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Burning down the Press

Posted November. 19, 2004 23:09,   


Fireman Montag hunts down and burns books for a living. He lives in a world where allsystems are devised to block the human ability of reflection. Advertisement billboards are colossal, as cars are forced to race at top speed. TV programs plunge its viewers into virtual reality by simultaneously casting them as actors, in a world where citizens live their reality through their four walls of wall-to-wall TV screens.

Book-burning Rituals in the Novel “Farenheit 451”-

It is only when Montag meets 16-year old Clarisse one day that he truly begins to learn how to think. He then realizes with undue amazement that in the past, a fireman’s job was not to set fire but to put them out, a realization that later leads to a crisis of faith. Eventually, he flees to avoid arrest after squirreling away volumes, and winds up joining a band of intellectuals who memorize the contents of books, waiting for the day when the freedom to think will again be permitted.

This is the account of “Farenheit 451,” a 1996 movie adapted from the 1961 novel written by Ray Bradbury. It is regrettable that this “piece for the thinking man” was recognized due to “Farenheit 9/11,” a third-rate propaganda concocted to debase President George W. Bush. Farenheit 451 is known to be the temperature at which paper burns; Michael Moore uses the analogy, where Farenheit 9/11 is intended to be the temperature at which “truth” burns.

The broadcasting and internet industries of today, in which public opinion acts as the mainstream media, serve as a chilling reminder of the anti-utopian world as envisioned by Bradbury. Screens are ephemeral, retaining only the fleeting impression of what has been. Through its embossed pictures and exaggerated reports, the broadcast media can especially create an image of either evil or justice, as evidenced by the recent impeachment episode. It’s a harsh world out there, where unsuspecting citizens could be duped by the masters of conceit and propaganda.

As faithful adherers to the six basic rules of writing, on the other hand, newspapers confer a sense of logic and analysis; otherwise they stand to lose reader confidence. Those who do not reflect will not appreciate ordered sentence structures and the beauty of fine print. That is why the degradation of the newspaper industry amounts to the degradation of the level of society in general. Obviously, those that act to deceive the citizens would use the means of censorship.

The government plans to legalize various forms of censorship polices of the major newspapers, and hence its readership. The administration glibly glosses over the issue, acting as if it has rescued the readers, who incidentally happens to have full control over their newspaper preference, from the evil clutches of the print media. What a sad mistake to underestimate the readers today. This has been a group of scheming, conniving, devious lot that has since proven its skills of deception. Without conscious newspapers to criticize this phenomenon, everyone will accept this sort of propaganda ‘unconditionally’. In the end, a world of a permanent oligarchy ruling the unsuspecting masses, as predicted by Bradbury half a century ago, may indeed come to pass.

While re-hauling the newspaper industry in a way that was never before attempted in a liberalized democracy, the government purports that this is a policy in line with bringing about more transparency to the industry. Following this logic, however, the broadcast media should be first to be targeted. Indeed, as a form of public media, it is the broadcast industry that extorts viewer fees in return for churning out government propaganda. The so-called ‘government of pluralist voices’ should take action to rescue the viewers from wallowing in a medium of prejudice. Heck, why not go the whole mile and limit the viewership of KBS and MBC to 30 percent each, or change the system of broadcast fee extortion altogether?

The Censuring of Newspapers Equals the Censuring of Readers-

Should the government censure the readership of the three major newspaper agencies as planned, only minor newspapers will stand to benefit from this policy. Let us review newspaper M, one of the beneficiaries of this policy:

“Should public opinion be artificially manipulated by controlling the newspaper market… the public will have an increasingly diminishing sense of confidence in the newspaper industry in general, due to the loss in discerning voices, and foreboding a desolate landscape within the newspaper industry.” Well said. Now that’s a true example of a newspaper that laughs in the face of censorship and, thus, strives along the path of dedicated journalism.