H L Mencken award shared by Jason Soon and Ken Parish

H L Mencken would have been a natural blogger. He was a prolific writer and a relentless controversalist over a huge range of issues from literary criticism to current affairs.

He commented widely on the social scene, literature, music, prominent politicians, pseudo-experts, temperance and uplifters. A keen cheer-leader of scientific progress, he was very skeptical of economic theories and particularly critical of anti-intellectualism, bigotry, populism, Christian fundamentalism, climate science, creationism, organized religion, the existence of God and osteopathic/chiropractic medicine medicine.

To perpetuate his memory I have decided to follow the Bertrand Russell award with an award to remind people of the existence and achievements of this hyperactive gadfly of letters. Two people created blogs which to my mind epitomise (at their  best) the spirit of eclectic and informed controversialism which was the hallmark of Mencken’s contribution. Hence the recognition of Ken Parish of Club Troppo and Jason Soon of Catallaxy.

Jason deserves special mention for recruiting me to the blogosphere and I am grateful for this even if some people have become less enthusiastic about my contribution since the climate debate became a divisive factor in the intellectual community. Accute observers may have noticed some difference of opinion betweeen myself and Ken and Jason on this topic. Such is life.

A nice comment on the Cat.

The Cat is colourful, prolific, often very funny and actually (given the laissez faire mod policy) one of the few places where comment threads regularly offer a diversity of perspectives – though you’d wonder at the possibility of masochistic tendencies in some of the lefty regulars. — Geoff Honnor

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42 Responses to H L Mencken award shared by Jason Soon and Ken Parish

  1. Ken Parish

    Thanks for that Rafe. I suspect this is as close as we’re going to get to an apology for falsely accusing me, Nicholas Gruen and Jacques of an evil conspiracy to alter a blog post. As you know, that’s why you got the red card from Troppo. However I realise that even the best of us sometimes get carried away in the heat of the moment.

    Given that you’re one of the grand old men of the blogosphere I’m unblocking your Troppo commenting access. AGW threads are already predictably a dog’s breakfast whenever we run one!!

  2. Rafe

    I am more than happy to apologise without reservation for any accusation that I made about you or Nicholas tampering with a comment on Troppo. Something very strange happened and I thought we finally decided there was no way to account for it.

    Thanks for unblocking access, perhaps I will refrain from comments on AGW issues:)

  3. Sinclair Davidson

    Ken – you should ask if there is a cash component to this prize.

  4. Biota

    Why is Club Troppo not on the Cat blogroll? Surely not payback for Rafe’s red card!

  5. Rafe

    There is a purse of 1K to be shared by the winners. Some people regard this as a derisory sum but I think it is better than a poke in the eye with a stick and it shows that I am a litle bit fair dinkum about the awards. Unlike the CR scholar awards which are purely honour and glory (and prestige).

  6. jtfsoon

    If there is a purse, I am happy for my proceeds to simply be conveyed to Jacques for his work.

  7. Pingback: Club Troppo » Ken Henry and conspiracy theories

  8. m0nty

    I’m looking forward to being in the shortlist for the Guy Fawkes award.

  9. Infidel Tiger

    I’m looking forward to being in the shortlist for the Guy Fawkes award.

    mOnty you’ve have been awarded the role of a sheep in the Catallaxy Christmas pantomine.

  10. .

    As you know, that’s why you got the red card from Troppo.

    No. I put it to you that you would prefer if libertarian ideas were not discussed unless they were only done so in presenting libertarians as useful idiots for the left, regardless of any intemperate and withdrawn accusation Rafe made.

    Please be honest Ken. You let Homer flap his gums about the glorious one thousand year Reich with carte blanche because is is being a useful(?) idiot for the ALP. Rightly he should be locked up and sedated.

  11. Ken Parish

    We let Homer flap his gums because:

    (a) we believe in free speech absent ad hom abuse (and even that’s OK within limits between consenting adults); and
    (b) others are perfectly capable of pinning him down where he’s wrong (e.g. the genesis of skanky ho).

    If you’ve read my blog output for any reasonable period of time you would know that I’m “not in any meaningful sense an ALP apologist or even of the “left. I’m a classical liberal with a slight social democratic overlay (which also described Adam Smith, JS Mill and even Hayek to varying extents). That is, I try to approach all issues on their policy merits. I don’t always succeed because we’re all to an extent creatures of our conditioning, but I’m always happy to have my prejudices or blind spots (civilly) confronted. I’m happy when I learn something I didn’t know before through my blog interactions.

  12. Sinclair Davidson

    I feel a thread of doom coming on.

  13. Sinclair Davidson

    Ken – while you’re at it, what is a class traitor?

