Hunter S. Thompson’s Conspiratorial 9/11 Interview: “The Public Version of the News is Never Really What Happened”

Hav­ing read almost every­thing the pro­lif­ic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas author Hunter S. Thomp­son ever wrote, I don’t know if I would call him para­noid, per se. Nor do I know if I would call him not para­noid. He cer­tain­ly trust­ed no enti­ty with pow­er, espe­cial­ly not gov­ern­ments, and real­ly espe­cial­ly not the Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment. So by the time Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001 came around, he had lit­tle good­will to spare for any of the major play­ers involved in its after­math. “The tow­ers are gone now, reduced to bloody rub­ble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the Unit­ed States or any oth­er coun­try,” he wrote in his Sep­tem­ber 12 ESPN col­umn. “Make no mis­take about it: We are At War now — with some­body — and we will stay At War with that mys­te­ri­ous Ene­my for the rest of our lives. It will be a Reli­gious War, a sort of Chris­t­ian Jihad, fueled by reli­gious hatred and led by mer­ci­less fanat­ics on both sides.”

A year lat­er, Aus­trali­a’s ABC Radio Nation­al got Thomp­son’s assess­ment of the sit­u­a­tion. Host Mick O’Re­gan opens the now famous inter­view above by ask­ing how he thought the U.S. media had per­formed in the new post‑9/11 real­i­ty. “ ‘Shame­ful­ly’ is a word that comes to mind,” responds Thomp­son. “Amer­i­can jour­nal­ism I think has been cowed and intim­i­dat­ed by the mas­sive flag-suck­ing, this patri­ot­ic orgy that the White House keeps whip­ping up. You know if you crit­i­cise the Pres­i­dent it’s unpa­tri­ot­ic and there’s some­thing wrong with you, you may be a ter­ror­ist.” And does he think 9/11 “worked in favor of the Bush Admin­is­tra­tion?” For Thomp­son’s full answer, blog­ger Scratch­ing­dog tracked down the orig­i­nal record­ing of the inter­view, not the edit­ed ver­sion actu­al­ly aired on ABC, and heard this:

Oh, absolute­ly. Absolute­ly. And I have spent enough time on the inside of, well, in the White House and you know, cam­paigns and I’ve known enough peo­ple who do these things, think this way, to know that the pub­lic ver­sion of the news or what­ev­er event, is nev­er real­ly what hap­pened. And these peo­ple I think are will­ing to take that even fur­ther, so I don’t assume that I know the truth of what went on that day, and yeah, just look­ing around and look­ing for who had the motive, who had the oppor­tu­ni­ty, who had the equip­ment, who had the will. Yeah, these peo­ple were loot­ing the trea­sury and they knew the econ­o­my was going into a spi­ral down­ward.

9/11 con­spir­a­cy the­o­rists have made much of this response and oth­er Thomp­son­ian analy­sis found in the unedit­ed inter­view, going so far as to sug­gest that maybe — just maybe — the writer died three years lat­er of some­thing oth­er than sui­cide. Giv­en Thomp­son’s com­pul­sion to speak truth to pow­er, and some­times to wave firearms around in front of it, any fan of his work can’t help but harsh­ly scru­ti­nize, and often pre-emp­tive­ly dis­miss, any and all “offi­cial sto­ries” they hap­pen to hear. We’ll nev­er know whether Thomp­son would have approved of the “9/11 Truth” move­ment in the forms it has tak­en today, but they do share his spir­it of cre­ative dis­trust. And per­haps a touch of para­noia gave his writ­ing its dis­tinc­tive verve. Nobody moves into what they unfail­ing­ly describe as a “for­ti­fied com­pound,” after all, with­out at least a lit­tle bit of it.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Read 11 Free Arti­cles by Hunter S. Thomp­son That Span His Gonzo Jour­nal­ist Career (1965–2005)

Hunter S. Thompson’s Har­row­ing, Chem­i­cal-Filled Dai­ly Rou­tine

Hunter S. Thomp­son Calls Tech Sup­port, Unleash­es a Tirade Full of Fear and Loathing (NSFW)

Noam Chom­sky Schools 9/11 Truther; Explains the Sci­ence of Mak­ing Cred­i­ble Claims

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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