Friday, February 17, 2017

"Well-meaning, censorious puritans"

Was Ray Bradbury more prescient than Orwell? Fahrenheit 451 than 1984? Patrick West thinks so:
In [Fahrenheit 451] firemen go round not extinguishing fires, but igniting them — specifically to burn books that are deemed too dangerous for people to read, to protect people’s feelings and shield them from suggestive thoughts and ‘evil ideas’.

The society imagined in Fahrenheit 451 is one in which hyper-sensitive identity politics have been taken to their logical conclusion. As the book-burning police chief, Captain Beatty, explains: ‘All the minor minor minorities with their navels to be kept clean… Coloured people don’t like Little Black Sambo. Burn it. White people don’t feel good about Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Burn it… You must understand that our civilisation is so vast that we can’t have our minorities upset and stirred.’

The dystopia represented here isn’t an Orwellian, top-down tyranny, but one created from the bottom, by well-meaning, censorious puritans. Beatty elaborates: ‘It didn’t come from the government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick, thank God. Today, thanks to them, you can stay happy all the time.’ ....