Monday, February 21, 2005

OBITUARY - Hunter S. Thompson

What can be said about Hunter S. Thompson? Nothing. He said it all himself, but not in discussing himself, just in the simple nature of his work. There was a brazen honesty to his writing that could not be falsified. He shot from the hip and spoke from the heart. People called him crazy and he was, but he was crazy as man gets when they see what is happening around them and have the gall to investigate and share what they see with the world.

It is perhaps fitting that the story of his death broke in the middle of the night between the 20th and 21st of February, forcing journalists throughout the western hemisphere out of their beds and into the field. But that was Thompson's way, to wake up the sleeping mind. That was his Gonzo Journalism, an exploration of the weird that kept us on our toes, reminding us that we were in the midst of strange times and always would be. He made the strange familiar, not by creating it, but by showing us that it was there and always had been.

Of Thompson's volume of work, his most famous is the book "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", a tale of drug-addled journalism through the Nevada wasteland. But to those who would wish to know him simply for the journalist he was, for the greatness he had not as a man of the odd but as a speaker of truth, two works come to mind, only one written by him. The first is a piece of work by Hunter himself attached to his book "Better than Sex" and spitefully titled Chapter 666. It is, in short, his obituary for his political nemesis Richard Nixon. The second work is an obituary by H. L. Mencken of the late presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan. Dr. Thompson refers to this obituary at the beginning of Chapter 666 as the most vicious piece of writing he'd ever read. Read both and know what has been lost to the world, a man who brought the legacy of true journalism, the truth no matter the cost, through into the 21st century.

Now Hunter is gone and by his example, however, BECAUSE it was odd, we have seen the power of journalism. Dare we forget him and risk his wrath? Do we do perform this act that hovers tediously between disrespect and stupidity?

No. Poorer is the world for his passing, but poorer still would we be had he not been himself. In the final analysis, he has done us great service and the whole of his case, his career, and his influence on the world of journalism is summarized best by a phrase he often used himself:

Res Ipsa Loquitur -- The thing speaks for itself.

And so did Hunter S. Thompson. He will be missed.