Dysmey Post > Essays > Politics > Ray Bradbury Hates the Internet

Ray Bradbury Hates the Internet

I wrote up this gem in response to an entry in Techdirt in June 2009.

I wonder why people call Ray Bradbury a science fiction author. In fact he is more of a writer of fantasy: Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes is more his style than Fahrenheit 451. And the latter book, which I did read, is a stab at television and technology in general. Bradbury has made that clear on more than one occasion. He (rightly, miaopinie) sees television as working blindly to push book-reading and literacy to the fringe. He also predicted the role of political correctness in pushing literacy out of public life. Fahrenheit 451 is not a parable on book-burning; however, since that is how librarians and educators tend to see it (and to ignore the warnings on political correctness therein), it is how everyone tends to see it.

Anyway, it is this quasi-Luddite bent, expressed in his better-known books, that makes Bradbury's bleat against the Internet no surprise at all. To him the proper way to express oneself is through books. Books! My own mother is more adaptable to technology than he is! But then, I suppose we should not be surprised.

Perhaps, as [Ray Bradbury] gets close to being 90 years old, he's simply proving the point that fellow science fiction author Douglas Adams once wrote:

  1. everything that's already in the world when you're born is just normal;
  2. anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;
  3. anything that gets invented after you're thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it's been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.

That sort of maxim does not work out very well if (a) you are unsociable and thus unlikely to follow the hurd and (b) you are already inured in technology and regard it as normal. I have no problem with the Internet, or the Web, or blogging, or AJAX (as such). I do take exception to the general public and what they have done to the Internet. I do take exception to the Web 2.0 marketing scam, and the twopointopian fanaticism that it has brought about. I have no interest (and want no participation in) AJAX-based social networks like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter because they are made for the Net-polluting general public.

Anyway, what are we to think of Bradbury? When he was born the original United States, the one fought for in the 1770's and 1860's, when faith in the one God was taken for granted, still existed. When Bradbury became a young adult with already-formed opinions about life and technology, the original USA died a silent death and was replaced by the USA we live in today.

Given all this, television — ascending in the 1950's and already with enough pull to oust one politician and swing a presidental election — was always freaky technology to him. To him the Internet is a scam created by computer companies. Never mind that the Internet existed long before many of those companies did; or that the Internet is not the same as the World Wide Web which caused the Internet to be infected by the general public; or that the general public is itself the scam behind the Internet, not the computer companies, some of which (Microsoft, AOL) regard the Internet as much of a bane as Bradbury does.

Written by Andy West on 25 June 2009, edited 9 August 2009 and 24 December 2009.