Get Gonzo: Not Your Cuddly Blue Haired Journalism
“Gonzo Journalism finds it’s roots in New Journalism but takes it to the extreme. And no one else can do it like Hunter S. Thompson can do it” (Hart 1). It is hard to deny this cult author the credit that is due him after a work of journalism/ literature/ fantasy like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the heart of the American Dream. It is a savage, twisted tale of two hard core drug abusers, one a journalist and the other, a lawyer. But remember, these are not fictional characters; they are real! This is a “true” story, to the Gonzo mind, of Hunter Thompson and his attorney, Oscar Zeta Acosta. They are sent into the Las Vegas scene to cover a story about the Mint 400, “the richest off-road race for motorcycles and dune-buggies in the history of organized sport...” (Thompson 9). The race is never actually covered adequately enough to submit a story. The book is true. Gonzo is true. At one point while zooming through the desert in the Red Shark Th!
ompson yells, “This is important goddamnit! This is a true story!” (Thompson 8). “But what was the story? No one had bothered to say. So we would have to drum it up on our own. Free Enterprise. The American Dream. Horatio Alger gone mad on drugs in Las Vegas. Do it now: pure Gonzo journalism” (Thompson 12). Gonzo? Is that some Boston word for weird? Gonzo journalism is everything that is good and pure in an event. Hunter S. Thompson’s book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, is the truest example of Gonzo journalism, a journalistic art.
But the question still remains, what is Gonzo journalism? Gonzo is a no holds barred, first hand account of an event. It came about in 1970 when Thompson was facing a deadline on an article on the Kentucky Derby. He had no story so in a panic he tore out his notes and sent them to his editor, Bill Cordoza. Cordoza replied, “this is it, this is pure Gonzo” (Hart 3). And with that Gonzo was born. The reporter is the story and the reader feels as if they are “riding shotgun” (Hart 2). Gonzo is extremist New Journalism (Hart 1). It is unconventional from beginning to end. It is written in first person, has flares of fiction, and is the most extreme form of participatory journalism. Thompson himself once said, “the true Gonzo reporter needs the talent of a master journalist, the eye of an artist/photographer and the heavy balls of an actor. Because the writer must be a participant in the scene... The eye and mind of the journalist would be functioning as a camera” (Hart!
1). Typically in conventional journalism the writer tries to convey ideas and events in an unbiased and objective fashion. In Gonzo all objectivity is thrown out the window, like cocaine in the wind, and all biases are laid on the table. There is no secret where the journalist stands on issues and this is done because people are naturally biased. Reporters are especially biased because of their day to day involvement in issues... “don’t fight it, use it” (Hart 2). Thompson feels like William Faulkner, in that the best work of fiction is far more true than any kind of journalism. Facts in Gonzo are important to stick to, but more like sticking to a big guy in a dark alley is safer. Gonzo is not safe and occasionally it is important to stretch the truth, exaggerate a situation, or blatantly fabricate to make a point that may have been over the readers' head. In Gonzo the overall impact of the event is more important than just a telling of what went on. Many critics hav!
e been divided on the use of truth versus facts. Is it okay to distort facts to ensure the truth is seen? In the Gonzo mentality, yes. Truth and facts are rarely found on the same page and the truth’s importance far outweighs any fact that may come up.
In Fear and Loathing, Thompson deals with serious social and moral issues of 1971 America. He saw the “American Dream” dying, and sought to inform the public of