Occasional Notes: As the World Turns


Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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24 Responses

  1. Heh. Those crazy Cannucks. Still Illegal to import and sell our films up there (All films must be passed by Provincial Film Revue Boards.) If we had something like that here in the good ‘ol’ You Ess of Aye, I’d have to make these films for free, which I wouldn’t.

    I do occasionally build boats for free, but I pay someone else to design them!Report

  2. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Everything Mozart wrote, he wrote for money. Which isn’t to say that if he’d won a MacArthur grant [1] and been able to write without financial pressure, the results wouldn’t have been just as good or even better.

    1. After (in one sense) the guy who got one for inventing the time machine.

    P.S. They should be alternating Money for Nothing with Oliver’s Army.Report

  3. Avatar Matty says:

    Mencken may have been a racist, but if so, he was an equal-opportunity racist; he appears to have hated all the races more or less equally.

    ha, reminds of a wonderful quote I heard about about Alan Clark – “He was an equal opportunity bigot, he believed if you weren’t him you were inferior”Report

  4. Avatar mistermix says:

    Today, we judge racism by words, and by that criteria, Mencken is a racist (though, as you point out, he’s every other kind of -ist, too). I’d rather judge HLM by deeds, and here’s an example:


    He also published a great number of African-American authors in the American Mercury.Report

    • Avatar Will says:

      Holy crap that link is amazing.Report

    • Avatar Bo says:

      Seconded. After the foofara of the last week, it’s interesting hearing Mencken cruelly (and quite unfairly I may add) insult his fellow journalists, his town and his state over the work of a deranged mob. OTOH, this entirely separate Mencken quote is also relevant:

      The more noisy Negro leaders, by depicting all whites as natural and implacable enemies to their race, have done it a great disservice. Large numbers of whites who were formerly very friendly to it, and willing to go to great lengths to help it, are now resentful and suspicious.” — HLM


      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:


        Two circulation trucks were ambushed, their papers thrown away, and their drivers beaten. Reporters who went to Salisbury to cover the story were threatened with violence. According to Mencken, one of the photographers, Robert F. Kniesche, “was saved from rough handling, and maybe even murder, only by escaping in an airship.”

        The editor of the Easton Journal advised Mencken not to set foot on the Eastern Shore “for the next 20 years. In Salisbury, they’d rather lynch you.” He warned that Mencken’s toes, and perhaps his ears, might be taken as souvenirs.

        It sounds to me like he had their number.Report

      • Avatar mistermix says:

        He’s a racist because he used bad language, but he’s a bad man because he called out other journalists for not writing the honest truth about lynching? Seems like there’s a contradiction there.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

          He might be called a racist in that he believed the races had enduring characteristics. He certainly seems to have written about the negative characteristics with more gusto. In this, I think he was naive — I would never write in that vein.

          But when it came time to do the decent thing, he did. As in condemning lynching. Or when he mocked a prohibition on racially integrated tennis matches.Report

        • Avatar Bo says:

          It pains me to have to say this, but the real point was that 80 years on Mencken’s intemperate attacks can be remembered fondly, while his attempt at high-minded reasonableness comes off quite poorly. But in the time, the former was the sort of unfair*, accusatory rhetoric that would tune out precisely the people that needed to be convinced.

          * And yes, if you read his claims, Mike, they are completely unfair. Sure, they harbored violent brutish thugs, but he accused them of being one step removed from Tennesseans by golly.Report

  5. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Mencken was a racist in that he truly believed in the importance racial and ethnic characteristics. He wrote an entire essay about George Bernard Shaw whose point was to demonstrate, by discussing his work, that Shaw was really Scottish, not Irish. (Not that dissimilar from the music critics who used to “prove” from his music that Haydn has Croatian ancestry.) Likewise, he considered Southern blacks in many ways (e.g. artistically) superior to their white neighbors, and explained this by their partial descent from the old Southern aristocracy.

    This can all be taken too seriously, of course. (Quoting from memory) Alastair Cooke wrote that he was everything Mencken despised: an Englishman, a Methodist, and a golfer, and the result was that Mencken couldn’t have been kinder or more helpful to him.Report

  6. “Your blood type can really make a difference in your life.”

    It’s taken very seriously in Japan. A member of the cabinet a few years ago was in some kind of accident and needed a blood transfusion. After the transfusion the press went wild speculating on whether his necessarily changed personally would disrupt the dynamic of the administration.Report

    • Avatar Matty says:

      But a transfusion would necessarily be the same blood type.Report

      • Everybody can receive O. I think in this case, the politician had blood type A or something and got O, so the press was wildly speculating about what kind of person would emerge from the hospital room and how the fragile dynamics of the government might be upset. It was like four years ago or so, so I can’t remember any details, but this all happened kind of right after I came to Japan, so it really stuck with me.Report

  7. “Teaching kids to believe in Santa Claus was good practice for teaching them to believe in God”