1000 Words: The Madness of the Crowd… and Me

Because I’m a troublemaking son of a bitch I put up a post on social media the other day wondering why there has long been such slavish love for Hunter S. Thompson. The thoroughly self-involved inventor of “gonzo journalism” is worshipped, mainly by males who fancy themselves rebels. Or wish they were rebels.

I wrote:

Me being intentionally contrarian, episode 1,907: Try as I might, I don’t get all the slavish love for Hunter S. Thompson. No matter what topic he purportedly was writing about, he ended up writing about himself +80 percent of the time. Plus, he jumped around from idea to idea like a drunken cat which, essentially, is what he was. Yes, he made some brilliant observations and he was fearless but, jeez, trying to keep him on topic was like trying to keep a baby from putting stuff in its mouth. My basic take on him is guys dig him because he got to do all this guy stuff while stoned or loaded and he got to tell the authorities to kiss his ass in national publications. He was the ultimate 15-year-old.

I did this knowing full well it’d bring HST idolators out of the woodwork. Reactions ranged from guys extolling the Rolling Stone reporter and author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Hell’s Angels, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, The Rum Diary, and others to one guy who took to psychoanalyzing me for questioning his divinity. “I’m detecting a Freudian envy here,” that fellow commented.

I’ve long been afraid of crowds, both the numerical masses of humanity that gather at riots and sporting events as well as the sort of psychological, cultural ethos kind of mass gatherings that give us fads, pop philosophies, and fascist tyrannies. I recall being very young, perhaps 6 or 7 years old, being brought to my first big league baseball game by my parents, and getting all panicky because the several thousand people populating Wrigley Field that particular day erupted in an ear-splitting roar after a Cub hit a home run. The sheer force of the sound and the fact that more people than I’d ever seen live and in one place at a single time were making it scared the living bejesus out of me.

Such a number of people, such a unity of emotion, such an irresistible force could only result in something dangerous and bad, I concluded, even at that young age.

As I got older and read about the millions of Germans and Japanese prior to World War II, the white segregationists of the US and South Africa, and many other masses of humanity that, operating as one, produced pure evil, I became convinced I’d never allow myself to fall under the sway of a bunch of people.

Not that reading and liking Hunter S. Thompson can result in any kind of pure evil. I’m not saying that at all. Just that the crowd can make any of us — especially me — do things, like things, idolize things, that otherwise we — I — wouldn’t. That, too, is awfully scary.

I was tempted to comment under my own post on Hunter S. Thompson, after all the dissenters had their say, that you oughtta see who else I don’t like. I didn’t because, well, I wasn’t in the mood for further excoriation. Sometimes I can take my punishment; sometimes not.

Anyway, I thought I’d run a list, here, of things — people, acts, artists, works of art, etc. — that I dislike or despise mainly or in large part because scads of people like or adore them. So here goes:

  • The Grateful Dead
  • “It’s a Wonderful Life”
  • “Friends”
  • Abba
  • Oprah
  • The New York Yankees
  • “Gone with the Wind”
  • The Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Phil Collins
  • Colleen Hoover
  • Robert James Waller
  • Bing Crosby
  • “M*A*S*H” (the TV show)
  • Any and all contemporary Hollywood superhero movies
  • Rhonda Byrne
  • Bob Hope
  • “I Love Lucy”
  • The Kardashians
  • The entire “Star Wars” catalogue
  • Mariah Carey
  • Any of the sitcoms produced by Garry Marshall
  • “Groundhog Day”
  • The entire Harry Potter book and movie franchise
  • Toto (the band)
  • James Patterson
  • Electric Light Orchestra
  • “The Brady Bunch”
  • Jimmy Fallon

I could go on, but you get the idea.

Some of these people and things have long-been forgotten, like Robert James Waller, author of the mega-selling book, The Bridges of Madison County. Some have earned any thinking person’s disdain, like Rhonda Byrne, author of the ludicrous self-help book, also a monumental bestseller, The Secret. Some are, in truth, worthy of adulation, like Bing Crosby. It doesn’t matter in my irrational paradigm; if the crowd is fawning over them, I’m out.

I suspect this is in the tradition of The Dude despising the Eagles in “The Big Lebowski.” His hatred for that extremely popular band goes unexplained but I’m guessing a lot of it has to do with the band’s very popularity.

Then again, there are scores of people and things that are loved by millions, even billions, yet I allow myself to cherish them. The Beatles, for instance. Frank Sinatra and Meryl Streep, Carol King and “The Dark Side of the Moon,” “Casablanca” and Michael Jackson, too. As I’ve indicated already, this whole idea of mine is irrational.

The funny thing is, if I had posted on social media that I detest Shakespeare, it wouldn’t have induced one-tenth the dissent my Hunter S. Thompson post did. People would have said, hell, anybody who’s down on the Bard is a loon and they’d have left me alone. But some iconic figures touch people in a visceral way. Their love for them helps them define themselves. When all is said and done. I think that’s what Hunter S. Thompson is to  many of his fans — a way of defining themselves.

And the above list defines me. Imperfectly, ridiculously, and absurdly. It does the job to a tee.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: