I recently attended a panel discussion about the themes of censorship, mass media and the classic novel Fahrenheit 451. This panel was part of the Mix Tape Lecture Series, which brings together speakers to talk about hot topics to coincide with upcoming features at the Manship Theater. The speakers included Baton Rouge Area Foundation Executive Vice President John Spain, and East Baton Rouge Parish Library Assistant Library Director Mary Stein. The main topic of the panel was a discussion about how censorship, the 24-hour news cycle and how our world compares the futuristic one imagined by Bradbury over sixty years ago.
The mass media aspect of this event really drew me to attend. The panelist spoke on the effects mass media has had on our society. There are many events in recent history that were delivered to us via Walter Cronkite or CNN, but, in recent years, the way we receive news is massively different. Many of us read our Twitter timeline or Facebook stream to glean the day’s news stories. However, in doing so our experience of an event is a bit disconnected. For instance, I had a very different experience when on the morning of 9/11 than when I heard the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden. I personally like getting my news from multiple sources and being my own curator of the day’s news. I feel like this gives me a better worldview. I can see how some can think we have lost some of that shared experience of news.
The panel also spoke on censorship, as it is a central theme in Bradbury’s novel. As a librarian, censorship is something I deal with on a daily basis. It still surprises me just how many books are challenged or banned toady. I have based my career on helping people find the information they need and connecting them with books that will enlightened as well as entertain. I am a firm believer that libraries shouldn’t censor material. That is the job of the individual. Parents should ultimately decide what their children read. I am thankful I was raised in a home where my parents encouraged us to read extensively. Librarians do their best to act as a guide to everyone. We divide our collections into age-appropriate sections in order to help parents decide what their children read..
This panel also touched on how technology has made us more isolated. While I can see evidence of that in some, I see technology has shrunk our world. Because of technology, I can read about news from across the world, keep up with current events in my hometown and FaceTime with my 3-year-old nephew who lives hundreds of miles away. Ten years ago, moving 800 miles away from my close-knit family would have been very different from my experience today.For me, it has allowed me to foster my relationships with friends and family from a distance. I have lively conversations with my friends and people whom I have never even met. I feel like there has to be a balance in our lives. I try my best to foster relationships with real people in person but still use technology to maintain those connections.