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Welcome to Fahrenheit 2023 Censors cut out writers’ tongues and obliterate worlds

Forget Brave New World - we are living in Fahrenheit 451 (Farenheit 451, 1966)

Forget Brave New World - we are living in Fahrenheit 451 (Farenheit 451, 1966)


June 26, 2023   7 mins

Avid readers are a small and dwindling minority of the population. But even they can’t be expected to understand what it means to have one’s book locked away by literary wardens, or manhandled by fat-fingered editors who rifle through typescript like policemen conducting a search — something that’s happening with alarming frequency in the US today.

Plato observes that poets love their poems like fathers love their children. That’s why writers hate to cut their own work — to “murder their babies”, as they must learn to do if they hope to be any good. But they hate it more when others murder their babies, and are even ready to die for the ones they’ve raised and sent out into the world.

D-503 — the protagonist of We, the dystopian sci-fi novel of totalitarianism published in 1921, for which the Soviet author Yevgeny Zamyatin was lucky to be exiled rather than shot — calls the diary he has just begun “a new, still tiny, still blind little human being. It is I and, at the same time, not I.”

And when the KGB confiscated the manuscript of Vasily Grossman’s magnum opus Life and Fate, Grossman wrote to the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, asking: “What is the point of me being physically free when the book I dedicated my life to is arrested?”

A famous passage from the Talmud helps to explain why writers feel this way — and why we should, too: “Adam was created alone to teach you that whoever destroys a single soul, Scripture regards him as if he destroyed the entire world. And whoever saves a single soul, Scripture regards him as if he preserved the entire world.”

Had the first human being died alone, neither Eve nor any of her descendants would have existed. The destruction of a soul is the annihilation of all of its potential offspring, physical and spiritual, until the end of time. But a human soul is an entire world in another way. Perception, thought and feeling open the soul to very many things beyond itself — in principle, to all things — whose impressions it absorbs and assembles into a more or less meaningful whole. Apart from this humanising work, the notion of a universe, a single, all-encompassing whole, might never have occurred to anyone. But this inner world can also be destroyed, corrupted by forgetfulness and publicly erased.

For writers, this Biblical passage rings true: “In the beginning was the Word [logos].” God is said to have fashioned the waters of primordial chaos into a universe by divine speech. One need not be a believer to learn from this story. Human beings are obliged to sort social and psychological chaos by way of logos — reason, speech, order, proportion — in the first instance through law, ritual and the cultural memory of myth. Communities of shared meaning and purpose are woven of language, without which individual experiences would otherwise be poor possessions held in dumb isolation by lonely hominids.

Like the poets and chroniclers of remote antiquity, novelists and dramatists speak to the enduring questions of human life: who we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going. They fabricate buzzing microcosms peopled by characters that live and breathe on contact with other minds and fertile imaginations. Censors don’t just cut out writers’ tongues and stop up readers’ ears, they obliterate worlds.

But the public response to the extensive and aggressive censorship of our time has been depressingly muted. In part, this reflects a widespread loss of what the Germans call Sprachgefühl, a feeling for language and the meaning of words. Most people don’t read books, let alone good ones. They produce and consume short, easily digestible “texts” through electronic media, but hard-won habits of literacy rust in disuse.

Few people know the thrill of repeatedly casting into the depths of a difficult piece of writing, feeling a tug on the line and hauling up a catch of meaning. That experience was more common when deep and challenging books were recited, studied and memorised as sources of wisdom. “Turn it and turn it,” an ancient commentator said of the Bible, “for everything is in it.” Generations of our forebears thought the same of Homer and Dante, Aristotle and Confucius. Who reads like that anymore?

The metallic clang of abstractions now drowns out the living word of particular human minds. Like all bureaucratic and ideological jargon, the governing language of our time is flat, colourless and crude. It is no longer that of poets, prophets and statesmen, but of what Nietzsche called “the coldest of all cold monsters” — the increasingly unified, propaganda-generating, information-gathering-and-monitoring conglomeration of public and private entities that is the post-modern State.

The contemporary sclerosis of language has profound psychological and political consequences. One of Samuel Beckett’s characters wistfully contemplates the dance and hum of bees as they enter and exit their sun-drenched hives, exhibiting a kind of connectedness from which he is excluded by his lonely consciousness. That consciousness of exile is both quintessentially modern and distinctively human. It envies the bees, but cannot find satisfaction in any socially-ordered aggregation of identical units. It yearns for the inner connection between individuals that distinguishes a community from a characterless crowd. But censorship and the decay of language serve only to strengthen the hive-mind and the crowd.

The corruptions of language, politics and society we are now witnessing were foretold in some great dystopian novels of the 20th century. But the English and American authors of those novels had the evidence of history before them, in the form of ideological tyranny: Leninism, Stalinism, Hitlerism and Maoism. And they’d learned from the Bard that what’s past is prologue.

“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words,” one of the characters in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four remarks. In the regime of Oceania, which is ruled by a technocratic elite “shaped and brought together by the barren world of monopoly industry and centralised government”, books are everywhere hunted down and destroyed. The State language is crudely binary (like one university’s definition of a lesbian as “a non-man attracted to non-men”), purged of nuance and full of “telescoped words and phrases”, of which its very name, Newspeak, is exemplary. A large department meticulously destroys and reproduces newspapers on a daily basis, rewriting the past to conform with the demands of the present. (Orwell couldn’t have guessed how easy this would be in the digital age.)

The vocabulary of Newspeak is constantly shrinking, because its “whole aim … is to narrow the range of thought”. The State hopes that restricting speech to “short, clipped words which could be uttered rapidly and which roused the minimum of echoes in the speaker’s mind” will ultimately eliminate “thoughtcrime” — or independent thought — if only because “there will be no words in which to express it”.

In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, elite technicians govern a stratified society composed of classes of virtually identical human beings grown in scientific hatcheries. While a global State founded on eugenics hasn’t yet materialised, much that Huxley imagines has already come to pass. The society he foresees is debased in familiar ways. It is characterised by a cult of youth; an economy driven by entertainment and the pleasures of virtual reality; the near-universal, habitual use of psychoactive drugs, contraceptives and aphrodisiacs; overt public sexuality; general promiscuity; and a swarming media that makes a great public spectacle of non-conformists.

