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Hey Rube, Page 2

Hunter S. Thompson

  What has gone wrong with our communication system since then? Why are we more ignorant and less informed today than we were in 1941?

  That is an eerie question, eh?

  You bet it is. If World War III can start in a vacuum of silence and stonewalling by the White House, we are doomed like rats in a maze of fear. We are slaves to mendacity and hostile disinformation. Bread and circuses were not enough to sustain the Roman Empire and they will not be enough for the United States of America.

  How long, O lord, how long? This blizzard of shame is getting a little old, isn’t it? Just how low do we have to fall before the voters catch on?

  Indeed. How many times can a man be robbed—on the same street, by the same people—before they call him a Rube? Bob Dylan said that, in a tattered old song called “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Read it and weep, you poor bastards—because Dylan was yesterday, and George Bush is now.

  That is a morbid observation, at best, and we are all stuck with it. The 2004 presidential election will be a matter of life or death for the whole nation. We are sick today and we will be even sicker tomorrow if this wretched half-bright swine of a president gets re-elected in November. Take my word for it. Mahalo.

  It was not at all clear to me when I first started writing this Hey, Rube column just before the 2000 presidential election that it was actually a week-to-week calendar / record / diary of what it was like to be alive and suffering in the first disastrous days of the George W. Bush administration.

  That is a long sentence for a short thought, but I won’t hang around and worry about it. We have bigger things to brood on and enormous reasons for wallowing in terminal craziness until we finally hit bottom.

  Who knows why it happened? But there is no doubt about what it was: the suicidal collapse of the American empire in the final year of the American century.

  The Empire collapsed for the same corrupt and greedy reasons that plagued and destroyed so many other empires in the long curve of history.

  The Roman Empire lasted more or less 900 years—which is 888 years longer than Adolf Hitler’s “Thousand-Year Reich.” They both imploded because of internal corruption and a pampered, decadent citizenry. They were weak because they no longer used their muscles or their brains. After only 500 years, they were all either pimps or whores.

  But so what? If you have lemons, make lemonade. That is ancient Hawaiian Wisdom—and that is what I have tried to do here. So buckle up and prepare to look into your own rearview mirror and see how it happened, as seen through the innocent eyes of a sportswriter.



  The New Dumb

  Something is happening here

  But you don’t know what it is

  Do you, Mister Jones?


  No sir, not a chance. Mr. Jones does not even pretend to know what’s happening in America Right now, and neither does anyone else.

  We have seen weird Times in this country before, but the year 2000 is beginning to look super weird. This time there really is nobody flying the plane…. We are living in dangerously weird times now. Smart people just shrug and admit they’re dazed and confused. The only ones left with any confidence at all are the New Dumb. It is the beginning of the end of our world as we knew it. Doom is the operative ethic.

  The autumn months are never a calm time in America. Back to Work, Back to Football Practice, etc.… Autumn is a very Traditional period, a time of strong Rituals and the celebrating of strange annual holidays like Halloween and Satanism and the fateful Harvest Moon, which can have ominous implications for some people.

  Autumn is always a time of Fear and Greed and Hoarding for the winter coming on. Debt collectors are active on old people and fleece the weak and helpless. They want to lay in enough cash to weather the known horrors of January and February. There is always a rash of kidnapping and abductions of schoolchildren in the football months. Preteens of both sexes are traditionally seized and grabbed off the streets by gangs of organized perverts who traditionally give them as Christmas gifts to each other to be personal sex slaves and playthings.

  Most of these things are obviously Wrong and Evil and Ugly—but at least they are Traditional. They will happen. Your driveway will ice over, your furnace will blow up, and you will be rammed in traffic by an uninsured driver in a stolen car.

  But what the hell? That’s why we have Insurance, eh? And the Inevitability of these nightmares is what makes them so reassuring. Life will go on, for good or ill. But some things are forever, right? The structure may be a little Crooked, but the foundations are still strong and unshakable.

