FLASHBACK: Insights from Hunter S. Thompson’s Post-911 Interview

“It was if something had brought on a bad trip, but this time it wasn’t the drugs. It wasn’t even the Sept 11th attacks…” By Patrick Henningsen 21st Century Wire The latest installment of the annual 911 anniversary has since come and gone. Like George Washington Day and the Pro Bowl, it seems to have passed without too many people noticing this time, for not a lot more can be said about it that hasn’t already been dragged over the proverbial bed of charcoals. Still, so many questions remain unanswered. Hoping to achieve a little perspective on where 911 sits in the wider frame of American history, I found myself looking back in time to see what was said right after the attacks. What I discovered was unexpected- how time can crystallise some fighting words and preserve a few fearless ideas. Like any decent bottle of wine, quality in film and literature never turns- it always resonates and its unmistakable character continues to improve with age. The same can be said for timely interviews with seminal personalities.  On Sept 2, 2002, one Hunter S. Thompson of Fear and Loathing fame, was interviewed by host Mick O’Regan on Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio- Down Under’s equivalent of NPR or BBC Radio 4. O’Regan wanted to hear Thompson’s take on the world following the attacks of Sept 11th. What he got was something that would hardly surprise followers of the irreverent gonzo scribe’s long career.

Still relevant: Thompson's comments after 911 were straight from the gut.

It was if something had brought on a bad trip, but this time it wasn’t the drugs. It wasn’t even the Sept 11th attacks. It was what came after 911 that disturbed Hunter’s sense order in the universe. It was Sept 2002 and the first anniversary saw two weeks of continuous programming about the previous year’s horrific incident. When you listen to this interview, bear in mind it was conducted in the midst of a global media blitz with hundreds of pieces dedicated to the event- commemoration followed by redux, followed by memorial, followed by endless terror announcements. It would be fair to say that Thompson’s comments were certainly brave in the context of what was playing in the media at that time, although it appears that few mainstream pundits took serious note of them back then. During the broadcast Thompson predicted that George W Bush and his esteemed Cabinet would use 911 as a rallying call for the eventual invasion of Iraq- the record will show that he was only 6 months off in his prediction of that war. More insightful though, was his commentary on a wide range of issues that we are still grappling with today in 2010. In this interview which lasts about 40 minutes, many important points were made about the nature of government, the loss of freedoms in the West after 911, freedom of the press in war coverage, and the corporate media’s new-found inability to objectively report on major world-changing events. On the subject of media, the former Rolling Stone Magazine rogue writer explained, “Overall, American journalism has been cowed and intimidated by this massive flag-sucking, this patriotic orgy the White House keeps whipping up, that if you criticise the President it’s unpatriotic, there’s something wrong with you- or you may be a terrorist.” Straight out of the gonzo playbook, he also shares his feelings on ‘official’ announcements, “Be very skeptical about the pronouncements of authority. As a gambler I would say it’s a bit of an even bet that if you question the statements of truth from the White House or the government, more often than not you will be right… the truth is hugely stranger than fiction.” Later in this interview, Hunter explains that in his opinion, the attacks of Sept 11th may very well have been an ‘inside job’ and goes on to support this opinion with his own personal experience and what he learned while running in high political circles for the good part of half a century- much was learned and little love was lost between the Nixon and Bush Jr regimes. Sure, we’ve heard it all before but he said it way back then. We can only wonder where we’d be today if more media personalities did the same that early in the game- before the fear had really sunk in, embedded under our skins. Was that when the West was well and truly hijacked? Hijacked by leaders and their industrial counterparts preying on peoples’ apparent need to feel hyper-secure, leaving society with nowhere to turn but in on itself? If there ever was an authentic fear and loathing moment for America, this was surely it.

What a difference a year makes. Illustration by Ralph Steadman.

When one looks at the Anti-War movement in 2010, it looks like a movement that has lost its way, and in many ways has lost its spine too. If he were still alive today, perhaps Thompson would have pointed out that war protestors who still buy the official 911 story cannot, in good faith, be really against the initial invasion of Afghanistan, billed as a ‘defensive’ invasion fabricated out of the popular 911 lie. In this way, the 911 Truth movement is the Anti-War movement with a brain. This is definitely a brilliant and candid summary from the writer who redefined journalism during his era, a writer who so often managed to ‘get away with it’. This time he didn’t need to though. Certainly an interview for the American archive and further proof that some forms of rock ‘n roll from the past can- from time to time, offer a little wisdom to successive generations. Listen to the full interview below in seven parts, each segment is approximately 5 and a half minutes long:

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