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SEE OUR T13:
13 Quotes by H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) who---in the words of my grandmother---was not a nice man. He was a genuinely complex person---bigoted and often vicious---but he was also a fierce proto-libertarian and one of the Twentieth Century's great writers. He was definitely the forerunner of contemporary curmudgeons such as P.J. O'Rourke and Christopher Hitchens. My 13 quotes---gleaned from this convenient page---follow this little excerpt from this biography page (for those not familiar with him or his work).
Whether the reader agrees with Mencken or finds him infuriatingly coarse and incorrect, all can observe his technique with profit; it is rare in contemporary discourse. The criticisms he poses are nearly the same as those of famous literary expatriates including Richard Wright, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald; the injustices (or at least incongruities) are the same ones fought by period Muckraker journalists such as Lincoln Steffens and Ida Tarbell. However, instead of decrying the "daily panorama of human existence, of private and communal folly" and calling for reform or improvement, Mencken says he is "entertained" by them. On its face, this approach displays a crass indifference and total lack of compassion; Mencken admitted as much, as it was part of his personal philosophy: a kind of fierce libertarianism inspired by a Nietzscheansocial Darwinist outlook derived from Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner, and a "Tory" elitism.
The power of satire comes from the transformation of enemies and villains into a source of entertainment; they are reduced from powerful people to be contended with into farcical creatures deserving of mockery. Black journalist and Mencken contemporary James Weldon Johnson celebrated this technique as a way of fighting racism without stooping to the level of Jim Crow enforcers and the Ku Klux Klan:
- Mr. Mencken's favorite method of showing people the truth is to attack falsehood with ridicule. He shatters the walls of foolish pride and prejudice and hypocrisy merely by laughing at them; and he is more effective against them than most writers who hurl heavily loaded shells of protest and imprecation.
- What could be more disconcerting and overwhelming to a man posing as everybody's superior than to find that everybody was laughing at his pretensions? Protest would only swell up his self-importance. (quoted from Scruggs, pg. 57)
Mencken, in "On Being an American" called the United States "... incomparably the best show on Earth..."; he clearly took joy in covering religious controversies, political conventions, and unearthing new "quackeries" (among his favorite targets are the BaptistMethodist churches, Christian Science, Chiropractics, and most of all, Puritanism, which he defined as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, might be happy"). Although he attacked every President of the United States who served during the years of his career as a writer and critic, from Taft to Truman, Mencken reserved a special ire for his attacks on Woodrow Wilson, whose administration he saw as epitomizing the moralistic, Puritanical impulses of American life. Mencken's snipes at Wilson resulted in Mencken being singled out by the Bureau of Investigation (the predecessor of the FBI) and other law enforcement agencies as a potential subversive during Wilson's administration. (H.L. Mencken; links in original)
I chose my 13 quotes from the 156 listed on this page.
13 QUOTES FROM H.L. MENCKEN (1880-1956) [see picture (at educanation.org)]
1. Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.
2. Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.
3.Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.
4. .Each party steals so many articles of faith from the other, and the candidates spend so much time making each other's speeches, that by the time election day is past there is nothing much to do save turn the sitting rascals out and let a new gang in.
5. A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier.
6. Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good. I believe in only one thing: liberty; but I do not believe in liberty enough to want to force it upon anyone.
7. It is impossible to imagine the universe run by a wise, just and omnipotent God, but it is quite easy to imagine it run by a board of gods
8. War will never cease until babies begin to come into the world with larger cerebrums and smaller adrenal glands.
9. The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out... without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, intolerable.
10. The worst government is often the most moral. One composed of cynics is often very tolerant and humane. But when fanatics are on top there is no limit to oppression.
11.The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
12. It is not materialism that is the chief curse of the world, as pastors teach, but idealism. Men get into trouble by taking their visions and hallucinations too seriously.
13. The one permanent emotion of the inferior man is fear - fear of the unknown, the complex, the inexplicable. What he wants above everything else is safety.
BN-POLITICS THANKS THE FOLLOWING FOR THEIR COMMENTS.
- Susie of Susie J ( T13)
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- Tommiea at Tuesday Update
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- J. Lynne at D3.
- Lara at Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing.
- Elle Fredrix at Elle Fredrix, Contemporary Romance Writer.
- Shannon at Chicken's Life.
- Terra at Terra Satirize.
- L-Squared at Dog's Eye View.