"Freak Kingdom: Hunter S. Thompson's Ten Years Crusade against American Fascism" (PublicAffairs) by Timothy Denevi
The general image of the late journalist Hunter S. Thompson is one of the drug-driven writers who used to ride the Hells Angels, often shooting up his red IBM Selectric typewriter, and helping Chicano's lawyer Oscar Zeta Acosta burn the grass of a Californian judge.
But a new book about the counterculture Crusader tries to dig deeper into the mission of a writer who promoted "gonzo journalism" – a style of journalism written in the center with no claim to objectivity and journalism.
"Freak Kingdom: Hunter S. Thompson's manic ten-year crusade against American fascism" by Timothy Denevi explores the events of the turbulent 1960s and 1970s that drove Thompson to literary journalism and his desire to face growing fascism in the United States States. These included the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the perseverance of the Vietnam War and the rise of President Richard Nixon, as well as his monitoring of activist groups. For Thompson, these events were an attack on the nature of the founding of the United States and the humanities. He decided early on to use his skills as a journalist to combat the rise of a totalitarian event when it affected his mental state, marriage and health.
Denevi, for example, writes that Thompson fled to his hotel room in Chicago after the police attack during anti-war demonstrations during the 1968 Democratic National Convention to reflect on the image of journalistic journalists. "His clothes stank of chemicals. His stomach hurts, "writes Denevi. His whole body trembled. He could not write. None of it made sense. "
Unlike other accounts by Thompson as a simple drunkard-journalist who wiped identity politics, Denevi's book argues that Thompson was indeed disturbed by the plight of young demonstrators, Chicanos, and other minorities when the federal government sought to reassure dissent. He would not be silent, especially during the presidency of Nixon.
Denevi, an assistant professor in the MFA program at George Mason University, makes his biography like a non-fiction novel and lets his research unfold in a capricious narrative that transports readers into some of the most important episodes of Thompson's career.
The biography is the latest entry into the life of Thompson and his counter culture friend Acosta. The PBS documentary "The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo," which aired earlier this year, touched the couple during the Chicano movement in Los Angeles.
The renewed interest in Thompson is due to the self-reflection of many journalists in the era of President Donald Trump and concerns about fraudulent news sites.
The work of Denevi reminds us that the ongoing concern for totalitarianism, which overpowers freedom of expression, is nothing new. And 50 years ago, a journalist decided to do something about it.
Associated Press writer Russell Contreras is a member of The Associated Press's Race and Ethnicity team. Follow Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras
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