Love and friendship are hardly possible under these conditions. The citizens of the World State are mere shadows of human beings: smiling surfaces without tragic depth. Little wonder that the one surviving lover of Shakespeare is driven to suicide.

Most people in Brave New World are content with their lot. Thankfully, we are not quite there yet. Ray Bradbury envisions a society more like our own, one full of vague foreboding. Fahrenheit 451 describes a rushing world of violence, suicide and looming war in which a depressed populace distracts itself from the slow death of love and longing with vapid entertainment. Bradbury explicitly connects the fact that “our civilisation is flinging itself to pieces” with the destruction of literature and the deliberate falsification of the past.

Montag, the protagonist, makes a living burning books, in accordance with rules said to have been established in 1790 by the “First Fireman”, Benjamin Franklin. His wife Mildred, who claims to be happy, spends her days in a room with three walls of television screens, surrounded by her “family”: soap-opera uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews who “said nothing, nothing, nothing and said it loud, loud, loud”. She has no recollection of swallowing a bottle of sleeping pills one night.

An old professor who’s been unemployed since the last liberal arts college shut its doors tells Montag that the magic of books lay in “how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us”. But they are hated because they “show the pores in the face of life” to a world that wants “only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless”.

Chief Beatty, Montag’s deeply conflicted boss, explains how we got here. Everything sped up in the 20th century, when horses, dogs and carts were replaced by faster and faster machines. Time contracted. Books were condensed and pre-digested, “levelled down to a sort of paste pudding norm”. School was shortened, “discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually neglected, finally almost completely ignored”. Sound familiar?

Fahrenheit 451 concludes apocalyptically, with a revelatory global catastrophe. Bradbury draws on some very old stories to make the meaning of this ending fully intelligible. Montag flees a doomed city like Lot escaping the burning of Sodom. The world collapses and must be rebuilt. Insofar as there is hope, it lives in the hearts and minds of scattered old men who remember the writings of Plato, Swift, Jefferson and Lincoln, as well as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Montag himself recalls passages from a forbidden volume of Ecclesiastes.

At the novel’s end, Montag remembers a verse from Revelations, The Book of the Apocalypse: “And on either side of the river was there a tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruits every month; And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”

The Jews called the Bible — in Greek, to biblion, or “the book” — an etz chaim, or tree of life. In Revelations, the river of the waters of life sustains two trees of life: the Hebrew Scriptures (whose fruits were the twelve tribes of Israel) and New Testament. The “leaves” of these trees, their pages, were understood to be medicine for the sickness of “the nations”, people who knew nothing of the Bible.

Despite the best efforts of some of our greatest writers, the healing power of books has been mostly forgotten in our time. Must we really wait until our world is thoroughly burned and broken before we begin to mend it?


Jacob Howland is Provost and Dean of the Intellectual Foundations Program at the University of Austin.


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Nell Clover
Nell Clover
10 months ago

“Most people in Brave New World are content with their lot. Thankfully, we are not quite there yet.”

I’m not so sure. In the post-lockdown wash-up, it turns out the poles of the debate aren’t those who think governments lied to coerce versus those who think governments used science to save us. Almost everyone seems to accept governments lied and coerced. The poles of the debate are those who think this was a terrible precedent and those who think it was for the greater good. And it is the greater good camp that forms the vast majority of Western nations.

In all the dystopian novels mentioned, the singular theme of them all is a greater good that is never fully spelled out. All of the governments in these novels think they are working towards a greater good and their citizens accept that their governments are working towards a greater good yet neither knows what that greater good means anymore. That is exactly where we are: the bulk of the citizenry accept there is a greater good without any definition of what is that greater good. There will be no end of perversions and depravations committed by societies that believe in a nebulous greater good. The acceptance of the idea of a greater good enables all the terrors of Brave New World, 1984, Fahrenheit 451 and the rest to be visited upon us. We are there now.

Last edited 10 months ago by Nell Clover
Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
10 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Spot on! “The greater good” is the deception of every eugenics agenda. We must vociferously call it out wherever we encounter it. It is utilitarian and Antihuman.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
10 months ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

I’m not sure this is deception. Everyone seems aware of what is going on. Large parts of the commentariat openly fantasise about a technocratic world and fetishise the bureaucracies of the EU, UN and WHO.

Many have reached a high level of comfort in a world where most believe tomorrow will be less prosperous than today. In a self-fulfilling prophecy, it makes sense to those who are comfortable to want this world keeping in aspic, and view democracy, discussion and meritocracy as risks. Far safer for them the certainty of a technocracy. How many realise you can’t trade freedom for security?

Last edited 10 months ago by Nell Clover
Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
10 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Great point

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
10 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Great point

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
10 months ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

I’m not sure this is deception. Everyone seems aware of what is going on. Large parts of the commentariat openly fantasise about a technocratic world and fetishise the bureaucracies of the EU, UN and WHO.

Many have reached a high level of comfort in a world where most believe tomorrow will be less prosperous than today. In a self-fulfilling prophecy, it makes sense to those who are comfortable to want this world keeping in aspic, and view democracy, discussion and meritocracy as risks. Far safer for them the certainty of a technocracy. How many realise you can’t trade freedom for security?

Last edited 10 months ago by Nell Clover
Gerard A
Gerard A
10 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Although accepting the general thrust of the article I find it somewhat contradictory that the author is against censorship of books but implicitly in favour of banning psychoactive drugs, contraceptives and aphrodisiacs, overt public sexuality, general promiscuity and anything which offends his moral compass.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 months ago
Reply to  Gerard A

He said nothing of the sort. He is describing a fictional setting in Huxley’s Brave New World.

