Still, it seemed a safe bet that Thompson was the guilty party, but where and when did he say it? I was beginning to despair I'd have to pore through Thompson's entire oeuvre page by page when I received a response to one of the queries I'd sent out to webmasters asking if they could cite a source. It pointed me to Hunter S. Thompson's book called Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the '80s (New York: Summit Books, 1988). There, toward the bottom of page 43, I hit paydirt:
The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason.
Which is more or less true. For the most part, they are dirty little animals with huge brains and no pulse.
Exact quote. The full piece, clearly lambasting the business of TV journalism, was originally published as a bylined column in the San Francisco Examiner on November 4, 1985. It was not about radio, it was not about the music industry, it was not about show business in general nor about the corporate communications industry (though for all we know Thompson might well have agreed that the characterization fits equally well in every case). It was about television. Period.
As for the phantom tag line ("There's also a negative side"), it's nowhere to be found in the original article. Nice joke, but Thompson didn't write it.
It has become trite to bash the "Information Superhighway" for its unreliability, but how can one refrain when confronted with such an egregious example? I am duty-bound to state the obvious one last time: don't believe everything you read on the Internet. Hunter Thompson didn't; neither should we.
"I don't know the percentage of the Internet that's valid, do you?
Jesus, it's scary." — Hunter S. Thompson (Atlantic Monthly interview)