  Ho ho. Think again, buster. Look around you. There is an eerie sense of Panic in the air, a silent Fear and uncertainty that comes with once-reliable faiths and truths and solid Institutions that are no longer safe to believe in.… There is a Presidential Election, right on schedule, but somehow there is no President. A new Congress is elected, like always, but somehow there is no real Congress at all—not as we knew it, anyway, and whatever passes for Congress will be as helpless and weak as whoever has to pass for the “New President.”

  In the world of sports, it is like playing a Super Bowl that goes into 19 scoreless Overtimes and never actually Ends … or four LA Lakers stars being murdered in different cities on the same day. Guaranteed Fear and Loathing. Abandon all hope. Prepare for the Weirdness. Get familiar with Cannibalism.

  Good luck,


  —November 20, 2000

  The Fix Is In

  Luck is a very thin wire between survival and disaster, and not many people can keep their balance on it.

  I have never believed much in luck, and my sense of humor has tended to walk on the dark side. Muhammad Ali, one of my very few heroes, once took the time to explain to me that “there are no jokes. The truth is the funniest joke of all.”

  Ho ho. It takes a special kind of mind-set to believe that & still have smart people call you Funny. I have never quite understood it.

  —HUNTER S. THOMPSON, Fear and Loathing in America

  This eerie Presidential election has been a painful experience for Gamblers. Almost everybody Lost. The many, many Losers don’t feel the pain yet, because they are still in Shock & Denial. There are rumors in Washington that Gore’s most trusted advisors have sealed him off so completely that he still firmly believes he Won.… Which is True, on some scorecards, but so what? Those cards don’t count.… George Bush is our President now, and you better start getting used to it. He didn’t actually steal the White House from Al Gore, he just brutally Wrested it away from him in the darkness of one swampy Florida night. Gore got mugged, and the local Cops don’t give a damn.

  Ho ho ho. Where the fuck did he think he was—in some friendly Civics class? Hell no, he was in Florida, arguably the most vicious & corrupt state in the Union.… Not only that, but he was brazenly invading Florida, trying to steal it from right under the noses of the whole Bush family. It was a bold move & brilliantly done, in some ways—but then so was Lee’s brave decision to invade the North & attack Gettysburg.

  Gore was Doomed in Florida, and he knew it about halfway through Election Night. The TV wizards had already given the state & its 25 precious Electoral Votes to Gore, which gave him an early lead & caused wild rejoicing in Democratic headquarters all over the country.

  My own immediate reaction was bafflement & surprise, and I think I almost believed it.… But not really. The more I brooded on it, the more I was troubled by waves of Queasiness & shudders of gnawing doubt. I felt nervous & vaguely confused, as if I had just heard a dog speak perfect English for 30 or 40 seconds. That will get your attention, for sure.… Some people get permanently destabilized by it: Nothing they see with their own eyes will ever look quite the same to them again. As in “I know that the object I’m looking at is an Eg
g—but I also know that if it talks to me like a person, it is not an Egg.”

  There was an exact moment, in fact, when I knew Al Gore would Never be President of the United States, no matter what the TV networks said—and that moment was when the whole Bush family suddenly appeared on TV and openly scoffed at the idea of Gore’s winning Florida. It was Nonsense, said the Candidate, Utter nonsense.… Anybody who believed he’d lost Florida was a Fool. The Media, all of them, were Liars & Dunces or treacherous whores trying to sabotage his victory. They were strong words and people said he was Bluffing. But I knew better. Of course Bush would win Florida. Losing was out of the question. Here was the whole bloody Family laughing & hooting & sneering at the dumbness of the whole world on National TV.

  The old man was the real tip-off. The leer on his face was almost frightening. It was like looking into the eyes of a tall hyena with a living sheep in its mouth. The sheep’s fate was sealed, and so was Al Gore’s.… Everything since then has been political flotsam & gibberish.

