Like every kid, I was forced to read Fahrenheit 451 in high school.
If you’d asked me what it was about before last week, I would have told you: “Firemen who burn books.”
And if you’d asked me why on earth they did that, I would have answered just as confidently: “Because a tyrannical government wanted them to.”
There is a trend afoot to conveniently remember the works of authors like Ray Bradbury and Aldous Huxley as warnings against distant totalitarianism and control. But this only scratches the surface of what these books are about.
Earlier this year a community college student in San Bernardino protested being required to read a Neil Gaiman graphic novel in one of her classes. It was too graphic, apparently. Her father—who does not seem to understand that his daughter is a separate human being (an adult one no less)—told The Los Angeles Times, “If they [had] put a disclaimer on this, we wouldn’t have taken the course.” A mom in Tennessee has complained that the gynecological information in the book in the bestselling nonfiction science book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, is too pornographic for her 10th grade son.
While these conservative complaints about the content of books is unfortunately as old as time. We’re also seeing surge in a different type.
A Rutgers student has proposed putting trigger warnings on The Great Gatsby. Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” was banned on many college campuses for promoting rape. Last year, Wellesley students created a petition to remove an art project featuring a lifelike statue of a sleepwalking man in his underwear in the snow because it caused “undue stress.” Controversial speakers (many conservative) have been blocked from speaking at college commencements. Pick up artists—never convicted of any crime—have had their visas revoked due to trending Twitter hashtags.