Dewey kindly pointed me toward an extremely interesting article about Ray Bradbury's intentions with Fahrenheit 451. (Thanks so much, Dewey!) It's not about banned books or government censorship as so many people seem to think. And, if you read the book, you will see that there are pages of explanation by one of the characters telling how the book burning came about. It was society's choice. Books began to be shortened little by little and anything contentious was eliminated until the point where books were little more than footnotes. By "anything contentious" I mean anything that could possibly offend anyone. And that brings me back to my fascination with Ray Bradbury's insights into the society of the future. Not only did he foresee the prevalence of television and the disconnect between nature and human society, but he also predicted hyper-political correctness.
"You must understand that our civilization is so vast that we can't have our minorities upset and stirred. Ask yourself, What do we want in this country, above all? People want to be happy, isn't that right? Haven't you heard it all your life? I want to be happy, people say. Well, aren't they? Don't we keep them moving, don't we give them fun? That's all we live for, isn't it? For pleasure, for titillation? And you must admit our culture provides plenty of these."
"Colored people don't like Little Black Sambo. Burn it. White people don't feel good about Uncle Tom's Cabin. Burn it. Someone's written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs? The cigarette people are weeping? Burn the book. "
"Let him forget there is such a thing as war. If the government is inefficient, topheavy, and tax-mad, better it be all those than that people worry over it. Peace, Montag. Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals . . . Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of 'facts' they feel stuffed, but absolutely 'brilliant' with information. Then they'll feel they're thinking, they'll get a sense of motion without moving. . . . Don't give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy."
I just finished this book and already I want to read it again.
Here is Ray Bradbury's website. There are video clips of him explaining, among other things, how he feels about television, censorship, and Fahrenheit 451.