What Might Gonzo Journalism Look Like Today? A Look At Hunter S. Thompson vs. Nixon

December 11th, 2018

Denevi-collage.jpgAt a time when journalism is under siege when the attacks sometimes result in too much caution when the goal of politicians is to attack journalist like they are working the refs, it’s worth thinking about times when we’ve seen full-throated, muscular and sometimes participatory journalism. The kind practiced by the likes of Jimmy Breslin, or H.L. Menken, George Plimpton, Truman Capote, Norman Mailer or Hunter S. Thompson.

Thompson had the opportunity to be present for many world-changing moments. How he saw them, and how he reported them, may have shaped a generation of readers and it may still be in the very DNA of how we consume news today.

Timothy Denevi captures the zeitgeist of the Thompson moment in Freak Kingdom: Hunter S. Thompson's Manic Ten-Year Crusade Against American Fascism

My conversation with Tim Denevi:

Campaign 1776 - The War That We Almost Lost

July 2nd, 2016
ac6996a5ee1cd8a9017554d50363b0a6_f11347.On this day, upon which we celebrate the birth of the “American Experiment,” it’s important to remember that it was not preordained.

In spite of today's overheated patriotic rhetoric, the revolution, the victory of the Continental Army, the success of Washington and the country that followed, could have easily gone another direction.  There were many times when the revolution might have failed.  (Given the state of our politics today, that may not have been such a bad idea)

Just as important and just as surprising are that there are still so many untold stories from that effort.  Stories that, particularly on this day, prove instructive, informative and most of all inspirational.

Patrick O’Donnell is the master of telling the stories of our military heroes and as O’Donnell shows us in Washington's Immortals: The Untold Story of an Elite Regiment Who Changed the Course of the Revolution, it was the revolutionary generation that was indeed our greatest. 

My conversation with Patrick O'Donnell:

Imagine a non religious world? Imagine Peace

December 21st, 2015
AmericanAtheistsLogo.pngThink about the real divisive issues today, both at home and in the wider world.  Radical Islamic faith tearing apart the Middle East. The faith that drives suicide bombers to the far corners of the planet, and at home, divisions about abortion, marriage, and end of life issues.

At a time when the focus both home and abroad should be on the global economy, health, energy, science, hunger, ending territorial disputes and ending regional conflicts, time and again, the conflict turns back to religion.

Islamists, the Religious Right, all seem allied to restrict rather than enhance individual rights.  And we know from history that such efforts always are the foundation of greater conflict and sometimes revolution.

So how has a global society do we balance religious freedom w
ith freedom from religion.  That answer today seems impossible.

All of that bring us back to atheism and why it’s so hard for atheists to get their message heard.

David Silverman, the President of the American Atheists has been at the forefront of the effort to convey that message and he does it once again in his new book Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World.

My conversation with David Silverman:  

After Mandela

December 6th, 2013
Nelson Mandela stands as one of our greatest symbols of the struggle for freedom.  His shadow will always infuse the politics and culture of South Africa.  Yet almost one half the county is under 25 and doesn’t know or remember their nation in anything but it’s post apartheid period.  

How does and will this disconnect shape the future of the country?  How can it deal with its historical context and at the same time, the seemingly mundane issues health, welfare, justice and jobs.

Douglas Foster, a long time South Africa watcher, former head of the Journalism School at U.C. Berkley and currently Professor at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism writes about After Mandela: The Struggle for Freedom in Post-Apartheid South Africa.
My conversation with Douglas Foster:


December 4th, 2013
Most of us, over a certain age, remember when getting on a transcontinental or international flight was glamorous.  We dressed to travel.  Strong pilots and beautiful stewardess framed the wonders of the journey.  The glamour of air travel imbued us with a sense of freedom and possibility. 

How many women were inspired by the glamour of the Charlie Girl commercial to believe that having it all was possible and the holy grail?

During the depression and war years, the glamour of Joan Crawford inspired a generation to believe in social mobility.

And of course, as we just re experienced, the glamour of the Kennedy’s and Camelot, has remained frozen in time, in our collective consciousness. 

All are examples of the power of glamour to shape society, define the culture and motivate each of us.
Virginia Postrel in The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion, goes to the core value of glamour as a powerful aspirational force and a very real part of our our social language.

My conversation with Virginia Postrel: