To save the planet, Karma says go Gonzo

It’s been over a month since gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson left the planet, and I still can’t stop thinking about him. I’m feeling “a tremor in the Force,” as Obi-Wan Kenobi would say. If ever there was a true Jedi of journalism, Thompson was it. He channeled his intuition into a source of journalistic strength.

After his passing, it was reported Thompson had once been given a white silk scarf by the Dalai Lama. The fact that the Dalai Lama — arguably the planet’s most eminent authority on the subject of ethics — recognized Thompson as a kindred spirit speaks volumes.

“I have learned a few tricks along the way, a few random skills and simple avoidance techniques — but mainly it has been luck, I think, and a keen attention to karma, along with my natural girlish charm,” wrote Thompson in the self-deprecating last paragraph of 2003’s “Kingdom of Fear.”

Keen attention to karma, or the spiritual responsibility for one’s actions, is the central tenet of the Buddhist spirituality that the Dalai Lama has popularized. Thompson’s citation of it is noteworthy. Most in government and mainstream media today seem to pay scant, if any, attention to the karmic repercussions of their actions. This looms ominously over society.

But gonzo journalism can help save the planet — Thompson’s passing is a karmic sign that the Fourth Estate needs to wake up before we find ourselves living in Orwell’s 1984. We need to recognize what Thompson has been telling us for decades.

“So much for Objective Journalism,” wrote Thompson in his classic “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72,” which many cite as the best political journalism ever written. “Don’t bother looking for it here — not under any byline of mine; or anyone else I can think of. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.”

Word up! Our government is now known to be pumping out propaganda disguised as real news. This gives journalists a valid excuse to stop cowering under the guise of objectivity and start going gonzo.

“It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place,” wrote Thompson in his 1994 Nixon post-mortem. “He seemed so all-American … that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful. “

The same is true of the Bush regime today. They get away with their fascist agenda by hiding behind the rules of Objectivity, which almost always allow for plausible deniability. This is what allows the widespread corruption that plagues society. And with the Gannon/Guckert affair, the White House has officially declared objectivity passé. It’s past time to get subjective.

It seems most journalists simply don’t have the guts to call “bullshit” anymore, because they fear being accused of lacking objectivity. But journalists are society’s designated watchdogs — if we won’t call “bullshit,” who will?

Greg M. Schwartz is a graduate student in gonzo journalism and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].