  The whole Presidential election, in fact, was rigged and fixed from the start. It was a gigantic Media Event, scripted & staged for TV. It happens every four years, at an ever-increasing cost, & 90 percent of the money always goes for TV commercials. Of course, nobody would give a damn except politics is beginning to smell like professional football, Dank & Nasty. And that’s a problem that could haunt America a lot longer than four years, folks.

  I am watching more NFL football this year but enjoying it less and less. There is something wrong with the game, something vital is missing, but I can’t quite say what it is. No weekend goes by without at least one wild & exciting game, plus one or two shocking upsets—but somehow they all seem vaguely meaningless, like watered-down wine or weak whiskey.

  I thought I had solved all my problems when I found a way to watch every game, every Sunday, all at once or separately. I had everything, right at my fingertips. I missed nothing. My friends called me “toggle-boy” because of my expertise with the channel switcher. They dropped by every Sunday to drink & mooch & gamble. It was like an impossible dream come true. Fred Exley would have loved it.

  But still there was something wrong. Even reading the Sports section began to give me a queasy feeling. I came to secretly dread the coming of Sunday, although I never admitted that to anybody. It was too weird.

  Only after long brooding & extended medical analysis did I discover the obvious answer. It is the dangerous thinning of the NFL talent pool, a problem not totally unknown to the world of presidential politics. There are too many teams and not enough quality players. The League is destroying quarterbacks faster than colleges can churn them out. Every pro team must have two quarterbacks, because one of them is certain to get crippled or mashed by some steroid-crazed monster who weighs 388 pounds and runs faster than Deion Sanders and is desperate to hurt people. He will lose his job if he doesn’t, and his obvious target is the Quarterback.

  There may be Parity in the NFL these days, but it is the same kind of parity that you find at bush league Racetracks and Arena Football League games. The next MVP of the Super Bowl is just as likely to have been a full-time grocery store bagger last year as a Heisman Trophy winner. The teams change names & locations every year. Even winning coaches go crazy with angst or get fired on the whim of a new owner. Players come & go like substitute teachers or half-bright fashion models. Some beat their wives in public, and others get arrested for Murder. But the games go on like clockwork and the money keeps pouring in.… Most stadiums are sold out every Sunday. But only rich people can afford to attend the games in person. It’s not much different from getting involved in National Politics.

  —November 27, 2000

  Welcome to Generation Z

  I have been overwhelmed by the massive response to my sheepish confession, last week, that my lifelong passion for the ceremonial watching of pro Football on TV is not quite as keen this year as it has been. At first I felt vaguely ashamed to admit this, especially in print—but within hours of the thing’s (delayed) appearance on Page 2, I was deluged with messages from people who Agreed with me and said they’d been feeling guilty about it but were afraid to say the words.

  The NFL’s TV ratings seem to be dropping about 10 percent a year for at least the last five, which has not deterred the networks from paying more and more for broadcast rights and charging more and more for Super Bowl commercials. They figure they are breeding a whole new Generation of football fans by getting the teenage beer drunkards hooked early—and after that they will be loyal lifetime rabid fans, just like me.

  Ho ho. I have no more loyalty to Pro football than I do to the Democratic Party. And neither do these whooping babbling nerds that appear in Beer commercials. They would barely even notice if the Green Bay Packers were bought by Arabs and moved to Palm Beach. Or Kuwait.

  This kind of faithless fan base is a disaster waiting to happen. Like they say in Politics, “It’s a mile wide and an inch deep.”

  Jesus, and we wonder why the Election turned out so weird. The Pollsters knew nothing, because the people they talked to lied to them. Nobody wants to talk to a fucking Pollster, anyway. They are Vermin. And they are getting paid to harass you with questions, but you’re not getting a dime for it. You’re not even getting on TV.

