In “On Being an American,” H.L. Mencken proclaimed his “conviction that the American People, taking one with another, constitute the most timorous, sniveling, poltroonish, ignominious mob of serfs and goose-steppers ever gathered under one flag in Christendom since the end of the Middle Ages, and that they grow more timorous, more sniveling, more poltroonish, more ignominious every day.”
This state of things, it turns out, is to be relished because of Mencken’s “congenital weakness for comedy of the grosser varieties. The United States, to my mind, is incomparably the greatest show on earth.” Those “grosser varieties” include “the ribald combats of demagogues, the exquisitely ingenious operations of master rogues, the pursuit of witches and heretics, the desperate struggles of inferior men to claw their way into Heaven.”
What was true eighty years ago remains true today, in secula seculorum, world without end, amen, amen.
Take, for example, Scott Johnson’s defense of Andrew Breitbart: Breitbart was “journalistically shoddy” to defame Shirley Sherrod, but he is right to withhold any apology because he is a target of the “Democrat-Media complex.”*
Here’s another. Language Log has been on a romp with various plaster-of-Paris authorities publishing idiotic advice about avoiding what they think is the passive voice.
Today’s post features Doostang, a job-search site that advises not to put on your resume constructions such as “responsible for,” “duties included,” “served as,” and “actions encompassed” because they are “indicators of passive voice.” On Wednesday it was a blogger named Brad Delong offered five instances of passive voice in the translation of Wolfgang Mommsen, all five of which are not passive constructions. There is, apparently, no limit to bogus advice about language usage.
You want more? The dotty Institute for Creation Research proposed to offer in Texas master's degrees in science education from “a Biblical scientific creationist viewpoint.” This was too preposterous even for Texas (for Texas!), which rejected the proposal. The institute filed a lawsuit to overturn the ruling. U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks dismissed the suit, remarking among other things that the institute’s filings were “overly verbose, disjointed, incoherent, maundering and full of irrelevant information.” (Any copy editor who has ever worked on a daily newspaper will empathize with Judge Sparks.)
It is in my native Kentucky that you can find the crackpot Creation Museum, where “[c]hildren play and dinosaurs roam near Eden’s Rivers.” Pinch yourself and remember that the Scopes trial ended eighty-five years ago this week.
The show, ladies and gentlemen, runs 24/7. And it’s free.
*I, of course, stand accused as a cog in that machine. A commenter on yesterday’s post in which I suggested mildly that the labor of illegal immigrants is a fact of economic life in the Republic that ought to be taken into account tagged me as just another librul, using the blue crab “as a cover for liberal (oh,so sorry, progressive) politics.” I suppose so, but it was that old lefty George W. Bush who put forward a reasonable bill recognizing this very situation, only to be sandbagged by his own party, whose addiction to nativist demagogy has cost it valuable Latino votes. Delicious.