A Year of Fear and Loathing

One of the more interesting authors of our lifetime was Hunter S. Thompson, who wrote a series of farcical social and political critiques. These included “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (a critique of the perversion of the American Dream) and “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail” (a critique of the 1972 presidential election) and “Fear and Loathing at the Super Bowl” (you can guess what that is about). Watching the news programs and reading the papers today somehow evoked his memory. Maybe it was the already incessant coverage of the coming election with the prospect of nearly 46 weeks of the xenophobic and tabloid politics of the GOP and the relentless campaign of Hillary, akin to the inevitability of food spoiling after being left out too long.

Reading Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail” could be an informative, if disturbing exercise in realizing that history repeats itself in a manner more similar to a regression toward the mean. Ultimately, the contest for the Democratic Party came down to the anti-war liberal George McGovern and the establishment candidate Hubert Humphrey (whom Thompson described as a “hopeless old hack”). Of course, McGovern won the nomination, then promptly lost the election before the campaign even started by selecting and then deselecting a mentally ill running mate. I don’t think that Bernie Sanders will even get a chance to make the same mistake as the hopeless old hack momentum seems too financed to overcome.

Thompson’s critique is just as unforgiving of the media coverage of the campaigns as he was of the campaigns and candidates. Too bad we don’t have his intellect to provide some comic relief to what is looking like a pretty depressing year of politics.

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