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The SCREWTAPE Letters

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The essential guide to IT transformation

June 13, 2002

My dear Wormwood,

You know that our best work has always been accomplished through manipulation of the humans' own institutions. By influencing their emotions, and especially by invoking a sense of fear, we have had great success in encouraging the humans to destroy themselves. Our master below has been especially pleased with our work in putting so many high-tech workers out of jobs. Remember that it was your second cousin Slubgob's idea to concentrate on the humans who are responsible for writing press releases.

We have done well in encouraging the press to accept contrived press releases as real news-the natural laziness of most reporters makes it easy for us to manipulate them. A large firm such as the one your human works for can write a press release that is repeated by thousands of unskilled journalists. By influencing your human to write one short document, we can sow fear and ignorance worldwide. I should not have to remind you that our family's work must always remain hidden, or else it will cease to be effective.

When placing thoughts into the mind of your human, never forget the guidelines that Slubgob developed for creating effective propaganda. First, simplification is the most effective technique for misleading humans through the media. Humans are intellectually lazy, and it is amusing to us how eager they are to over-simplify any issue to a binary decision. It is easier-and more satisfying for them-to believe that all cyberthreats are equally dangerous, creating ever more urgency to purchase the unnecessary products from your human's company. Humans lack courage, and are strongly influenced by the fear that all other humans are doing something that they are not. The high-tech market has made good use of the unanimity principle, making it easy for humans to accept that all right-thinking computer managers not only use their products, but would be irresponsible not to. Finally, the orchestration principle is crucial in reinforcing the intellectual distortions that are the purpose of this particular game. The endless repetition of any message, no matter how silly to us, is comforting to the hairless ape, making it ever easier for them to relax their mental guard, and accept it as truth.

As your uncle, I must tell you that your career will be in jeopardy if you do not better control your human. His company has taken credit for every single discovery in their field, but many humans fail to see any evidence of actual research to justify these claims. His latest press release was so outrageous that even the most gullible humans find it suspicious. Many humans are fearful of the Internet, and our hoaxes and attempts to create alarm and dissension have been largely successful. But even the dimmest human will soon learn that they need not fear having viruses in their graphics files. Your human has perhaps had too much success; he has been writing press releases with ever more preposterous claims about the dangers of technology and the need for the useless products made by your human's employer. It would hurt our cause if their ability to sow misinformation were lost through a lack of subtlety.

Nephew, you know that I have always given you useful advice and have laboured to increase the prestige of our family. If your work were to fail at this point, you would probably be assigned to a dead-end position, tormenting a corporate accountant. Beezlebarge and his assistants have been hugely successful in manipulating the feelings of hubris and desire in this particular type of human, almost destroying human trust in their financial system. Now that human trust in their financial system is failing, you can be sure that Beezlebarge will be moving on to some other new scheme, leaving just a mop up job for his successors. You must avoid this fate. Use your influence with the programming demons to obtain a truly nasty-seeming virus and see that your human gets it before any of the competitors do. Suggest an outrageous name that will titillate the gullible creatures. Then your human can announce that their firm has once again discovered a horrible new danger, and once again, they have saved the world from it.

Although it seems like blatant manipulation to us, this message will simultaneously thrill and comfort the two-legged animals, reassuring them that they made a good choice in purchasing your human's over-priced and over-engineered software. Our work can only succeed if we keep the humans in a constant state of fear and ignorance.

Your affectionate uncle

SCREWTAPE

(A letter discovered during an investigation by Jay Heiser, co-author of Computer Forensics: Incident Response Essentials ISBN 0201707195) ®

Another exceedingly fine column from Jay Heiser

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