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← Mencken week: Day 2

Mencken week: Day 2 - Comments

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 1 by Neodarwinian

" logical imbecilities "

A synonym for sophistry?

Mon, 21 May 2012 02:09:37 UTC | #942546

rjohn19's Avatar Comment 2 by rjohn19

Makes me wish there were an afterlife. Keep your silly, tittering 42 virgins and give me a seat in the saloon with Mencken and Hitch.

When Hitch mugged Mother Theresa, I thought instantly of Mencken and his assault on Lincoln's previously unassailable Gettysburg Address.

Both were such brilliant polemicists, I came away from my reading convinced Mother T was the devil and Abe not only gave a poor speech, he did so deliberately.

Mon, 21 May 2012 02:34:17 UTC | #942552

Sample's Avatar Comment 3 by Sample

It is often argued that religion is valuable because it makes men good, but even if this were true it would not be a proof that religion is true.

This statement about what doesn't constitute proof is seldom, in my experience, noteworthy to a believer and yet it is a key point.

Mike

Mon, 21 May 2012 05:34:46 UTC | #942569

ev-love's Avatar Comment 4 by ev-love

One incongruous belief I can never escape: in my mind Mencken will always look like Gene Kelly.

ev-love

Mon, 21 May 2012 05:53:13 UTC | #942571

ev-love's Avatar Comment 5 by ev-love

And then there is this:

“How did one of America's seemingly great rationalists and modernists come to regard Roosevelt as more worthy of condemnation than Hitler? The answer, on the evidence of this and other studies, is that Mencken was a German nationalist, an insecure small-town petit bourgeois, a childless hypochondriac with what seems on the evidence of these pages to have been a room-temperature libido, an antihumanist as much as an atheist, a man prone to the hyperbole and sensationalism he distrusted in others and not as easy with the modern world and its many temptations and diversions as he liked it to be supposed.”

Christopher Hitchens,

(Book review of 'The Skeptic: A Life of H. L. Mencken' (2002) by Terry Teachout)

ev-love

Mon, 21 May 2012 06:19:34 UTC | #942573

CEVA34's Avatar Comment 6 by CEVA34

If every word in the Hitchens paragraph is true, it makes no difference to the validity (or otherwise) of the Mencken paragraph, does it? If we suddenly discovered Darwin was a serial killer, would we abandon the Theory of Evolution? If Hitler said two and two make four, would it not be true? What's the phrase? Ah, I remember - ad hominem.

Mon, 21 May 2012 07:59:37 UTC | #942583

ev-love's Avatar Comment 7 by ev-love

Actually I've rather liked Mencken ever since I met him for the first time in "Inherit the Wind". I just thought in "Mencken week" Hitchens' opinion of him was interesting!

ev-love

Mon, 21 May 2012 09:53:42 UTC | #942590

rjohn19's Avatar Comment 8 by rjohn19

Hitchens,of all people, should have (and probably did) understand, sometimes you've just got to sell newspapers and outrageous controversy is one means to that end.

Tue, 22 May 2012 01:11:29 UTC | #942720

Functional Atheist's Avatar Comment 9 by Functional Atheist

Comment 6 by CEVA34 :

If every word in the Hitchens paragraph is true, it makes no difference to the validity (or otherwise) of the Mencken paragraph, does it? If we suddenly discovered Darwin was a serial killer, would we abandon the Theory of Evolution? If Hitler said two and two make four, would it not be true? What's the phrase? Ah, I remember - ad hominem.

I don't think you're being fair. Hitch's criticisms of Mencken do not amount to an ad hominem attack.

Ayn Rand, and Karl Marx, were atheists, but they also were profoundly wrong about a bunch of other stuff. Just because Mencken was an atheist does not mean he was not profoundly wrong about a bunch of other things.

Criticizing a writer based upon the writer's actual words and ideas is playing fair--and it is wise to bear in mind that just because someone got something like atheism correct is no reason to assume they got anything else correct.

Atheists are already falsely accused of effectively worshiping their favorite writers, and your attempt to equate fair criticism of a specific atheist with an ad hominem attack on that atheist merely reinforces the incorrect perception that atheists are over-eager to engage in hero-worship in lieu of more traditional forms of worship.

Tue, 22 May 2012 05:12:19 UTC | #942752

CEVA34's Avatar Comment 10 by CEVA34

Functional, I don't hero-worship Mencken - I know nothing about him apart from his oft-quoted remarks.

As for the ad hominem question, you seem to have a very elastic idea of the term.

Fair criticism?

"an insecure small-town petit bourgeois, a childless hypochondriac with what seems on the evidence of these pages to have been a room-temperature libido" What the hell have insecurity, childlessness, hypochondria and low libido got to do with the validity (or otherwise) of Mencken's political or philosophical ideas? The crack about libido is particularly distasteful. No doubt Hitchens could pull the birds, and good luck to him, but does he need to employ his self-satisfaction in this regard, as a weapon to beat Mencken?

Possibly if I'd read the whole of the book which Hitchens is reviewing, I might think the character-assassination justified, but set against the Mencken paragraph quoted, certainly not.

Tue, 22 May 2012 12:37:25 UTC | #942809

hellosnackbar's Avatar Comment 11 by hellosnackbar

HL Mencken is one of my all time favourite public intellectuals. One can purchase a book of his quotes or read them on the web. Religion an attempt by the rational to believe the impossible A politician is someone who sits on the fence with his ear to the ground on both sides. I met the son of his secretary at a Chesapeake Bay boat yard. We had a three hour conversation about this truly remarkable man. He also atendedthe Scopes Monkey Trial.

Tue, 22 May 2012 14:24:07 UTC | #942830