Saturday, 25 February 2012

A homage to my idol, Hunter S. Thompson...

I recall within my first few weeks of enrolling at the University of Lincoln, a lecturer of mine telling us that a key part of reaching our goals as Journalists was to decide who, ultimately, were our personal heroes in the field. By realising what they had achieved - and how - we could be motivated and follow by example...A sound idea.
While some around me struggled to think of enough names of notable reporters to aspire to and others (unfortunately, friends of mine) were still determined that they were going to be Batman, I knew my hero immediately.
Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005) was an American journalist and author and has been a huge inspiration to me since I was 12yrs old. Ever since I picked up his novel, 'The Rum Diary', I've wanted to get into Journalism. It was an anarchic and cynical creation, and remains, to this day, my favourite book.
As a journalist there's no doubt he was big fish come the 1970s. He worked at many of America's most prominent magazines, including what had to be the coolest of the cool: Rolling Stone.
During this time he was one of the forerunners in ushering in the New Journalism movement which was more literary and subjective and changed the face of western journalism up to now. He once stated, “So much for Objective Journalism...With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.” This being a notion I share.
His masterful creation, known as 'gonzo journalism', pumped psychedelic colour into news coverage and involved him as the primary character for any story, spouting his own depraved and exaggerated thoughts of people, places and events that were deemed newsworthy by his editor. It's no secret that his writing was influenced by copious amounts of LSD, mescaline, cocaine, you name it. But by fictionalising his findings slightly, he wrote truer than any other sycophantic, favour-seeking reporter that's writing by a biased framework. He called Nixon a "phony and a prick" and called the Bush-Cheney admin a bunch of "crooked war-mongerers". So what? Nixon was a corrupt bastard and Bush only cared about drinking Iraq dry. Would a Sunday paper publish this today? No. But, there was a time when Thompson was respected enough to get his violently critical slurs published. Today, much of his style may be called unethical or irrelevant. Why, because he told things as they were? I tell you, if more reporters were to give you a glimpse of reality, rather than what they were told to pass off as reality, there'd be a fucking uprising.
Thompson will open your eyes to a lot of shit that's flung at you from the higher tiers of society. His work is extremely antiauthoritarian and holds dear a sense of radicalism. Most importantly it teaches you that there's nothing unintelligent or immoral about being radical. And I do not use this word in a political sense, as he very rarely preached his political views. His works teach more of a mantra of living radically and by doing so, no authority or law can stop you by acting on account of what you feel to be right or wrong.
His books are entertaining, funny as hell and callously chaotic. They will literally give you the urge to jump on the next flight to the US and drive around the Nevada dessert in a rented/stolen car in the search of good peyote. He wrote about these kinds of things like they were what he did for fun at the weekends. And why I love him as a journalist? Well he could act as illicitly and depraved as he liked from dusk till dawn, and still go and get it all published in the nine-to-five hours. And people loved him for it. And they looked to him for a morsel of truth. And he gave it to them. That is so fucking righteous.

Books and articles I recommend by Thompson:
- The Rum Diary
- Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
- Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail
- The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved
- The Gonzo Papers.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Flat Earth News...Obviously.

Sticking to my short-lived journalism roots and concerned for my future in being a reporter with some integrity, here's a suggestion and review. I think many will agree with me that Flat Earth News is an essential read. I said I would propose books on here that will both enlighten and entertain, and when it comes to being blind to the hocus pocus scare-mongering and bare-faced lies of the news media, I think far too many people are ignorant to the full extent of things. If you'd like to see how and why the news media is used as one of the main agents of exploitation and control in society then read this book. The "liberated ones" are bound and gagged as much as the rest of us, and just as corrupt as their masters.

Flat Earth News
By Nick Davies
Vintage Books, £8.99, pp 420
The Earth is flat. If Nick Davies’ shocking revelations on the reliability of our news sources are correct, when it comes to public knowledge, nothing is certain, and it could well be.
As his title suggests, Davies exposes the “falsehood, distortion and propaganda” that is rife within today’s media and reproaches the tendency in which it often goes unquestioned by those who partake in it, until somebody proves it to be false – a backward process.
Davies is a multi-award winning investigative journalist – an expert in exposing the dirty dealings of powers-that-be. No holds barred, he breaks the long-standing taboo of turning on Fleet Street, and holds the entire Fourth Estate accountable for its crimes.
His attack is mainly focused on the UK’s newspaper industry, its regulators and the PR agencies. The latter flooding the newsrooms with unoriginal and often inaccurate press material; contemptibly popularised by Davies, in a word, as ‘churnalism.’
In a profession, where the “first obligation is to the truth [and it’s] first loyalty to its citizens” everyday Journalists shame their code of ethics and mislead the public with tainted and fabricated information, to the extent where we have become “a society which has started to lose contact with reality”.
Davies’ sources appear both valid and reliable and measure the true extent of corruption, ignorance and intellectual repression in the newsroom.
He demonstrates how the forces of commercialism have turned journalism into “a profession so damaged to the point where most of the time, most of its members are no longer able to do their job”.
This is a vital read for anyone working within the news media, but will evoke a degree of self-loathing and powerlessness as an industry puppet. Ironically, it will leave unable to tear your eyes away from front to back, as with masochistic awe you continue to discover how depraved a rabbit hole a supposedly noble profession with idealist intentions has tumbled into.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

A more professional start...

Now then, I have decided to wipe my blog of the previously incriminating posts, so to speak, in order to go for a more professional approach. This was once a diary about the depravity of friends and I, as we rampaged through Lincoln's high street was fun, but the novelty has worn of a little and it's time to start taking my work seriously.
Not that this is now to be a severe and crucial voice on global issues. I'm no Nick Davies...Yet. So, I've decided to start out small and write about something that I really care about - Literature. For many that know me, a quiet read seems in complete contrast with my usual activities, but these people could also tell you that I'm virtually an insomniac, and this fits in with their picture of me. But, whilst I come alive at night, I reflect in the daytime. Rather than stumbling back to my bed at 5am and sleeping until sun goes full circle, I drink coffee, break out a Dumas and compare personal adventures I've had that night, with those of Edmund Dante, as imaginations entwine.
Many of the things I know now I've learnt from books, not school. And I read a lot. Didn't pay much attention at school though. Funny how many exams you can still pass when you learn the things worth knowing, instead of simply memorising a monotonous and restrictive syllabus. However, I digress. See, this is how it is. Knowledge is sacred to me because I detest ignorance. That is why I love to read about everything and anything I can: fiction, philosophy, history, astrophysics. Journalists become opinion-leaders. However, your opinion can never count for anything if you've not studied the full facts of an issue. Reading a newspaper and spewing out homeland propaganda that has almost been bred into you, does not make you a journalist as far as I'm concerned. Not a good one at least. You must go to as many different sources as you can to find the truth. Or what you perceive to be the truth. Never forget that books and journals are a form of media also. They're more than important. And if I'm being honest, you're likely to understand a more accurate interpretation of the world by reading Harry Potter, than by reading the Daily Mail. *Stifles a laugh* Sorry, just had the image pop into my head of Princess Di putting the cruciatus curse on an asylum seeker. But seriously, you're better off reading a penguin classic.
All I'm saying is, even the most wondrous and fictitious books can provide insight that is just too true. And I personally think too many people spend time playing xbox and taking the word of an exploitative social system, rather than trying to find some perspective in the written words of history's true genius'.
So, if you will allow me, I will suggest and review books/writers on here that, for one reason or another, I consider to be important, entertaining and great.