Ray Bradbury, Tea Party Icon

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 6 2012 1:51 PM

Ray Bradbury, Tea Party Icon

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Author Ray Bradbury arrives at the 12th Annual Art Directors Guild Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 16, 2008 in Beverly Hills, California.

Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images

While it’s only appropriate that we spend today remembering Ray Bradbury for his great literary achievements, a big part of his legacy comes from the political messages of his books. Fahrenheit 451 will be remembered by liberals as a critique of the censorship of McCarthyism. But, as noted by The American Conservative earlier this year, those on the right read it as an attack on political correctness and see parallels in Bradbury's dystopia to all that they think is wrong with modern America:

In the novel, people stopped reading before the state stopped them from reading. The predictable result was an ill-educated society fit for neither leisure nor the ballot. Women discuss voting for a candidate because of his handsome looks and abdicate the responsibilities of motherhood by dumping their children in front of television sets. The over-medicated, air-conditioned culture is awash in suicide, abortion, child neglect, and glassy-eyed passivity. Sound familiar?
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It’s probably worth noting that Bradbury himself was a staunch conservative in his final years. In fact, he would have made for a great Tea Party icon.

“President Reagan was our greatest president. He lowered the taxes and he gave the money back to the people,” Bradbury told a Comic-Con panel in 2010. “The next election, [the] November [2010 midterms], and two years from now, we’ll take the government back and give it to the people.”

At one point or another, Bradbury called former NRA president Charlton Heston an “intellectual,” and Bill Clinton a “shithead,” and Michael Moore a “screwed a–hole.” Shortly before 9/11, he said President Bush was “wonderful” and that the country “needed him.”

Prior to the 2010 midterms he even used the inflammatory language of the Tea Party in calling for a new American revolution. “I hope that sometime this fall, we can destroy part of our government, and next year destroy even more of it,” Bradbury said in one of his final interviews with Time magazine.

I’m sure that’s more than enough to make any progressive Bradbury fans out there feel slightly disillusioned in their hour of grief. So, for you, I offer this passage from Fahrenheit 451 in which the book-hating fire chief, Beatty, shares his view of politics and humanity. Feel free to read it as a tirade against anti-intellectualism. Or you can focus on the big government, tax stuff if you want.

“If you don't want a man unhappy politically, don't give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet give him none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war. If the government is inefficient, topheavy, and tax-mad, better it be all those than that people worry over it. Peace, Montag. Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of 'facts' they feel stuffed, but absolutely 'brilliant' with information. Then they'll feel they're thinking, they'll get a sense of motion without moving. And they'll be happy, because facts of that sort don't change.”

Jeremy Stahl is a Slate senior editor. You can follow him on Twitter.