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The Great Mencken

I’m not ashamed to admit that I have heroes.  These include, in no particular order, Adam Smith, Richard Cobden and John Bright, Frederic Bastiat, France’s Henry IV, Voltaire, John D. Rockefeller, Milton Friedman, Leonard Read, and (of course) F.A. Hayek.  Also on this list is the Bard of Baltimore, H.L. Mencken.  Today’s edition of the Washington Post published this letter of mine on Mencken:

J. McDonald Kennedy’s encomium for the Baltimore Sun
[letters, Jan. 24] failed to mention what is perhaps the Sun’s finest
contribution not only to journalism but to American letters and wisdom:
the great reporter H.L. Mencken.

Mencken’s style and philosophy of vigorous journalism were on display when he wrote in 1942:

"In my day a reporter who took an assignment was fully on his own
until he got back to the office, and even then he was little molested
until his copy was turned in at the desk; today he tends to become only
a homunculus at the end of a telephone wire, and the reduction of his
observations to prose is commonly farmed out to literary castrati who
never leave the office, and hence never feel the wind of the world in
their faces or see anything with their own eyes."


This quotation is from Mencken’s 1942 memoir Newspaper Days.


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