Why Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 is Still Worth Reading Today

Before I dive in here, I feel it’s important to note that I am only about 150 pages into this massive book. In turn, my opinions do not reflect the whole work, but simply my early observations and predictions. Who knows, now that I’m already writing an analysis, maybe I’ll never finish reading this damn brick (Digibro syndrome). Let’s be real; none of that matters, what matters is the idea.

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72 is gouged by the time period in which it was written; perhaps the most out of all of Hunter S. Thompson’s works. The book centers around a very specific presidential race at a very specific time in U.S. history, dominated by very specific political players and an overall very specific socio-political context. Regardless of this ravenous specificity, this book is not only still relevant today, but perhaps the most relevant it has ever been.

Part of what makes Hunter S. Thompson one of the best journalists and overall writers of all time is his ability to transform specificity into grand observation. In other words, he is seamlessly able to take the highly specific scenarios he finds himself in, and use them to craft broader statements about not only life in the United States, but the greater human condition.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is the story of Hunter and his attorney’s drug-defined journey through Las Vegas in attempts to accurately cover a sporting event and police conference. It is also a commentary on American society and the death of the ideals on which it was created

Kingdom of Fear is a memoir reflecting on the highly-specific, insane stories that served as the connective tissue of Hunter’s life. It is also a commentary on both human and conceptual mortality.

In the formless, wild prose that defines Hunter’s writing, there seems to be, ironically, one rule. This is the very rule that drives the greater gonzo movement. The only way to derive truth is through personal, specific experience.

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72 is no exception to this rule. The book is a detailed chronicle of the 1972 presidential race from its year-prior inception through election day. It is also a commentary on the highly hypocritical and two-faced nature of the American political process. Through Hunter’s personal encounters with politicians, their staff, and the people they attempt to influence, we are inadvertently shown the fakeness and staticity of American politics during that time.

In the social-media-driven landscape of today, his grand analysis applies just as, and perhaps more, potently to modern America. The fear and loathing that drove ‘60s and ‘70s politicism not only still applies today, but has grown exponentially.

Once again, the personal and specific becomes the broad and profound thanks to the power of the only true journalism… Gonzo.


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