A Thorn In The Side For Too Long

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A look at Hunter S. Thompson – a constant thorn in the side of the US government, and why that was beneficial to the men in Washington for so long.

The beauty of the American system of government is that, unlike a monarchy or dictatorship, one administration or president cannot be held accountable for the failings of past administrations or presidents. If a king were to be caught committing a murder, and removed from power, the system would be called into questions – the legitimacy of his heir would be doubted. However, if George W. Bush was caught murdering somebody, his successor could easily condemn his actions and the American system would go on. Bush would go to jail – or at least we would be told he would go to jail – and we would be satisfied. American law allows for the arrest and trial of the president, and this installs in us a feeling of confidence, that nobody is above the law.
If it turned out that Kennedy was killed by government assassins, or that we never really landed on the moon, Bush could easily condemn the actions of administrations past, and we would love him for his attack on corruption in our own nation. I recall reading about recently declassified documents from maybe a hundred years ago, of a planned invasion of Canada and Great Britain, purely as a political stunt. As unbelievable as this seems, and as unlikely as it was to go ahead, this is what American governments have planned purely for show, and then covered up for decades to protect themselves. Imagine what has been hidden in the hundred years since that has not yet been declassified, and what might never be declassified. What plans have actually been carried out, and not just made up as an option? America as a philosophy and political system could last longer than any other nation for this reason – it is the cure to the problems it creates, it can undo any mistake or unfortunate event with something as simple as an election.
We are convinced of the evil of the American government because it needs secrecy to operate, yet unlike any previous system it encourages questioning and suspicion, at least to a certain degree. Kings and dictators rarely allowed their subjects to question them, but America allows protest and criticism to enter every house via television, radio, newspapers and the internet. If, like the commies, we were censored, and told what to think, we would reject what we were told and jump upon anything remotely suspicious. But Americans are allowed to be critical of the government, and rest assured that next time Bush visits a city and is met with protest, he will congratulate the protesters for exorcising their democratic rights. This method, this system, is so effective that whenever we are faced with what seems like an obvious conspiracy, anyone that speaks out is considered mad – look again at the Kennedy assassination, the moon landings, Marilyn Monroe’s death.
Conspiracies are part of American life – they are the fairytale, the legends and traditions. We love to question and persecute the big, bad, shady government at any opportunity. We are merely exercising our rights. But that lends credit to the government, as conspiracy theorists are grouped together as nuts, obsessed with a hobby, and whenever someone speaks out, they are lumped with the madmen of these ostracised weirdoes.

Woody Creek, February 20 , 2005: Hunter S Thompson is found dead. The legendary journalist was reported to have committed suicide at fortified home in Colorado. His children were in the next room and he was on the phone to his wife at the time. Being a figure of such legend and infamy, his death was much publicised, but surprisingly accepted. Given America’s obsession with conspiracy, and the uncertainty surrounding Thompson’s death, it could be expected that suicide was not the real cause. No note was found, no reason abounds.
It was explained that Thompson was in a great deal of pain in the years leading up to his death, and that a man so bent on drugs and guns would have no problem ending his own suffering with a single shot. Ralph Steadman, long time friend and collaborator, mentioned that Thompson considered suicide a viable option when trapped, though this was some thirty years ago. Clearly, his wife and kids never doubted Thompson was capable of suicide, and have never publicly expressed concern that he may have been murdered.
However, it is their accounts of the event that lend credibility to the possibility that Hunter S Thompson may have been murdered by his own government. Both his son and his wife have stated that no gunshot could be heard, despite being on the phone to his wife at the time, and in the room next to his son. A dull thud, like the sound of a book falling onto the floor, was the description. This is the sound a silenced gun makes, which is not the typed of gun Thompson used to kill himself, and not even something he owned at all. This is the sound one might here over the phone or through the wall had a person been shot by an assassin. There are also varying accounts of the finding of Thompson’s body, as he has been described as having been found sitting on a chair in front of his typewriter, but he was on the phone to his wife when he supposedly killed himself, and not writing, as his final position would suggest. Also, when speaking to his wife moments before dying, Thompson was happy. He had been in high spirits for some time, and gave no indication that he wished to die. The gunshot came suddenly, in the middle of a normal conversation – not exactly a sign of suicide. It had been widely reported that HST was in incredible states of pain and distress in the months and years leading up to his death, but these are exaggerated. Thompson had never been happier with his writing, and his medical conditions were under control – certainly no where near the level reported.
For years Thompson had been a thorn in the side of the American government. The man stood for truth and fought against oppression and corruption. He repeatedly took on the system and won. HST stared Richard Nixon in the eyes and was not beyond kicking him while he was down – or dead, to be precise. He uncovered corruption everywhere, and refused to roll over and accept it. When he felt a system closing in, he would destroy it. He was repeatedly victimised by the police force, and the system in general, but he never stopped fighting. Late in life he found himself victim of an elaborate conspiracy, and taken to court, but he fought back bravely and uncovered widespread corruption.
Yet this was what America needed. Nixon needed a crazy junkie to fight against in order to make him look good. Nixon needed a madman to point at and call the enemy to justify his own sick ways. When Thompson uncovered corruption, the government could say, ‘Thanks Hunter! We need good citizens like you to root out bad seeds!’ and the system looks good again. Thompson fought the government, but that’s exactly what they needed and wanted.
Before his death Thompson believed himself to be in the greatest form of his writing career. He was working on a story about 9/11 that he was sure was the best thing he had ever written. He had told friends that he had discovered hard evidence linking the government to the tragedy, but that there had been consequences. So far, his pain-in-the-ass routine as a journalist had served the government as much as it had served him, but he had gone too far this time. Threatening phone calls had been made. Thompson had been warned about his investigation. He had told friends that he would be ‘suicided’ – that the government would have him killed, but that it would look as though he had done it himself. “They’re gonna make it look like suicide. I know how these bastards think.”
Perhaps this was one of his jokes – the man had a twisted sense of humour. He frequently rubbed people the wrong way, and it is not entirely out of the question that he knew he would kill himself, and that he would started rumours months before his death that ensured his suicide would live on in infamy like the death of Kennedy or Monroe. I could imagine him laughing at the thought. Suicide was not as big a deal for HST as it is for most people, and I could imagine this as his last laugh. But somehow this is not believable. I feel I am clutching at straws, unwilling to believe the US government would murder my hero like they murdered thousands of innocent people on 11th September, 2001.