How 'Fahrenheit 451' Trends Threaten
by Richard Widmann
Revised text: 02/14/98
In 1952, Harry Elmer Barnes wrote a timely article, "How
'Nineteen Eighty-Four' Trends Threaten American Peace, Freedom, and Prosperity"
as the final chapter of the classic revisionist anthology, Perpetual War
for Perpetual Peace. Barnes analyzed George Orwell's classic novel as
a work of prophecy and sounded the alarm to reverse the "1984" trends prevalent
in the America of his day. Barnes argued that propagandists and "court
historians" were fashioning a present, based on a falsified and inaccurate
telling of the past, that was designed to meet Establishment desires to
participate in world wars. Ironically,Barnes' article was omitted from the
first edition the collection.(1)
Barnes may be best remembered as the author of the generally
accepted definition of "revisionism,"
"Revisionism means nothing more or less than the effort to correct the historical
record in the light of a more complete collection of historical facts, a
more calm political atmosphere, and a more objective attitude." (2)
Barnes had discovered that a more nearly accurate version
of the history of the First World War was only possible after the fighting
had ended and the emotional excesses had lessened. He was unable to predict
that similar corrections of Allied propaganda and popularized conceptions
of the methods of warfare in the Second World War would meet even sterner
Today - half a century after the conclusion of the Second
World War - it would be fair to expect a less emotional environment, one
in which historians, researchers and writers were free to examine the actual
causes of the war as well as the atrocities committed by both sides in the
conflict. However, those and other topics are more forbidden than ever with
the greatest taboo surrounding analysis of the fate of Europe's Jews and
others in what has come to be known as the Holocaust.
In 1950, three years prior to Barnes' article concerning
"1984" trends another author, Ray Bradbury, set out a foreboding vision of
the future in a short story titled, "The Fireman." Later, Bradbury's story
would be renamed Fahrenheit 451 after the temperature at which
paper burns. Fahrenheit 451 describes a horrific future in which
millions of books are banned and firemen set fires instead of extinguishing
them. In order to maintain a society of brainwashed, "happy" people, the
firemen kick down doors and burn the hated volumes along with the homes that
Barnes would never have suspected how fast the world would
progress from the "1984" trends he identified to the trends Bradbury identified
in Fahrenheit 451(3). In our time, we see the events of Bradbury's
science fiction novel coming to pass every day.
Custodians of our peace of mind
Bradbury explained the origins of the book burnings in
Fahrenheit 451 through his fire chief, Captain Beatty:
"It didn't come from the Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration,
no censorship, to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and minority
pressure carried the trick, thank God. Today, thanks to them, you can stay
happy all the time, you are allowed to read comics, the good old confessions,
or trade journals." (4)
Contemporary America is similarly undergoing a period
of "political correctness" that has touched us on every societal level. The
impulse not to "offend" has resulted in the censorship of thought which breaches
the limits of recently defined "good taste." The solution to politically
incorrect thought is obvious in Bradbury's nightmare world. In the words
of Captain Beatty:
"Colored people don't like Little Black Sambo.
Burn it. White people don't feel good about Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Burn it. (5)
One of the first examples of a Fahrenheit 451
trend was an arson-attack on The Historical Review Press (HRP), a publisher
of revisionist books in Britain. On November 5, 1980, "firemen" destroyed
the office, warehouse and printing plant of the HRP. Damage was estimated
at 50,000 pounds.(6) HRP rebuilt only to have the "firmen" return in September
1996. The offices were once again badly damaged by the "firemen's"
HRP was not the only revisionist publisher to meet a fiery
fate. On July 4, 1984, "firemen" paid a call on the Institute for Historical
Review (IHR) in California. IHR publishes revisionist histories of the Second
World War and has dared to question elements of the orthodox "Holocaust"
story. The "firemen" chose to attack IHR's warehouse and burn tens of thousands
of books that they feared people would read. Among the books burned was Barnes',
Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace. (8)
On May 8, 1995, "firemen" in Canada brought their form
of censorship to Ernst Zündel, a small independent publisher. Zündel
had run into trouble with the authorities in Canada for publishing a slender
volume which dared to pose the question,
Six Million Really Die?. After years of state censorship,
Zündel's home and office were severely damaged by fire after an unknown
assailant doused the building with gasoline and set it ablaze. Witnesses
reported seeing what Bradbury readers would have to call a "fireman" carrying
a red gasoline canister to the front of Zündel's home, "gingerly like
a bomb," and setting the fire.
