Author Topic: Michael Hastings and the culture of conspiracy: The crazy never die  (Read 1564 times)

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Offline mayya

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Michael Hastings and the culture of conspiracy: The crazy never die

By Steve King 2 days ago

New information and the autopsy report for deceased BuzzFeed journalist Michael Hastings were released this week. Though his toxicology was somewhat inconclusive, other recent information may either feed the fires of conspiracy or allow Hastings to finally rest in peace.

Hastings died in a pre-dawn crash on June 18th in L.A. His car struck a palm tree on a road that local residents claimed was used by drivers to speed as if they were on a freeway. It burst into flames and launched the engine 50 yards away. His body was mangled and shattered in the crash and burned beyond all recognition in the ensuing fire. A camera nearby recorded his Mercedes traveling at high speeds just before the crash. The autopsy report showed that Hastings had marijuana and an amphetamine consistent with meth or Adderal in his system in the hours leading up his death. Reports this week revealed that his family was trying to get him into detox at the time. This information and other details have finally shed some sad and harsh light on the shadowy conspiracy theories surrounding his death.

Immediately following news of Hastings’ death, a host of conspiracy theories popped up online claiming that Hastings had been killed by government operatives hoping to stop his coverage of their surveillance programs. It’s true that Hastings was working on a story about CIA chief John Brennan, but the U.S. government doesn’t just go around whacking journalists for doing their jobs.

After the crash, former counter terrorism expert, author, and all-around publicity whore Richard Clarke was running around telling anyone who would listen that the computer in Hastings’ car could have been remotely hacked, making the accident appear to be an assassination. Did I mention that his latest book, Cyber War is out in paperback?

Then birther, bullshitter, and total weirdo nobody, Kimberly Dvorak started pushing the rumor, among many others, that Hastings’ body was cremated against the wishes of his family. This wasn’t accurate either, as the family did indeed request that the body be cremated.

After the NSA surveillance “revelations” were leaked by Edward Snowden in May, a lot of people, especially reporters with foreign contacts, were feeling paranoid. Hastings himself thought that his correspondence was being monitored and his movements tracked by the government. In the hours before his death he emailed his BuzzFeed colleagues, saying that he would have to go off the radar while he was chasing his next story. This was all the public knew at the time.

Yes, car computers can be hacked. Yes, Hastings had gotten a JSOC general fired a couple of years ago. Yes, the government is mining massive amounts of data with the guaranteed consent and slight oversight of the FISA courts. But what not a lot of conspiracy folk knew at the time was that Hastings had also suffered from depression and hard drug use since he was a teenager. He had written about his battles with cocaine and speed, and that was well before he went to cover the Iraq War during its most deadly years.

He wrote about the death of his fiancee in Iraq in 2007 in the memoir “I Lost My Love In Baghdad.” He was well aware that he had substituted the buzz of war and death for the blur of drugs. He ventured into the most corrupt and depraved war in recent US history and found and lost love in the heart of its chaos. He was haunted and heartbroken by the loss of his fiancee. He cultivated and perfected the persona of a hard-edged, passionate, truth-seeking, gonzo, renegade combat journalist who had kicked the drugs and traded them in for piss and vinegar badassery. And then he came home.

He covered some campaigns and was now with the reinvented BuzzFeed. He wrote great stories, argued with and cursed out campaign aides, told the truth no matter what bridges he burned, and followed in the footsteps of one of his idols, Hunter S. Thompson. Hastings covered politics Like A Boss. He didn’t give a fuck. He wrote the great books The Operators and Panic 2012.

Somewhere along the 2012 campaign trail, Hastings fell off the wagon. When addicts relapse they sometimes hide it from friends and family, hoping to avoid the shame, so it’s hard to say when he fell back into old ways and which drugs he was using. He did smoke weed to help with untreated PTSD. He also drank and had gotten back into the hard stuff. As spring turned to summer, Hastings, already thinking the Feds were watching him, began to believe that the helicopters he saw around L.A. were following his movements. He even thought his car had been tampered with, which of course will only fan the conspiracy flames.

From all reports it seems that his behavior and personal life had veered toward a drug haze of speed and the inevitable accompanying paranoia that comes with it. He was drunk, high, knew more about U.S. intelligence than the average citizen, and was on the verge of frenzy. He even tried to borrow his neighbor’s car, fearing his own. He was a combat journalist who had returned home but still found himself behind enemy lines.

There is no way of knowing what Hastings was doing, driving fast down residential roads in the early morning hours of June 18th, but anyone with a knowledge of the drug world can tell you that when seeking hard drugs, there are far too many desperate late-night drives across town for some shady meetup. You only go out after 4am when you have run out of whatever you were using and you need more. He died the way he lived: in a ball of fire, achieving the self-destructive, premature, and tragic end that Hunter S. Thompson had never pulled off, and in so doing became his own sad gonzo story.

And he just so happened to launch a myriad of conspiracy theories from people who didn’t know him and didn’t read his work, and merely meant to use his name to further propagate their own fantastical world view. They didn’t care who he was or the truth that he told; what mattered was that he was anti-establishment and that his death could be co-opted to further their story that the “V For Vendetta” style fictional government is coming or you. His car wasn’t remotely hacked to silence him from writing a story about the CIA that could bring the whole system down. He was a troubled but good man who accidentally drove into a tree.

And the story he was writing is still going to be published. With confidence in government and journalism at an all-time low, and the fractured nature of news on the internet in the 21st century, conspiracy theories and nonsense are just becoming a way of life for more and more people in this country. But the Hastings conspiracy seemed especially ridiculous. If he was known to have a history of drug use and had fallen off the wagon, and if the government was spying on him, wouldn’t it have been easier to make his death look like a overdose rather than an explosion in the middle of street with the potential for witnesses? Or is that just what they want you to think?

He also just happened to work for and with some of the most talented people in journalism, all of whom would report on the potential murder of a colleague. If Hastings were able to, he would call bullshit on these conspiracy trolls and he would do it in the most creative and profane way possible.

The same thing happened when Hunter S. Thompson took his own life in 2005. In his later years, Thompson had flirted with 9/11 Trutherism. When he died, Infowarriors attempted to turn him into another conspiracy martyr. In truth, Thompson had entertained the thought of suicide for decades and had been suffering from increasingly worse health issues and had just reached the end of his line.

Ignorance of these men’s personal demons, coupled with conspiratorial thinking, is what has led to the air of dubiousness surrounding their deaths. Hunter S. Thompson and Michael Hastings were indeed High Priests of Gonzo Journalism and with their lives and even their deaths, proved they were “too weird to live and too rare to die.”