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Please Read or Re-Read Fahrenheit 451 (please)

Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 22308 – 792:

Here’s the haps:

Sixteen years ago I wrote a post called, “Which Books Should Be Banned?” In that post I described the processes that should be undertaken if a particular book is considered offensive. Now, I read where Dr. Seuss’s publishing company, which is owned and operated by his family, has decided to discontinue publishing six of his books. They apparently went to great lengths to find out what material was offensive in his books. I owned and have read two of the books to my kids over the years. It never came into my mind that there was anything offensive in them. It is probably a smart business decision on their part, however, to take a proactive approach to what could become a volatile situation. The Washington Football team could have done the same thing and been ahead of the game.

But books and sports teams are very different and I wonder if this is the best approach, however, to deal with the offensive images in these books. Couldn’t we use the pictures as talking/teaching points? “Do you think all Asian people look like this? Do you think all African people look like that?” You can find the same images in National Geographic. Was Seuss a racist? I don’t think so or if he was he had grown up and learned better by the time he wrote The Sneetches. While it’s true that he did do a number of cartoon advertisements that contained racial stereotypes, that wasn’t all that he did.

I guess that this was something that was going to come up eventually so who better to deal with it than the family? A couple of articles I found interesting about the man, Theodor Geisel were, DR. SEUSS USE OF RACIST IMAGES and Dr. Seuss’ great-nephew calls museum mural removal ‘extreme,’ criticism ‘a lot of hot air over nothing’.


31 responses to “Please Read or Re-Read Fahrenheit 451 (please)”

  1. Bruce Goodman Avatar

    Herb I’m almost beyond having a thought. The Inquisition is back.

    1. Herb Avatar

      Except it isn’t just one group or organization. I think that’s why I think of Bradbury’s book so much. His take seemed to be that all kinds of little organizations or groups would get offended by something.

      1. Bruce Goodman Avatar

        Yes – I haven’t read it I must admit but have it fairly high now on my to do list.

  2. Lisa Mae ❤️ Avatar

    Independent thought is at risk in the USA. G-d help us all.

    1. Herb Avatar


  3. ellie894 Avatar

    Thank you for this! I’m going to pull out Bradbury. I can’t believe what it’s all coming to.

    1. Herb Avatar

      You’re welcome. I look forward to reading your thoughts on is.

  4. Petra Avatar

    I totally agree with you, books should never be banned no matter what’s in them, people should just be educated about the context and the social history behind them. Fahrenheit 451 should be a mandatory read.

    1. Herb Avatar

      It really is an important book.

  5. colinmcqueen Avatar

    Utterly my favourite book. Have read it many times since I was introduced to it at school – sometimes several times a year. Remains relevant and powerful after all this time. Definitely a must read. May I suggest a double-header with ‘Fahrenheit’ and Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ – I think pretty much every opinion I have ever held was forged in these two books…

    1. Herb Avatar

      I’ve read Animal Farm and liked it fine but I think 1984 is, perhaps, a bit more important.

      1. colinmcqueen Avatar

        1984 just a brilliant book and caries so many warnings for the future. Orwell called Animal Farm a fairy tale, but as a warning about sitting back whilst bad slowly takes over it is unsurpassed

        1. Herb Avatar

          I definitely agree with you.

  6. colinmcqueen Avatar

    The PAST was racist. It just was: sexist, homophobic, religiously intolerant etc etc etc. We can’t alter it and we really should not rub it out. As you suggest, Herb, the possibility of discussing ‘Why this would not be acceptable today’ is a great way through. Be sure, in a hundred years time we will all be looked on with disgust for our views…

    1. Herb Avatar

      Those who don’t learn from the past are condemned to repeat it. It is possible to learn from the mistakes of others and not have to make the same ones but have an opportunity to make fresh, new ones.

      1. colinmcqueen Avatar

        Yes. It is also impossible to learn from mistakes that have been erased from history.

        1. Herb Avatar

          Yes sir, I agree.

  7. dumbestblogger Avatar

    Here the issue: Dr. Seuss books have been published for a long time, and you ain’t burning all of them. I read yesterday that ebay has now banned the sale of these book (you can still buy Mein Kampf though) but before they banned them, there were copies of “To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street” going for upwards of $600.

    When you and me read these book it didn’t even register that those images could be considered racist. Now it’s an issue, and families will be reading these books to their kids, pointing out the images and saying “look at that picture, they tried to ban it because it was racist Johnny, but it’s ok. We’re not offended by stupid stuff like this.” I 100% guarantee you that this will happen.

    To some extent, the world is formed by how it is perceived. If the world is perceived as a racist hellhole, and if everything revolves around the perceived fact that it is a racist hellhole it will become a racist hellhole.

    Be careful what you wish for.

    1. Herb Avatar

      Very well said. I never thought anything about it. I also never thought that a cartoon picture would be representative of a whole group of people.

      1. dumbestblogger Avatar


  8. Tony Laplume Avatar

    I think it’s absolutely wrong to acquiesce to a mob, regardless of their configuration. A mob demands things. Protests, particularly peaceful ones, are a different matter entirely. They seek ideals. Mobs demand satisfaction. They’ll never actually find it, because they’ll just move on to another indignation, and that’s just part of the reason they should always be ignored.

    In American culture, challenging books, regardless of the reason, means that you’re challenging the basic tenets of our society. Everyone has their definition of what the American ideal is, and that’s kind of the whole point. It’s glorious chaos. Sometimes hard to bask in, surely, but will forever be worth fighting for. To begin applying rigid expectations to this culture is to begin its destruction. And yeah, I want no part of that.

    1. Herb Avatar

      Yes sir, I agree. “Books can be beaten down with reason.” You can use a book as a teaching moment.

  9. Margy Avatar

    We are each unique – what is offensive to one isn’t offensive to another. My son-in-law is Japanese. He jokes that he married into a family of eggs – yellow on the inside (because we love Japanese food) and white on the outside. Yellow isn’t an ethnic slur to him.

    1. Herb Avatar

      That’s pretty funny. You’re absolutely right, of course. We are all individuals with individual tastes.

  10. bekitschig Avatar

    These things probably just come in waves. In Germany they are targeting food at the moment. For example, they are rebranding Zigeunersoße (Gypsy Sauce), a tomato sauce with paprika, and it is really causing big discussions. Some Roma and Sinti find that really degrading, others welcome the change. The problem is really not the name but what is going on in people’s heads. The passionate rasists won’t change a view just because they put a different label on the packaging… It’s probably about time that these issues get a bit more awareness in our societies.

    1. Herb Avatar

      “The passionate rasists won’t change a view just because they put a different label on the packaging”…I agree.

  11. AJMcGregor Avatar

    The foundation of “political correctness” is intolerance which is profoundly ironic, it seems to me. I think one of the greatest consequences of all of this is that people are encouraged to feel like victims and resilience is undermined. Now, if something upsets someone, that “something” needs to be eliminated as opposed to that “someone” needs to suck it up!

    1. Herb Avatar

      This generation seem to be particularly thin-skinned. Uh-oh. Was that hypersensitivist?

      1. AJMcGregor Avatar

        It sounded pretty accurate to me!

  12. Amber Avatar

    People will be people no matter who and what they are.

    1. Herb Avatar

      Yes, but apparently tolerance only goes for certain people.

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