"And You Can Quote Me On That" The Wit and Wisdom of Henry L. Mencken

One of the most prolific and respected newspapermen and magazine editors of the first half of the 20th Century was H.L. Mencken. Mencken was a conservative, but I'm sure he's rolling in his grave over the sad state of affairs with completely dishonest and intellectually challenge buffoons running such publications as "The Weakly Standard" and the "National Reflux".

Over the years, I've been collecting Mencken's better quotes on politics and the generally decrepit state of consciousness that most Americans consider normal.

Don't spit out your coffee now, it makes a mess of the keyboard:

On Democracy: “Democracy is the pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.”

On the Department of Justice: "[The Department of Justice] has been engaged in sharp practices since the earliest days and remains a fecund source of oppression and corruption today. It is hard to recall an administration in which it was not the center of grave scandal." -- H.L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)

On Morons (1): "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 (1880 - 1956)

On Morons (2): "The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre - the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. 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 http://www.snopes.com/politics/quotes/mencken.asp

On Elections: "Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods." –H.L. Mencken

On Activism: "Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist that black flag, and begin slitting throats." --H.L. Mencken

On Delusion: "The most costly of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind." --H.L. Mencken

On Liars and Truth: "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." --H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)

Good And Hard: "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard." --H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)

On Democracy: "Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right." --H. L. Mencken (1880-1956)

On Democracy: "I have spoken hitherto of the possibility that democracy may be a self-limiting disease, like measles. It is, perhaps, something more: it is self-devouring. One cannot observe it objectively without being impressed by its curious distrust of itself—its apparently ineradicable tendency to abandon its whole philosophy at the first sign of strain. I need not point to what happens invariably in democratic states when the national safety is menaced. All the great tribunes of democracy, on such occasions, convert themselves, by a process as simple as taking a deep breath, into despots of an almost fabulous ferocity." — H.L. Mencken

On Government: "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." --H. L. Mencken

On Honesty: "It is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common
honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office."
--H. L. Mencken

On Radicalism: "The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naïve and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair."

On Religion: "For centuries, theologians have been explaining the unknowable in terms of the-not-worth-knowing." --H. L. Mencken

On State Terror: "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace in a continual state of alarm (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing them with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

On Dissent: "The great masses of men, though theoretically free, are seen to submit supinely to oppression and exploitation of a hundred abhorrent sorts. Have they no means of resistance? Obviously they have. The worst tyrant, even under democratic plutocracy, has but one throat to slit. The moment the majority decided to overthrow him he would be overthrown. But the majority lacks the resolution; it cannot imagine taking the risks." --H.L. Mencken

On Voting: "There's really no point to voting. If it made any difference, it would probably be illegal."

On Democracy: "I have spoken hitherto of the possibility that democracy may be a self-limiting disease, like measles. It is, perhaps, something more: it is self-devouring. One cannot observe it objectively without being impressed by its curious distrust of itself—its apparently ineradicable tendency to abandon its whole philosophy at the first sign of strain. I need not point to what happens invariably in democratic states when the national safety is menaced. All the great tribunes of democracy, on such occasions, convert themselves, by a process as simple as taking a deep breath, into despots of an almost fabulous ferocity." — H.L. Mencken

***
"Mencken's Creed":
http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/quotations/H_L_Mencken_quotes.html

I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind - that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking.
I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious.
I believe that all government is evil, in that all government must necessarily make war upon liberty..
I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect.
I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech...
I believe in the capacity of man to conquer his world, and to find out what it is made of, and how it is run.
I believe in the reality of progress.
I - But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant

***
H L Mencken ( Henry Louis Mencken ) and George Jean Nathan, his co-editor at The Smart Set, were well known for the numerous short epigrams that were a fixture of that magazine. The sayings were so popular they were featured in movie theaters as trailers before the main feature started. He remains ever quotable. Here is a selection of delightful and wise quotations and quotes attributable to Mencken:-

I believe it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than to be ignorant.

Conscience is the inner voice that warns us that someone may be looking.
Puritanism - The haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.

Truth - Something somehow discreditable to someone.

A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier.

No one in this world, so far as I know ... has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.
Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice.

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

Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed.
I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time.

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

Lawyer - One who protects us from robbers by taking away the temptation.

A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.

A man's women folk, whatever their outward show of respect for his merit and authority, always regard him secretly as an ass, and with something akin to pity. His most gaudy sayings and doings seldom deceive them; they see the actual man within, and know him for a shallow and pathetic fellow. In this fact, perhaps, lies one of the best proofs of feminine intelligence, or, as the common phase makes it, feminine intuition.
Suicide is a belated acquiescence in the opinion of one's wife's relatives.

Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.

No matter how happily a woman may be married, it always pleases her to discover that there is a nice man who wishes that she were not.
Life may not be exactly pleasant, but it is at least not dull. Heave yourself into Hell today, and you may miss, tomorrow or next day, another Scopes trial, or another War to End War, or perchance a rich and buxom widow with all her first husband's clothes. There are always more Hardings hatching. I advocate hanging on as long as possible.
The older I grow, the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.

Well, I tell you, if I have been wrong in my agnosticism, when I die I'll walk up to God in a manly way and say, Sir, I made an honest mistake.

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