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Donald Trump’s style may be best understood as descended from the Gonzo journalism of Hunter S. Thompson, invented in 1970. Thompson made no pretence of objectivity, balance or accuracy. His was a kind of anti-journalism that was unashamedly fictional, loud, aggressive and profane. It was entertaining in that it was, at the time novel and refreshing and the reader could share in the writer’s swagger and indifference to criticism.

Trump practiced this style during his years on the television show in which he played the loud-mouthed bully. One of the advantages of this style is that it is relatively impervious to the usual criticisms of inaccuracy and exaggeration because those are its hallmarks.  Accusations of outrageousness are countered with even more outrageousness so that the critic can find nothing more to say. Followers of the style, apart from the pleasure of aligning with the bully, can applaud their own courage in not being beholden to political correctness, telling it like it is and sticking it to the powers-that-be or their discernment in appreciating the inherent irony and in-you-face humour.

In the present state of skepticism of mainstream politics it is difficult to know what defence anyone interested in genuine political debate has against gonzo. Anyone claiming to be above such shenanigans, will be seen as holier-than-thou, aloof and not in on the joke, all politically damaging. In addition, in this day and age journalists will always be able to find something to undermine a claim of moral, linguistic or political purity or if they can’t, to make something up. The tactic of ignoring gonzo politics can easily be made to look like impotence or being crowded out which will be exaggerated by the media who are more likely to report and headline the outrageous than the reasonable.      

Gonzo politics

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