Mencken’s Birthday: He’d have hated today’s elite MSM – UPDATED

So, today is the birthday of H. L. Mencken, the journalist who once wrote stuff like this:

All successful newspapers are ceaselessly querulous and bellicose. They never defend anyone or anything if they can help it; if the job is forced on them, they tackle it by denouncing someone or something else.


A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier.


It is the fundamental theory of all the more recent American law…that the average citizen is half-witted, and hence not to be trusted to either his own devices or his own thoughts.

I’ve always thought phrase-turning misanthropes make the best journalists, and Mencken was such a one — ultimately beholden to no ideology but his own, which made him a mostly useful and trustworthy newsman.

As we look around the today’s awful headlines, I can’t help but think that Mencken must be spinning in his grave to see statist-sympathies of the modern mainstream press, or marveling as they try to purposely re-write the timeline of a bad day in order to protect their quarterback and distract the public from serious questions about our governmental responses to the most recent crisis in the Middle East.

The press politicizes — because it can no longer help itself — even as it cries “politicizing is bad” to one side but never the other.

Roll over, Mencken, roll over in that grave. Although, he might have appreciated some of this piece.

I wonder what Christopher Hitchens would be saying the story, and the way the press has covered it, while the president seemed rather perfunctory on the way to his next campaign stop, today.

Somehow I don’t think Mencken or Hitchens would have put the Embassy stories on page A4 of the New York Times.

Last night, I told someone that I really don’t blame Obama for being Obama, nor for his administration for being what it is: a political entity unable to quickly produce coherent statements on breaking stories. If there are no core beliefs to draw on quickly, you need time to politically calculate and strategize. But I do blame the press for letting him be Obama, and his administration to be calculating, without anything like accountability, investigation or discomfiture. Our idolizing press has stopped serving the country in order to serve the state. But only while there is a D in the White House. It will take putting an R back in there to get them to do their damn jobs.

UPDATE I: A grim piece in Wired, about the lead-up to the Embassy Attack:

On Tuesday, Sean Smith, a Foreign Service Information Management Officer assigned to the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, typed a message to the director of his online gaming guild: ”Assuming we don’t die tonight. We saw one of our ‘police’ that guard the compound taking pictures.” The consulate was under siege, and within hours, a mob would attack, killing Smith along with three others, including the U.S. ambassador.

UPDATE II: Tim Dalrymple: Breaks down what appears to have been the impetus for this latest crisis, and notes that the Mainstream Media is apparently demonizing someone wholly uninvolved with it. A different question: Was this a revenge attack unrelated to the story the MSM is pushing?

UPDATE III: Wow. Apparently “understanding the religion you hate” is the new criterion for free speech. That’s gonna be a problem for a lot of Christian-haters.

UPDATE IV: US Press Utterly Dissolves Itself and Twitter lets them have it

UPDATE V: A Hot Mic catches reporters co-ordinating Romney questions. Most important question to them: don’t you regret your remarks? Unreal. They tell us what matters most.

Obama to Israel:
you’re on your own. Maybe we all are. Obama’s sole focus, just now, seems to be the campaign trail.

Ann Althouse on the farcical nature of press, today

Bookworm: wonders about free speech while a Patheos writer in the Muslim portal says she’s tired of unhinged behavior in reaction to crappy videos.

Instapundit links within some deserved criticism for the press. Thanks, Glenn!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Pingback: Instapundit » Blog Archive » THEY DON’T CALL IT THE STATE-CONTROLLED MEDIA FOR NOTHING: Katrina Trinko: The Insane MSM Question…

  • Billy Hollis

    “It will take putting an R back in there to get them to do their damn jobs.”

    Sorry, that’s incorrect. When an R is back in the White House, they will work overtime trying to ensure that he fails at everything he tries, or at least is perceived to fail.

    That’s not their job, any more than pimping for Obama is their job. Their job is theoretically to report what’s going on in the world. We desperately need clarity to deal with the problems we face.

    But they gave up that job long ago, and exchanged it for being the propaganda arm of the left – while dishonestly pretending since then that they have not chosen sides.

  • Pingback: The MSM Is One Place Where Employment Is Still Too High | Daily Pundit

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Well, I’m getting tired of unhinged behavior, not only in connection with bad videos (or even good ones), but also in connection with. . .

    -Cartoons about the prophet Mohammed.
    -Cartoonists who want to do an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” (anybody remember Mollie Norris?)
    -Female reporters covering the Arab Spring, who get sexually assaulted.
    -Anybody who writes a book about the prophet that some Islamic cleric, somewhere, doesn’t like (“Jewel of Medina”? “Satanic Verses” anybody?)
    -accusations of Koran burnings/descration, including the recent one, where a young girl suffering from Downs syndrome was accused of burning the most holy and fantabulous Koran—except it turns out she really didn’t, she was framed by the local imam, but all the Christians in the neighborhood had to flee, and her life’s still in danger. . .

