Tom Wolfe, the highly influential journalist at Rolling Stone and Esquire and author of such fantastic works as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, and The Bonfire of the Vanities, has died at age 88. From the New York Times
In his use of novelistic techniques in his nonfiction, Mr. Wolfe, beginning in the 1960s, helped create the enormously influential hybrid known as the New Journalism...
His talent as a writer and caricaturist was evident from the start in his verbal pyrotechnics and perfect mimicry of speech patterns, his meticulous reporting, and his creative use of pop language and explosive punctuation.
“As a titlist of flamboyance he is without peer in the Western world,” Joseph Epstein wrote in the The New Republic. “His prose style is normally shotgun baroque, sometimes edging over into machine-gun rococo, as in his article on Las Vegas which begins by repeating the word ‘hernia’ 57 times.”
William F. Buckley Jr., writing in National Review, put it more simply: “He is probably the most skillful writer in America — I mean by that he can do more things with words than anyone else.”
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While it should come as no surprise to anyone that follows the news or gets depressed by Twitter on a regular basis, freedom of the press – an important check against corruption and the misuse of power in a democracy – is on the decline.
We've been seeing it daily of late: political leaders spewing targeted hate at particular journalists or the outlets they work for. Pundits calling the facts uncovered during deep-dive investigative reporting lies, or alternate versions of the truth, instead of trying to defend their viewpoints or confessing to their bullshit once they've been caught. Hell, Trump went so far as to call journalists "enemies of the people." That's a term that Stalin was fond of.
The assault on the media doesn't stop there, either. With increasing frequency, journalists around the world are facing charges and incarceration for nothing more than doing their jobs. As insane as it is, those are the lucky ones. In some locales, being a journalist can get you killed. It's been common, in recent years, for reporters in Mexico to vanish or to wind up dead – their work to bring the truth to light displeasing to drug cartels and corrupt local officials. And then there's this, from Reporters Without Borders:
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The line separating verbal violence from physical violence is dissolving. In the Philippines (down six at 133rd), President Rodrigo Duterte not only constantly insults reporters but has also warned them that they “are not exempted from assassination.” In India (down two at 138th), hate speech targeting journalists is shared and amplified on social networks, often by troll armies in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pay.