Fear and Justice in the Kingdom of Sex

By Hunter S. Thompson

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The original gonzo journalist salutes Hef and worries that old communist conspiracy theories are being repackaged as the War on Terrorism from the January 2004 issue.


This article was originally published in the January 2004 issue of Playboy magazine.

MEMORANDUM FR: DR. HUNTER S. THOMPSON TO: HUGH M. HEFNER RE: ANNIVERSARY JANUARY 2004

Dear Hef, Well, well, well. Fifty years on the road, eh? Hot damn! Fifty years in the fast lane is a truly incredible trick to pull off in these weird fascist times. I salute you.

The mere existence of Playboy in 1953 was a Message, and the message said, Yes, it can be done. We can publish pictures of naked women (and even the Girl Next Door), and we can write strange and even perverse stories about real sex adventures with real naked girls.… Jesus, it was a monumental breakthrough to Freedom. Playboy was a signal that we were on the right track, we were smart, and we would prevail. Yes. We could publish any goddamn thing we wanted to, and we would beat those vicious, half-bright bastards who wanted to and still want to stomp out our Art and our energy and our precious bodily fluids.

Right. They hated us from the start, and they hate us now.

Growing up in the 1950s was a hard dollar, and it was especially hard for people like you and me. But so what? I was committed to my Art. And I felt equally committed to my exploration of beautiful naked women, and I pursued that with equal vigor.

Like you, I wanted not only to mingle frequently with beautiful naked women. I wanted to get paid for it, too, and that was a very hard dollar. Which it still is, frankly—just not quite so hard as it used to be. And credit for that goes to you. You were a pioneer for all of us, a genuine American hero.

There was a time back there in the primitive 1950s when the Harlem Globetrotters were the hottest ticket in basketball. They were heroes too, for many people. Not even the perennial college champion University of Kentucky Wildcats could sell out a house faster than the Harlem Globetrotters.

The Globetrotters were an all-black team of hired clowns who could play what looked like world-beating basketball. They were in a league all their own, so absolutely unbeatable that they had no real competition. It would have been sad, if it weren't so ridiculous.

There was no doubt in my mind that they could easily beat Kentucky, then the number one team in college basketball. But it would never happen, of course, because black people didn't even go to U of K in those days, much less play on the basketball team. The Wildcats wouldn't even think about playing on the same floor with black people, so the question was never answered.

I was brooding on this last night, as I frequently do when I get baffled and frustrated by unanswerable and freakish political questions like Why is the U.S. Supreme Court like it is? Or Did George Washington really throw a genuine U.S. silver dollar across the Rappahannock when he was 13 years old?

I tried that once, with one of those replica silver dollars that you can buy for $35 or $40 from the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, and it went about 50 feet before it sank out of sight. The river is more than half a mile wide at that point, so I knew immediately that the silver-dollar story was bullshit. That is the way I like to test these absurd political legends, just so they won't hang around and haunt me for the rest of my life, like that goddamn silver-dollar story did until I finally tried it and made a fool of myself.

The Globetrotters were so unbeatable, in fact, that they finally had to hire an all-white, all-Jewish team of professional stooges called the House of David to go on tour with them and get whipped on and humiliated every night. It was like taking their own cannon fodder with them from city to city.

Just why the House of David popped into my mind at a time when I was deeply engaged in a semiprofessional political debate was not at all clear to me at first, until I saw the dismal similarity between the House of David and the Democratic Party in America today.

The House of David and the Democratic Party are one and the same. Their job, every game and every election, is to Lose. They were both born to Lose, and that is what they do for a living. The Democratic Party no more expects to take over the White House in 2004 than a chicken expects to get rich by walking on water.

The USA is coming to pieces very rapidly. This once proud nation of hoodlums and whores and the American Way has finally run amok and is effectively Out of Control, and it will not recover. The infrastructure is too far gone. The looting, cheating, stealing and failure have stripped this country of its assets, its pride, its success and its security.

The National Treasury is empty, the Stock Market will never recover, our troops in Iraq will never come home. You will not find a job, never again.… Your children will drink dirty water for the rest of their lives. You will lose your home and all your personal savings.… You will never be able to retire or even stop working, and you will be a serf, a terminally indentured servant to one of the vast anonymous and eternally warlike global Corporations that will rule the world for their own reasons and their own profit.

