“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, into the incinerator. Funerals are unhappy and pagan? Eliminate them, too. Five minutes after a person is dead he’s on his way to the Big Flue, the Incinerators serviced by helicopters all over the country. Ten minutes after death a man’s a speck of black dust. Let’s not quibble over individuals with memoriams. Forget them. Burn all, burn everything. Fire is bright and fire is clean.”
Years after I first read those words, “Peace, Montag …” still echoes in my head whenever I see or hear a “progressive” politician preaching government control. Decades after I first finished Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” “Serenity, Montag …” flits across my consciousness whenever a Democrat speaks. When liberals attempt to silence political dissent on talk radio through re-enacting the euphemistically termed “Fairness Doctrine,” I think I see the coiled and merciless mechanical hound of Bradbury’s story, waiting to inject its poison into dissidents. When the Obama administration seeks to control the Internet through governmental fiat, I picture Bradbury’s firemen rushing for their petrol-laden truck. When the leftists at Time magazine sneer that there is no “Internet kill switch” – even as they admit that vaguely written, sweeping, centralized, command-and-control legislation carries great potential for harm to individual liberty – I see the nozzles of the flame-throwers glow orange.
Earlier this week, Ray Bradbury – now 90 – said, “I think our country is in need of a revolution.” As you can imagine, his comments caused quite a stir. He didn’t stop at calls to revolution, either. He went on to say, “There’s too much government today. We’ve got to remember the government should be by the people, of the people and for the people.” He also complained that we have “too many cell phones” and “too many Internets.” We need to rid ourselves of some of these machines, he declared.
To any right-thinking American who holds his or her civil liberties dear, these are not earth-shattering revelations. (Bradbury also groused that we need to return to the moon and then colonize Mars; I have written in support of the space program in Technocracy.) The fact that a brilliant 90-year-old writer happens to share these opinions is not surprising so much as it is refreshing. What was truly interesting about Bradbury’s comments, however, was reaction to them.
Susan King murmured diplomatically that Bradbury’s comments were the result of “his imagination” taking him “to some dark places when it comes to contemporary politics.” Scott Thill was less professional; in Underwire he wrote, “Some mornings you wake up and realize your sci-fi heroes might have lost the plot.” He characterized Bradbury’s comments as the author’s “latest political rant,” one filled with “diaphanous criticism” – before stating that the problems Bradbury decried cannot be solved without “too much government.” Graeme McMillan, writing in Techland, called Bradbury’s comments “depressing.” He said, “Maybe I’m expecting too much of Ray Bradbury. … But there’s really something dispiriting about the curmudgeonly portrait of the ‘Fahrenheit 451’ author from the L.A. Times. … When did Bradbury become such … well, such an old man?” Reason magazine, contributing to “Before It’s News,” called Bradbury’s statements “hysterical theater,” condemning Bradbury as a “Luddite old fart” whose comments delved “into the Grandpa Simpson zone of Larry King-esque observational complaints.”
It should bother us that so many people across the Web were so quick to condemn Bradbury as an old man – to make fun of him for standing on the front lawn of the Internet and yelling at you kids to get off it. Yes, there is a streak of the Luddite in anyone who complains that we have too many cell phones and Internets, amusingly using the plural of the latter and the slightly antiquated terminology for the former. But is Bradbury so wrong? Is he so outrageous? Are his words those of a curmudgeon … or are they the opinions of the majority of Americans, suffering under the yoke of Glorious Leader Obama’s increasingly socialist, increasingly totalitarian and increasingly indifferent rule? Should not Bradbury be lauded as a hero for saying as much?
When our aging heroes speak their minds with ever more fervor and candor, it isn’t the act of bravery (or of self-immolation) that it might be. A man in the twilight of his career has much less to lose. Charleton Heston was famously right-wing as an older man, but had he lived later and spoken out younger, his career in left-leaning Hollywood could never have been as grand as it was. When Ray Bradbury dares to condemn invasive government – in the midst of complaining, perhaps irrelevantly, that maybe our technologically advanced age has become too complicated – he should be applauded. He should not be jeered by writers who’ll never come close to being his peers. He should not be ridiculed for saying what most of us are thinking.
“We stand against the small tide of those who want to make everyone unhappy with conflicting theory and thought,” said Montag’s antagonist, ominously, before concluding an interview that was equal parts threat and admission. To Obama, Bradbury’s recent statements are that conflicting thought – and you are the thinkers.
The reaction to Bradbury’s public words testifies to the success of the sociopolitical movement Bradbury warned us about. Our popular culture, our media, our left-leaning technologically saturated real-time news and infotainment industry, facilitates control while it preaches passivity. Every time a news anchor interjects her biased political opinion to defend and protect her Democratic fellow travelers, you should hear, “Peace, Montag.” Whenever a scripted drama contains gratuitously left-wing political commentary, you should hear, “Serenity, Montag.” Whenever the incessant squawking of your radio, your television, your laptop, your smartphone, your tablet, your technologically interconnected life pummels you with Obama’s opinions, you should smell the flame-throwers’ liquid fire.