When George Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four, the novel describing a dystopia of mass stupidity and surveillance, he wasn’t making a prediction. He was describing what he actually saw in England. His protagonist, Winston Smith, works at the Ministry of Truth, whose enterprise is to engage in massive lying, altering history by sending documents down the Memory Hole, where they will be lost forever. One of his colleagues, Syme, is a linguist with a passionate love for Newspeak, the official language of the regime. The purpose of Newspeak is to deracinate language so badly that crimethought, the doubleplusungood rebellion of mind against the regime, will be impossible. No one will be able to think of crimes, because nobody will be able to think.
Orwell modeled his Ministry of Truth after the British Broadcasting Corporation, where he worked.
When Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451, another novel describing a dystopia of mass stupidity and surveillance, he wasn’t making a prediction. He was describing what he actually saw in America. His protagonist, Guy Montag, is a “fireman”—note, denizens of the novus ordo saeclorum, not a “firefighter,” since his job is to set fires, not to put them out. He’s a book burner. Bradbury insisted that his novel was not about censorship, but about how contemporary media have made people shallow and inattentive, squandering their cultural heritage. Shortly after he wrote the novel, colleges all over the country held their own bonfires, gutting their curricula, so that now a graduate of Harvard is far more likely to have listened vacantly to a hundred ‘songs’ devoid of melody or sense, than to have read a single line of Dante.
Our founders believed that a free press was essential for a free society. We believe we have a free press. But what good is nominal freedom—the government does not censor our newspapers—if the writers are liars, or are ill-educated, or feed the populace a lot of claptrap, or ignore important events because they don’t like the people involved or the cause? What happens, if the “teaching” of three hundred million Americans is in the hands of people who give headlines to a football player with a fictional girlfriend, or to the sleazy habits of a porn girl turned celebrity, or to “scientific” studies about when your “relationship” is going to end, rather than to anything of substance, anything that requires learning, listening, investigating, and thought? What happens, particularly, if the only stories about faith come from the category, “Benighted Believers”?