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‘Dirty Thunder’
Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga by Hunter S. Thompson

1966, Random House, 273 pages

Hell’ Angels by Hunter S. Thompson, the iconic record of that motor cycle club’s rise to prominence in the American consciousness is, from 53 years removed, a quaintly brutal account of an outdated clown parade. Thompson covers some of the early mythology of motor cycle clubs as a refuge of masculine identity and at once an abrasive rejection of modernity, from the back of the iron horse made possible by the world these men reject. The bulk of the book consists of comparing hysterical media reports from 1965, during a period when Thompson was a drinking buddy and hanger on of the club, with the reality. The reality was that the major print media outlets of the day, based in New York, basically created the Hell’s Angels, claiming there were thousands raping and pillaging when there were less than 150 on the cub rolls.

This 1965 snapshot might have predicted the large role in drug trafficking that outlaw biker clubs would play, based on their mobility and drug use. But in 1965, the Angels were essentially brutal, ostentatious bullies, mostly interested in shocking outsiders while delving into hedonism. You might describe these vintage bikers as honest hippies, who did not ascribe some high spiritual aim to the pursuit of drugged euphoria and sexual promiscuity.

Thor wearing shit-stained denim diapers is my summation of what the Hell’s Angels aspired to during the course of Thompson’s quite lazy investigation of their counter-culture fraternity. Thompson’s narrative was well-crafted and punctuated with excellent quotes from banal contemporaries and literary geniuses.

Finally, on page 261, before the reader experiences the relief of reading his postscript—a wan relation of his stomping by a pack of Angels and a rescue by a huge Angel named Tiny—Thompson arrived at a social profile of his subject:

“There is an important difference between the words “loser” and “outlaw.” One is passive and the other is active, and the main reasons the Angels are such good copy is that they are acting out the day-dreams of millions of losers who don’t wear any defiant insignia and who don’t know how to be outlaws. The streets of every city are thronged with men who would pay all the money they could get their hands on to be transformed—even for a day—into hairy, hard-fisted brutes who walk over cops, extort free drinks from terrified bartenders and thunder out of town on big motorcycles after raping the banker’s daughter…they command a fascination, however reluctant, that borders on psychic masturbation.”

The outlaw biker, quintessentially represented by the prototype and widest spread franchise, The Hell’s Angels, are a caricature of the ancient nomad hordes [Indeed, a rival gang of the Angels are named The Mongols] such as the Saci, Huns, Tartars and Mongols who preyed upon civilization, they were utterly dependent on civilized technology [the composite bow and the motorcycle] which was used to terrorize civilian populations, with their standard booty being sexual property. A Hell’s Angel, as depicted by Thompson and as experienced by my own friends and associates, are something like a Negro pimp playing at being Genghis Khan, succeeding in terrorizing non-combatants and utterly failing as combatants, losing 19 out of 20 brawls and predatory acts in which they did not possess overwhelming force.

Being a Hell’s Angel or other outlaw biker, is, in my estimation a form of parasitic protest. That said, despite the low moral arc of their clannish rampage across the modern consciousness, they serve as an example of cohesive identity in the face of the same underwhelming odds that the man of honor also finds himself awash in.

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TWMay 10, 2018 12:25 PM UTC

And you could claim that the current 'global' club of Hell's Angles is but a caricature of the former 70s, 80s enterprise in which it used to be. In name only. Hells Angles for a long time controlled the drug trade in Canada...even the Pagen's diversified into the drug trade awhile ago, having operationalized safe-houses and transports up and down 95 corridor, which is still a primary artery for narco distribution. I'm sure the 1% works directly with the Mexican cartels to a large degree to this day.

I once pulled over in Johnson City late at night around 1AM looking for the Holiday Inn (3 of them within rage) I was crashing at. I rode from Ashville, NC hauling ass over the mountain passes at near 100 MPH on my BMW R1100s with some mods, which was moderately stupid at night. When I got off an ext looking for my hotel, I decided to get something to eat at a Waffle House. No sooner than I sat down, an arsenal of swat, local, DHS swarmed the hotel. I just sat in my seat for a while. About a half hour later (because I didn't want to get in my bike to go find the right hotel yet) a Fed sat next to me and I asked what happened. "We just took down a substantial narco deal." I found out it was some 1% centers doing biz with the Cartels. Apparently, Atlanta was once the central hub for organized narco distribution about 7 years ago, but it was moved to Johnson City bc too much heat from the Feds.