The damage was extensive; many books and files were destroyed.
The blazing roof collapsed into the building. What wasn't ruined by the flames
was damaged by the water of the official fire brigade which flooded the lower
The message was loud and clear: Publications that inspire
thought on certain controversial topics are not allowed.
Setting the Structure to burn the books
Sometimes, the "firemen" are able to carry out their objective
- Preventing books from being read - without actually consigning volumes
to the flames. In 1996, St. Martin's Press decided to publish a biography
of Hitler's propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels written by David Irving,
a popular albeit controversial British historian.
St. Martin's Press publisher Thomas Dunne issued the following
angry statement after receiving dozens of protests against his plans to publish
Irving's Goebbels: Mastermind of
the Third Reich .
``A number of the calls we have received have expressed
fury that we would publish a book by 'a man like David Irving' and have
questioned our moral right to do so. I can only say that Joseph Goebbels
must be laughing in hell. He, after all, was the man who loved nothing better
than burning books, threatening publishers, suppressing ideas and judging
the merits of ideas based not on their content but by their author's racial,
ethnic or political purity. That is indeed a sad irony.''
The campaign to ban the book built for several weeks.
Initially, St. Martin's editors stood by their decision and insisted they
found nothing wrong with Irving's book. However, the pressure increased -
now including death threats from the "firemen" - and Thomas McCormack, chief
executive officer of St. Martin's finally gave in and reversed the company's
earlier position.(10) St. Martin's decided not to publish Irving's volume.
Far from being widely condemned, the St. Martin's surrender was upheld by
numerous American newspapers.
Presumably St. Martin's Press would have acquiesced in
a literal as well as a figurative incineration. Submitting to such tyranny
is always simpler than standing up to it. In Bradbury's novel, Faber, a retired
"I saw the way things were going, a long time back. I said nothing. I'm one
of the innocents who could have spoken up and out when no one would listen
to the 'guilty,' but I did not speak and thus became guilty myself. And when
finally they set the structure to burn the books, using the firemen, I grunted
a few times and subsided, for there were no others grunting or yelling with
me, by then." (11)
Fahrenheit 451 trends are perhaps most prevalent
in Germany. Günther Deckert, a school teacher translated into German
a work of American execution consultant, Fred Leuchter, titled
Leuchter Report. The report is Leuchter's 1988 analysis of the
alleged gas chambers of Auschwitz and Majdanek. Deckert, who was very familiar
with Leuchter's work interpreted at a meeting at which Leuchter spoke in
Weinheim in November of 1991.
For those actions, Deckert was dragged into court and
given a one-year suspended sentence. Owing to protests over that "lenient"
penalty, he was retried. This time, in a Karlsruhe court, Judge Eva-Marie
Wollentin sentenced him to two years imprisonment - in what has been described
as "the freest state in German history.
The Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung spoke for many
of Germany's modern editors in an editorial, intoning that it was a just
sentence. "There was no reason to suspend the sentence passed on the
rightwinger," it declared. "Deckert showed not the slightest repentance"
In that, the newspaper was correct. When accused of having shared Leuchter's
views, Deckert told the court: "I stand unconditionally by what I said."
Fahrenheit 451 trends become most apparent
after Germar Rudolf published an anthology titled, Grundlagen zur
Zeitgeschichte: Ein Handbuch über strittige Fragen des 20.
Jahrhunderts, (Foundations of Contemporary History: A Handbook on
controversial questions of the Twentieth century, published in English under the
title Dissecting the Holocaust: The
Growing Critique of Truth and 'Memory').
Rudolf, forced to use pseudonyms after publishing
Das Rudolf Gutachten
(The Rudolf Report), his own scientific analysis of the purported
Auschwitz gas chambers, suffered numerous raids on his home by the German
state "firemen." In March of 1995, the "firemen" raided a German publisher
and seized all available copies of Grundlagen zur
In May 1996, Judge Burckhardt Stein ruled that Rudolf
had to be arrested without delay for his part in publishing the book. On
June 15, 1996, the judge ruled that all copies of Grundlagen zur
Zeitgeschichte must be burned. The "firemen" no longer had to operate
under the cover of darkness - they were now given official authority to carry
out their murder of ideas. Not content to simply burn the words of Rudolf
and his co-authors, the "firemen" sentenced Rudolf to 14 months imprisonment.
He has so far eluded his captors and today writes in exile.(14)
In Bradbury's novel, Captain Beatty discovers that Montag,
the novel's hero - and a renegade firman - had hidden books in his home.
