Rolling Stone’s Political Reporting: Thompson to Taibbi

Hunter S. Thompson is my favourite political writer, and one of my favourite writers of all time. Although he is now best known for the drug-fuelled benders that inspired some of his work – as memorialised in the movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, itself based on his book of the same title – he has written more truth about American politics than anyone else I’ve read.

Hunter cut his teeth as a political correspondent at Rolling Stone magazine in the early 1970s, reaching his peak when he worked as an embedded reporter with George McGovern’s unlikelyrs622-rs progressive tilt for the Democratic nomination and the Presidency (McGovern ultimately got the nomination, but lost all but one state in the general against Nixon. I’ve got another post saved up for a comparison between McGovern and Sanders). Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 is Hunter’s book-length account of that campaign – and it’s spectacular.

Matt Taibbi is Rolling Stone’s new rising star, and it’s pretty clear he is going for Hunter’s mantle, if not explicitly, then at least through some strong allusions to his style. His piece on his time with the Republican primary roadshow in New Hampshire is worth reading in full. My favourite part:

Concord, New Hampshire, the Secretary of State’s office, morning of November 6th. I’m waiting to see Ohio Gov. John Kasich officially register as a candidate for the New Hampshire primary.

In another election, Kasich might be a serious contender, being as he is from Ohio, a former Lehman Brothers stooge and a haranguing bore with the face of a dogcatcher. He exactly fits the profile of what party insiders used to call an “exciting” candidate.

At the moment, though, he’s a grumpy sideshow to Trump and Carson whose main accomplishment is that he hogged the most time in the fourth debate (and also became the first non-Trump candidate to be booed). Kasich in person seems like a man ready to physically implode from bitterness at the thought that his carefully laid scheme for power might be undone by a flatulent novelty act like Trump.

Compare that to this, by Thompson himself:

Richard Nixon has never been one of my favourite people, anyway. For years I’ve regarded his very existence as a monument to all the rancid genes and broken chromosomes that corrupt the possibilities of the American Dream; he was a foul caricature of himself, a man with no soul, no inner convictions, with the integrity of a hyena and the style of a poison toad. The Nixon I remembered was absolutely humourless; I couldn’t imagine him laughing at anything except maybe a paraplegic who wanted to vote Democratic but couldn’t quite reach the lever on the voting machine.

Hunter wins it easily, but then again I doubt even Rolling Stone could publish something like this today and not get sued. Hell, they’d probably chicken out before even trying it on.

Still, it’s good to see them covering the race properly. I’m looking forward to what Taibbi can come up with as it gets more serious and more insane. Maybe he just needs to hit the narcotics a bit more to catch up with his predecessor and go from great to eye-peelingly fantastic.

Advertisements

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

FiveThirtyEight

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight uses statistical analysis — hard numbers — to tell compelling stories about politics, sports, science, economics and culture.

Cap and Gown

blogging the original knowledge economy

LE MONDE N'EST PAS ROND

Artistic webzine on migration, borders, human rights

The Dancing Rest

Curiosity makes you smarter: to Discover, Learn and be Inspired.

tressiemc

some of us are brave

Inspirational Geek

Inspirational & creative ramblings of a self-confessed geek - Things I like, things I find and things I’m doing.

The Sartorialist

Politics, Ideas, the Classics

Dan Ariely

My Irrational Life

9to5Mac

Apple News & Mac Rumors Breaking All Day

TED Blog

The TED Blog shares interesting news about TED, TED Talks video, the TED Prize and more.

The Past and Present Future

Ken Hinckley's Ideas, Visions, and Opinions on the Research Frontiers of Human Technologies

The Ugly Volvo

Attempts at Adulthood

thenerdsofcolor

Pop Culture with a Different Perspective

Colossal

Politics, Ideas, the Classics

Archaeology and Material Culture

The material world, broadly defined