H. L. Mencken, fully Henry Louis Mencken

H. L.
Mencken, fully Henry Louis Mencken
1880
1956

American Newspaperman, Editor, Writer, Critic, Iconoclast, Satirist, Acerbic Critic of American Life and Culture, American English Scholar

Author Quotes

The plain fact is that education is itself a form of propaganda - a deliberate scheme to outfit the pupil, not with the capacity to weigh ideas, but with a simple appetite for gulping ideas ready-made. The aim is to make 'good' citizens, which is to say, docile and uninquisitive citizens.

The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.

There are now only two classes of men in the United States: those who work for their livings, and those who vote for them.

Sunday school: A prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents.

The basic fact about human existence is not that it is a tragedy, but that it is a bore. It is not so much a war as an endless standing in line. The objection to it is not that it is predominantly painful, but that it is lacking in sense.

The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.

The human race is in such a dreadful state that no rational person can talk about it without resorting to seditious and obscene language.

The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest insane and intolerable and so if he is romantic he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are.

The plain fact is that I am not a fair man and don't want to hear both sides.

The value the world sets upon motives is often grossly unjust and inaccurate. Consider, for example, two of them: mere insatiable curiosity and the desire to do good. The latter is put high above the former, and yet it is the former that moves one of the most useful men the human race has yet produced: the scientific investigator. What actually urges him on is not some brummagem idea of Service, but a boundless, almost pathological thirst to penetrate the unknown, to uncover the secret, to find out what has not been found out before. His prototype is not the liberator releasing slaves, the good Samaritan lifting up the fallen, but a dog sniffing tremendously at an infinite series of rat-holes.

There are people who read too much: the bibliobibuli. I know some who are constantly drunk on books, as other men are drunk on whiskey or religion. They wander through this most diverting and stimulating of worlds in a haze, seeing nothing and hearing nothing.

Sunday: A day given over by Americans to wishing that they themselves were dead and in Heaven, and that their neighbors were dead and in Hell.

The believing mind is externally impervious to evidence. The most that can be accomplished with it is to induce it to substitute one delusion for another. It rejects all overt evidence as wicked.

The double standard of morality will survive in this world so long as the woman whose husband has been lured away is favoured with the sympathetic tears of other women, and a man whose wife has made off is laughed at by other men.

The ideal way to get rid of any infectious disease would be to shoot instantly every person who comes down with it.

The most erroneous assumption is to the effect that the aim of public education is to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence, and so make them fit to discharge the duties of citizenship in an enlightened and independent manner. Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, whatever the pretensions of politicians, pedagogues and other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else.

The priest, realistically considered, is the most immoral of men, for he is always willing to sacrifice every other sort of good to the one good of his arcanum - the vague body of mysteries that he calls the truth.

The verdict of a jury is the a priori opinion of that juror who smokes the worst cigars.

There are two kinds of Europeans: The smart ones, and those who stayed behind.

Suppose two-thirds of the members of the national House of Representatives were dumped into the Washington garbage incinerator tomorrow, what would we lose to offset our gain of their salaries and the salaries of their parasites?

The believing mind reaches its perihelion in the so-called liberals. They believe in each and every quack who sets up his booth on the fair-grounds, including the Communists. The Communists have some talents too, but they always fall short of believing in the liberals.

The effort to reconcile science and religion is almost always made, not by theologians, but by scientists unable to shake off altogether the piety absorbed with their mother's milk.

The inferior man's reasons for hating knowledge are not hard to discern. He hates it because it is complex - because it puts an unbearable burden upon his meager capacity for taking in ideas. Thus his search is always for short cuts. Their aim is to make the unintelligible simple, and even obvious.

The New Deal began, like the Salvation Army, by promising to save humanity. It ended, again like the Salvation Army, by running flop-houses and disturbing the peace.

The public, with its mob yearning to be instructed, edified and pulled by the nose, demands certainties?. but there are no certainties.

Author Picture
First Name
H. L.
Last Name
Mencken, fully Henry Louis Mencken
Birth Date
1880
Death Date
1956
Bio

American Newspaperman, Editor, Writer, Critic, Iconoclast, Satirist, Acerbic Critic of American Life and Culture, American English Scholar