Connecting Fahrenheit 451 to Today

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Throughout history, media has presented current events and effectively channeled information to large groups of people. As technology evolved, the format of media transformed, beginning with printing presses generating newspapers that wrote descriptions of news stories, followed by the introduction of the radio that allowed the masses to hear transmissions of news for themselves, and later the creation of the television that let the public see events. Most recently, social media has been used to spread news among people, with audience rather than reporters generating the news stories. The ubiquity of media is particularly evident in election years, with media and technology constantly following candidates around. The contenders in an election must exercise caution about what they say, their actions, and how it is translated to the general public, since the media communicates and displays to the public what the candidates stand for and can influence public opinion. In this regard, candidates can both be aid and hurt by the media: helped because the media can present an unbiased version of the candidate and harmed because the general public may focus on superficial aspects of the candidate, such as outward appearance, rather than on issues. Both media and technology can have a profound influence on elections as evidenced by the 1960 presidential debate, the book Fahrenheit 451, and the 2008 presidential election. During the 1960 presidential debate, as media and technology evolved, voters shifted from primarily using the newspaper to television as an information source, and television proved to be both an asset and a hindrance for candidates as the general public formed views on the basis of televised debates. Despite the growing popularity of the television, the majority of candidates in the 1950s still addressed the public via the radio. As television began to surpass newspapers and the radio in use, the demand to start televising important events grew. On September 26, 1960, the first presidential debate to be aired on television occurred between John F. Kennedy, a young senator from Massachusetts, and Richard Nixon, the incumbent vice president. ("Observers Reminisce”). The American people watched their every move on television. On the night of the debate, approximately two thirds of Americans tuned in to the debate either on the radio or television ("Observers Reminisce”). Kennedy understood the chance he held to shape the public’s opinion if he was well prepared on air. He meticulously prepared not only his debating points but also his presentation, ensuring that before the debate he obtained enough sleep, spent time in the sun to give his skin a healthy glow, and wore a dark suit so that he contrasted with the background (Bryant). Throughout the debate, Kennedy proved to be a worthy candidate, with well-planned ideas and an impressive public appearance. In comparison, Nixon looked shifty due to his unhealthy skin because of his sickness the week preceding the debate, his grey suit that blended with the background, and his excessive perspiration caused by the studio lights that made his makeup run. Additionally by the time of the telecast, Nixon acquired a five o’clock shadow which added to his haggard appearance (Bryant). Radio listeners and television watchers formed divergent opinions of the candidates because of the way each candidate presented appeared on each medium. Listeners felt that Nixon won due to his superior debating skills, but watchers argued that Kennedy triumphed from his put together appearance and intelligent debating points ("Observers Reminisce”). These results confirmed the idea that public appearance played a key role in the outcome of the election. Both men had approximately equal debating skills and platforms but the power of television manifested itself when the popular vote elected Kennedy because of his composure on screen, his ability to hold his own against the vice...
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