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Get Gonzo: Not Your Cuddly Blue Haired Journalism Gonzo Journalism finds it s roots in New Journalism but takes it to the extreme. And no one else can do it like Hunter S. Thompson can do it (Hart 1). It is hard to deny this cult author the credit that is due him after a work of journalism/ literature/ fantasy like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the heart of the American Dream. It is a savage, twisted tale of two hard core drug abusers, one a journalist and the other, a lawyer. But remember, these are not fictional characters; they are real!
This is a true story, to the Gonzo mind, of Hunter Thompson and his attorney, Oscar Zeta Acosta. They are sent into the Las Vegas scene to cover a story about the Mint 400, the richest off-road race for motorcycles and dune-buggies in the history of organized sport (Thompson 9). The race is never actually covered adequately enough to submit a story. The book is true.
Gonzo is true. At one point while zooming through the desert in the Red Shark Th! thompson yells, This is important goddammit! This is a true story! (Thompson 8).
But what was the story? No one had bothered to say. So we would have to drum it up on our own. Free Enterprise. The American Dream. Horatio Alger gone mad on drugs in Las Vegas.
Do it now: pure Gonzo journalism (Thompson 12). Gonzo? Is that some Boston word for weird? Gonzo journalism is everything that is good and pure in an event. Hunter S. Thompson s book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, is the truest example of Gonzo journalism, a journalistic art.
But the question still remains, what is Gonzo journalism? Gonzo is a no holds barred, first hand account of an event. It came about in 1970 when Thompson was facing a deadline on an article on the Kentucky Derby. He had no story so in a panic he tore out his notes and sent them to his editor, Bill Cordoza. Cordoza replied, this is it, this is pure Gonzo (Hart 3).
And with that Gonzo was born. The reporter is the story and the reader feels as if they are riding shotgun (Hart 2). Gonzo is extremist New Journalism (Hart 1). It is unconventional from beginning to end. It is written in first person, has flares of fiction, and is the most extreme form of participatory journalism. Thompson himself once said, the true Gonzo reporter needs the talent of a master journalist, the eye of an artist / photographer and the heavy balls of an actor.
Because the writer must be a participant in the scene The eye and mind of the journalist would be functioning as a camera (Hart! 1). Typically in conventional journalism the writer tries to convey ideas and events in an unbiased and objective fashion. In Gonzo all objectivity is thrown out the window, like cocaine in the wind, and all biases are laid on the table. There is no secret where the journalist stands on issues and this is done because people are naturally biased. Reporters are especially biased because of their day to day involvement in issues don t fight it, use it (Hart 2).
Thompson feels like William Faulkner, in that the best work of fiction is far more true than any kind of journalism. Facts in Gonzo are important to stick to, but more like sticking to a big guy in a dark alley is safer. Gonzo is not safe and occasionally it is important to stretch the truth, exaggerate a situation, or blatantly fabricate to make a point that may have been over the readers head. In Gonzo the overall impact of the event is more important than just a telling of what went on. Many critics hav! e been divided on the use of truth versus facts.
Is it okay to distort facts to ensure the truth is seen? In the Gonzo mentality, yes. Truth and facts are rarely found on the same page and the truth s importance far outweighs any fact that may come up. In Fear and Loathing, Thompson deals with serious social and moral issues of 1971 America. He saw the American Dream dying, and sought to inform the public of his vision. As it was stated earlier, Fear and Loathing is an account of Thompson and his attorney terrorizing Las Vegas in a red convertible and a White Caddie, consuming nightmarish amounts of drugs while searching for the American Dream (Owens).
But it is so much more, a symbol of a time gone by and what is to come. It is a social commentary that was so poignant in 1971, but even more poignant in 1997. And it deals with an issue that could only be covered in true Gonzo fashion, with true Gonzo grit. It deals with the classic affirmation of everything that is right and true and decent in the national character a gross physical salute to the fantastic possibilities of life in this country (Thompson 18). High speed into the town that stood for everything the country pretended to reject.
Money, sex, po! wer, Las Vegas was run by it. This country is run by it. How long can we maintain? , Thompson asks (5). How long can this country maintain at full speed, all drugged up on media, money, sex, and power?
It is like a drug addiction starting with a little grass, then moving up a little to LSD. Next thing you know you are killing some lady just to get the money from her purse so you can go buy some smack to inject into your veins. Who is the dealer? Our great country. They funnel money into organizations that promote such insolence.
A country run by poverty pimps, keeping the people just happy enough so they are not motivated to work any harder than they already are because they know their check is coming. Thompson is speaking out against the up coming Nixon years of corrupt government and bidding sweet sorrow to the Acid Generation (Dickensheets 2). The idea of symbolism in a journalistic work is not conventional, but neither is Gonzo. The fact to fiction ratio h! as been an area of controversy for some time (Dickensheets 2), probably 25 years. It is know that creative license was taken, because it has been noted that the Mint 400 and the district attorney s convention took place months apart (Dickensheets 2).
But as far as Thompson was concerned he was just writing about his adventures in Las Vegas. He was in the Gonzo mind set and taking it a step further. After all isn t the moral to the story more important? Would we be questioning the moral state of our nation if they drove the speed limit into town, helped old ladies across the street, and applauded the ignorant people who are supposed to protect us? No.
And shock value is one of the redeeming qualities in Fear and Loathing. Without it, no social commentary could be made. Fear and Loathing, a voice of a generation, when it was us against them, down with the establishment; a generation that wanted desperately to change the world for the better and had the sheer numbers to do it. It was merely a matter of lifestyle, a sense of obligation and even a duty. Thompson writes, If the Pigs were gathering in Vegas to do a top level Drug Conference, we felt the drug culture should be represented (110). And what two more worthy delegates than Oscar and Hunter, the epitome of anti-establishment beliefs.
This feeling of unity is something today s younger generation lacks. The people are coming apart, like a big unraveling of the patchwork quilt that makes up this great land. The Babyboomer s felt like they were one. They had a single political voice and music from their time echoes this.
Power to the people. But it was fading fast, farewell, God s mercy on you swine (Thompson 201). The disassociation of Thompson and his attorney from the r! est of society and even eachother closely resembles the Generation X mentality today. Everyone else is crazy or depraved. It is never my fault; did you see what God just did to us? (Thompson 21).
There is no better way to comment on the changing of times than to symbolize them. Live as if you are the change. Thompson submersed himself into a place and mind set of paranoia. Everyone was after him and when they were gone he called them a freak.
Today teenagers and young adults feel the world is against them, but unlike the Boomers, they feel alone. They cannot identify with the whole group, so they make excuses until there are no more to make, then they turn to criticism of whatever it was that they couldn t identify with. Can t identify, justify. Can t justify, criticize.
Gonzo is an art form. And only one artist has ever truly mastered it. Hunter Thompson stumbled onto something great when he tore his notes from that book in 1970. Since then he has been able to make more truthful commentaries on these times.
The fact that he distorts fact, is so sensational and vulgar are all part of his charm. Who wants a plain vanilla girl anyway? Drastic times call for drastic measures. Thompson heard the call and answered it with a bang. His musical sense of the language and firm understanding of the national character helped to produce a work of resounding truth.
Tickle me Elmo was last year. Twenty-seven years after its creation and people are still calling for Gonzo, but this is not your cuddly blue haired kind of journalism.
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