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Dock

A Religious Orgy in Tennessee:

A Reporter's Account of the Scopes Monkey Trial - H L Mencken

“As I look back over a misspent life, I find myself more and more convinced that I had more fun doing news reporting than in any other enterprise. It is really the life of kings.” H L Mencken

The television series The Wire was one of the best things I have ever watched. So many aspects of it were filled with brilliance, but a small by-product of it for me was it was the first place I was made aware of the name H L Mencken. The above quotation adorns the wall in the reception area of The Baltimore Sun Newspaper, whose newsroom featured in a big part of the fifth and final series of The Wire. Mencken was a reporter for a few newspapers throughout his career, but it was the Baltimore Sun for which in the summer of 1925 he visited the courthouse in the town of Dayton Tennessee to report on a trial. The accused: Evolution.

John Scopes was a teacher who had broken Tennessee’s so-called ‘Anti-Evolution law’ by teaching the work of Charles Darwin to high school students. What Scopes was up against in this Kangeroo court was a prosecution and jury who largely believed in and had been brought up within a belief system taught to them by evangelical Christian preachers. The latter held fast that the world was created in six days. As challenges go, you could say Scopes was up a certain creek without anything to row with.

The main players in the trial and the different directions it took are for the future reader to find out about themselves. But for the sake of this review, what appealed to me personally about AROIT apart the style and wit of Mencken’s writing was his passion for denouncing structures of control and fundamentalism in religion. A man who saw nothing wrong with any faith that taught kindness and understanding but who had a big problem with individuals or organisation’s who used religion as a tool of fear. The latter being personified in what Mencken referred to as the “Ku Klux Clergy” of the sates of the South. He theorized that one of the main reasons for the refusal to accept Darwin’s proof of evolution by the evangelists was because it would destroy the entire premise on which they had been elevated to powerful well respected positions in society. In this current age in which wide-eyed prayer chanters spit venom at frightened young girls outside abortion clinics and in which young men fly passenger jets into skyscrapers under the banner of their respective fundamentalist religious beliefs, Mencken’s prose is as relevant today as it was ninety years ago. His was straight talking in a very jagged world.

The book is nowhere near the journalistic depth of say Truman Capotes ‘In Cold Blood’ as it is only a collection of the few articles that Mencken wrote during the short period he visited the Dayton trial, but from what I have read about Mencken it was the Tennessee debacle and some of his other stuff that heralded a more outspoken and gung ho era for American journalists and his name seems to be synonymous with a ‘telling it like it is’ approach and it could also be said without Mencken there wouldn’t have followed the likes of Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, or Tom Wolfe. To conclude, a short but interesting read and I will look forward to reading more of Mr. Mencken’s work.
Seal

For people who can't be arsed to read books there's a cracking Hollwyood film about the trial: "Inherit The Wind", Spencer Tracy stars IIRC.
Dock

Seal wrote:
For people who can't be arsed to read books there's a cracking Hollwyood film about the trial: "Inherit The Wind", Spencer Tracy stars IIRC.


Yep. Just watch a dvd. It'll save you some time as well. FFS! I don't know why I bother. I really don't.
 
Grind

I'm waiting for the short film of Dock's adapted screenplay.

Mencken be so cruel.
Forest

Seal wrote:
For people who can't be arsed to read books there's a cracking Hollwyood film about the trial: "Inherit The Wind", Spencer Tracy stars IIRC.


Great film.
grunt

Cheers Seal, cracking recommendation.
Dock

grunt wrote:
Cheers Seal, cracking recommendation.


You can fuck off as well.  
Seal

 If watching the film is too much like hard work you could just read the wiki page for it.
Dock

Seal wrote:
 If watching the film is too much like hard work you could just read the wiki page for it.


Just get lost and drink your can of pop Apeface!

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