The unexpected philosopher who predicted the rise of Donald Trump: Hunter S Thompson

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This is Hunter S Thompson.

Thompson was an author and journalist, most famous for writing 1971’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Johnny Depp played him in the 1998 film adaptation.

He was one of the great chroniclers of American politics in the second half of the twentieth century.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas read like an obituary for the idealism of the Sixties. His follow-up Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 detailed that year’s presidential campaign and was fired by his hatred of his long-time nemesis Richard Nixon.

Thompson died in 2005, as the result of a self-inflicted gunshot.

But know it looks like he might he might have predicted the rise of Donald Trump, all the way back in the Sixties.

This is 1967’s Hell’s Angels, Thompson's first major book.

It was an expose on the notorious motorcycle gang, with Thompson riding with them for a year. It is written in a more traditional style than his more famous drug-fuelled works, but it was still as sharp as any of his later books.

Susan McWilliams is the granddaughter of the editor who first commissioned Thompson to write about the Hell’s Angels, and she has written for The Nation about how he seemed to predict the rise of a politician like Trump.

McWilliams says:

Fifty years after Thompson published his book, a lot of Americans have come to feel like motorcycle guys. At a time when so many of us are trying to understand what happened in the election, there are few better resources than Hell’s Angels.

She says that in the book Thompson predicted a new kind of right wing politics.

Thompson described them as people left out by society.

Their lack of education rendered them completely useless in a highly technical economy.

Thompson was fascinated by their desire to just burn everything down the modern world. He called it:

An ethic of total retaliation.

 McWilliams continues:

Thompson’s Angels were mostly working-class white men who felt, not incorrectly, that they had been relegated to the sewer of American society. Their unswerving loyalty to the nation— the Angels had started as a World War II veterans group—had not paid them any rewards or won them any enduring public respect. Though most had made it through high school, they did not have the more advanced levels of training that might lead to economic or professional security.

Trumpism… operates on the presumption that ordinary people aren’t going to get any chance to rule no matter what they do, so they might as well piss off the political insiders using the only tool left available to them: the vote.

You can read her full article on The Nation.

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