Fahrenheit 451 Utopia Thru Materials Essay, Research Paper
Utopia through Materials?
Ray Bradbury s Fahrenheit 451 is a novel about a materialistic society that has forgotten social interaction with each other. This materialistic society is where Bradbury believed society today is headed. The materialistic society in Fahrenheit 451 created through Bradbury s cynic views of society. His views of society are over-exaggerated in contrast with today s events, especially in the areas of censorship and media mediocrity.
The purpose of media is quite simple, it is as Carl Jensen describes it, a warning signal–information–that alerts the citizens that something is wrong which needs attention and resolution. An aware and informed populace could then influence its leaders to act upon that information in an effort to solve that problem (Jensen, Project Censored). But Media has often been criticized for promoting a mass mediocrity, because it only tells the public what it wants to hear. The idea of Media promoting mass mediocrity is a reoccurring image in Fahrenheit 451. Such is not the case in today s society. One of the most successful freedom fighting campaign has been the Tibetan Freedom Concert, a rock concert where artists and citizens converge, sharing their views for Tibetan freedom from Chinese oppression. Over the three years of its existence, the concert has generated so much publicity that it has forced President Bill Clinton to step in and try to hasten the negotiation between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama. In a Sonicnet Music News article, the Dalai Lama said:
Through this live show, many, many Chinese will have gained a better awareness of President Clinton s feelings about Tibet, and also President Jiang s feelings, and I think that can be enormously helpful in the long run. (Media Inclusion 1)
The Dalai Lama expresses the importance of publicity that has first been generated by the Tibetan Freedom Concert. Not only did it create awareness for the Chinese as the Dalai Lama suggested; it also created awareness around the world but especially in North America. Ask any North American teenager, never mind What they feel towards the idea of Tibetan oppression from the Chinese? , just ask him Where Tibet is? three years ago and he would probably look confused and answer by asking Would you like fries with that? . Ask that same teenager now, and he would likely give an educated response. The Tibetan Freedom Concert is just an example of how powerful modern media is if it can be used properly. Such is not the case in Fahrenheit 451; media promotes mediocrity by telling the public only what it wants to hear. Everything s got to have a snap ending. Granger explains to Montag how media works in order to keep the audience:
The show s got to have a snap ending, quick! If they started searching the whole damn river it might take all night. So they re sniffing for a scapegoat to end things with a bang.
(Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, p. 148)
As Granger explains, everything must have a snap ending in order to keep the public interested. Thus media creates news that the public want to hear instead of the truth. And by getting what they want, the public destroys the primary purpose of news, which is to alert the public about a social problem so that they can make an informed decision to influence their leaders to action. But if the public gets what they want, then they are not presented with social problems that need to be solved by the majority of the general public, because the majority of the public would not go and look for problems in society. Modern media contrasts greatly with Bradbury s futuristic media, because it presents to the public what needs to be heard, whereas Bradbury s futuristic media tells the public what it wants to hear.
The futuristic society s method of censorship are complete polar opposites when contrasted with today s. In both societies, censorship is used as a way to satisfy minority groups. This is where the similarities end, while Bradbury s society achieve censorship by banning books or anything that minorities did not like, today s society achieve censorship by promoting certain groups to come up with their own programming. Such is the case in this particular article about encouraging ethnic programming:
The existing ethnic broadcasting policy is supposed to help ensure minority groups get broadcasting services.
But the policy is almost 15 years old and the CRTC thinks it s time to check whether it needs to be changed.
Everything is up for discussion- even whether a policy is necessary to encourage the growth of ethnic broadcasting.
Canada has changed dramatically since the policy was introduced, becoming a far more culturally and linguistically diverse country. (Media Inclusion 2)
The CRTC s revision of the ethnic broadcasting policy is a perfect example of how censorship can be achieved without banning books or infringing with the Freedom of Expression and Free Speech. By revising the ethnic broadcasting policy, minority groups are now focused on making their own programs instead of ripping apart others they disagree with, as was the case in Fahrenheit 451. An example can be found when Beatty explains to Montag about the need for censorship and how his society does it:
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.
Coloured 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. Serenity, Montag. Peace, Montag. Take your fight outside. Better yet, into the incinerator. (Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, p. 59)
Beatty reiterates the need to keep people happy through censorship, which is censorship s main goal. The futuristic society takes the conventional route to censorship by banning books, or better yet by throwing it into the incinerator. Although both societies try to achieve utopia through the use of censorship, their methods differ tremendously. The futuristic society in Fahrenheit 451 censors by taking out what is offensive; whereas society today puts in what is lacking in society, and therefore is able to make society much more complete.
Fahrenheit 451 is full of warnings of where society could be headed if it is not careful. However, these predictions are still remarkably exaggerated, when contrasted with today s society especially mass mediocrity and censorship. Modern media is able to bring to important issues to the public s attention, while media in Fahrenheit 451 bring only the entertaining issues to the public s attention. Censorship in Canada also differs than that in Bradbury s mind. Censorship in Canada is done by adding in what is missing to make the world more complete, while those in Fahrenheit 451 believe that it is burning, or taking away what one does not agree with. Although Ray Bradbury s predictions about society today are extreme, one must remind himself that it does not take much to turn the very social society today into a materialistic robot-like society similar to that in Fahrenheit 451.