Gerard A
Gerard A
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

However the activities have nothing to do with the central theme of his essay. So why raise them unless he believes they are a “general bad”?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 months ago
Reply to  Gerard A

That’s a good question. In Brave New World the citizens are not only free to do such things, but are actively encouraged to do so by corporations and big state institutions. While this may seem like a good thing on the surface (everyone being free to do whatever they want), it actually makes the people of Brave New World shallow, superficial and compliant worker-drones.
Most books set in dystopian futures have a ruling elite, a status-quo, who personally profit by scientifically managing the people through severe speech control and censorship like Orwell’s 1984, or by weakening a society by allowing people to cave into every vice conceivable like BNW.
When brought into a wider context, many historians noted that before a powerful civilization collapsed it was often precipitated by a decline in moral virtue, strength, courage, and logic, eventually allowing it to be conquered by more clever and warlike enemies. I think this is the concern of many living in the West and bearing witness to governments that seem all-too-eager to curb personal freedoms in order to grant small sub-cultures the right to pursue excessive pleasure. What is the end-game here? Are governments really concerned about our emotional/physical well-being or are they turning our vices against us in order to make us docile and dependent?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 months ago
Reply to  Gerard A

That’s a good question. In Brave New World the citizens are not only free to do such things, but are actively encouraged to do so by corporations and big state institutions. While this may seem like a good thing on the surface (everyone being free to do whatever they want), it actually makes the people of Brave New World shallow, superficial and compliant worker-drones.
Most books set in dystopian futures have a ruling elite, a status-quo, who personally profit by scientifically managing the people through severe speech control and censorship like Orwell’s 1984, or by weakening a society by allowing people to cave into every vice conceivable like BNW.
When brought into a wider context, many historians noted that before a powerful civilization collapsed it was often precipitated by a decline in moral virtue, strength, courage, and logic, eventually allowing it to be conquered by more clever and warlike enemies. I think this is the concern of many living in the West and bearing witness to governments that seem all-too-eager to curb personal freedoms in order to grant small sub-cultures the right to pursue excessive pleasure. What is the end-game here? Are governments really concerned about our emotional/physical well-being or are they turning our vices against us in order to make us docile and dependent?

Gerard A
Gerard A
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

However the activities have nothing to do with the central theme of his essay. So why raise them unless he believes they are a “general bad”?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 months ago
Reply to  Gerard A

He said nothing of the sort. He is describing a fictional setting in Huxley’s Brave New World.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Mercator published a brilliant article that keys on to what you are saying here: https://www.mercatornet.com/prudence_justice_democracy_and_how_technocracy_thwarts_them

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
10 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Spot on! “The greater good” is the deception of every eugenics agenda. We must vociferously call it out wherever we encounter it. It is utilitarian and Antihuman.

Gerard A
Gerard A
10 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Although accepting the general thrust of the article I find it somewhat contradictory that the author is against censorship of books but implicitly in favour of banning psychoactive drugs, contraceptives and aphrodisiacs, overt public sexuality, general promiscuity and anything which offends his moral compass.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Mercator published a brilliant article that keys on to what you are saying here: https://www.mercatornet.com/prudence_justice_democracy_and_how_technocracy_thwarts_them

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
10 months ago

“Most people in Brave New World are content with their lot. Thankfully, we are not quite there yet.”

I’m not so sure. In the post-lockdown wash-up, it turns out the poles of the debate aren’t those who think governments lied to coerce versus those who think governments used science to save us. Almost everyone seems to accept governments lied and coerced. The poles of the debate are those who think this was a terrible precedent and those who think it was for the greater good. And it is the greater good camp that forms the vast majority of Western nations.

In all the dystopian novels mentioned, the singular theme of them all is a greater good that is never fully spelled out. All of the governments in these novels think they are working towards a greater good and their citizens accept that their governments are working towards a greater good yet neither knows what that greater good means anymore. That is exactly where we are: the bulk of the citizenry accept there is a greater good without any definition of what is that greater good. There will be no end of perversions and depravations committed by societies that believe in a nebulous greater good. The acceptance of the idea of a greater good enables all the terrors of Brave New World, 1984, Fahrenheit 451 and the rest to be visited upon us. We are there now.

Last edited 10 months ago by Nell Clover
Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
10 months ago

Some universities are decaying from the inside. ‘Non-men’ indeed!

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
10 months ago
Reply to  Malcolm Knott

All*, just some faster than others…

Last edited 10 months ago by Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago

Cambridge fastest of all.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago

Cambridge fastest of all.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
10 months ago
Reply to  Malcolm Knott

All*, just some faster than others…

Last edited 10 months ago by Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
10 months ago

Some universities are decaying from the inside. ‘Non-men’ indeed!

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
10 months ago

Books taught us that the world is complicated. Hollywood has taught Gen X, who don’t read books, that everything is a straightforward battle between unimpeachable good and irredeemable evil. Alexandra Ocasio Cortez is the result.

Ben Jones
Ben Jones
10 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Gen X don’t read books? That’s nonsense.

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
10 months ago
Reply to  Ben Jones

I do think he means Gen Z and the end of the Millennials. And if so, he’s right.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
10 months ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

Tbf schools have done as much to destroy a child’s love of books as screens have. I bought really great books for my kids but the books school sent home were unbelievably boring and lame.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
10 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

And selected for their political correctness.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
10 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

And selected for their political correctness.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
10 months ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

Tbf schools have done as much to destroy a child’s love of books as screens have. I bought really great books for my kids but the books school sent home were unbelievably boring and lame.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
10 months ago
Reply to  Ben Jones

Sorry, meant Gen Z

Last edited 10 months ago by Hugh Bryant
Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
10 months ago
Reply to  Ben Jones

I do think he means Gen Z and the end of the Millennials. And if so, he’s right.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
10 months ago
Reply to  Ben Jones

Sorry, meant Gen Z

Last edited 10 months ago by Hugh Bryant
Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
10 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

AOC was born in 1989 – she isn’t gen X. In fact my generation (pre-internet) was the last generation that DID I think predominantly read books rather than watch screens.

