Stoffa: Fear and loathing in the aftermath

The anniversary of Hunter S. Thompsons death provides opportunity to reflect and learn from his genius work.

Illustration: Eric Ensey/Iowa State Daily

The anniversary of Hunter S. Thompson’s death provides opportunity to reflect and learn from his genius work.

Gabriel Stoffa

“When I die and they lay me to rest, Gonna go to the place that’s the best, When I lay me down to die, Goin’ up to the spirit in the sky” — Norman Greenbaum

Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011, marked the sixth year since Hunter S. Thompson committed suicide.

Nothing spectacular compared to the wild insurgency in the Middle East and elsewhere, but for those with the mad desire to still find truth instead of the filtered unreality the media provides us with because we demand it to be no other way, the anniversary of Hunter’s death is a reminder to not become complacent.

It is a reminder to not remain so feverishly addicted to the ideas fed to us by those in power. It is a reminder to not let the poetry of words and the art of informing to be diluted by the celebrity hacks and model faces babbling about inane fashion and stylish causes their bubble-heads think make a difference.

Most importantly, the anniversary of Hunter’s death is a reminder to fight, tooth and nail, for a better world of devoted leaders instead of allowing the jabbering slime busy destroying the Constitution in order to appease a bunch of ill-informed Americans to come to power and destroy any hope of making a better world.

I first learned about Hunter in 1997 when I heard about a new film in the works: “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” I was fascinated by the main character and wanted to know if he was someone I could look to and learn from as I grew up, or if it was just another sensationalist figure from history.

Finding his books and reading any piece of work I could get my hands on, my eyes were opened to the notion that any profession could be turned into the rockstar lifestyle I had dreamed of since I first found that fleeting rush of excitement when a group of people applaud you for your efforts.

I now had a pattern to look to for inspiration as I discovered who I was and how I should continue confronting authority; taking nothing at face value and allowing no one to ever dictate to me what I should or should not do.

The teenagers to college kids of today do not, for the most part, know who Hunter was, apart from perhaps a character played by Hunter’s compatriot, Johnny Depp, in a movie about drugs.

It is almost criminal that a man of Hunter’s stature should not be embraced by the young generation today. The pacing and lifestyle youth so embrace is a comical attempt at the rebellious persona of Hunter.

Hunter became bound by the exaggerated personality the media made him out to be; he saw what people thought he was and would act in a way even more exaggerated so as to further fashion the myth, the legacy he knew his life’s work would leave.

Youth today are wrapped up in the same sort of destructive influence to live up to what the media makes them out to be, while still striving to find themselves and discover a way to make a difference.

Hunter’s near-accidental creation of “gonzo journalism” is now the perfect representation of how youth today communicate.

Hunter’s gonzo style of reporting inserted himself into the story, becoming a main character while still observing; participating instead of seeking to remain merely objective from ringside.

Youth today share their every action, from what they had for breakfast to their feelings about an important issue. Their absorbtion of information demands a personable feel that is rarely fully achieved because the illusions the various industries make for public consumption are pieced together not from the reality of the event, but from the interpretation believed to be more marketable to the viewers.

Thanks to the marvelous and frightening advances technology has made to the way we live, gonzo journalism is essentially an everyday thing. Every man, woman and child is now a reporter with Twitter, Facebook and blogs disseminating information with personal twists and insights sometimes trivial and unfounded, and sometimes moving and informed.

For now, never mind the parallels between Hunter’s methods and today’s youth, focus for a moment back on the influence Hunter had on history.

Hunter’s coverage of politics, and wild use of drugs and alcohol while in the field, through his use of fiction and fact laid the groundwork for how to entertain while still informing. His words were one of those rare times when a writer captured the feelings of people without pandering to any preconceived notion of rules or properness. He was and will remain as one of the greatest journalist in history, not just because what he covered was important, but because of the way it drew people in and held their interest.

Though Hunter used drugs and alcohol to an unhealthy degree, the methods of the brilliant rarely conform to the standards of the majority. Buy the ticket, take the ride.

Many things he did were illegal, but he was not harming others — not greatly at least — with his actions and constantly strove to take the corrupt out of the positions of power they so often hold.

Somewhere in writing this my train of thought has derailed. I cannot continue on right now without falling into a rut of rhetoric. This may be due to the way I celebrate Hunter’s life every year on the day of his suicide by indulging my senses after some of the many ways in which he did.

I will close then by reiterating my point: Hunter S. Thompson is a hero to me. He influenced my life in ways I may never fully comprehend. I want others to recognize who he was and learn from the genius his work provided. I want everyone to see the world for what it is and be a part of shaping it, rather than sitting back and not involving themselves madly and fully.

Res ipsa loquitur.