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Is TSA’s New Book Policy a Forerunner of 'Fahrenheit 451?' Printer friendly page Print This
By Dallas Darling
Submitted by author
Saturday, Jul 1, 2017

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
-Ray Bradbury

Evidently, there’s more than one way to burn a book. While flying the Transportation Safety Administration’s (TSA) not so friendly skies, it didn’t take long for me to realize how their new policy of checking every carry on book before boarding a plane was not only to ensure safety, but to intimidate passengers from reading certain kinds of content. What’s more, if you’re asked to explain the title of your book and then provide what might be considered too political, you might even be threatened with arrest.

Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” written during the McCarthy Era, warned about this. In addition to the dangers of state-based censorship, he was more concerned about an illiterate society infatuated with the mass media and its electronic devices. In fact, he foresaw how people would soon be plugged into an endless world of mindless virtual entertainment that erected emotional barriers, and prevented people from reading literature and the Classics-classics that is which people praise but really don‘t read.

Greatest Crime Is Not Reading Books

Although books and their content are a private matter protected under First Amendment rights, a security officer questioned the titles of my books. “The Imagineers of War,” I explained, was about the Pentagon and DARPA spending billions of dollars to create destructive weapons to destroy the world many times over. Describing how the MOAB, drones, and bunker-busting bombs were first tested in the Vietnam War, I then asked her if she ever read or knew about the Vietnam Conflict. Her answer was “Not really.”

“Fahrenheit 451,” which is the temperature paper burns, warned of a society illiterate of its past. “It didn’t come from the Government down,” wrote Ray Brad bury, and “There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no!” In other words, while technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure had achieved overt censorship, comics and mass entertainment had established internal censorship. Meanwhile, those who carried books or read in public were different and odd, above all never to be trusted.

When Screaming Jet Fighters Drown Out Reading Time
I next pointed to the “The Empire’s New Clothes-Barack Obama in the Real World of Power,” and explained how Mr. Obama was a continuation of President Bush. Once in the White House, he too used our tax dollars to bail out Wall Street and fund wars. “A Generation of Sociopaths,” I continued, is about how Americans are obsessed with only themselves and rarely think about future generations-let alone the environment or its deadly wars.” Another official came over and said “Don’t you support our troops?”

Ray Bradbury saw the danger of perpetual war and the militarization of  a mind numbing society too. When a character tried to dial the emergency line to save someone, “The jet bombers going over, going over, going over, one two, one two, one two, six of them, nine of them, twelve of them, one and one and one and another and another and another, did all the screaming for him.” The screams of fighter jets consequently drowned out all other screams for help, and constant war mobilization had used up all life-giving resources.

Reading History Is Reading Backwards-And Dangerous
Since I was flying to Utah to help grade 250,000 essays for the College Board, I also told them I wanted to read “Lies Across America-What Our Historic Sites Get wrong.” I then asked if they knew that Native Americans, who suffered one of the longest genocides in history, were again blamed for a massacre they didn’t commit, the Mountain Meadow Massacre. It was really committed by the Mormon Church hierarchy and its militia but blamed on Paiutes. “They never taught us things like that in school” was the reply.

In “Fahrenheit 451”, school and the learning process becomes a boring and tedious task, likened to being “locked-up in the Tower of Babel.” Students also only attend school because it’s the law instead of to learn. Books, meanwhile, are portrayed as contradictory, book-smarts as nonsensical. At one point, the owner of a hidden library even lights herself on fire along with her books-biblia self-immolation. This desperate act highlights why books are confusing and delusional like the Tower of Babel and should be illegal.

Who Needs Matches When Readers Are Intimidated?
>By now, the security director-who had overheard part of our conversation-came over to the check carry-on baggage line. Not only did he tell me to be quiet about my political beliefs, but threatened to arrest me for “holding up the line.” He then re-checked my I.D. I Luckily, I didn’t elaborate on “Word And Phrase Origins” and how language shapes us, since I might have used “terrorist” or “terrorism” as an example. For now, a nearby passenger who noticed the incident said they’d never again take a book on a plane to read.

Once on the plane, as if in some kind of lock-step Orwellian World, almost everyone was checking their Smart Phones or plugged-into some type of electronic device. As for me, I quietly pulled out one of my most trusted friends that never seems to be an endless source of ideas and thoughts, Timothy Snyder’s “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century.” I also remembered a quote by a writer who once said: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” but “The man who never reads lives only one.”

Dallas Darling is the author of Politics 501: An A-Z Reading on Conscientious Political Thought and Action, Some Nations Above God: 52 Weekly Reflections On Modern-Day Imperialism, Militarism and Consumerism in the Context of John‘s Apocalyptic Vision, and The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace. He is a correspondent for

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