This morning I read an article from last week’s LA Weekly about Ray Bradbury. The article was entitled “Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 misinterpreted”.
I read Fahrenheit 451 while I was in high school many years ago. I liked it, but I don’t think I understood it. It just seemed like good science fiction, but – come on – why would they really burn books in the USA?
We were taught, and most people think, that the book is about government censorship. Ray Bradbury says that it is not. And the things he says the book is about are certainly more threatening than government censorship.
Fahrenheit 451, according to Bradbury, is about television destroying people’s interest in reading. The people themselves are at fault for not reading, and the state only begins burning books because people no longer want them.
Bradbury’s book, then, was prophetic.
Most Americans did not have televisions when Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451, and those who did watched 7-inch screens in black and white. Interestingly, his book imagined a future of giant color sets — flat panels that hung on walls like moving paintings. And television was used to broadcast meaningless drivel to divert attention, and thought, away from an impending war.
People do still read, although not as many people read as much. Americans average about 4.5 hours per day of television; other nations are not that far behind. I have stated my belief over and over – television is evil and it makes people stupid.
The LA Weekly article outlines Bradbury’s views of television news, which mostly have to do with how it has no substance at all.
“Useless,” Bradbury says. “They stuff you with so much useless information, you feel full.”
And the government is not to blame in this case, although it would be wrong to say that they are not happy to take advantage of the situation. But the people have to take responsibility for their own stupidity, and we have something very important to learn from Bradbury’s message.
The mindless entertainment – we don’t have to watch it. The television news that has no substance – we don’t have to accept it. We can demand more or, even better, we can not turn on our televisions. Everyone that really cares about the news knows that the internet is a much better source. But the problem is that television has already done its dirty work, the people have made their choice, they have been sucked in and they don’t have any desire to get out.
The article is here.