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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Hunter did something that none of us had the guts to do – he led the kind of life that secretly all of us would like to have the guts to lead. To hell with the whole thing, just stay drunk and high and smoke and hang out and write outrageous things. He’d never lived his life on anybody else’s terms.

James Carville, chief strategist for Bill Clinton’s 1992 election campaign, on Hunter S. Thompson

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18 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • RRS

    Most have missed James’ best quote years ago when Tim Russert asked James what he was giving up for Lent.

    James (instantly): “Brussel Sprouts.”

    So he had begun his quest!

  • Brett

    Only dead smokers get any respect.

  • The man whose major achievement involved promoting the idea of living on somebody else’s terms – who helped Clinton get elected so we could all live on his terms – admires H. S. Thompson who didn’t live on anybody else’s terms. Amazing!

  • I wonder if James Carville has any idea what it does to a person to be drunk and high all the time, or what it does to those around them. He secretly wants to lead that life? Fine. But he is deranged to imagine all of us (or even most of us) do. What a tosspot.

  • John Sabotta

    This is the kind of thing that helped wreck Thompson’s career as a writer – a deliberate disregard for his very real journalistic and literary accomplishments (reduced here by Carville to “writing outrageous things”) and celebrating a cheap caricature of a drug-addled wild man. It’s pretty condescending and typical of the liberal/Democrat party attitude towards Thompson – an amusing freak, a circus geek. The character of “Uncle Duke” in the wretched DOONESBURY comic is another case in point – no wonder Thompson, who had worked for and in fact had sold himself out to the Democratic party apparatus, was angered that his payback was to be mocked as a right-wing Republican gun nut by the liberal establishment.

    Of course, Thompson has to bear most of the blame himself. He promoted the cartoon Thompson and, over time, seems to have found it easier to act an degrading part as his ability to write diminished year by year. The last columns for ESPN seem (at least to me) the tired product of a man who saw plainly what had happened and hated what he become, but who no longer had the ability to do anything about it. By then the cartoon wildman was all he had to sell.

    Carville, of course, is simply beneath contempt; unlike Thompson, he never had any high point to fall short of.

  • Lascaille

    Jackie in ‘have you no idea what it does to a person to be drunk and high all the time’ control freak we-know-better-than-you shocker.

    Thompson’s writing, I thought, was fantastic and with regard to the campaign trail and Nixon writings, he had a skill desperately required – the ability to involve those who are not normally political with politics. Before reading ‘the great shark hunt’ I really had no specific interest in the Nixon scandal, being a young englishman. I now have several books on the subject.

    I’d love to stock the political departments of the major UK newspapers with Thompson-esque characters. The blood would flow like water. The current set have become so farcically lazy that even faced with the rampant fraud that pervades our government, they fail to produce any sense of righteousness and indignance among their readership. Why do they give up? Why do they move on to the next big thing every five minutes? Why do they not hound these evil bastards to within an inch of their lives? And don’t tell me about bloggers, because bloggers report on what is reported. Real journalism requires investigation, requires hanging out outside people’s houses at 4am, requires filing FOIA requests, taking pictures and generally making a nuisance of oneself. Real journalists may no longer have these ‘talents’ but I don’t see any bloggers having them either, unfortunately.

  • Dale Amon

    Beats there a heart so faint it would not have braved failure to be on that open topped convertible ride to Las Vegas?

  • Lascaille, who do I want to control? I’m simply pointing out the extreme idiocy of romanticizing a life that harms others and oneself – and so pointlessly. Of course it was up to Thompson whether he put himself, his child, and his wives through hell and up to Thompson to portray it as a good time. But it is also up to us whether we buy into such fantasy. James Carville is a fool. But then we knew that.

  • Eric

    He’d never lived his life on anybody else’s terms.

    Yeah, and it made him so happy he ended up blowing his own brains out. There may be something to bending a little to the outside world on occasion.

  • Evan

    I can’t help but remember the quote by Dr. Johnson used in the opening of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:
    “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.”

    How thoroughly appropriate.

  • Lascaille

    “Of course it was up to Thompson whether he put himself, his child, and his wives through hell’

    Do you have any evidence that this is actually the case, or are you just speculating?

  • Sunfish

    I wonder if James Carville has any idea what it does to a person to be drunk and high all the time, or what it does to those around them. He secretly wants to lead that life?

    I don’t think that was Carville’s point. “To hell with the whole thing” was the operative line.

    How many people really have the sack to do that? Most people are reflections of the world around them to the point of not even being people anymore. It’s not pretty. It’s even uglier when the world being reflected is screwed up like a football bat. Everybody gets wrapped around the axle, trying to be what they are expected to be, and if they rebel they rebel by becoming what someone else expects them to become. I used to blame MTV but now I think they were just a symptom.

    Fifteen years later, I finally get it. I thought I was rebelling against a bullshit suburban existence in a bullshit midwestern suburb by spending most of my high school years baked, talking revolution and singing the blues. Then I figured out that I was just finding a different prepackaged borrowed identity. Okay, not right away but that’s a different rant.

    The point: HST, or at least the idea of HST, was about dropping all of that crap and figuring out how to be who/what he actually wanted for himself. It didn’t work as well as it could have for the real HST: happy people do not suck-start shotguns. But the idea was there. And the ability to say “FTW and I’ll live my own life by my own rules” is a potent one.

    I’m still not there yet. I think being there would probably mean leaving my tin on my boss’ desk and wandering off into the South San Juans without bringing a map or leaving a note.

