Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72, much like its immediate predecessor Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, picks up a sort of master narrative of the futile attempts of the proverbial underdog striving for and achieving the American Dream, only to be crushed at the end by the general milieu of the postmodern world. The hero that Thompson utilizes in this autobiography of his coverage of the 1971-1972 presidential race is George McGovern, the idealistic Democratic candidate whom Thompson characterizes as the great underdog of the election versus entrenched Republican incumbent President Nixon.
Two points require immediate articulation. First, Thompson again writes a veritable diary of his position (both ideological and logistical as Rolling Stone ’s political correspondent) as a chronological and cartographical narrative of what he believed to be the cultural moment. Writing in the shadows of McCarthyism and the debacle of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, he paints Richard Nixon as this narrative’s villain and an entrenched evil permeating America. From Thompson’s perspective, McGovern does, to a fault, represent the furthest left agenda, perhaps to a naïve degree, as he endorses extreme policies such as full amnesty for draft evaders of the Vietnam War and total unilateral withdrawal from the conflict itself. In effect, the gonzo journalist finds a gonzo candidate. Second, given his strong polemical position regarding journalism, Thompson argues that the great mass media conglomerate largely and inappropriately dismisses McGovern as a viable candidate worth their attention (focusing rather on more notable and charismatic candidates such as Ted Kennedy). Thompson, who is literally following and critiquing McGovern, among others, in the trenches of their campaigns to almost microscopic detail, believes his perspective, no matter how biased, offers a greater degree of accuracy. For this, Thompson finds the media contemptuous for their lack of vision and objectivity—noting how the major politicians are as much indebted to “Big Media” and vice versa—and vilifies them to almost the same extent that he does the Nixon administration. Thompson finds that McGovern, without major media...
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