In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 – if I remember correctly – the two political parties are the White and the Black parties. The White party candidate is tall and handsome, well spoken, with the name Steel; the Black party candidate is short, mumbles, picks his nose on camera.
The novel – not the Truffaut film, which barely resembles the book, not the least in tone – is about consumerism as much as the McCarthyism of the time of its 1956 publication. It was serialized in Playboy, and it was science fiction, so the McCarthyites didn’t bother with it.
(Unlike the movie, which eliminates all writing – for instance, newspapers are pages of comic-book panels – in Bradbury’s novel “books” refers to novels, and one assumes poetry, philosophy, and the like. Written instructions, signs, textbooks and newspapers still exist).
In that world, that America – although I do not think a nation or city is mentioned by name – what is being fed to everyone through the media – wall-to-wall televisions, earbud radios – is from a unseen fascist bloc whose goal is to get people to stop thinking, to stop making decisions. Even cars’ speeds are controlled by dials that only offer 5 mph increments.
Of course, as explained in conversations among Montag’s wife and her friends, no one could possible vote for the Black Party candidate! Just look at him, he doesn’t even bother to shave for a debate, and his eyes are so shifty!
In the America of Fahrenheit 451 the fascists in power know mental laziness is seductive and encourage it to their own end. Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck do the same thing.
Rush is constantly saying , “I know what the ‘drive-by media’ are going to try to tell you about this tomorrow…”, “I’ll tell you what the progressives are thinking, although they are not going to be honest toward you…”. “I’m telling you, come the 2010 elections…” He is telling his audience his opinions, and his projections about the future, and his assumptions about others’ motivations, are comfortable certainties. He is creating the future in the minds of his listeners, and that is the only place the future exists. If he turns out to be wrong? He shrugs, he is just an entertainer. And if our liberal enemies do not act as he expects, that is because they are working their machinations of oppression on an even more sinister level than we had anticipated.
Glenn Beck takes another tack – magic thinking. In a recent screed against Islam as an institution and a religion, in the span of 4 sentences he jumps to the silliness of holding the Ganges River sacred, then jumps to how “Ganges” sounds like a venereal disease in English – wrong religion, and the name Ganges predates modern English medical terminology but thousands of years. His “arguments” are all feeling, just the false patterns, and their presumed significances, that our minds are hardwired to create out of what is pretty much the chaos of 6,300,000,000 people bumping into each other on this planet. The political beliefs he portrays himself as having are as thoughtful and sincere as the audience’s applause when The Jay Leno Show cuts to a commercial. What Glenn Beck want you to do is what Big Brother wanted you to do in 1984 – “bellyfeel”.
Needless to say, a slew of others – Cheney, Palin, Bachmann, Coulter – raise their specter. Maybe another time. And, needless to say, and I know, I am saying nothing that 10,000 bloggers haven’t already said.
And by the way, conservative icon and Biblical epic hero Charlton Heston’s last name is so close to “shit” in Greek they have to change it there. If Obama had the same problem, you know Glenn Beck would assign it meaning.