The empathy which comes through here is not fabricated either. Thompson's very approach in "Fear and Loathing," and another cornerstone to the gonzo movement, is the concept of full immersion into his own stories. The long-suffering tone that shrouds all of his work is the repercussion of Thompson's journalism-by-personal-experience, an ongoing quest to find America in himself and those around him. For better and worse, his writing illustrates that he succeeded in doing so.
The rebellion of the 1960's, guided as it was by an optimistic emphasis on peace, love and cultural freedom, would take on a far more militant imperative as the decade wound to a close. Thompson takes this transition head on, highlighting the violence which had invaded an insular world of counter-cultural ideology. The hostility of the mainstream, which the activist culture had rallied so hard to reject, had infected its thinking and its approach to action. Thompson seems to suggest that this is a necessary change, pointing to the radicalism of the Black Panthers and the intensified anti-war segment as twin indicators that the stakes had been raised by a generation of ineffective resistance to Nixon's imposition.
In many ways, the embittered tone which is taken toward the Nixon presidency is underscored by the cultural failures of the essentially overwhelmed and outgunned movement. Thompson captures the rifts forming within the counterculture in his 1971 essay, Memoirs of a Wretched Weekend in Washington, where an anti-Nixon protest erupted into its own dividing lines. He illustrates the increasingly ugly state of the rebellion, observing that "the 'counter inaugural' parade had just ended and some of the marchers had decided to finish the show by raping the American flag. Other marchers protested, and soon the two factions were slugging it out." (Thompson, 177)
The splinters in the resistance belie in Thompson's work a transition to more aggressive forms of civil disobedience. And even more than that, he demonstrates that his perspective on Nixon, divided by a sense of hostility and apprehension, is a nuance that divided many of those who had sought to construct a meaningful coalition against Nixon. This would help to underlie the notion strung throughout Thompson's writing concerning the essential deadlock which would help to deliver a publicly repugnant candidate to the office.
Namely, the divides which Thompson discusses in the movement against Nixon demonstrates somewhat prophetically the victory which Nixon would somehow enjoy in the face of such pressure and unpopularity. The Thompson text provides something of a forewarning...
History shows that the galvanized movements which may have seized Nixon's failure as an opportunity for progress in the so-called Great Society were, in Thompson's estimation, splintered to individual irrelevance and philosophical hypocrisy by the strain of Nixon's terms.
This, of course, underscores the importance which the activist movement attributed to its efforts to undermine the conventions of mainstream society and the sitting president. The corruption which those in minority and protest populations recognized as a fact of America's hypocritical leadership had emerged as an important focus for the counterculture. In the face of such corruptions as the secret bombing campaigns in Cambodia, the Watergate scandal and the unchecked aggression of America's national guard against its own people, the emphasis which Thompson placed on exposing these ethical failures would become a flashpoint for purging the nation of its incompetent leadership. As Thompson explains it in the 'September' chapter of the McGovern Juggernaut Rolls on, "the ugly fallout from the American Dream has been coming down on us at a pretty consistent rate since Sitting Bull's time -- and the only real difference now, with Election Day '72 only a few weeks away, is that we seem to be on the verge of ratifying the fallout and forgetting the Dream itself." (Thompson, 223) This assessment is indicative of an evolving response of cynicism and mistrust in America toward its central governance and established institutions of law enforcement, commerce and education. In each was evident the extended distortions of the Constitution and the identity of America. Moreover, it demonstrates Thompson's foresight, as he stood here in clear recognition of the face that the absence of needed unity and focus by the protest movement would ultimately help to reinforce Nixon's preeminence as a negatively symbolic carrion crow for his time.
We also see that Thompson himself would be extremely disaffected and disillusioned with America, a sentiment that would last up until his death. It would be unreasonable to suggest that the 2004 shotgun blast suicide of Hunter S. Thompson was a surprise. The genuine anxiety, addiction and paranoia that propel his work into stunningly honest terrain and literarily empathetic were never conjured for his career aspirations and it would appear that he ultimately succumbed to them all. But the reflection of this self-destructive drive in his work is not just therapeutic. The universality of his hostile and sarcastic malaise is the byproduct of the American Dream as seen from the bottom, with Nixon serving as the monstrous creature obstructing…
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