September 25, 2015

THE REAL REASON WE NEED TO STOP TRYING TO PROTECT EVERYONE’S FEELINGS: In the New York Observer, Ryan Holiday writes that when it comes to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and its legendary cautionary tale of firemen burning books, “if you’d asked me why on earth they did that, I would have answered just as confidently: ‘Because a tyrannical government wanted them to.’”

As Holiday notes, “There is a trend afoot to conveniently remember the works of authors like Ray Bradbury and Aldous Huxley as warnings against distant totalitarianism and control. But this only scratches the surface of what these books are about:”

“It didn’t come from the government down,” [a veteran fireman tells Montag, Bradbury’s protagonist]. “There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no!”

In fact, it was something rather simple—something that should sound very familiar. It was a desire not to offend—of an earnest notion to literally have “everyone made equal.” And it’s at the end of this speech that we get the killer passage:

“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?…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. Serenity, Montag. Peace, Montag. Take your fight outside. Better yet, to the incinerator.”

And before you get offended, let’s clarify what Bradbury means by minorities. He’s not talking about race. He’s talking about it in the same way that Madison and Hamilton did in the Federalist Papers. He’s speaking about small, interested groups who try to force the rest of the majority to adhere to the minority’s set of beliefs.

I don’t mean to cherry pick. I see no need to one to pile on college students as being particularly responsible for the “coddling of the American mind.” (Great piece, read it.) Though I do find it ironic that we require kids to read this book in high school and just a few years (or months) later, they’re leading the charge on exactly the kind of well-intentioned censorship Bradbury was talking about. I don’t mean to say that these examples come close to the kind of overt censorship that every reasonable person dreads. But I do mean to say that they come from the same place—and very alarmingly—ultimately end together in a much worse place.

Read the whole thing.

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