For that infraction, the "firemen" visit Montag's home and Beatty orders
Montag to burn his own books.
"I want you to do this job all by your lonesome, Montag. Not with kerosene
and a match, but piecework, with a flame thrower. Your house, your clean-up."(15)
As Montag burns his home and precious books, Beatty declares
not unlike Judge Stein,
"When you're quite finished... you're under arrest." (16)
These are not isolated cases. In February 1995, after
receiving numerous complaints, a German publisher ordered the "recycling"
of John Sack's An Eye for an Eye which recounts the story of
Jewish revenge against the Germans after World War II. Citing information
from Germany's Federal Archives, Sack, who is himself Jewish, maintains that
60,000 to 80,000 ethnic Germans were killed or otherwise perished between
1945 and 1948 in camps run by the Polish communist regime's Office of State
The German cultural establishment launched a bitter assault.
The book was denounced as a sensationalist, "vile docudrama" and a "gift
to neo-Nazis." Soon, the book's publisher, R. Piper found itself deluged
All 6,000 copies of the German edition were stacked in
a Stuttgart warehouse when Piper publisher Viktor Niemann decided to destroy
them. On February 13, the publisher announced, "They will be recycled."(17)
In December of 1996, German authorities ordered all copies
of Carlos Porter's Not Guilty at
Nuremberg: The German Defense Case to be destroyed along with
the means of reproducing it. Porter resided in Belgium at the time of the
German order. Porter's troubles with the German thought police began in August
1996 when he sent several copies of his book, along with a cover letter to
several people in Germany.
In Munich, a certain Judge Zeilinger ruled that Porter
had violated the German law against "defamation and desecration." He was
fined 6,000 DM for writing and distributing his book, which is a revisionist
analysis of the Nuremberg trials. Zeilinger, also directed, in her "Order
of Punishment," that all copies of Not Guilty at Nuremberg be
confiscated, including copies in Porter's personal possession. Zeilinger
wrote: "It is also ordered that all means for the production of this published
work be confiscated, including any plates, forms, templates, negatives, or
Zielinger charged that various passages from Porter's
revisionist analysis denied or minimized the tales of the "Holocaust."(18)
Striking the Match
One of the most moving scenes in Bradbury's novel is the
raid on an old woman's home when neighbors tip off the authorities that she
has built an illegal library. The "firemen" squirt their kerosene over the
books. Montag later explains to his wife, "We burnt copies of Dante and Swift
and Marcus Aurelius." (19) When the "firemen" attempt to drag the old woman
from her house, she refuses to cooperate. The woman is too proud to give
in to the "firemen" and instead carries out the final act of rebellion by
striking a match and immolating herself.
"On the front porch where she had come to weigh them quietly
with her eyes, her quietness a condemnation, the woman stood motionless.
Beatty flicked his fingers to spark the kerosene. He was too late. Montag
gasped. The woman on the porch reached out with contempt to them all and
struck the kitchen match against the railing."(20)
In April 1995, Reinhold Elstner, a former Wehrmacht soldier,
chose the same miserable fate. He wrote in his final letter:
"A Niagara of lies and defamations inundates us. Since I
am now 75 years old, there is not much left for me to do - but I can still
seek death by self-immolation; one last deed that may act as a signal to
the Germans to come to their senses. Even if through my deed only one German
will awaken, and because of it will find the way to the truth, then my sacrifice
will not have been in vain. I felt I have no other choice once I realized
that even now, after 50 years, there seems to be little hope that reason
would gain the upper hand." (21)
Elstner went to the Feldherrnhalle memorial hall
in downtown Munich and poured gasoline over himself and struck a match.
Authorities have banned the publication of his letter and have even made
it illegal to leave flowers for Elstner at the site of his immolation. Many
wonder how long it would have been before Germany's "firemen" visited Elstner
had he not preempted them.
Today authors around the world are finding publishers afraid
to touch their manuscripts. Brave publishers are finding printers shutting
down their presses to controversial volumes. Published volumes are being
consigned to sanctioned burnings by the "firemen."
