Surprised By Mencken

Dave Killion — February 6, 2013

 

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The Victoria LBC is currently reading ‘A Mencken Chresomathy‘, a title we were very excited to select. Mencken is frequently quoted by libertarian scholars, particularly concerning his contempt for democracy, government, and politicians, and I had come to see him as dependably libertarian. Imagine my horror to read this –

“Few professional criminals are able to withstand a really brisk third degree. They may hold out long enough to be somewhat severely mauled, but by the time the ceiling begins to show bloodstains and their bones begin to crack they are eager to betray their friends and get to hospital. Many a time such a session in camera has yielded enough evidence to fill the death-house. Thus, while the third degree is clearly illegal, it is justified by the national pragmatism, for it undoubtedly works.”

This quote can be found about  1/5 the way into the book, and is so at odds with everything that comes before or goes after that I can scarcely believe it comes from the same man. I suppose I’m all the better for having seen it, though. The shock alone reminds me of the foolishness of hero-worship, against which I aim to be more vigilant.

 

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