Agent Z's nine essential steps for undermining US democracy

I haven't a clue where the following letter came from. Maybe a flying saucer brought it - or a mole from the lawn outside. Being nosey, I opened it - and thought it worth sharing:

Dear Agent X:

When you sent me to the United States a year ago, you asked me to report back on how democracy in America could best be undermined. Here, in my view, are nine essential points:

1. Don't attack from the outside, either militarily or economically. Americans are like she-bears: Driven into corners, they are fierce fighters with strong physical defenses. Their mental defenses, however, are weak. Concentrate on the latter.

2. Don't identify yourself as an ''enemy,'' or even as an ''opponent.'' Instead, work from within: Insinuate your ideas into the fabric of thought, so that the nation, listening to you, will think it hears itself speaking. You will command the widest audience if you describe your ideas simply as ''trends.''

3. Support everything that militates against children. America's strength resides in its family ties, and its future is in its youth. Despite the recent census announcement that the under-5 population here is larger than it has been for 15 years, the nation thinks of itself as aging. So its interests are drifting away from its children. Support anything - from abortions to homosexuality, from inflated housing costs to teen-age rebelliousness - that either avoids childbearing or makes children seem more bother than they are worth.

4. Pay special attention to women. Remember that Alexis de Tocqueville, when asked to account for ''the singular prosperity and growing strength'' of the American people, attributed it mainly to ''the superiority of their women.'' Seize the opportunity to divide the citizenry into warring factions, each with a different view of women's relation to men, to home, to children, to career, and to fulfillment. Our best approach will be to insist that there is no possible resolution of these views - thereby fraying the internal repose of both men and women in an area most vital to their well-being.

5. Support commercial television. Even though individual programs are sometimes good, it is useful to us for three reasons. First, by trivializing the important and elevating the inane, it destroys the viewer's capacity to draw careful distinctions - leading to bland acceptance of that which ought to be rejected. Second, its frequent commercial interruptions erode the attention span , making its viewers less capable of following an extended logical argument and more easily swayed by short emotional outbursts and slogans. Third, it deadens the moral sense by portraying sensuality as affection, license as freedom, and acquisitiveness as dominion - thereby undermining (most usefully for us) the foundations of family life.

6. Subvert the public schools. Remember that democracy depends on an educated electorate. But don't attack schools directly: Americans feel very strongly about them. Instead, work to establish as many counterfeits to true learning as possible - such as the presence of superficial courses within the curriculum that take time away from serious ones, or the tendency to reward students more for attitude than for actual achievement.

7. Encourage unbridled consumerism, especially among the young. By helping whet the appetite for material goods, we will lure more and more teen-agers into extensive part-time work to pay for their wants. That trend will increase pressures to shorten the school day and school year. It will thereby crowd out team-spirited extracurricular activities, and so help breed a sense of isolation , boredom, and malaise among the young.

8. Support anything that militates against reading. That may seem difficult in a nation where literacy is so high. But the secret is to attack not the ability but the desire to read. If the populace can be convinced that listening is always more enjoyable than reading - and that the electronic media supply all necessary information - the result will be twofold. First, it will produce a population less willing to work at self-education and more docile in bowing to ''experts'' and central planners - an essential step in the destruction of democracy. Second, it will separate the people from their religion. Christianity, so widely practiced in America, is based on a book. If its book were to become inaccessible because reading itself had become unattractive, Christianity would naturally begin to fade, and the central pillar upon which the nation was founded - religious freedom - would no longer seem important. And as you well know, when the reason for a nation's existence is forgotten, the demise of that nation is not far behind.

9. Finally, despite the fact that it encourages reading, support the baser element of the press. Its tendency to emphasize personalities over issues, to gossip rather than probe, and to damage profoundly the very institutions of government and society it seeks to reform make it a useful ally. A word of caution, however: Don't let this letter fall into the hands of newspapers. They could do our cause irreparable harm. We have no greater enemy than the alertness of the American people.


Agent Z

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