Ben Jones
Ben Jones
10 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Gen X don’t read books? That’s nonsense.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
10 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

AOC was born in 1989 – she isn’t gen X. In fact my generation (pre-internet) was the last generation that DID I think predominantly read books rather than watch screens.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
10 months ago

Books taught us that the world is complicated. Hollywood has taught Gen X, who don’t read books, that everything is a straightforward battle between unimpeachable good and irredeemable evil. Alexandra Ocasio Cortez is the result.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago

Until the advent of western universal education, the percentage of the population who could read well enough to comprehend “literature” was miniscule. The printing press evolved publication beyond the court and the cloister but the type of literary imaginations the loss of which this writer rails against was confined to an elite with sufficient time and resources to consume and digest the output of their day.

I’d suggest that what we’re witnessing isn’t too dissimilar to a kind of reversion to that state. Books are being produced and consumed at an incredible rate, but a reduction as people’s attention spans latch onto other media and shorter formats (including Unherd!) doesn’t spell disaster so much as a reversion to the status quo.

The critical aspect is of course censorship. We hear of editorial woke-mindedness, but should also bear in mind the overwhelming freedom that writing for widespread public consumption has attained, compared to say a century or so ago. Writers such as Dickens were popularisers but also pioneers, and the masses became involved in the consumption of literature for the first time; but that expansion heralded ways of writing where self-censorship was no longer necessary. I suspect what’s actually happening is perhaps not too dissimilar to how writers would’ve had to self-censor prior to that so as not to fall foul of the Church, or State.

The greatest writers found ways around this. Chaucer is as good an example as any. Perhaps those who wish to have their ‘internal universes’ published will need to “up their game” in order to escape the editorial bounds that prevail in Farenheit 2023, to produce the work of Centigrade 2050 with a greater degree of imagination.

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Great comment! Echoes my thoughts on this.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Shakespeare is a good example of this- there was extensive censorship in Tudor England

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Chaucer was ‘well connected’.
His contemporary John Wycliffe was dug up, and his bones burnt, before the ash was tossed into the River Soar.

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Great comment! Echoes my thoughts on this.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Shakespeare is a good example of this- there was extensive censorship in Tudor England

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Chaucer was ‘well connected’.
His contemporary John Wycliffe was dug up, and his bones burnt, before the ash was tossed into the River Soar.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago

Until the advent of western universal education, the percentage of the population who could read well enough to comprehend “literature” was miniscule. The printing press evolved publication beyond the court and the cloister but the type of literary imaginations the loss of which this writer rails against was confined to an elite with sufficient time and resources to consume and digest the output of their day.

I’d suggest that what we’re witnessing isn’t too dissimilar to a kind of reversion to that state. Books are being produced and consumed at an incredible rate, but a reduction as people’s attention spans latch onto other media and shorter formats (including Unherd!) doesn’t spell disaster so much as a reversion to the status quo.

The critical aspect is of course censorship. We hear of editorial woke-mindedness, but should also bear in mind the overwhelming freedom that writing for widespread public consumption has attained, compared to say a century or so ago. Writers such as Dickens were popularisers but also pioneers, and the masses became involved in the consumption of literature for the first time; but that expansion heralded ways of writing where self-censorship was no longer necessary. I suspect what’s actually happening is perhaps not too dissimilar to how writers would’ve had to self-censor prior to that so as not to fall foul of the Church, or State.

The greatest writers found ways around this. Chaucer is as good an example as any. Perhaps those who wish to have their ‘internal universes’ published will need to “up their game” in order to escape the editorial bounds that prevail in Farenheit 2023, to produce the work of Centigrade 2050 with a greater degree of imagination.

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
AC Harper
AC Harper
10 months ago

But another question is ‘what books have been unpublished, what articles decommissioned, what scientific reports cannot find a journal to publish them?’
So not only are existing books censored in line with current sensibilities, but future works die before they are completed. We are being impoverished by stealth.
See: https://dailysceptic.org/2023/06/26/the-new-scientist-cancels-distinguished-scientist-because-of-his-links-to-the-global-warming-policy-foundation/

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
10 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Fortunately those scientists have other places to publish their work. Like the BBC, outfits like “The New Scientist” have lost all credibility and trust. We have moved on without them. They will become irrelevant.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
10 months ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

Indeed. I was a subscriber to NS but after seeing an ideological centre insert covering climate change etc (I was doing oceanography at the time) I wrote to the editor and complained but received no reply. I then cancelled my sub.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
10 months ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

Indeed. I was a subscriber to NS but after seeing an ideological centre insert covering climate change etc (I was doing oceanography at the time) I wrote to the editor and complained but received no reply. I then cancelled my sub.

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
10 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Fortunately those scientists have other places to publish their work. Like the BBC, outfits like “The New Scientist” have lost all credibility and trust. We have moved on without them. They will become irrelevant.

AC Harper
AC Harper
10 months ago

But another question is ‘what books have been unpublished, what articles decommissioned, what scientific reports cannot find a journal to publish them?’
So not only are existing books censored in line with current sensibilities, but future works die before they are completed. We are being impoverished by stealth.
See: https://dailysceptic.org/2023/06/26/the-new-scientist-cancels-distinguished-scientist-because-of-his-links-to-the-global-warming-policy-foundation/

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
10 months ago

What a beautiful piece! This is what I come to Unherd for. Thank you. But I feel more hope than is expressed here, so take heart.

Yes, the mainstream/conventional publishing industry is a joke. It serves one purpose: it is a printing press for the propaganda machine. The books – fiction and non-fiction – that line the front tables at your local book store are nothing more than drivel designed to push a collectivist, antihuman agenda. Not worth the paper they are printed on. Since around 2016, the only books worth reading are those published independently. “Self-publishing” was initially given a bad name by the big publishers (obvs!) but it is no longer the domain of fringe nutcases hell-bent on their “vanity” project. It is the only outlet for real critical thinkers and those challenging the regime. Authors who have written important works can seek out and work with independent editors, then find good freelance designers, then use publishing platforms like Amazon and Lulu to publish their works (see Simon Elmer’s “The Road to Fascism”). You might need to hunt a little harder to find the gems, but they are there. Another place to find uncensored and inspired writing, of course, is substack. That’s where I found the long, fascinating and thought-provoking essays of Charles Eisenstein. The Brownstone Institute is a great resource website, too. David Bell is a deep-thinking scientist worth reading there. You can also visit secondhand bookshops for good reads, especially National Trust ones. There are too many good books and good writers. They can’t burn or censor them all. We can fight back!

The more pressing concern is the attack on language itself. This is why, in everyday conversation we must keep using words only to express their true meaning, like “woman” and “science”, and refuse to use made-up nonsense words and phrases like “cis” and “intersectionality” and “climate justice”.

I would draw the author’s attention to one missed truth, though. While it may not YET be adopted globally, sadly we very much have a State “founded on eugenics” in Canada, where it is now illegal for doctors to tell patients any reservations they have about state-prescribed drugs, and where young people are actively encouraged to “euthanise” themselves if they are feeling mentally unwell. And most Canadians cheer it along. It is very much the realisation of the totalitarian dystopia that Huxley imagined.

But there is good news! If you follow the UK’s “Irreverends” podcast (where you’ll hear opinions you can, by turns, vehemently agree and disagree with), you’ll know that a Christian revival is being prayed for all over the world. “The Catholic Current” is a good US podcast with a similar tone. There is much to be preserved in this world, and the will of the people who want to defend our civilisation is strong. Have faith.

Last edited 10 months ago by Amy Horseman
Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
10 months ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

Still stunned and quite confused about Canada. I see great numbers complaining via various forums but the government plows ahead reducing freedom (and humanity) anyway. Much the same with the down-unders whilst the home base, UK seems more reasonable despite notable errors. Perhaps to distract us from the various financial foolishness near worldwide.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
10 months ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

Still stunned and quite confused about Canada. I see great numbers complaining via various forums but the government plows ahead reducing freedom (and humanity) anyway. Much the same with the down-unders whilst the home base, UK seems more reasonable despite notable errors. Perhaps to distract us from the various financial foolishness near worldwide.

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
10 months ago

What a beautiful piece! This is what I come to Unherd for. Thank you. But I feel more hope than is expressed here, so take heart.

Yes, the mainstream/conventional publishing industry is a joke. It serves one purpose: it is a printing press for the propaganda machine. The books – fiction and non-fiction – that line the front tables at your local book store are nothing more than drivel designed to push a collectivist, antihuman agenda. Not worth the paper they are printed on. Since around 2016, the only books worth reading are those published independently. “Self-publishing” was initially given a bad name by the big publishers (obvs!) but it is no longer the domain of fringe nutcases hell-bent on their “vanity” project. It is the only outlet for real critical thinkers and those challenging the regime. Authors who have written important works can seek out and work with independent editors, then find good freelance designers, then use publishing platforms like Amazon and Lulu to publish their works (see Simon Elmer’s “The Road to Fascism”). You might need to hunt a little harder to find the gems, but they are there. Another place to find uncensored and inspired writing, of course, is substack. That’s where I found the long, fascinating and thought-provoking essays of Charles Eisenstein. The Brownstone Institute is a great resource website, too. David Bell is a deep-thinking scientist worth reading there. You can also visit secondhand bookshops for good reads, especially National Trust ones. There are too many good books and good writers. They can’t burn or censor them all. We can fight back!

The more pressing concern is the attack on language itself. This is why, in everyday conversation we must keep using words only to express their true meaning, like “woman” and “science”, and refuse to use made-up nonsense words and phrases like “cis” and “intersectionality” and “climate justice”.

I would draw the author’s attention to one missed truth, though. While it may not YET be adopted globally, sadly we very much have a State “founded on eugenics” in Canada, where it is now illegal for doctors to tell patients any reservations they have about state-prescribed drugs, and where young people are actively encouraged to “euthanise” themselves if they are feeling mentally unwell. And most Canadians cheer it along. It is very much the realisation of the totalitarian dystopia that Huxley imagined.

But there is good news! If you follow the UK’s “Irreverends” podcast (where you’ll hear opinions you can, by turns, vehemently agree and disagree with), you’ll know that a Christian revival is being prayed for all over the world. “The Catholic Current” is a good US podcast with a similar tone. There is much to be preserved in this world, and the will of the people who want to defend our civilisation is strong. Have faith.

Last edited 10 months ago by Amy Horseman
Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
10 months ago

I suppose, what is so surprising (or maybe not), is that despite a wide range of, well known, almost visionary, books and lessons from recent history, most of it paid for in blood (buckets of the stuff) it seems to be precisely the very people who most feared and campaigned against a ‘hard right’ society who seem hell bent on trying to create/recreate that very ‘dystopian’ future they so feared, all in the name, or so it seems, in the name of ‘being kind’. It seems never to have been truer that ‘The path to hell is paved with good intentions’. It all appears to rather unfortunate that those, intelligent, educated people leading the charge into this brave new world, don’t seem to have bothered, or are uninterested in reading anything that really matters.

Last edited 10 months ago by Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
10 months ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Meant to add this to the above, but ran out of editing time.

Two recent example that have drawn my ire, but by no means all, are (sorry, in advance, for non-Brit’s who have no idea to what I refer) the murders in Nottingham, in which an eye witness was quoted on the BBC, describing the assailant as “A black man”, later modified to being just “A man”. Given the ‘moment’ in which we live, and the BBC’s adherence to this moment, it seems almost amusing that they should exclude the one hard fact that was, pretty much, definite, but not consider whether the person involved ‘actually’ identified as a man (talk about taking liberties). A world in which eye witness accounts are shorn of all/most of their ‘problematic’ content, so that they either become meaningless of downright contradictory. The second occasion was the eulogising of the ‘Windrush generation’, ‘’saving’ Britain, or as one person was quoted as saying or “Putting the Great in Great Britain”. Myth making is fine by me, or as they say “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story”, but myths are created when there is a lack of facts, or evidence, or a person is bigging up an event or spinning a yarn. Ancient people doing that or modern archaeologists ‘filling in gaps’ I ‘generally’ don’t have a problem with, but trying to mythologise events that plain contradict the known facts, and they are known, by state organisations, and the media, who we are supposed to trust to tell the truth, as far as in they know it, is despicable, worthy of the worst of political extremes.

Mel Shaw
Mel Shaw
10 months ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

If you search ‘ Windrush Generation’ on the internet you won’t find facts in the traditional sense. They have taken on a role in postwar Britain far beyond anything those of us alive at the time recall. That is not to say they didn’t make a valuable contribution. But so did the far greater number of men and women who returned to their jobs after serving in the war.

Mel Shaw
Mel Shaw
10 months ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

If you search ‘ Windrush Generation’ on the internet you won’t find facts in the traditional sense. They have taken on a role in postwar Britain far beyond anything those of us alive at the time recall. That is not to say they didn’t make a valuable contribution. But so did the far greater number of men and women who returned to their jobs after serving in the war.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
10 months ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Meant to add this to the above, but ran out of editing time.

Two recent example that have drawn my ire, but by no means all, are (sorry, in advance, for non-Brit’s who have no idea to what I refer) the murders in Nottingham, in which an eye witness was quoted on the BBC, describing the assailant as “A black man”, later modified to being just “A man”. Given the ‘moment’ in which we live, and the BBC’s adherence to this moment, it seems almost amusing that they should exclude the one hard fact that was, pretty much, definite, but not consider whether the person involved ‘actually’ identified as a man (talk about taking liberties). A world in which eye witness accounts are shorn of all/most of their ‘problematic’ content, so that they either become meaningless of downright contradictory. The second occasion was the eulogising of the ‘Windrush generation’, ‘’saving’ Britain, or as one person was quoted as saying or “Putting the Great in Great Britain”. Myth making is fine by me, or as they say “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story”, but myths are created when there is a lack of facts, or evidence, or a person is bigging up an event or spinning a yarn. Ancient people doing that or modern archaeologists ‘filling in gaps’ I ‘generally’ don’t have a problem with, but trying to mythologise events that plain contradict the known facts, and they are known, by state organisations, and the media, who we are supposed to trust to tell the truth, as far as in they know it, is despicable, worthy of the worst of political extremes.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
10 months ago

I suppose, what is so surprising (or maybe not), is that despite a wide range of, well known, almost visionary, books and lessons from recent history, most of it paid for in blood (buckets of the stuff) it seems to be precisely the very people who most feared and campaigned against a ‘hard right’ society who seem hell bent on trying to create/recreate that very ‘dystopian’ future they so feared, all in the name, or so it seems, in the name of ‘being kind’. It seems never to have been truer that ‘The path to hell is paved with good intentions’. It all appears to rather unfortunate that those, intelligent, educated people leading the charge into this brave new world, don’t seem to have bothered, or are uninterested in reading anything that really matters.

Last edited 10 months ago by Tom Lewis
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
10 months ago

I have just been listening to a YouTube video interview of Keri Sith by Peter Boghossian where she explains how she escaped the woke cult and a YouTube Video talk by Jordan Peterson played an important part.

Reading books is only useful if it feeds genuine curiosity about the world and is not simply a cult-like means of reinforcing an existing ideological view. Keri Smith read and was active in publishing when she was woke but the books were prepackaged to reinforce the woke message not to challenge or question it.

She said she had not been thinking merely regurgitating the approved message that she had absorbed from University selective reading and woke friends.

You have to keep actively reading a wide range of literature including stuff that challenges your views and also listening with a similar enquiring mind.

Last edited 10 months ago by Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
10 months ago

I have just been listening to a YouTube video interview of Keri Sith by Peter Boghossian where she explains how she escaped the woke cult and a YouTube Video talk by Jordan Peterson played an important part.

Reading books is only useful if it feeds genuine curiosity about the world and is not simply a cult-like means of reinforcing an existing ideological view. Keri Smith read and was active in publishing when she was woke but the books were prepackaged to reinforce the woke message not to challenge or question it.

She said she had not been thinking merely regurgitating the approved message that she had absorbed from University selective reading and woke friends.

You have to keep actively reading a wide range of literature including stuff that challenges your views and also listening with a similar enquiring mind.

Last edited 10 months ago by Jeremy Bray
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago

(I ask the (Un)Herd to tolerate or graciously overlook this uncommissioned, unpolished little-but-not-brief essay…)
Fascinating article with a searching depth that isn’t easily found or “heard” elsewhere, not in a periodical or instantaneous format. I took extra notice of this passage:

Few people know the thrill of repeatedly casting into the depths of a difficult piece of writing, feeling a tug on the line and hauling up a catch of meaning. That experience was more common when deep and challenging books were recited, studied and memorised as sources of wisdom. “Turn it and turn it,” an ancient commentator said of the Bible, “for everything is in it.” Generations of our forebears thought the same of Homer and Dante, Aristotle and Confucius. Who reads like that anymore?

Some do. They’ve not been a common lot during any period of history. We should bear in mind that in the distant past few could could read at all. The ancient commentator Mr. Howland cites is known as Rabbi Ben-Bag, and thought to have lived within a broad span around the time of Jesus. In those decades, the learned men were few, even among “the people of the book”–and this rabbi’s possible dates mean he may have lived in a time when early and competing gospels (many never made it into the Bible), were contested among the first Christians, and forbidden within the Hebrew faith, “censored” in their version of scripture.
The medieval scribes who turned the Bible over and over were not all “deep fishermen”. Not every Doctor of Theology was a Meister Eckhart or Desiderius Erasmus. Medieval authorities did not trust the general public to hear the whole Bible in a tongue laymen could comprehend. William Tyndale was burned at the stake (1536) over an English translation that became the most important single source of the enduring, celebrated style of the Authorized Version less than a century later (1611). Not to dismiss or “compare away” our current suppressive and self-silencing cultural moment, but that was a level of censorship we’re nowhere close to seeing in the West these days–may it never come again!
The common person gained likelier access to books in the Early Modern period, but let’s not pretend that every common, or even prodigious reader was a Ben Johnson, John Milton, or Samuel Johnson, all of whom were people of (varied but) sub-elite beginnings who carved out erudition for themselves, certain opportunities notwithstanding.
Howland justly observes: “the governing language of our time is flat, colourless and crude. It is no longer that of poets, prophets and statesmen”. But while we are in a notably fallow and shallow age, it has always–or at least mostly–been thus. When we read the original language of Cicero (for those of Mr. Stanhope’s class or inclinations), Chaucer, Shakespeare, or letters of Walpole, Keats, or Hardy: Do we imagine that we are reading the “governing” or typical language of the times? That it is similar to contemporary pub chat or even most parliamentary speeches?
Questioning quibbles notwithstanding, I think Howland’s essay is superb literary journalism. The concluding paragraph is quite choice: “Despite the best efforts of some of our greatest writers, the healing power of books has been mostly forgotten in our time. Must we really wait until our world is thoroughly burned and broken before we begin to mend it?”
Let’s not. You cannot mend what is “burned and broken”, even with a preservation or reclamation project comparable to that of medieval scribes and early-Renaissance greats. “Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider” You tell ’em, Sir Francis Bacon! Wait…where did he go?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago

(I ask the (Un)Herd to tolerate or graciously overlook this uncommissioned, unpolished little-but-not-brief essay…)
Fascinating article with a searching depth that isn’t easily found or “heard” elsewhere, not in a periodical or instantaneous format. I took extra notice of this passage:

Few people know the thrill of repeatedly casting into the depths of a difficult piece of writing, feeling a tug on the line and hauling up a catch of meaning. That experience was more common when deep and challenging books were recited, studied and memorised as sources of wisdom. “Turn it and turn it,” an ancient commentator said of the Bible, “for everything is in it.” Generations of our forebears thought the same of Homer and Dante, Aristotle and Confucius. Who reads like that anymore?

Some do. They’ve not been a common lot during any period of history. We should bear in mind that in the distant past few could could read at all. The ancient commentator Mr. Howland cites is known as Rabbi Ben-Bag, and thought to have lived within a broad span around the time of Jesus. In those decades, the learned men were few, even among “the people of the book”–and this rabbi’s possible dates mean he may have lived in a time when early and competing gospels (many never made it into the Bible), were contested among the first Christians, and forbidden within the Hebrew faith, “censored” in their version of scripture.
The medieval scribes who turned the Bible over and over were not all “deep fishermen”. Not every Doctor of Theology was a Meister Eckhart or Desiderius Erasmus. Medieval authorities did not trust the general public to hear the whole Bible in a tongue laymen could comprehend. William Tyndale was burned at the stake (1536) over an English translation that became the most important single source of the enduring, celebrated style of the Authorized Version less than a century later (1611). Not to dismiss or “compare away” our current suppressive and self-silencing cultural moment, but that was a level of censorship we’re nowhere close to seeing in the West these days–may it never come again!
The common person gained likelier access to books in the Early Modern period, but let’s not pretend that every common, or even prodigious reader was a Ben Johnson, John Milton, or Samuel Johnson, all of whom were people of (varied but) sub-elite beginnings who carved out erudition for themselves, certain opportunities notwithstanding.
Howland justly observes: “the governing language of our time is flat, colourless and crude. It is no longer that of poets, prophets and statesmen”. But while we are in a notably fallow and shallow age, it has always–or at least mostly–been thus. When we read the original language of Cicero (for those of Mr. Stanhope’s class or inclinations), Chaucer, Shakespeare, or letters of Walpole, Keats, or Hardy: Do we imagine that we are reading the “governing” or typical language of the times? That it is similar to contemporary pub chat or even most parliamentary speeches?
Questioning quibbles notwithstanding, I think Howland’s essay is superb literary journalism. The concluding paragraph is quite choice: “Despite the best efforts of some of our greatest writers, the healing power of books has been mostly forgotten in our time. Must we really wait until our world is thoroughly burned and broken before we begin to mend it?”
Let’s not. You cannot mend what is “burned and broken”, even with a preservation or reclamation project comparable to that of medieval scribes and early-Renaissance greats. “Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider” You tell ’em, Sir Francis Bacon! Wait…where did he go?

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
10 months ago

Philip Kiszely has suggested in Spiked that book readers etc should start to collect un censored versions of books in order to construct private libraries devoid of censor tyranny.
Needless to say, I have already begun.
He also suggests the books be kept in a different location in case the censor police come knocking.

Sophy T
Sophy T
10 months ago

There a scene like this in the excellent series Deutschland 83 when the hero’s girlfriend discover’s his mother’s secret library of banned books in the cellar.

Sophy T
Sophy T
10 months ago

There a scene like this in the excellent series Deutschland 83 when the hero’s girlfriend discover’s his mother’s secret library of banned books in the cellar.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
10 months ago

Philip Kiszely has suggested in Spiked that book readers etc should start to collect un censored versions of books in order to construct private libraries devoid of censor tyranny.
Needless to say, I have already begun.
He also suggests the books be kept in a different location in case the censor police come knocking.

Mark epperson
Mark epperson
10 months ago

The fascism/socialism/communism and globalization actions will continue until the “elites” run out of money or we give up. Though, I do belive the worm is starting to turn.

Mark epperson
Mark epperson
10 months ago

The fascism/socialism/communism and globalization actions will continue until the “elites” run out of money or we give up. Though, I do belive the worm is starting to turn.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
10 months ago

“much that Huxley imagines has already come to pass. The society he foresees is debased in familiar ways. It is characterised by a cult of youth; an economy driven by entertainment and the pleasures of virtual reality; the near-universal, habitual use of psychoactive drugs, contraceptives and aphrodisiacs; overt public sexuality; general promiscuity; and a swarming media that makes a great public spectacle of non-conformists.”
It has ben heading that way since at least 1945, the question that needs to be asked is who is driving it

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
10 months ago

“much that Huxley imagines has already come to pass. The society he foresees is debased in familiar ways. It is characterised by a cult of youth; an economy driven by entertainment and the pleasures of virtual reality; the near-universal, habitual use of psychoactive drugs, contraceptives and aphrodisiacs; overt public sexuality; general promiscuity; and a swarming media that makes a great public spectacle of non-conformists.”
It has ben heading that way since at least 1945, the question that needs to be asked is who is driving it

Laura Pritchard
Laura Pritchard
10 months ago

Firstly, how about some actual stats about who reads what? Secondly, since the writer refers to numerous books from times gone which address the same problem he’s obsessing about in the present, one can assume that a) this is every much not a new phenomenon and b) we’ve survived the apocalypse of literary indifference/censorship many times before. Thirdly, some of the absolute best stuff has been created during and in spite of excessive censorship. Get to it, Mr Howland, and stop bemoaning that life is a little bit difficult to be a professor at a university, right now.

