That Infamous Diarynby Murray N. Rothbardn’Without the aid of prejudice and custom, I should not be able to 6ndnmy way across the room.”n— William HazlittnThe Diary of H.L. MenckennEdited by Charles A. FechernNew York: Alfred A. Knopf;n476 pp., $30.00nRarely does a published diary, evennof a celebrated writer, becomenanything more than fodder for the specialist.nYet H.L. Mencken’s diary hasnbeen turned into a cause celebre by itsneditor, Charles A. Fecher. Fecher’snintroduction is probably the most spectacularnknifing by an editor of his ownnauthor since Max Lerner, then in thenMarxist phase of his endless career,ndenounced Adam Smith, in the introductionnto the Modern Library editionnof the Wealth of Nations (1937), asn”an unconscious mercenary in thenservice of a rising capitalist class.”nEqually in tune with the dominantncultural climate as Lerner had been innthe 1930’s, Fecher’s hatchet job hasnsucceeded in organizing a veritablenlynch mob against the shade of thenSage of Baltimore. The gist of thenlynching was summed up in one largetypennewspaper headline: “MenckennPro-Hitler, Diary Reveals.”nFecher’s introduction is reminiscentnof nothing so much as the immortalnline of Claude Rains in Casablanca:nhe is shocked . . . shocked to discovernfrom the diaries, unsealed only sincen1981, that Mencken hated Franklin D.nRoosevelt, that he strongly opposednAmerica’s entry into World War II,nand — always the killing thrust — that:n”Let it be said at once, clearly andnunequivocally: Mencken was an anti-nSemite.” Carl Bode, author of anlengthy and tedious biography {Mencken,n1969), also weighs in, professingnhimself “stunned” at Mencken’s extensive,n”knee-jerk” anti-Semitism,nand Jonathan Alter, in Newsweek,nMurray N. Rothbard is a professor ofneconomics at the University ofnNevada, Las Vegas.nadds, for good measure, that the diarynreveals Mencken to have been “bitter”nand “brooding” as well.nA lonely, brooding anti-Semite andnpro-Nazi sounds like nothing so muchnas the psychological profile of the modalnalleged assassin-of-Presidents that infestsnAmerican mythology. Since innour contemporary culture Fecher’sncharge is the moral equivalent of statingnthat “Mencken was a child molester,”nhe is morally obligated to presentnconvincing evidence for his claim.nBut first, Fecher’s other two accusations.nComing from a Mencken scholarnwho has written a book (albeit dullnand plodding) on Mencken: A Study ofnHis Thought (1978), Fecher’s purportednshock and amazement at Mencken’snhatred of FDR and his oppositionnto Wodd War II is simply beyond beliefnYou don’t have to be steeped innMencken’s published essays and lettersnto know that he hated Roosevelt andnopposed US entry into World War II.nThe diary entries are, if anything, surpassednin intensity by Mencken’s publishednwritings. Far worse, Fecher pan­nnnders to the notorious historical amnesianof most Americans by acting as if anyonenwith such outlandish views mustnhave been a lone nut and, at least implicitly,npro-Nazi. Fecher convenientlynignores the fact that millions of Americansnhated FDR with equal intensityn(though not with Mencken’s sparklingnwit), and that a majority of Americansnstrongly opposed US entry into WorldnWar II.nThe charge of anti-Semitism is evennmore to Fecher’s discredit. The canardnthat he was an anti-Semite and racistnhas long been hurled at Mencken, especiallynby his longtime assistant at thenAmerican Mercury, the humorlessnCharles Angoff (in his scurrilous H.L.nMencken, 1956). Much to Mencken’snamusement, the Progressive Party ofnMaryland introduced a resolution atnthe end of the 1948 national Progressivenconvention, denouncing his articlesnon the convention as “Redbaiting,”n”Jew-baiting,” and “Hitlerite,”nand Mencken was greatly disappointednwhen the convention’s chairman,nAlbert J. Fitzgerald, sensiblynruled the resolution out of order.nCharles Fecher, however, faced anspecial problem in levying the accusationnof bigotry. For in his 1978 book onnMencken, Fecher had robustly andnquite correctly rebutted the charges ofnanti-Semitism and racism (Mencken,npp. 25-26, 118-19, and especially p.n18In). Fecher might have added that,nin addihon to the fact of his havingnmany close Jewish friends, Mencken,nin 1938, called for admitting all Jewishnrefugees into the United States. Therefore,nin order to execute a convincingnturnabout, Fecher had to claim that hisncurrent flip-flop stemmed from the allegednrevelations in the recently unsealedndiaries.nBut on the very evidence of this diary,nthe charge of anti-Semitism is arrantnand malicious nonsense. It is wellknownnthat the published Menckennoften used colorful categories tonAPRIL 1990/31n