    Really. Sick. And. Tired. Of. It. All.

    What would Mencken have said about this? Being an intelligent man, I suspect he would have said that murdering a country’s ambassador, and attacking its embassy, is an act of war.

    I repeat. An. Act. Of. War.

    Mencken also would have had some choice words for the rioters, and murderers, which would make our present administration denounce him for his lack of sensitivity for the religion of peace. They would probably demand he start saying what a wonderful religion Islam is. I suspect Mencken would have replied with a stiffly extended middle finger. Or the verbal equivalent, thereof.

    Mencken would uphold the First Amendment.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Oh, and Arutz Sheva, an Israeli paper, is now reporting that Ambassador Stevens was strangled by the mob—”suffocated” being a rather tidy euphamism used by MSM for what actually happened.

    They’re also reporting that Libyan guards led the mob into the compound.

    Oh my, I’m sooooo glad we got rid of that bad old Gaddafi! Hasn’t letting the Libyan mob kill him led to hope, change, and a great big box of Crackerjacks, with a prize in it, for everybody?


  • Victor


  • Victor

    (((Oh my, I’m sooooo glad we got rid of that bad old Gaddafi! Hasn’t letting the Libyan mob kill him led to hope, change, and a great big box of Crackerjacks, with a prize in it, for everybody?)))

    Rhinestone Suderman That’s exactly what “I” was thinking about while watching the news. Long story short, I really felt sorry for all those children being killed for what reason?

    I hear ya sinner vic! Where is your so called GOD (Good Old Dad) while all of this is taking place?

    Relax sinner vic! The Holy Spirit and His Angels with the help of His Saints are incharge of this world and they’ll do what THEY must and/or should do so mind your own business Victor!

    What a grouch! :)

    WHATEVER! :(

  • Ryan Haber

    You know, interestingly enough, @Billy Hollis (and Elizabeth, you might find this interesting too), I recently came across a fairly convincing argument that it was the attempt of large media outlets to present objective facts and present themselves as doing such, rather than being the spokespersons for particular ideologies, that has made them completely useless to friend and foe alike. I think it was “Revolt of the Elites: Betrayal of Democracy” by Christopher Lasch.

    The basic line of thinking goes like this:
    (1) In earlier days, newspapers were unabashedly partisan and everyone knew where they stood and their bias could easily be seen through in most cases.
    (2) Presenting themselves as objective observers to the public when they are not – while at the same time asserting in university settings that there is no such thing – has caused them to lose credibility.
    (3) The public before could at least glean some facts from a Communist periodical about what Communists actually think; from a Wall Street Journal about what was actually happening on Wall St.; and so on.
    (4) Now the public just doesn’t trust or believe most of what they get from the media, and instead absorb by repetition, often background repetition.
    (5) Public discourse becomes denuded of actual facts at all, and devolves into entertainment and vitriol, a sort of continuous public cathartic spewing of pent-up anger.

    I like to be perverse and unexpected, though, so the idea of an openly biased press appeals to me rather more than a covertly biased one that makes the pretense of neutrality, convincing only to their less self-aware partisans.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Meanwhile, we’re in a state of war with Libya—something which few actually seem to want to admit.

  • Manny

    I can’t believe the main stream media actually turned this around and are blaming Romney for criticizing apologizing for the movie. Give me a break. Obama continues to get media protection. It’s rather disgusting. I think we have a national problem with news media fairness. This is Obama’s mess. How can that be avoided?

  • EBL
  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Manny, I’m not surprised at anything the mainstream media does anymore.

    Of course, they’re going to obsess over the whole “Romney spoke out too soon!” meme, the movie meme, the Islamophobia meme, etc.

    What else do they have, at this point?

    We have a national problem with just about everything at the moment. I fear we’ve gotten the media we deserve.

    (Off topic, but, myself, I actually admire Romney for speaking up when he did, and saying what he did. In the event of an atrocity such as this, there is no timeline anybody should stick to, on speaking up. Mencken certainly wouldn’t have held back, if he were alive today, no matter what anyone said.)

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Just a warning. . . in the days to come, the media will try to turn this around, make it all about Romney/the movie/Terry Jones/Mr. Whatsisname Bacile-Somebody, the alleged American-Israeli-Israeli/American-Coptic Christian who allegedly made that awful movie (which actually seems more like a video) that upset all those rioters. *

    They will also be pushing hard for laws to protect “Religious sensibility”, and punish anyone who says anything negative about Islam. This will be pushed as something good for peace, and tolerance, but will actually curtail freedom of speech.

    Be ready for both these things.

    *Israelis, and Coptic Christians, are different peoples; different cultures, different religions, different nationalities. You really can’t be both at the same time.