  14. .

    So you’re a centrist who enjoys Homer being slapped around in a sick sort of way?

    Ken, you’ve gone up 1100% in my books.

  15. JC

    ……others are perfectly capable of pinning him down where he’s wrong (e.g. the genesis of skanky ho).

    hahahahha it’s been going on for years. And boy does he deserve it.

  16. daddy dave

    the genesis of skanky ho is a good case in point, since it demonstrates that Homer is trolling in the strong sense. ie he puts forth and defends positions that he doesn’t believe, just to stir the pot.

  17. JC

    Dad

    You’re wrong. Homer is actually sincere in the crap he believes in for the most part. That’s the most shocking thing about this.

    It may appear to be trolling but there’s nothing insincere about these his stated beliefs.

  18. .

    Dad,

    Homer will say ANYTHING that boosts the position of the ALP or Keynes, no matter how stupid.

    It is really this simple.

  19. daddy dave

    When he used to be here, I found him to be totally unreasonable and impossible to, er, reason with. Plus, he really degenerated and got nastier and more trollish so I wasn’t surprised when he got banned.

  20. .

    Err diddy dud,

    if you reAD a littel more you’d know that everthink that TOOze sayd is backked up in Gellattelly!

    Only iff you read a litrle more. What are the cahnces with thes craptrallxy nutsos ???

    ahve a choclate diddy dudd

  21. JC

    Dad:

    I think you’re right. He’s certainly go a lot nastier, but I think the reason is that the people here at The CAT wouldn’t take his crap and would always give him the two barrels. We changed him to be that way.

    He also has a bee in his bonnet because he was banned.

  22. Ken Parish

    Sinclair

    I was just speculating about why the evident hostility Ken Henry for taking a consultant position with a government which even you must privately recognise is hardly a radical mob of extreme socialists. There are very few current Labor govt policies that would/could not have been implemented had the Coalition been in government (despite Abbott’s protestations). If you ignore the bullshit rhetoric from both sides, in Australia we really are in a post-ideological age.

    Thus why the hostility directed toward a technocrat like Henry taking a position with Gillard? I’m raising the possibility that it may be just a visceral reaction: someone who does that is a “class traitor” (or something like that). As a sincerely non-partisan observer (albeit with sometimes strong views on the actual issues), I don’t emotionally understand the visceral reactions Tories exhibit towards Gillard or the equally visceral reactions of died-in-the-wool Labor types towards Howard and now Abbott. All three are competent, sincere politicians with quite moderate mainstream views and policies. It seems to me you guys have decided that Ken Henry is the enemy for no rationally defensible reason. Surely it’s better that Labor have competent economic advisers than complete idiots?

  23. JC

    Some of the things he says are absolutely preposterous, but he’s really a good soul I think under all that.

    He’s just a fathead, that’s all.

  24. JC

    Don’t get me wrong, Dot, like most other normal people I feel like wringing his neck at times…. nearly always actually. He’s just a fathead, that’s all.

  25. m0nty

    Post-ideological age, hmm not really. Both sides have agreed on the same economic ideology, that’s all.

    If there is an active ideological struggle nowadays, it’s between science on the left and anti-science on the right, owls versus ostriches.

  26. Gab

    anti-science on the right

    Of course. Like destroying GMO crops , protesting against nuclear energy, wanting to stop the production of nuclear medicine and nanotechnology. Oh wait…

  27. daddy dave

    Both sides have agreed on the same economic ideology, that’s all.

    That’s why Sinclair’s articles are always so well received when he writes for the Drum.

  28. JC

    Ken

    I’ll help explain my hostility to Henry.

    Towards the end of the Howard Government Henry made a speech in front of 300 people very critical of a particular government policy. He knew exactly what he was doing and no protestations declaring his innocence that he never wanted the speech to get out in the public domain will change the fact that he did make the speech in full knowledge that was going to happen. How on earth would he believe or expect others to believe that such a thing wouldn’t make it out in public?

    It was a speech about spending, I think, $10 billion on the Murray River buyback plan.

    Now, he may have been right, that in fact Howard was overspending and should have first put the plan through Treasury. All that may have been true.

    However it wasn’t his place to be publicly critical of the government, which is exactly what he was doing. Secondly we never heard a whisper from Henry when the current government began its own spendathon, such as the NBN, which Howard’s policy pales in comparison. I’m leaving the stimulus out of it.

    Suddenly the checks and balances he wanted policy to be put through weren’t a public issue for him.

    In other words he became a partisan political player.

    The mistake Howard made at time was that he didn’t fire him as soon as word got out about what he had said.

