Gonzo Lives Underground

By Fairbanks, Philip | Afterimage, January-February 2004 | Go to article overview

Gonzo Lives Underground


Fairbanks, Philip, Afterimage


The underground has always existed. There has always been information that was not popular with the establishment. Despite the efforts of those in power to hide certain knowledge from the people, certain advances in the creation and dissemination of media have allowed disparate views to enter the mainstream. From the Library of Alexandria (the first incarnation of the internet) to Gutenberg's creation of a system of disseminating information more quickly than scribes could dream of, with each increase in the speed and simplicity of freeing up information there has been a revolutionary change in science, the arts, philosophy and politics.

The 20th century has witnessed several of these revolutionary advances in information sharing. With the advances in culture and the revolutions in the arts and sciences there has been a rise in the popularity of certain forms of underground literature. From the experimental and explosive literature of the Beatniks to the music of the hippies and beyond to the present day, underground art has been leaking into the mainstream collective unconscious at an exponentially increasing speed.

The increasing popularity of independent and underground music, movies, zines and culture (or sub-culture) have created a separate world of information and ideas that are not part of the mainstream culture. Now with the internet anyone can make their ideas available to the world. This has created a new format for the spread of underground literature, news and art that would not be made available in the much less interactive mainstream media. The internet is a new medium not only for the spread of information and art but for networking these subcultures. It may be the tool that allows the subcultures to slowly spread to the mainstream, bridging the information gap created by the corporate free press and corporate advertainment.

In Celtic society, the Bardic class, the poets and musicians, were assigned a place of great power Great rulers could be deposed by a properly phrased satiric verse, juvenal exposed the truth behind the myth in classical Roman society through poems that simply told it like it was. Since then, poets and artists have had an important effect upon the culture of the times. The artists are the critics of culture and the visionaries that open up possibilities for the future. In the past century, the underground literary tradition has taken up this vein in creating new possibilities for the future. As we enter the digital age, where information takes an even greater role in the formation of the present and future, the underground literary tradition will have an even more important role, and with the aid of the internet the ideas of the underground can be freely spread to the people.

It was the age of the Red Scare. America was united in conformity and one of the major tools used to create this conformity was the new mass media. Hollywood and television served as powerful propaganda tools. The American way of life had been standardized. American values were uniform. Either you were American (a God-loving believer in free enterprise devoted to simple suburban life) or you were a commie pinko fag.

The 50's was a frightening example of how easily America could become a fascist state. Blind patriotism and hatred of a common enemy were benchmarks of the age of Father Knows Best and McCarthy. Orson Welles and other thinkers ahead of their time were blacklisted and pushed to the fringes of the mainstream. Far below the mainstream, however, a group of revolutionary thinkers and artists were releasing information that would create an intellectual explosion and which influenced the underground of the following generations.

A group of writers, many of them commie pinko fags, emerged from the literary scene of the East and West coast and created a genre of literature that was far removed from the whitewashed conformity of everyday American life in the 50's. …

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