  • veryretired

    I have no interest in Thompson dead or alive, but I object to the idea behind the quotation for a very simple reason—why is it that only those who engage in self destructive or “in your face” rebellious behavior are considered to have followed their own hearts?

    If a young boy is enthralled with those mysterious lights in the night sky, and so devotes his educational and working life to exploring and understanding them, hasn’t he followed his heart?

    If a young girl is fascinated with curing disease in humans or animals, and therefore spends every ounce of her energy learning and mastering the necessary science so as to search for effective treatments to relieve pain and suffering, hasn’t she fulfilled her innermost dreams, even if she is utterly conventional and sober in her personal conduct?

    Too often have I seen these characters, living lives of personal and social catastrophe on every level, held up as some sort of model of the free and independent life.

    But who is free? The addled “artist” lurching from one addiction and self administered form of anesthesia to another, fleeing from whatever demons drive such behavior, or the completely boring high school math teacher who absolutely loves it every time he sees the least little glimmer of understanding in a students’ eyes?

    The vomiting, incoherent “free spirit”, so loaded with booze and chemicals he can’t even lurch to the bathroom to clean himself? Or the ambitious, independent young woman who has always wanted to be her own boss, have her own business or store, and who has worked and saved and studied like a mule for years to make that dream come true?

    It is a perversion of the entire concept of freedom, and the need that young people have for examples upon which to model their own search for identity and meaning in life, to hold these dissolute characters out as some type of examplars to be admired and copied.

    As a wise man once said, better to have a millstone put around one’s neck and be dropped into the deepest sea than to lead a child astray.

    How many youngsters have been led down a hellish path to addiction and a collapsed life by such misguided praise and foolish adulation?

  • Lascaille, do I now need evidence that HST was fully responsible for his own choices? Egads. Or are you asking me for evidence that life (and suicide) with an addicted egomaniac is less than pleasant for those around them?

    Sunfish: Living by one’s own rules isn’t quite what Carville was praising. In his own words, “just stay drunk and high and smoke and hang out and write outrageous things”. How old is he, 12?

  • Evan

    Humans are social animals, and we need to make some sacrifices in order to get along with the rest of the group, just as they make sacrifices to get along with us. We all resent this on some level, just as we would rather not have to pay for the things that we buy. Those of us unaffiliated with Bill Clinton are mature enough to realize that this cannot work for very long.

    There’s also the (anecdotally) disproportionate presence of mental illness and drug addiction among artistic geniuses throughout history. Plenty of young people today want to be an artist of some kind – fame, fortune, and immortality for doing what looks very easy – but they confuse correlation with causation. Depression and drug use will not make one Jack Kerouac or Kurt Cobain.

  • Brendan Halfweeg

    The world needs people like HST, otherwise we’d live a very boring vanilla existence. Better to have larger than life characters like him than to be him. Todays best practice parenting would have HST on ADD drugs and in a psychologist’s chair.

  • Sunfish

    Jackie Danicki:

    Sunfish: Living by one’s own rules isn’t quite what Carville was praising. In his own words, “just stay drunk and high and smoke and hang out and write outrageous things”. How old is he, 12?

    If you say so. I read it a little differently. Strangely, I took it as being pretty much Carville got the same thing that I got from HST, although expecting that goofy Cajun POS to get the same take-home message as I did might be a little much when normally he’s wrong every other time he opens his soup cooler.

    Veryretired:

    It is a perversion of the entire concept of freedom, and the need that young people have for examples upon which to model their own search for identity and meaning in life, to hold these dissolute characters out as some type of examplars to be admired and copied.

    For some variations of “freedom,” perhaps.

    People who use certain drugs claim that it opens their eyes in ways that non-chemical means never could. You can see this in the history of hallucinogenic drugs in the (largely pre-Columbian and pre-US) Americas.

    Strangely, one hears the same comments from modern-day Americans who try LSD or psylocybin or mescaline: “It opened eyes I didn’t know were closed.”

    Yeah, I know it sounds idiotic. From my own experience, well, I never actually did get around to trying hallucinogens when I was that age. And now, I can only imagine what could happen if I had a flashback at work:

    “I need your license, registration, and proof of insurance, please…the reason I stopped you is because you went right through that stop sign, didn’t even see your brake lights, and because you have a purple stegosaurus hanging off the back of your car, protruding more than four feet without an orange safety flag.”

    Hilarity will surely not ensue.

    Evan:

    Humans are social animals, and we need to make some sacrifices in order to get along with the rest of the group, just as they make sacrifices to get along with us.

    That lasts up until a point. Specifically, the point where people ask “What’s so damn special about this group that I’m making sacrifices to get along?” Which is buried somewhere in HST’s writing. Down the path of going along with what “society” wants from people doesn’t seem to do much good either.

    Of course, if you follow my logic, you’ll inevitably come to the point of living in a yurt somewhere in the River of No Return part of Wyoming.

  • Rednecked Mother

    Excuse me but I thought this was

    A blog for people with a critically rational individualist perspective.

    . The entries are starting to sound more like the conformist judgmental crap that comes from the nanny state politicians. Rather than judge H. S. Thompson on some quote by James Carville go out and get one of Thompson’s books like “Better than Sex Confessions of a Politics Junky”,or “Gonzo Papers, Vol. 2: Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the ’80s or if you can find it “Hells Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga” and read the book and then make an informed and intelligent comment on the man, his work and his life until you do that you are just plain doomed.