But not you and me, Hef. We have prevailed. We will never get caught up and chewed horribly in the hideous debris and evil craziness that will inevitably come along with the panic and collapse of a once powerful empire. Look at Germany, look at Rome, lookat the dismal British government. Look at their once heroic prime minister, a conquered little whore who means nothing to History.

There is no way that we can talk about the fabulous Playboy era without remembering what was vicious and wrong and ugly in those years. Remember Joe McCarthy, that maniac sot of a senator from Wisconsin who raved and bullied and literally destroyed the lives of so many thousands of good and innocent people who were no more card-carrying Communists than I am? Yes, sir, that stupid alcoholic bastard literally seized control of our Criminal Justice System and filled our brains with Fear for half the decade. Even President Eisenhower was afraid of him, afraid of merely being accused of being involved in some evil Communist Conspiracy to destroy the whole U.S. government and even our "American way of life."

Does that sound vaguely familiar? Sort of like our current "War on Terrorism" or our hopelessly stupid and incompetent "National Security Emergency"? Yeah, without a doubt it does, and that worries me.

Another thing that worries me, Hef, is that ours will almost certainly be the first generation in the history of our country to turn America over to our sons and daughters in a far worse condition than when it was turned over to us. Horrible, eh? But it is true, and I spend a lot of time brooding on it, and sometimes even feeling ashamed.

How about you? Are you feeling responsible for our stark naked failure of a nation? I have already figured out my own answer to that question, and it is: No, we are not. Remember that the American Century ended on New Year's Eve of 1999, when most of the Population was half-mad with fear and widespread panic over the vaguest of rumors about a gigantic Power Failure that would black out at least 80 percent of the country at the exact moment of midnight, leaving us all completely blind and freezing with no water coming out of our pipes and no heat in the furnace.

Yes, sir, it was going to be the end of the world. Half of the people with all the guns, and the other half has all the money—but they can't get their hands on it because all the vaults are frozen shut because all the combination locks depend on electrical circuits, and they are short-circuited until further notice. Ho ho. I remember the senseless panic and fear and dread that was probably started by Enron and WorldCom and spread by the FBI and the Pentagon and the manufacturers of huge home electrical generators.

Many of my normally smart friends and neighbors were buying gasoline-powered electric power plants that were hideously expensive and profoundly dangerous to install and operate. Hell, I almost bought one myself, but I was too embarrassed to come out and admit in public that I was such a rube. In the end, however, I decided to take my chances and travel to Cuba for Xmas, where I stayed at the Hotel Nacional overlooking the sea and the Malecon and just ignored the goddamn thing—and I have never regretted it.

I had a long and honorable history with Richard Nixon. It was clearly antagonistic and occasionally savage on both sides of the ball—but it never, never got so brutal that it made me think about running for president of the USA. That was out of the question. It is a far, far better thing, I figured, just to run him out of the White House for reasons of his built-in anal-compulsive, genetically criminal personality traits. Why go to all the trouble and angst of actually running against him, when it is a lot more functional and permanent simply to put him on trial in that most public of arenas, the court of public opinion, and let nature take its course?

That was 30 years ago, and things have changed since then. For one, it is no longer possible to formally run for president unless you have at least $1 billion in "sinister political contributions" to grease the wheels of your "campaign." That is what it takes to get elected or—especially—reelected in this bright new century.

Think of it this way: There are a lot of people in this country who could lay their hands on a billion dollars today. Hell, Don Johnson drives around Europe with $8 billion in the trunk, bubba. But not one of them will be inclined to vote for you or anyone like you, because you are not the corrupt little monster who currently lives in the White House. You are obviously not on their side, and you have nothing to offer them.

Remembering Nixon now is like remembering the Age of Aquarius—free love and tie-dyed T-shirts. Ho ho. No more of that bullshit. Things are different, things have changed. We live in a new millennium.

Yes, sir. Hot damn! It's about time we woke up and got rid of that crude, old-timey Corruption that has ruined our lives and caused our children's brains to rot.