Around the world, news of immolations like Elstner's are
blacked out. We are supposed to occupy our minds with sports on big-screen
TV's, video arcades, fast food, cellular telephones to occupy our minds while
traveling, lap top computers and even on-flight computer games. Computerized
"chat rooms" that enable us to "speak" to faceless strangers are all the
rage. How far are we from Bradbury's broadcast TV "families"? Montag's wife
exclaims, "If we had a fourth wall [of wall-size TV screens], why it'd be
just like this room wasn't ours at all, but all kinds of exotic people's
When war is declared in Fahrenheit 451, people
are not over concerned. It will be a "quick war. Forty-eight hours, they
said, and everyone home. That's what the Army said."(23) Recall President
Clinton's promise that American troops would be home from Bosnia by September
1996! No one seems to mind that they have yet to return. Actual thought is
indeed rare today, perhaps because it is so frowned upon.
How many readers of this article have hidden their books
and journals? Have you established a secret library yet? Are you afraid of
your friends and loved ones? Guy Montag hid his books:
"He reached up and pulled back the grille of the air-conditioning system
and reached far back inside to the right and moved still another sliding
sheet of metal and took out a book."(24)
Such hiding places are something that each of us should
consider if the Fahrenheit 451 trends prevalent today are not
Ironically, Bradbury mentions censorship of his book on
censorship in the "Coda" of Fahrenheit 451.
"I discovered that, over the years, some cubby-hole editors at Ballantine
Books, fearful of contaminating the young, had, bit by bit, censored some
75 separate sections from the novel." (25)
Let there be no mistake - the "firemen" are actively at
large and active. Our future depends on truth and intellectual freedom rising
phoenix-like from the ashes of the present.
This article was published in slightly different form in The Last Ditch,
no. 19, December 19, 1997.
1. James J. Martin, "Introduction" in Harry Elmer Barnes, Barnes Against
the Blackout (Costa Mesa, CA: Institute for Historical Review, 1991),
2. Harry E. Barnes, "Revisionism and the Promotion of Peace" in Barnes
Against the Blackout, p. 273. Barnes article originally appeared in
the Summer, 1958 issue of Liberation.
3. See David T. Wright, "The incendiary prophet," The Last Ditch,
Aug. 1995, p.7.
4. Ray Bradbury, Farenheit 451 (New York, Ballantine Books,
1996), p. 58.
5. Ibid., p. 59.
6. Mark Weber, The Zionist Terror Network, (Newport Beach, CA:
Institute for Historical Review, 1993), p. 16.
7. Evening Standard, September 6, 1996.
8. Martin, p. xvii. See also: Weber, p. 11.
9. "Traditional Enemy Torches Zuendel's Headquarters," David Irving's
Action Report 9b, June 10, 1995 p. 1. See also Power
Letter, May 17, 1995 and The Toronto Sun, May 8 and 9,
10. "St Martin's Cancels Book On Goebbels," The New York Times,
April 5, 1996, p. D4.
11. Bradbury p. 82.
12. "Corrupt German Court Jails Deckert for Two Years," David Irving's
Action Report 9b, June 10, 1995, p. 2. See also: "Two-Year Prison
Sentence for 'Holocaust Denial'," The Journal of Historical Review
JHR (15)3, May/June 1995, pp. 40-42.
13. "Revisionist Books Seized in German Police Raid," JHR (15)3,
May/June 1995, p. 43.
14. For more on the case of Germar Rudolf, the following is recommended:
Wilhelm Schlesiger, Der Fall Rudolf: Menschenrechtswidriger
Vernichtungsfeldzug gegen einen tadellosen Wissenschaftler,
(Brighton/Sussex : Crowwell Press, 1994).
15. Bradbury, p. 116.
16. Ibid., p. 117.
17. "Book Detailing Jewish Crimes Against Germans Banned," JHR
(15)1, Jan/Feb 1995, p. 28. See also: "German Publisher Drops Book on Postwar
Camps for Nazis," The New York Times, February 16, 1995. The
book, An Eye for an Eye: The Untold Story of Jewish Revenge Against
Germans in 1945, was published in the United States in 1993 by Basic
Books of New York, a division of the publishing firm of HarperCollins.
18. "Carlos Porter, sentenced in Germany says 'Nuts' from Belgium,"
Smith's Report 40, February 1997, pp. 4-5. Documents regarding
Carlos Porter's fines are available on the internet at:
19. Bradbury p. 50.
20. Bradbury pp. 39-40.
21. Reinhold Elstner, "A Last Letter from One of Our Number," David
Irving's Action Report 10, July 5, 1996, p. 14. Translated by Hans
Schmidt. See also: "A German Takes His Life to Protest Defamation and Historical
Lies," JHR 15(5), Sept/Oct 1995, pp. 23-24.
22. Bradbury, pp.20-21.
23. Ibid., p. 94.
24. Ibid., p. 65.
25. Ibid., p. 177.