Thursday, February 24, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson, RIP

Many of the obituaries for Hunter S. Thompson call him, whether with good will or ill, "the chronicler of the counter-culture," or as he prefered, "the chronicler of the death of the American dream." Perhaps. (RCP has had a good mushroom harvest on the sidebar for the last few days, including an insightful one from Reason.) I found his work to be a mix of the "colorful," the boring, and both. If nothing else, Mr. Thompson did advance the notion of the limitations of objective fact.

Understanding doesn't come with just the facts; it only comes with the story. Growth of scientific knowledge, for example, comes with adopting a better story. And, fundamentally, understanding is a problem of imagination. This was at the heart of the gonzo journalism he pioneered, albeit often through depraved means that also created a lot of noise and garbage. Facts anchor, but don't necessarily reveal the story. By contrast, many of today's journalistic troubles can be traced to a lack of imagination, think Jayson Blair, Dan Rather, Eason Jordan, et al. For all its faults and practiced shortcomings, there is a bit of a family resemblance revealed with Mr. Thompson's gonzo tactics acting the black sheep uncle to the new media. Granted this may be a case of a blind pig finding an acorn, but, nevertheless, may he rest in peace.

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