(In which Screwdisk, EVP for Sales and Acquisitions for HellCorp North America, makes some suggestions to his young nephew and tempter-in-training Scumbucket. See www.screwdisk.wordpress.com for …
(In which Screwdisk, EVP for Sales and Acquisitions for HellCorp North America, makes some suggestions to his young nephew and tempter-in-training Scumbucket. See www.screwdisk.wordpress.com for more.)
Greetings, my immature sapling:
I really don’t know which astonishes me more: the audacity and ingenuity of our Semantic Branch, or the benighted ignorance of their hapless victims. The former have found ways to not only warp everyday language but also rational thought itself beyond all recognition in so many of your clients—and in doing so, they have perfected some of our first “mass-production” techniques.
As I have explained to you before, we demons here in Hell have progressed over time in the ways we seek our, shall we say, nourishment. Beginning as hunter-gatherers, we moved on in recent centuries to our present “agricultural” models (we speak of things like “tending the flock” and “harvesting,” yes?)—and now we are developing more industrial methodologies. Eventually, we shall have set up fully automated systems that will produce whatever negative emotions we want to feed on at the time—grief, hatred, terror, despair—in whatever proportions we desire with little more than a gesture.
Take outrage, for example.
Outrage is one of my personal favorites, I must admit. I bet it’s one of yours, too, isn’t it, Scumbucket? It’s perennially popular among demons at all levels. For one thing, it comes in so many different styles and flavors! It can be consumed freshly provoked, boiling hot, providing deep-burning satisfaction all the way down, or you can delicately sip the subtle deliciousness of long-simmering resentments, carefully tended over time. Panicked or angered crowds produce certain tasty varietals, and alienated loners quite others. Righteous outrage I find particularly yummy, and self-righteous outrage is all the better!
And indeed, it is these latter kinds of outrage that have been flowing from the U.S. in record quantities in recent years. Researchers within the Semantic Branch found that a significant portion of the population—identifiable in part by overdeveloped “amygdalas,” the brain area associated with detecting external threats—were especially susceptible to certain propaganda techniques. These techniques encourage people to interpret some small cultural phenomenon (say, drug-related song lyrics, or a change in the marketing of a toy, or the removal of a book from the market) as an indicator of accelerating social decay. Enough of these little threats and a person can be made to fear that civilization itself is at risk—or at least, that their personal safety or way of life is in danger.
These apocalyptic fears are never directly articulated, of course. They’re never even seen. They lie deep below the conscious levels of thought. But they undermine faith, charity and hope, and promote bitterness and cynicism.
And we can implant these feelings anytime for the most bizarre and irrational reasons imaginable. They don’t need to make logical sense. Another great thing about outrage is that, unlike many of the other negative emotions, humans seem to enjoy experiencing it. In fact, some can even become addicted to it! In the absence of anything in their immediate vicinity to be outraged about, they will seek out reasons for it.
Indeed, they “eat it up,” even as it eats them up.
And here is the most interesting thing: The victims don’t see what is being done to them. These techniques are not subtly done, after all. They are about as blatant and ham-handed as could be, but I suppose it is not for nothing that it is called “blind rage.”
You will notice that outrage is most effective for our purposes when it is impotent. Whatever the object of outrage is, the subject should have no way to actually take any action about it, other than loud complaining. It should also have practically nothing to do with their day-to-day life. (British royalty, for example.) Just keep encouraging those feelings of helpless victimization, of vague and indistinct dread, of suspicion and discomfort. They’ll come in handy later, believe me.
As ever, your doting uncle,