In Ray Bradbury’s dystopian masterpiece Fahrenheit 451, inquisitive teenage heroine Clarisse McClellan muses:
“I sometimes think drivers don’t know what grass is, or flowers, because they never see them slowly. If you showed a driver a green blur, Oh yes! he’d say, that’s grass! A pink blur! That’s a rose garden! White blurs are houses. Brown blurs are cows. My uncle drove slowly on a highway once. He drove forty miles per hour and they jailed him for two days. Isn’t that funny, and sad, too”?
Pondering on the beauty of the British countryside might not get you banged up in Belmarsh, but the ever further encroachment of the apparatus of mind control into our public sphere makes leading an examined life increasingly strange and difficult.
The sudden ubiquitousness of TV news in public spaces – broadcast on gargantuan plasma screens in shopping centres, transport interchanges and Doctors’ waiting rooms is particularly troubling and should be the cause of grave concern for freedom loving people everywhere. I have lost count of the amount of times I have been subjected against my will to either Sky or BBC News while out and about. Victoria Train Station London, Grey’s Monument Newcastle, the Bridges Shopping Centre Sunderland, Morpeth Bus Station Northumberland! The list goes on and on.
Can you imagine what the liberal head scratching classes would make of the same phenomenon occurring in Iran, China or North Korea? Why has this issue failed to generate more of an outcry among the general public? Just why are Sky and the BBC determined that Saturday afternoon shoppers consume to a soundtrack of state approved scare mongering? Not only have these questions not been answered, they have hardly been asked!
Perhaps a silent tsunami of rage is forming in the hacker community, waiting to be unleashed Luddite-like against this insidious incursion on the nation’s freedom to think. Perhaps a lone crazy, driven to distraction by the omnipresent propaganda, will bring the issue to light by putting his fist through Adam Boulton’s pixelated mush in Dudley High Street. Then again, perhaps a population desensitised to 24 hour rolling news views graphic footage of mass murder and reports on bowel cancer as being an appropriate accompaniment to a quick Greggs’ pasty between La Senza and Waterstones.
In Fahrenheit 451 a malevolent television style device called the “Parlour Wall” is used by the state to pacify a sad and confused population. Mind control motifs common (and once confined) to science fiction literature and movies are now a mundane fact of life.
Unless the British public vociferously rejects the destruction of their quiet time and demands the right to shop, catch a bus or sit in a local beauty spot without being force fed extreme violence and political partisanship a la News Corporation, even the most outlandish prophecies of Fahrenheit 451 and other works of dystopic fiction are in danger of being realised.