I read this Ray Bradbury novel years ago; I remember the 1960s movie a bit better. I had a vague sense that it was sci-fi criticism of the book-burning enthusiasm of the Nazis, that safest of literary targets. But no: it turns out that Ray Bradbury was speaking about the world in the early 21st century.
The reason for the book burnings is given in a “lecture” by the Fire Captain Beatty to the hero Guy Montag, Richard Smith wrote in a letter to the Times Literary Supplement, 28.11.17, as a reminder to us all:
“It didn’t come from the Government down . . . minority pressure carried the trick . . . colored people, white people . . . don’t step on the toes of the dog lovers, doctors, lawyers, Mormons, Baptists, second-generation Chinese, Texans, Irishmen, people from Oregon or Mexico . . . Burn it. Burn the book”
I can’t find my old copy of the novel, so I cheated. I went to Wikipedia, and this is how it describes this conversation. There’s no doubt in my mind that Bradbury is essentially going against Facebook:
Captain Beatty, Montag’s fire chief, personally visits Montag to see how he is doing. Sensing Montag’s concerns, Beatty recounts how books lost their value and where the firemen fit in: over the course of several decades, people embraced new media (in this case, film and television), sports, and a quickening pace of life. Books were ruthlessly abridged or degraded to accommodate a short attention span while minority groups protested over the controversial, outdated content perceived to be found in literature (yet comic books, trade papers, and sex magazines were allowed to stay, as those fed into the population’s want for mindless entertainment). The government took advantage of this by turning the firemen into officers of people’s peace of mind.