Part 20. Book Burning
Back in the days when armies actually conquered on the ground instead of with missiles
and bombs, the ultimate insult to a nation was to burn some repository of knowledge.
Usually that meant a temple, or in the case of Alexandria, Egypt, it meant the national
library. There was nothing more devastating to a culture than to deprive it of its
historical records, its documents, and its educational tools.
In medieval Europe, it was also a common sight to have books or other cultural and
educational implements burned in public, particularly if their contents were a challenge
to a ruling elite. Often a church leader would find that a particular Bible translation
or pamphlet exposed with devastating clarity some falsehood or myth that had kept
people in darkness, so it was necessary to confiscate certain books and burn them.
Sometimes the publisher was thrown into the fire made with his own books!
Censorship has thus had a long and violent history, and has originated both with
foreign powers and with domestic institutions. Censorship has been given a bad name
because it implies a closed mind and a narrow agenda of keeping people in the dark
for the sake of power and monetary gain. Thus it is that most people are on the
lookout for any signs of book-burners or censors and will quickly react to prevent
any such skullduggery.
However, a clever and subtle new form of censorship has begun to take place, one
that insidiously works its way into the fabric of society by claiming to be enlightenment!!
That censorship is done by making the computer screen so cute, so appealing, so
all-encompassing, that the *desire* for book reading begins to wane. That way, somebody
who controls what is seen on the computer screen can effectively censor any undesireable
material -- any material that conflicts with the manipulator's own agenda. Instead
of having to burn books directly (and raise a lot of eyebrows in the process), the
censor simply distracts attention from books so thoroughly that he can redefine
society and culture as completely as if those books had gone up in smoke.
The censorship capabilities of Microsoft are growing daily. By investing one billion
dollars each in ComCast, TCI, and other cable television networks; by buying WebTV
and cutting deals with NBC; by developing satellite networks and monopolizing PC
operating systems: these are the silent fires being lit under every library, every
bookstore, every school in the world. As educators run full-tilt to computerize
their schools in some vain attempt to keep from "falling behind," they
are instead pouring gasoline on the flames of the book-burners. Schools will never
view the computer screen as merely an alternative window to view the text of a book,
because the censors will never allow such simplification to occur. Not only is it
not in the cultural interests of the Microsoft agenda, but quite simply, there's
no money in it.
Prepare then for a generation of cartoon-watchers instead of readers. The book burners
at Microsoft will stop at nothing to abolish the printed page.
Most recent revision: January 10, 1998
Copyright © 1998, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.