Vital Signs

Mencken and the World Warmonger

As World War I is remembered in this year of its hundredth anniversary, one rivalry continues to resonate across America.  It isn’t between the Allies and the Central Powers, or between two houses of European royalty, but between two countrymen: President Woodrow Wilson and H.L. Mencken, the Bad Boy of Baltimore.

Despite a couple of new biographies, Mencken’s stature has decreased somewhat in the past two decades.  Perhaps it was because The Diary of H.L. Mencken, revealed in 1989, included in intensified form the racial, religious, and sectional barbs he threw at almost everyone, something verboten in our politically correct age.  Or perhaps the topics he loved to write about—Prohibition, Southern backwardness, Puritan prudery, censorship—no longer resonate in an age of national homogeneity and degeneracy displayed on daytime TV.  Or maybe university English departments and cultural publications cannot tolerate someone who was the antithesis of multiculturism and diversity.

Yet through our cultural katzenjammer, Mencken continues to influence young journalists, especially conservatives and libertarians, who grapple with pulling away from his powerful polemical style to develop one of their own.

Christians are taken aback by his virulent agnosticism.  Although he never had the gift of faith, he at least should have realized and even defended the Christian...

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