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Everybody wants to be George Orwell nowadays. What better role model could a commentator have in dangerous times than the clear-eyed Briton who was wise enough to oppose both fascism and Stalinism? Consider this: ìThe national mentality becomes that of a police lieutenant, with overtones of a fugitive from justice. Liberty retires endlessly to new Hindenburg lines, and abandons them as soon as they are occupied. It becomes the official dogma that a good citizen does nothing without permission, and thinks nothing that is not thought unanimously.î Oh, wait. That’s not the estimable Orwell; it’s Henry Louis Mencken—the roistering old bigot of the Sunpapers, now known for his racism and anti-Semitism. What else would old H.L. have to say about our current clash of civilizations? ìNo good can come out of supporting biased judges, cowardly and dishonest law-makers, numskull Presidents. It is an evil thing to believe in nonsense, however virtuously. It is an evil thing to honor ignoramuses and mountebanks. It is an evil thing to be always afraid.î Yes, well. But what of his gross insensitivity? Surely he wouldn’t be prepared for our new national climate of inclusion—say, for the struggle over gay marriage. Just look what he wrote about racial integration in tennis in 1948: ìA free citizen in a free state, it seems to me, has an inalienable right to play with whomsoever he will, so long as he does not disturb the general peace. If any other citizen, offended by the spectacle, makes a pother, then that other citizen, and not the man exercising his inalienable right, should be put down by the police.î Stephen R. Proctor, former managing editor for features and sports at the Baltimore Sun; Charles Fecher, former editor of the journal Menckeniana; Kathleen Parker, recipient of the Baltimore Sun’s H.L. Mencken Writing Award; and S.T. Joshi (pictured), editor of Mencken’s America, discuss Mencken’s life and work at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22, at the S. Dillon Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Drive SW. $35. (202) 357-3030. (Tom Scocca)