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Meet the Mind of H.L. Mencken

[Arguably the most influential American literary critic in the 1920s, journalist, editor and iconoclast H. L. Mencken was known for his wit and cynicism.]

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed — and hence clamorous to be led to safety — by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

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Theology is the effort to explain the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing.

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Morality: The theory that every human act must be either right or wrong.

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The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.

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Whenever I write anything that sets up controversy its meaning is distorted almost instantly. Even the editorial writers of newspapers seem to be unable to understand the plainest sentence.

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Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.

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Any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood.

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Conscience is a mother-in-law whose visit never ends.

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Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.

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Criticism is prejudice made plausible.

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Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.

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Whenever you hear a man speak of his love for his country, it is a sign that he expects to be paid for it.

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All the leaders of groups tend to be frauds. If they were not, it would be impossible for them to retain the allegiance of their dupes.

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As democracy is perfected, the office of President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

-H.L. Mencken, July 26, 1920

 

Puritanism: the haunting fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time.

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The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.

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Government is actually the worst failure of civilized man. There has never been a really good one, and even those that are most tolerable are arbitrary, cruel, grasping, and unintelligent.

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Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.

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Consider [the pedagogue] in his highest incarnation: the university professor. What is his function?  Simply to pass on to fresh generations of numskulls a body of so-called knowledge that is fragmentary, unimportant, and, in large part, untrue.

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The worst government is 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.

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A celebrity is one who is known to many persons he is glad he doesn’t know.

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A judge is a law student who marks his own examination papers.

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Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.

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For centuries, theologians have been explaining the unknowable in terms of the-not-worth-knowing.

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Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good.

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I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time.

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Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.

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After all, all he did was string together a lot of old, well-known quotations.
– H. L. Mencken, on Shakespeare

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A man who can laugh, if only at himself, is never really miserable.

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All men are frauds. The only difference between then is that some admit it. I myself deny it.

–H. L. Mencken

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www.zengardner.com

15 COMMENTS

  1. “Add your comment”….
    What could I add to that….
    Nothing.
    Apart from my absolute agreement to every word.

  2. “I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time”

    BINGO!!! I wish other people would get this already and stop craving to be lead around like sheep. Sorry for the cynicism but how many lies can a person possibly listen to before they realize that none of these talking heads are ever telling the truth. NONE!

    Peace and Protection to the community!!!! Let Karma deal with the government!

    Sean (Eaglehart)

    • Rt on Eaglehart! Those who don’t get this I do wonder about being awake yet. Oh well, takes time. People need to realize we all have to keep on shifting…there is no “final answer”, it’s fluid consciousness and constant learning and wonder as we explore this amazing, intricate yet profoundly simple experience…if we’re not getting our world rocked and changed and expanded all the time we’re not fully alive as far as I’m concerned…love, Z

      • I know that people grow at their own rate, but sometimes I find it difficult to over come the frustration of anticipation! I suppose patience is my lack of Virtue.

        Peace and Protection!!!!

        Love
        Sean (Eaglehart)

        • Hey, we all want it all now. We do have it now in many ways, but damn, it’s sure frustrating watching all this play out, I totally hear you. Nothing weird about how you feel, bro. Part of what we’re here to learn I assume. Keep on. We’re all very very similar, you can count on that. Love you, Z

  3. He must have been so frustrated with his time…no internet!
    By his face and his words i think I would have enjoyed conversing with him.

  4. Brilliant!

    I get the feeling he would not be allowed to be syndicated now and if he published the same thing now independently he would on every terrorist watch list in the US

    • He’d be where he exactly is now–on alternative websites! The massive manipulated media shutdown is just about beyond Orwellian now…and much more devious….

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