Paul Harvey, an American news commentator and one of the first to direct a radio show, reached millions of listeners. His “idiosyncratic delivery of news stories with dramatic pauses made him extremely recognizable on the radio.
Although he was very precise in the words he said who would have guessed that his words would be prophetic and would show the reality of today.
“If I were the Devil,” Paul Harvey famously said in 1965 predicts what is happening in America today. However, although Harvey’s words have an undeniable truth, they may not be as prophetic as some might believe.
His essay published in 1965 continues to be relevant to this day. The oldest genuine Paul Harvey version of this piece we’ve found thus far appeared in his newspaper column in 1964.
If I Were the Devil
If I were the Prince of Darkness I would want to engulf the whole earth in darkness.
I’d have a third of its real estate and four-fifths of its population, but I would not be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree.
So I should set about however necessary, to take over the United States.
I would begin with a campaign of whispers.
With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve, “Do as you please.”
To the young, I would whisper “The Bible is a myth.” I would convince them that “man created God,” instead of the other way around. I would confide that “what is bad is good and what is good is square.”
In the ears of the young married, I would whisper that work is debasing, that cocktail parties are good for you. I would caution them not to be “extreme” in religion, in patriotism, in moral conduct.
And the old I would teach to pray – to say after me – “Our Father which is in Washington.”
Then I’d get organized.
I’d educate authors on how to make lurid literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull, uninteresting.
I’d threaten TV with dirtier movies, and vice versa.
I’d infiltrate unions and urge more loafing, less work. Idle hands usually work for me.
I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could, I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction, I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.
If I were the Devil, I would encourage schools to refine young intellects, but neglect to discipline emotions; let those run wild.
I’d designate an atheist to front for me before the highest courts and I’d get preachers to say, “She’s right.”
With flattery and promises of power, I would get the courts to vote against God and in favor of pornography.
Thus I would evict God from the courthouse, then from the schoolhouse, then from the Houses of Congress.
Then in his churches, I’d substitute psychology for religion and deify science.
If I were Satan I’d make the symbol of Easter an egg
And the symbol of Christmas is a bottle.
If I were the Devil I’d take from those who have and give to those who wanted until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. Then my police state would force everybody back to work.
Then I would separate families, putting children in uniform, women in coal mines, and objectors in slave-labor camps.
If I were Satan I’d just keep doing what I’m doing and the whole world goes to hell as sure as the Devil.
[Source: Harvey, Paul. “If I Were the Devil I Would Pray, Our Father Who Art in Washington.” Gadsden Times. Oct 13, 1964 (p.4).]
A 1996 newspaper version of Paul Harvey’s “If I were the Devil,” is often what’s heard today and mistakenly believed to be the same piece from the 60s. However, there are key differences.
If I were the prince of darkness, I would want to engulf the whole world in darkness.
I’d have a third of its real estate and four-fifths of its population, but I would not be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree – thee.
So, I would set about, however, necessary to take over the United States.
I’d subvert the churches first, and I would begin with a campaign of whispers.
With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: “Do as you please.”
To the young, I would whisper that the Bible is a myth. I would convince the children that man created God instead of the other way around. I’d confide that what’s bad is good and what’s good is square.
And the old, I would teach to pray after me, “Our Father, which is in Washington…”
Then, I’d get organized, I’d educate authors on how to make lurid literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting.
I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.
If I were the devil, I’d soon have families at war with themselves, churches at war with themselves, and nations at war with themselves until each, in its turn, was consumed.
And with promises of higher ratings, I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames.
If I were the devil, I would encourage schools to refine young intellect but neglect to discipline emotions. I’d tell teachers to let those students run wild. And before you knew it, you’d have drug-sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door.
With a decade, I’d have prisons overflowing and judges promoting pornography. Soon, I would evict God from the courthouse and the schoolhouse and them from the houses of Congress.
In his churches, I would substitute psychology for religion and deify science. I’d lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls and church money.
If I were the devil, I’d take from those who have and give to those who wanted until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious.
What’ll you bet I couldn’t get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich?
I’d convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned, that swinging is more fun, and that what you see on television is the way to be.
And thus, I could undress you in public and lure you into bed with diseases for which there are no cures.
In other words, if I were the devil, I’d just keep right on doing what he’s doing.
[Source: Harvey, Paul. “If I Were the Devil.” Reading Eagle. July 1, 1996.]
Regardless of whether you find his words to be prophetic, they are undeniably powerful. Rather than accepting, we will always have “times like these,” maybe it’s time to right our ship and throw the Devil overboard for good.
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