The Evening Standard media page in Wednesday’s paper (February 23, 2005) explained to its readers in the meejah sector what gonzo journalism actually meant: surely a case of selling snow to the eskimos? The works of the fast living writer were allready well-known in recreation chemically-minded Islington.
Thompson’s gonzo legacy
What exactly is ‘gonzo’ or outlaw journalism, invented by Hunter S. Thompson, the great American writer, who committed suicide on Sunday at the age of 67? There are few things you can say for certain, other than that it was a product of the 1960s and describes a form of writing where the reporter becomes a central character in the story.
Gonzo is based on William Faulkner’s dictum that “fiction is often the best fact’. The gonzo reporter lives what he writes.
Gonzo journalism is now everywhere. The film-maker Michael Moore used the technique in Fahrenheit 9/11 as dis Morgan Spurlock in his documentary Super Size Me. Robert Fisk’s coverage in The Independent of the killing of Rafik Hariri, former prime minister of Lebanon, by car bomb, in Beirut last week, was a good example. As Mr Fisk’s flat is only a few hundred years (sic) away from the site of the explosion, he was able to give an account that recorded his own emotions as he ran towards the black smoke.
“Hariri, I kept repeating. I had sat with him many times…” And so on.
Writing personal webistes or blogs is a further extension of the technique. It is a self-indulgent, even narcissistic, but it is also vivid. And, at its best, it can catch readers up in a story beter than any other style: that is Thompson’s real legacy.