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(218) Kālaḥ

HL Mencken was the first man to translate Nietzsche for the American market and he also produced a little all-in-one biography and guide to Nietzsche’s thought that I read many years ago at university. He saw himself as Nietzschean, referred respectfully to Nietzsche—and yet even at the time I realised Mencken didn’t understand Nietzsche. He presented Nietzsche as an ultra-Darwinian, but Nietzsche rejected Darwinism—it was an “English” theory, just like Utilitarianism (Mencken projected his ultra-Darwinism onto Nietzsche). He also saw him as a biological monist and ultra-materialist (but then had to act coy about the eternal return—“Just a thought experiment, bro”). Mencken radically misunderstood Nietzsche—introduced America to him in a distorted way.

Mencken, despite a reputation as “ultra right”, has views that are eerily similar to contemporary progressives: he adores science—he thinks it has “debunked religion”; he hates “flyover” Americans with their boobish customs and old-time religion; and he thinks there needs to be an independent intellectual elite that is neither attached to the credulous mob nor the money interest—and this “neutral elite” should filter the ideas society is allowed to consume. You know, he sounds an awful lot like “I fucking love science”…Interestingly, one aspect he completely rejected about Nietzsche was the assertion that the Jews invented Christianity as revenge against the Europeans, for Mencken that was just a “crazy conspiracy theory”—every other pop at Christianity he lapped up, just not that one…

Mencken was a life-long newspaperman (selling moans and groans to the very “boobies” he pretended to disdain). He had an act, the “curmudgeon” act, and the act trumped any independent thought (he just sneered at certain things, being a newspaperman). Genuine elitist free-thinkers don’t work in the media, since it’s about status and serving the mob—ergo, Mencken was no genuine free-thinker; he was aligned to progressives in his general science-worship and hatred for “flyover” Americans and their religion—because progressivism is a religion for journalists and public intellectuals. Mencken was both.


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