Diana West

My favorite: His was a "lifestyle dominated by a long and sophisticated romance with drugs," said the New York Times appreciation, quite picturesquely dispensing with the ravages of chronic drug use. Then there is Thompson's "obscenity-laced prose."  Not to worry, said his Times obituary, expletives "broke down walls between reader and writer." As for his "creative blend of fact and fantasy" (wasn't that Dan Rather's problem?), his "rule-breaking style" and "outrageous voice," they "helped refocus the nation's customarily straitlaced political dialogue." How? The obit doesn't say, but maybe his political coverage that "made no secret of his hatred of Nixon" had something to do with it. And thank goodness. What would the republic have done without him? Too bad he couldn't have been around to refocus the Constitutional Convention.

Gonzo-style aside, what's left? According to a line in the middle of the Washington Post appreciation, not so much. "In fact, he'd never done very much in his life except write about it, which he did with clarity, hilarity and big-train momentum." Well, to each his own. On the other hand, gonzo-style alone, given that it has become a way of life, may be enough to rate the posthumous star treatment, although a little distance between star and treatment-ers would be appreciated.

But there is something else. "For a generation of American students," The New York Times writes, "Mr. Thompson made journalism seem like a dangerous, fantastic occupation." This notion is echoed in The Washington Post: "He was a particular hero to journalists, whose terrible secret is that beneath all the globe-hopping and news anchor fame, they are merely clerks and voyeurs. Thompson ... had the bearing of an adventurer striding out to the very edges of madness and menace."

Fear and loathing. Madness and menace. Danger. Fantasy. These are the moods of adolescent rebellion, the stylistic attitudes of an adversary culture that has long dominated the MSM. Which tells me that when all the ink is dry, Thompson's special place both on the Left and in the MSM is as a sort of adversary mascot, a totem of a mythical time when the empire still lay ahead.

Too bad the emperor has no clothes.

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).