Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Screwtape’s New Recruit

With profound apologies to C.S. Lewis

[Author’s Alert: Read the whole thing before clicking on the links if you want to avoid spoiling the joke]

My Dear Wormwood,

I note with pleasure that you seem, in most respects, to have hit upon the proper balance between empty (though still plausible) protestations of your conservative bona fides, and the task of undermining anything in the way of genuine conservative principles. Apparently the repeated hammer blows that I have been obliged to strike against your preternaturally thick skull have finally driven home the importance of wearing the mask. Only in this way can we fulfill the desire of our Father Below to convert a conservative renaissance into a mere reformation – the latter, of course, being far easier to manipulate to our own advantage, inasmuch as it involves bureaucracy rather than art, and exalts form over substance.

You have, acting with what appears to be a newly-acquired cunning, frequently injected the word “moderate” into your discussions of conservatism. Well done, indeed. To posit the existence – and to proclaim yourself a champion - of a higher and purer form of the very thing you seek to destroy is an admirable strategy. Take care, however, not to overplay your hand. You want to avoid creating, in the minds of American voters, the idea that you are trying to rally them around an entirely new banner (especially around one which, as we both know, is incapable of sustaining long-term support – for who was ever willing to pledge life and fortune in defense of a splitting of differences?) The goal should always be to preserve the vessel of conservatism intact, while emptying it of its significance.

On the whole, a commendable effort. But having examined the depths of my soul – a task concerning which the time expended can be measured in seconds, withered and desiccated as the thing is – I cannot claim that my admiration is altogether unmixed with disappointment. How is it, for example, that one of the Enemy’s paladins, Robert S. McCain, can mock you mercilessly without eliciting even the slightest scornful bon mot? Surely you can see, dear nephew, how difficult it is for me, under the circumstances, to absolve you of the crime of flashing the white feather. So I exhort you to gird up what, for want of a better word, I shall refer to as your “loins”, and to remember that the mission you have undertaken, while it may require the cultivation in the minds of the gullible and inattentive of an image of “middle-of-the-road reasonableness”, need not deter you from the occasional exercise of ad hominem demagoguery, particularly when such an attack, as in this instance, is directed against an adversary who is now, and forevermore will be, immune to the blandishments of your sophistry.

Your affectionate uncle,


Dear Uncle Screwtape,

Thank you for your kind letter. Your praise has motivated me to return to my files on Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh, whence I have extracted material sufficient for at least three columns, in which I will continue my denunciations of the popular – sorry! populist- currents within the conservative movement.

Dealing with Robert McCain, on the other hand, is tricky business. You see, he has this “Rule 4” that he’s constantly talking about; it involves making enemies to increase one’s blog traffic. If I respond, either directly or indirectly, he’s likely to draw more readers – which means more potential converts to the Enemy’s cause, since, admittedly, all I have to oppose to his logic is a suave style. Besides, he is pretty fierce. I’ll certainly try to “cowboy up”, though.

By the way, uncle, I hope you won’t consider it presumptuous of me to correct you, but the name is Brooks. David Brooks. Not Wormwood.

Your loving nephew,



JeffS said...

"But the boy will never outgrow his stupidity unless he gets whomped on the head some."

This is a fine teaching technique. Too bad we can't do this to a lot of politicians.

TimT said...

This is a great piece of writing. Screwtape isn't my favourite amongst Lewis' works, but you get the tone just right.

Paco said...

Thanks, Tim. It's been quite a few years since I read the Letters, but the basic tone has always stayed with me for some reason.

Jeff: If all it takes is some whompin', then I can't think of a better whomper than R.S. McCain; he's a mighty feisty fellow.

richard mcenroe said...

Me! Me! Help ME make enemies! Now with genuine video including an obscure cultural reference!

They say a man is measured by the quality of his enemies. Given the material we have to work with, I say we might have to go with the old saying that "Quantity has a quality of its own..."

TW:inglysio: the unofficial second language of Southern California...

richard mcenroe said...

Did you know there was a SECOND authentic Screwtape book. I may even have it around home somewhere. Will check.

TW: cabingo: A masked white horse that swings into camera and pokes you in the head with a dye-stick.

Paco said...

Richard: I have an edition published in 1961 which includes the original Screwtape Letters, with an additional section - added for this edition, I believe - called Screwtape Proposes a Toast.

TimT said...

I used to think that the added section, 'Screwtape Proposes a Toast', was a book in its own right. I don't think Lewis would have written a second book because he took no pleasure out of writing the first. Wiki certainly gives no indication of a second novel.