  29. m0nty

    That’s why Sinclair’s articles are always so well received when he writes for the Drum.

    The volume of vitriol in the debate is no indicator of actual policy differences.

    Also, last time I looked, Sinclair wasn’t explicitly writing Liberal policy. His stuff is generally to the right of implemented Coalition efforts.

  30. The troll formerly known as Tom N.

    RAFE’S WIND-UP

    A nice comment [on ClubTroppo] on The Cat

    Yes, and here’s another one!

  31. JC

    Tommy

    You’re the worst offensive partisan leftwing hack I’ve seen and you have the temerity to place yourself as judge and jury? There has never been a time you’ve posted a comment at the Cat that wasn’t laced with venom and conceit. Conceit at your self professed higher station in life than the riff raff at The CAT. This is why I often remind you who your employer is.

    Fair dinkum, has there ever been a time you haven’t come here to simply troll your partisan views. Need I remind you how you once informed us that the nation could not exist without your professional services. Petrol pumping soon, Tommy and you will only have yourself to blame.

    As for your drivel over at Trop. You recognize Ken’s ownership of the blog and then you use the term “we” to somehow suggest some form of shared ownership.

    But like always you slink away without replying.

  32. The troll formerly known as Tom N.

    Well, I am a troll after all, JC.

  33. m0nty

    At least Tom and me admit what we are, JC.

  34. JC

    Eggaasctly, Tommy, so why the high and mighty pretense over at Trop.

    You can of course be a troll but why the offensive high and mighty posturing that is truly revolting? Man up and stop the the deceit Tommy.

    The reason you’re upset is that your assertions are always challenged here and you never leave without getting (intellectually) beaten to a pulp.

  35. JC

    At least Tom and me admit what we are, JC.

    You don’t offer any challenge Monster. However you don’t go to another blog bitching about this one pretending you don’t come here to troll in the first place like Tommy from the Bureau does.

  36. Jack Lee

    you live in a fantasy world Rafe, like a North Korean general giving out medals. It’s deeply sad. Catallaxy is enabling you….

  37. Sinclair Davidson

    Free speech is (mostly) fine

    From Tom N’s link.

  38. Sinclair Davidson

    Ken – lots in your comment. Let me pick out a couple of points.

    Surely it’s better that Labor have competent economic advisers than complete idiots?

    Of course, true. But the government’s economic advisers are Treasury. I often disagree with them but they are as good, if not better, at their jobs as can be expected (especially given that they are directly controlled by the pollies). In the first instance the PMs office should look to Treasury for economic advice. But what if the PM wants to have her own economist on tap in her office? Solution 1: second someone from Treasury. Solution 2: advertise a position through the normal channels. Pay the normal wage for that position. What if the PM wants someone specific? (This particular situation doesn’t worry me). The if the specific person won’t work at the going rate and needs a top up then the ALP and not the taxpayer should pay the difference.

    All up, the issue to my mind is the unusual appointment mechanism. Deviations from normal practice always attracts attention. Maybe it is about super – okay, but why is the taxpayer topping up super for a specific individual?

    If you ignore the bullshit rhetoric from both sides, in Australia we really are in a post-ideological age.

    I hope so, but I suspect not. Chris Evans often says, ‘we’re a Labor government’ when justifying policy.

    There are very few current Labor govt policies that would/could not have been implemented had the Coalition been in government (despite Abbott’s protestations).

    On many issues, yes. But headline issues? IR, offshoring, climate change, mining tax, superannuation increases – no.

  39. Samuel J

    Ken – my criticism of Ken Henry’s appointment under section 67 of the Constitution has nothing to do with Ken Henry per se. He has been a fine public servant and I have no problems whatsoever with the Government appointing him as a special adviser. I do object to it being under section 67 which I maintain is dubious at best. I also do not think he should have accepted a position on the NAB board while taking such a government appointment.

    He should have been appointed either under the Public Service Act or the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act. Either way would preserve his superannuation entitlements. There was no need to go the section 67 route.

    Many public servants take leave without pay and work in a Minister’s of opposition’s office under the MOPS Act. They preserve their leave entitlements and superannuation entitlements and continue to earn leave and superannuation exactly as they did under the PSA. The only difference is that the PSA requires employees to act impartially while the MOPS Act allows the employees to act as partisans (although still subject to ethics requirements).

  40. Adrien

    The danger in free speech does not lie in the menace of ideas, but in the menace of emotions. If words were merely logical devices no one would fear them. But when they impinge upon a moron they set off his hormones, and so they are justifiably feared. Complete free speech, under democracy, is possible only in a foreign language.

    HL Mencken
    Evening Sun
    Baltimore, 18/11/29.

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