to error, and now the Washington Post is facing a $250 million lawsuit for libeling a Catholic schoolboy from Kentucky whose only “crime” was wearing a MAGA hat in D.C. The media are quite literally publishing “fake news,” and you might think that professors of journalism would be concerned, but because academia is even worse than the media in terms of Trump Derangement Syndrome, this problem is likely to continue getting worse, as journalism students are being trained to think of themselves as part of the “Resistance.” Which makes sense if you think that Trump is Nixon and that Nixon was Hitler, which seems to be the basic theme of Professor Denevi’s book. Except IT’S NOT TRUE, YOU IGNORANT JACKASSES! How was Nixon comparable to Hitler? Hell, Hitler would have put Hunter S. Thompson in Dachau, and so far as I know, Thompson never got any kind of hassle from the Nixon gang despite every evil thing Thompson wrote about Our Commander-in-Chief. Nor has the Trump administration started shipping cattle cars full of journalists to concentration camps, so the whole Trump-is-Hitler-and-Republicans-are-latter-day-Nazis analogy just doesn’t function as a meaningful mechanism to understand the daily news, but journalists refuse to let go of this analogy, clinging to it like a frightened four-year-old hugging his teddy bear during a thunderstorm. Why?

Beats me. It was easy enough to explain Thompson’s political attitude. He grew up as a Southerner in an era when all Southerners were Democrats, so as a partisan, he spent the entirety of the 1950s disgruntled with life in Eisenhower’s America — as did a lot of liberals, even though it had not yet become fashionable to publicly accuse Republicans of being Nazis. That got started in 1964, when Barry Goldwater was widely accused of being a “right-wing extremist” (nudge, nudge) and the Republicans-are-Nazis rhetoric seriously ramped up during Nixon’s presidency despite the fact that Nixon was not in any meaningful way more “right-wing” than LBJ (or Hubert Humphrey, for that matter). That the press corps is obviously wrong in its quadrennial habit of declaring each new Republican presidential candidate to be Hitler does not stop them from doing it over and over again, and why? Isn’t it mainly because so many journalists are addicted to their grandiose narcissistic vision of themselves as Heroic Guardians of Democracy? And doesn’t President Trump have a point when he calls such pompous douchebags as Jim Acosta “The Enemy of the People”? Jim Acosta hates everyone who voted for Trump — all 62.9 million of them — and he is at least an enemy of those people (including my wife, I suppose). So here we are, in the “basket of deplorables,” and there is Professor Denevi, teaching his students that we deserve to be hated. Yet he doesn’t seem to understand why people who voted for Trump might not agree with Professor Denevi’s conception of himself as a Heroic Guardian of Democracy.

Well, I didn’t plan to write 2,000 words on this, and if the Trump administration ever starts loading journalists onto cattle cars bound for concentration camps, I might persuade my friends at the White House to spare Professor Denevi. Anyone who likes Hunter S. Thompson can’t be all bad, and maybe he knows where to get some good cheap mescaline. It’s been decades since I indulged in any heavy drugs — that 1979 psilocybin freak-out pretty much cured my appetite for hallucinogens — but the news has been getting pretty weird lately:

SOUTH EUCLID, OH — A warrant for domestic violence and sexual conduct with an animal has been issued for a man who allegedly hit his wife multiple times after he was caught engaging in sexual activity with a dog.
According to a South Euclid police report, officers received a call on Sunday from a woman on Cedar Road.
The woman stated to police that she heard her 10-pound Maltipoo dog crying from the bathroom.
When she opened the bathroom door, she observed her 27-year-old husband forcing the dog to perform oral sex on him, according to South Euclid police.
After confronting him, the man struck his wife several times until she was knocked to the ground, police say.
The man then took the woman’s cellphone and broke it into pieces before he left the apartment.

Was this man a registered voter, and if so, was he a Republican or a Democrat? Ohio’s a “swing state,” you know, and it’s entirely possible that this dog-sex freak went off the deep end because his mind was wrecked by the endless bombardment of campaign ads to which Ohio voters are subjected every four years. Would anyone be willing to bet me $20 that this guy was a Bernie Sanders supporter? But I digress . . .

My point is that America seems to be in the midst of a complete psychotic breakdown, with dog-f–kers running around all over the place, and every kind of craziness you can imagine, so that sometimes I feel like The Last Sane Man in America, which is scary, and maybe some serious drugs will be needed to restore my emotional equilibrium. “When the going gets weird, the weird don’t teach journalism,” as someone might have said.

Keep your dogs safe. Bernie Sanders supporters are everywhere.



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