Why PRs should cling to newspapers
I’ve just started reading Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange for the first time. I know right! Most people read it during their rebellious teenage phase.
By Richard Stone
Famously described as a ‘gruesomely witty cautionary tale’ by Time magazine, do you know the first thing Burgess cautions us about in the book?
People have stopped reading newspapers.
He writes, in his first paragraph as his central character enters a café of sorts, “The Korova Milkbar was a milk-plus mesto, and you may, O my brothers, have forgotten what these mestos were like, things change so skorry these days and everybody quick to forget, newspapers not being read much neither.”
Burgess is telling us, right off the bat, that one of the causes of the dystopia we are about to enter is the lack of attention to what his happening in the world and lack of attention to thoughtful media.
Orwell’s 1984 is similar, with an entire records department devoted to managing the news and media. He describes it as follows; “Here were produced rubbishy newspapers containing almost nothing except sport, crime and astrology”.
In Huxley’s Brave New World, newspapers are produced separately for different castes of person to help control their though and beliefs – one for the dronelike Deltas, one for the upper cast and one for middle class Gammas. All state controlled, with the most slave-like characters, the Epsilons, unable to read.
But why does dystopian fiction have this, almost universal, obsession with newspapers? Are we being warned by the novelists of the 20th century about how our thoughts could be controlled in years to come?
I think the real answer might lie in an essay that Ursula K Le Guin wrote about her own prescient novel, The Left Hand of Darkness. “The purpose of a thought-experiment, as the term was used by Schrodinger and other physicists… is not to predict the future, but to describe reality, the present world.
“Science Fiction is not predictive, it is descriptive.”
Surely, Burgess, Orwell, Huxley and Le Guin, four of the last centuries greatest writers can’t all be wrong?
And that is why, if we want to change minds, we must cling to newspapers and magazines as a medium of communication. Nothing else can achieve the same effect.