This is the worst political nightmare to erupt in this country that I have ever seen. If every Deadhead had voted for president in 2000, we would have a different country today. Maybe better, maybe worse, but definitely not the inconceivable disaster we have now. No money, no highways, no railroads, no airlines, no schools, no bridges and no hope for anything better. That is the No-Fun Club.

Go down with the ship, sucker. You are now a dues-paying member of the No-Fun Club, and your life is getting worse every day. Hell, if I were 22 years old in this country today I'd be wearing earphones too. No news is good news.

But wait! Don't touch that dial. I have incredibly good news for You: This is your lucky day, numb-nuts, because there is a plan that will jerk You out of that horrible rut that you were plunged into by whores you can never know.

The only way out of the No-Fun Club is to have some serious fun. Go wild on a binge of some kind. Kick out the jams like a crazy animal. Get those shit-eating cobwebs out of your brain. Kick the shit out of people who are getting in your way. Whoop it up.

From my own experience, I'd have to say that the most fun I ever had with my clothes on was kicking Nixon out of the White House. The point is that running a criminal swine like George W. Bush out of Washington would be an adult dose of Fun.

I am a famously Patriotic American writer, and I am personally embarrassed by the fascist behavioral sink that these shit-eating greedheads from Texas have deliberately plunged us into. Those pigs deserve to be boiled in their own oil.

Whoops! What am I saying? Sorry. That outburst came out of nowhere. It just sort of popped out of me. Let's get back to Richard Nixon and all the evil eggs he laid in the White House: Rumsfeld… Cheney… Kissinger… Schlesinger… Admiral Poindexter. They were all in Nixon's inner circle. And then Reagan's. And then Old Man Bush's. And ye gods!… Now they are the closest advisors to Bush Junior. How long, O Lord, how long?

The second half of the American Century was almost entirely about the USA at War—continuous War. We were at war with the Chinese in what is now North Korea, and now, 50 years later, this nation is at War with many countries/nations/empires/religions/cults/gangs all over the world except a handful of poodles in England who will soon be gone. That much is certain. Tony Blair's flagrant obedience to the White House and the Pentagon is an embarrassment to the human race. His party is now a cluster of buttboys and warmongers who long ago sold England out to its onetime colony.

Ah, but so what? I am wandering back into politics, which we want to stay away from for as long as possible, and that is not very long in this country. We are a warlike nation that is obsessed with naked female breasts, and for that we thank you.

I feel like a charter member of the far-flung playboy mafia that has literally grown up with the magazine, part of the hard and elite corps of writers and editors and even beautifully naked women who made it happen and have kept it happening for more years than many of our current READERS have been alive. That is weird on its face for any magazine, and definitely for one that 50 years ago boldly published a stunning naked portrait of a Hollywood superstar in its first issue.

That was Big, very Big, in a culture and a country that believed in its own Puritan traditions and savagely punitive laws and nonforgiving way of life that had been handed down, decade after puritanical decade, from the insane cruelty and brutal superstition that spawned the infamous Salem witch trials, which formed the original basis of the same Criminal Justice System that governs us today.

We are a 227-year-old warrior nation that was born and bred on the same diet of social revenge and drastic punishment that have been the main pillars of all Christian churches since the beginning of time. This is dangerous nonsense to most people alive today, but it was decidedly not that way in 1953, when a shocking naked image of Marilyn Monroe was introduced to a profoundly uncertain American magazine audience, when the first Korean War was happening and when any naked woman in any Mainstream Magazine in this country was just about Impossible to expect or even conceive of without going to jail. It was out of the question. Nobody would dare to try to do a degenerate thing like that. On top of everything else, it was clearly against the law. Nobody could argue with that.

But you did, simply by printing the first issue of Playboy, defying every rule and tradition on the American political spectrum. Nobody was for Playboy, nobody supported it, nobody even expected it to publish a second issue, which remains one of the genuinely historic and singularly heroic accomplishments of the 20th century. Very few people thought it could possibly happen in this country, and even fewer dared to support it. Playboy was radical, bubba. It was way over the top, for sure, and it was just as surely doomed, because all the preachers said it was Wrong. Fuck those people. They were wrong. But their hearts will never change and neither will ours. So what? We are champions, and we can prove it.

Your friend, Hunter


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