Diana West

If there is one thing that bugs the Left, it's the idea of empire -- and particularly the idea of its own established empire -- the media culture it still dominates by dint of groupthink.

That's why when Hunter S. Thompson committed suicide at age 67, the empire of the Left, a.k.a. the mainstream media (MSM), had to pretend that a bona fide "iconoclast" had died, someone at odds with the establishment -- "like Galileo or Martin Luther," as Orville Schell, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley, rather colossally saw fit to describe Thompson's clip file for the ages.

Far from living life on the fringe -- which is not to say he didn't live a fringey life -- Thompson was enshrined as an icon by the so-called establishment. By "establishment" I mean the prevailing powers that be, the media and cultural powers for whom Thompson was never a threat, but always a promise. He has long been appreciated, if not celebrated, for his open and prodigious drug use. (He was "who Mark Twain might have been if Twain had discovered acid," friend and National Public Radio foreign editor Loren Jenkins told The Washington Times.) And he has been consistently applauded for a concocted reportage that divorced "journalism" from fact. (His work was "true in a way the bean counters would never understand," said a New York Times appreciation not penned by Jayson Blair.) Thompson's "gonzo" career was a template for counter-cultural behaviors and attitudes that had reshaped the American mainstream by the end of the 1960s. Tantrums. Hedonism. Self-absorption. And the "craziness," the Washington Post appreciation toasted, "that comes with sticking the big toe of your brain in the socket of 'high-powered blotter acid,' and 'uppers, downers, screamers, laughers.'"

Guess you had to be there. Even if you weren't, even if you tried to read "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail" and couldn't, the "gonzo" sensibility lives on. Indeed, the gonzo sensibility has infused our culture to the point where it's no longer a relic of the old counter-culture, but is an innate characteristic of the establishment today. Who keeps his head up in the mainstream today who isn't gonzo-"wild" and gonzo-"crazy"? In gonzo we trust. This explains not only the lavishness of praise being heaped upon Thompson, but also the extraordinary lengths to which his appreciators -- and they are legion -- have gone to palliate his lifelong depravities.

Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).