Journalists need to go gonzo!

Greg Schwartz's

It’s a sad week for journalism — the great Hunter S. Thompson took his life at age 67, ending a career that helped pioneer “gonzo journalism,” where the writer becomes an essential aspect of the story.

Some knock gonzo style as lacking objectivity. But most writers have an angle anyway — wouldn’t we be better served if this were in the open? Gonzo journalism is also more interesting because the writer doesn’t have to pull punches and can inject personality into his prose.

In 1972’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, Thompson wrote, “The main problem in any democracy is that crowd-pleasers are generally brainless swine who can go out on a stage and whoop their supporters into an orgiastic frenzy — then go back to the office and sell every one of the poor bastards down the tube for a nickel apiece.”

If we could get journalism like this from The Washington Post, the White House would have a tougher time selling their fabrications about WMDs. We’d also get more critical reporting about key issues like corporate globalization.

Subcommander Marcos of the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas, Mexico is one of the great gonzo journalists. His critiques on globalization have won international acclaim in the indie press.

“It is war … against humanity. The globalization of those who are above us is nothing more than a global machine that feeds on blood and defecates in dollars,” wrote Marcos regarding the 2003 World Trade Organization meeting. “In the complex equation that turns death into money, there is a group of humans who command a very low price in the global slaughterhouse … the immense majority of humanity. This is a world war of the powerful who want to turn the planet into a private club that reserves the right to refuse admission.”

You won’t find Marcos’ communiqu‚s in The Washington Post because the mainstream media is too compromised to bite the hand that feeds it. We have to go to to read:

“Yes, we do live in a capitalist society: That is the nub of the problem. The very nature of the global economic system is unsustainable. It demands limitless economic growth … Global society is in the grip of a system of economic and political power that views human suffering and impending environmental collapse as incidental to the core issues of revenues generated and costs incurred. But this is not up for discussion in the mainstream media.”

Mainstream media needs to wake up and go gonzo! If they don’t start telling it like it is, there soon won’t be many of us left to afford their product anyway.

Journalists are the ones who spend most of their time researching the issues that shape the world. Let the right-wing defenders of the system and the left-wing critics go openly head to head in the mainstream media and create a real dialogue. Only then will the public be engaged in such a way as to catalyze the mass critical thinking necessary to alter humanity’s destructive course.


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