Ray Bradbury predicted a scenario that appears hauntingly similar to today’s environment for both entertainment and education. In Fahrenheit 451, Fireman Montag has stolen a book when he’s visited by Captain Beatty. Beatty tries to explain to Montag that books don’t actually need to be burned; no one wants to read them. The fireman’s job was simply to keep peace by removing items that might cause someone to feel inferior to their fellow man.
“Picture it. Nineteenth-century man with his horses, dogs, carts, slow motion. Then in the twentieth century, speed up your camera… Whirl man’s mind around so fast under the pumping hands of publishers, exploiters, broadcasters that the centrifuge flings off all unnecessary, time-wasting thought.
“School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped. English and spelling gradually neglected. Then, the bigger the population, the more the minorities. Don’t step on the toes of the dog lovers, cat lovers, … Mormons, Baptists, second-generation Chinese, … people from Oregon or Mexico.”
The concept of inoffensive behavior wasn’t created by government proclamation. “Technology, mass exploitation and minority pressure carried the trick!”
Welcome to the 21st century, folks, because the video generation is upon us. Our children are overloaded with information at a magnitude that is nearly incomprehensible just one generation removed.
While I’d prefer my teenage children would open a book on occasion, I’m much more concerned that they be exposed to ideas and concepts that will teach them—and their classmates—HOW to live in a free society.
How do we reach this audience with thought-provoking ideas that generate true critical thinking? It matters less today how they get the information, but that we find a way to guide the information toward their screens.
Time. With on-the-half-hour and -hour scheduling of broadcast and cable TV channels. With the demands of meeting deadlines over the twelve months needed to complete a TV documentary. With the decreasing attention span of viewers (inversely related to age) calling for shorter and more memorable videos. Our lives at izzit.org and Free To Choose Network are driven by “time.”
I’ve asked Tara Schupp, our chief operating officer, to put together an article for the next newsletter that will give you a sense of how we manage time in bringing together the inputs necessary to create TV documentaries and education modules. The same systems approach is also used in building our expanding distribution network.
There are two other aspects of “time” that, although intangible, are the foundation from which we start the creative process. First, a video of any length should be as “evergreen” as possible. The stories told may “age” in terms of fashion or technology, but the ideas conveyed should be universal in application. Second, to introduce a new idea or suggest changing an established doctrine is a long-term process.
Milton Friedman challenged my focus on television. “Bob, anyone who can be persuaded by an hour TV program, can be dissuaded by another TV program the next night.” I countered that the series would help sell the book, which chapter by chapter followed the themes of the series, and it has sold tens of millions worldwide. As producers we place enormous value on productions that are evergreen, that like Free To Choose can be effectively communicating basic principles decades after their release.
Milton also came to see how, properly crafted, a video can surprise viewers with a new way to think about ideas they believe they understand or have previously rejected. Johan Norberg does this every week with his Dead Wrong vlog. We also do a weekly blog, drawing on the hundreds of hours of videos in our archives. These online products build brands and celebrity by “visiting” viewers every week in a format consistent with shortened attention spans.
The individual also requires time to shape a world view, and even more time to adapt or change that perspective. One of my favorite quotes is from a “hippie” book, The Aquarian Conspiracy by Marilyn Ferguson: “No one can persuade another to change. Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside. We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or emotional appeal.”
Ferguson, like many, was blinded to reality by a powerful image of a peace-and-love utopia. Yet in this quote, she points to Jonathan Haidt’s recent research that supports our contention that appeals to emotion must be the starting point for increasing understanding and acceptance of a world based on the winning ideas of freedom. That—and acceptance of the timelessness of the effort—should pay dividends if we are wise, patient and persistent.
Compassion fueled the creation of America’s welfare system, a safety net that rescues some of the most vulnerable among us. We often hear political leaders and activists tout the system’s good intentions, but what about those living on welfare? Do they think the system is working? Have good intentions delivered good results? The safety net is ideally more of a trampoline, where people hit it and then bounce back onto their feet, and into rich, fulfilling lives. But today, instead of bouncing back, too many Americans have become ensnared in the net. Of course, the system has helped some people, …
Join us along with The Heritage Foundation for a screening of The Price of Peace hosted by Helle C. Dale, Senior Fellow for Public Diplomacy. 🗓 Thursday, April 26th 🕠 5:30 -7:00 PM 📍 The Heritage Foundation | Lehrman Auditorium | 214 Massachusetts Ave NE | Washington, DC 20002 How do we prevent war? How great a price are we willing to pay for peace? Can we use the lessons learned throughout history to extend peace into tomorrow? Those are some of the questions posed by a new 1-hour documentary, The Price of Peace: A Personal Exploration by Johan Norberg. Norberg, a Swedish …
How do we prevent war? How do we maintain peace? These questions have been posed by nations and people throughout history. Concessions often bring about peace in the short term, defusing tensions for a while, but the aggressor’s initial demands are not forgotten and, in fact, often bolstered with time. The lessons of appeasement versus deterrence are hard-learned time and time again. The Price of Peace: A Personal Exploration by Johan Norberg examines the use of deterrence of enemy aggression in the past, and the efforts to sustain it in the current era of rogue nations and nuclear proliferation. Stay up to …