Well, not exactly. But he almost could have. Lewis’ biographer Walter Hooper himself says so on the front cover: “It reads as if C.S. Lewis himself had written it.” Lewis even kindly published his work of “diabolical correspondence” as The Screwtape Letters, leaving his original title, As One Devil to Another, available for Richard Platt to use in writing its sequel decades later.
Here’s a taster Richard read us at the C.S. Lewis Foundation’s annual Twelfth Night in Redlands, California, on January 19th:
“My dear Scardagger,
“Computers, yes. Computer technology, games, and all the electronic paraphernalia, as you suggest, are for our purposes much like Television, only better. The Internet can teach too, and we shall be the instructors. It does not have quite the same advantage of corporate control. . . but oh, Scardagger, the compensations! With this gift of His Infernal Majesty, we have been blessed with the nanosecond attention span, the erosion of patience, the exponential growth of credulity and gullibility, the silent proliferation of pornography, and the removal of most of the societal barriers that formerly obstructed it. It has also given us greater access to children, who could once have been kept away from television by their parents, but now are in control of the device, having a better grasp of its workings than their parents, circumventing internally placed restrictions, viewing as they please, and then covering their tracks. The Internet allows us the advantages of stealth with the convenience of disguise. The Virtual World is Our World.
“And so we have concocted the Virtual Community. What a delectable fraud. You would have thought that even the most skilled of the Grand Strategists in our philological Department would not have attempted, much less accomplished, such a feat, but these are the wages of audacity. We have brought the humans to the point where participation in a ‘community’ no longer means the physical proximity of other humans with whom they can speak, eat, drink, work, play, and worship, but is instead synonymous with sitting in a darkened room alone, staring at a video screen, ‘chatting’ with they know not whom, soliciting ‘information’ or advice from sources utterly opaque, their ‘friends’ having thoughts and motives which they can never divine. We shall be their friends. What we can offer, by comparison, is indisputably and eternally real. . .
“Now, every fool–and the most predatory corporations–has a voice equal in volume, and thus equal in value, to anyone else’s. Genuine expertise is silenced in a cacophony of opinion. No single voice, however sane and informed, is of any value at all. This takes the Man-in-the-Street Interview to even greater heights of absurdity. After all, when did the Man in the Street ever possess the thoughtfulness, education, perspective, patience, time for reflection, emotional depth, and reasoning skills to contribute anything? Once again, the Age of Narcissism brings Subjectivity to our aid. Why listen to someone who can instruct you, challenge you, and make you think, when you can speak endlessly, without being corrected by your betters, on any matter whatever, even those you know nothing about, your own cocksureness and ignorance petted and affirmed by a sweet dash of flattery from those at your own level?
“And just when you thought television could not be made more toxic, we have created Reality Television. It is enough to make one weep for joy. When have two words ever been more inappropriately paired? By this amazingly sinister adaptation (sinister even by our standards), we have transformed behaviour which they would once have engaged in with shame, and viewed with embarrassment, into entertainment. The people who thus degrade themselves publicly through their predatory, basely competitive, victory-at-any-cost, emotionally and intellectually shallow conduct are catapulted to celebrity status. They become the humans other humans want to be. Some even ride to the victorious heights of fame by beating other human beings into unconsciousness. It reminds me of the good old days in the Arena. I thought those were lost forever.
“Cellular telephones, by comparison, seem relatively harmless. With them, though, we separate each human from every other, and from their common humanity, by allowing them to ‘keep in touch’ (how does one not laugh?), maintaining their endless chatter at a conversational level of minimal sentience and maximum banality, feeding their narcissism while allowing them to be rude to two people simultaneously: the person to whom they are speaking and the other directly in front of them. Our work is not without its recreational moments. . .
With Warm Regards from your
Loving Uncle and Mentor,