Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Screwtape on the usefulness of social media

Mere Orthodoxy imagines a recent letter from Screwtape to Wormwood. Gets it right, too:
My dear Wormwood,

I’m pleased to hear that your patient has begun thinking of his Twitter use as a kind of chivalric act, equivalent to taking part in an actual war. Sloth and wrath are powerful weapons on our side, as, of course, is self-righteousness.

Not seeing the face of the man he speaks to will encourage him to give vent to contempt and hatred against another of his kind with a much greater degree of freedom—there’s nothing so frustrating to our efforts in this area as the sense of shame which the Enemy often allows to be kindled in the breast of such a man when he hears himself speak aloud in ways that he has habituated himself to on Twitter. One moment of that shame has been enough to lose us many who were well on their way to being firm adherents of our cause.

As I wrote you earlier, war—actual war—is not nearly as helpful to our purposes as you (somewhat naively, I am sorry to say) seemed to think. In war men may exhibit courage; many soldiers die literally laying down their lives for their friends, and are lost to us.

Culture war, however, is a much more helpful tool. It can promote all the jingoism and hatred of an enemy, all the sense that since one is on the right side, that makes all one’s actions justified, that one gets in a real war, but without the attendant dangers. ....

The crucial thing in these matters is for your patient to never look at his own words in terms of basic courtesy. “But is it discourteous, is it bad manners, to speak in this way?”— that is the one question which he must never raise to himself. He must be encouraged to think of himself as “forceful” or “bold” and never once suspect that he may in fact simply be breathtakingly rude. .... (more)

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