[The Screwtape Letters written by C. S. Lewis present the tale of a demon-tutor (named Screwtape) who serves Satan. Screwtape’s task is to instruct his student Wormwood in the ways of evil. My previous post provides background material explaining the letter reproduced below, second of seven in a series of posts that follow.]
We’re winning, you know. Yes, I say! On almost every front I’ve been monitoring lately, the Enemy and his mongrels are losing ground daily. They haven’t panicked yet that I can tell, but there is much less hope reflected in their beady little eyes. We are winning!
I wouldn’t have even mentioned the obvious except that you are just now beginning to read the movements and attitudes of your new patient. While you study him, perhaps you’ll observe in him some of the ready evidences that support my assertion.
Think, if you will, about the ubiquitous nature of the media in the everyday lives of these earthlings, most especially for the region in which your latest charge lives his life. Years ago, they huddled like swarms of beetles ‘round a radio, enthralled by noise and static-laced “entertainment.” It was a demon’s worst nightmare! Families were drawn together. Whether it was a fireside chat or the antics of comedy partners, these wretches listened … together! The familial environment softened hearts, eased tensions and cemented relationships. I shudder at the thought of all that wholesomeness! Yuck!
But no more, my young fiend. The marvel of miniaturization brought headphones to your patient’s world, and we are the beneficiaries of this invention. When a mother wishes to speak to her teenager, she must first command greater attention from him than the Marilyn Manson cacophony piercing his eardrums. An individual walking through a neighborhood may meet dozens of neighbors, all of whom have no desire for discourse other than the sounds emanating from their headphones. They may live in the same neighborhood, but they exist alone. They long for some deluded notion of community, but they keep their doors locked and shades down. Do you see the delicious irony of it? We are winning!
You might recognize that the advent of television had a similar evolution. (Ah, I savor that word every bit as much as a morsel of human sweetbread … but any discussion of Darwin must be reserved for another letter.) I abhorred television at first. It brought Them together — in the same room. They laughed together, cried together, and they created family bonds of togetherness that might have proven thoroughly indestructible. I despised that blue screen! That was before Triptweeze helped me appreciate the longer view, and his observations have proven quite accurate.
Our statistics department has profiled the average patient in your locale and has determined certain common characteristics. The average patient household there possesses three to five television sets, making it completely unnecessary for families to watch together. What’s more, the statistics on viewer habits offer significant confirmation of my belief that we are winning. When televisions first gained wide acceptance, the sappy programming was almost enough to make this demon regurgitate yesterday’s soul-booty. This, too, has evolved exponentially. I can’t begin to list the numerous human followers of Our Father who have made it their unwitting mission to assist us in conquering the airwaves — for Him! They’re everywhere, day and night, spreading the news and nature of Bad.
I once told you “the safest road to Hell is the gradual one.” Television is a model of exactly what I meant. Perversion, decadence and greed aren’t all that’s included in television programming, but there’s a little more of it every single day. We’ve managed to divert this medium away from Leave it to Beaver and Ozzie and Harriet toward Jackass and Howard Stern. We’ve achieved our goal incrementally, one vice at a time.
So now, Nephew, be at your work studying your new patient, knowing the war is not yet won, but it is well within our hands. Yes, we are winning. Perhaps the next banquet we consume will be that most peerless event for the supreme devouring of souls. Using some words of another (and I admit, turning the phrase a bit), I long to take a little blood for my stomach’s sake. I crave it even now.
 C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters. San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., 1996, p. 61.