[From "H.L. Mencken, The Scopes Monkey Trial and the Culture War"]
H.L. Mencken was a journalist, an atheist, a libertarian and a Nietzschean. He shared Nietzsche and the Modernists contempt for the masses. No one in the 1920s had a greater negative impact on shaping the values and beliefs of young Losters and GIs in college rebelling against their Victorian parents than Mencken. Young people read The American Mercury on college campuses.
It was H.L. Mencken, Emma Goldman, Randolph Bourne and other Young Intellectuals who created the negative stereotype of the “Puritan” philistine. By “Puritan,” they meant anyone who was a Victorian in values and was religious like Southern Baptists and was opposed to their cultural libertarianism. The actual Puritans had long lost their cultural grip over New England in the early 18th century.
In the 1930s, H.L. Mencken went after FDR during the Great Depression who was an enormously popular figure. Mencken’s audience shifted Left in the 1930s as he faded in influence. The audience remained a bunch of smug, elitist assholes who were alienated from the Heartland and many of those young people who loved Mencken in the 1920s grew up to become New Deal technocrats.
The Scopes Trial of 1925 was the biggest battle of the culture war in the 1920s and pitted Clarence Darrow against William Jennings Bryan. The issue that was being contested was whether or not evolution could be taught in Tennessee public schools. The “Scopes Monkey Trial” was set up from the beginning as a media publicity stunt to heap ridicule and contempt on the backward American masses – all the Appalachian yokels that Mencken that was constantly railing about in The American Mercury.