  It was obvious from the start of this doomed 2000 election that nobody in America except a few Rich people gave a hoot in hell about who won—but why should they have to admit it in public and look Dumb? … No, they would Lie & Lie & Lie—and then they would flip a coin. Why not? It’s fair, and nobody will ever know, for sure anyway.

  That’s why this goddamn useless Election ended in a Tie. A million consecutive coin flips will give you a 50-50 split every time.… Which raises the sickening question of What are the NFL’s real TV ratings each week? What if half the people watching the games out of habit don’t really give a flying fuck who wins the game? That would be the end of Pro Football as we know it—No ratings, no commercials, no TV, & no money. You will be forced to watch Wrestling, Figure Skating, & Golf on Sunday afternoons. Good luck.

  December is always a good month for Rich people. It is a time for profit taking & gross displays of wealth, for giving huge Rubies & Diamonds to each other at bogus Charity Balls, & for seeing themselves on the covers of their own magazines.… The year 2000 will be branded in history as “the year of the Doomed Election,” which caused Millions of Americans to question themselves & suffer Loss of Self-Esteem for seemingly unexplainable reasons.

  The beginning of the new century will also be marked in history as the quasi-official birth of what will come to be known as Generation Z.… Never mind the gibberish of Mystics & Astrologers; this is the Generation that was born into the Richest Economy in the history of the world. They were born rich & Powerful, the certified Aristocrats of a new & Amazing century.

  The American nation is more Dominant now than primitive American leaders like Harry Truman & Richard Nixon ever dreamed of. We are Number One. Nobody argues. We have dollars, we have bombs, & we have the Will to use them.

  Let’s get back to Generation Z & its Lush & Extravagant birthright in this year of Our Lord 2000.… It may be a Mixed blessing to be hatched at the top of the Heap. Indeed. The Stock Market might crash, crazed Muslim terrorists might put Nerve Gas or Anthrax in your drinking water, Your daughter might get Rabies or turn into a famous Porno slut with two Junkie boyfriends who will Hack into your secret Computer Code & loot your Bank Accounts.… But these are Uptown Problems, for sure, compared to being born in a Great Depression or forced to join a Hitler Youth Brigade at the end of WW2. Nobody is ever going to feel sorry for the gilded little sots of Generation Z.


  Swine of the Week is always a difficult choice, but this first one is an obvious No-Brainer for lame-duck VP Al Gore Jr. & his whole lame family, formerly of Tennessee & Washington, DC, & soon to be listed prominently as “Homeless/No Known Address.” Gore will be remembered as the Hapless, wor
m-eaten Dunce who fumbled the White House away to a gang of sleazy Oilmongers from Texas who promised nothing for sure except a collapsing Market & heavy punishment for any degenerate fool who indulges in Oral Sex on U.S. government property. Al Gore defied all known Trends, Odds, & laws of Probability by running for President as co-architect of the greatest prosperity in American history & still Losing.

  The chance of that happening is as close to a Mathematical Impossibility as the chance of a Presidential Election ending in a Tie—or, for that matter, a sitting President & Leader of the Free World getting thrown out of office for enjoying the mouth of a woman.… Jesus, and we rave & rant about the Taliban for making their women wear veils.

  Sodomy is still a felony crime in the state of Virginia, which includes all the leafy, high-dollar suburbs just across the Potomac River from Washington. This is where poor Marv Albert got busted for allowing his love-bites to get out of control. His passion was too pure, they said, so they took him off NBA games for a while.… Georgia is another state where you can still go to prison for Sodomy, even when enjoyed in the privacy of your own bedroom.

  —December 4, 2000

  The White House Disease

  The incredible dumbness of Sportswriters is a subject I thought I’d exhausted a long time ago—but let’s hit it one more time, just for the fun of it.… I have described them as “a rude & brainless subculture of fascist drunks” and “a gang of vicious monkeys jacking off in a zoo cage” and “more disgusting by nature than maggots oozing out of the carcass of a dead animal.…”