Last edited 10 months ago by Laura Pritchard
Laura Pritchard
Laura Pritchard
10 months ago

Firstly, how about some actual stats about who reads what? Secondly, since the writer refers to numerous books from times gone which address the same problem he’s obsessing about in the present, one can assume that a) this is every much not a new phenomenon and b) we’ve survived the apocalypse of literary indifference/censorship many times before. Thirdly, some of the absolute best stuff has been created during and in spite of excessive censorship. Get to it, Mr Howland, and stop bemoaning that life is a little bit difficult to be a professor at a university, right now.

Last edited 10 months ago by Laura Pritchard
Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
10 months ago

I fear the last sentence is rhetorical. Yes, this world will burn before a new one can come forth.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
10 months ago

I fear the last sentence is rhetorical. Yes, this world will burn before a new one can come forth.

jon leventhal
jon leventhal
10 months ago

Brilliant writing.

jon leventhal
jon leventhal
10 months ago

Brilliant writing.

Rupert Carnegie
Rupert Carnegie
10 months ago

Beautifully written BUT sales of printed books in the US have risen from 330 to 404 million since 2018. The UK publishing industry has just enjoyed a “record breaking year”. Add the growth of audio and e-books. It is perhaps a little premature to start talking of Fahrenheit 451.

Last edited 10 months ago by Rupert Carnegie
Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
10 months ago

And a huge number of those have been sold independently of the mainstream, gatekeeping publishers by authors, themselves. There’s a quite a revolution happening, similar to how Spotify provided a platform for self-published musicians, but in independent publishing, authors can actually make money from book sales!

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
10 months ago

Rising book sales tells us nothing of who is reading. The concern is book reading is increasingly concentrated amongst certain demographics, and is no longer a mass participation activity. Like much else in society, reading has become polarised and averages mask this polarisation.

Last edited 10 months ago by Nell Clover
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Mass participation in deep-dive, serious reading has never been the norm. Although, from what I’ve read Iceland (population about 375,000) may come close, with their avid reading public and high percentage of published authors. I wonder how many in Reykjavic are reading what Yeats called “monuments of unageing intellect” though.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Mass participation in deep-dive, serious reading has never been the norm. Although, from what I’ve read Iceland (population about 375,000) may come close, with their avid reading public and high percentage of published authors. I wonder how many in Reykjavic are reading what Yeats called “monuments of unageing intellect” though.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago

I agree with your final sentence but would return the point that just because that we are not in a full-fledged dystopia a la Ray Bradbury does not mean there is nothing amiss. We don’t need an event like the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, or a squadron of government book-burners, to lose touch with our cultural traditions.
The easy, instant availability of nearly all surviving works online, often free once the copyright period has elapsed (or before), delivers both a great benefit and a sort of cheapening through excessive ease, removing not only the tactile engagement of a scroll or codex, but the context and order found in the physical arrangement of good print libraries. And online versions are viewed on a machine that can instantaneously access the worst filth and idiocy imaginable, even through one or two inadvertent clicks away from something worthwhile.
Even so, I wouldn’t trade in this powerful digital utility, despite its accompanying Pandora’s Box of distraction and amplified negativity. Some kid in Africa or Appalachia may access great works of literature, music, and art through a donated cell phone (or whatnot), discovering an upward path in life that would have been closed off without the present-day super-availability of information. It’s not the same as hearing great live music or hitting the museum, but that can come later and it’s better than nothing.
(*Plus, the African and Appalachian kid have probably both heard some pretty good live music already).

Last edited 10 months ago by AJ Mac
Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
10 months ago

And a huge number of those have been sold independently of the mainstream, gatekeeping publishers by authors, themselves. There’s a quite a revolution happening, similar to how Spotify provided a platform for self-published musicians, but in independent publishing, authors can actually make money from book sales!

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
10 months ago

Rising book sales tells us nothing of who is reading. The concern is book reading is increasingly concentrated amongst certain demographics, and is no longer a mass participation activity. Like much else in society, reading has become polarised and averages mask this polarisation.

Last edited 10 months ago by Nell Clover
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago

I agree with your final sentence but would return the point that just because that we are not in a full-fledged dystopia a la Ray Bradbury does not mean there is nothing amiss. We don’t need an event like the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, or a squadron of government book-burners, to lose touch with our cultural traditions.
The easy, instant availability of nearly all surviving works online, often free once the copyright period has elapsed (or before), delivers both a great benefit and a sort of cheapening through excessive ease, removing not only the tactile engagement of a scroll or codex, but the context and order found in the physical arrangement of good print libraries. And online versions are viewed on a machine that can instantaneously access the worst filth and idiocy imaginable, even through one or two inadvertent clicks away from something worthwhile.
Even so, I wouldn’t trade in this powerful digital utility, despite its accompanying Pandora’s Box of distraction and amplified negativity. Some kid in Africa or Appalachia may access great works of literature, music, and art through a donated cell phone (or whatnot), discovering an upward path in life that would have been closed off without the present-day super-availability of information. It’s not the same as hearing great live music or hitting the museum, but that can come later and it’s better than nothing.
(*Plus, the African and Appalachian kid have probably both heard some pretty good live music already).

Last edited 10 months ago by AJ Mac
Rupert Carnegie
Rupert Carnegie
10 months ago

Beautifully written BUT sales of printed books in the US have risen from 330 to 404 million since 2018. The UK publishing industry has just enjoyed a “record breaking year”. Add the growth of audio and e-books. It is perhaps a little premature to start talking of Fahrenheit 451.

Last edited 10 months ago by Rupert Carnegie
Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
10 months ago

Just like Unheard!!!