What is the role played by the White Clowns on television in "Fahrenheit 451"?
The White Clowns also serve the purpose of shaping the viewers' perceptions of the world. For example, in Section 2, Mildred and her friends Mrs. Phelps and Mrs. Bowles gather to watch an episode in which the Clowns "chop off each other's limbs to the accompaniment of immense incoming tides of laughter". This image is followed by a quick cut to jet cars "bashing and backing up and bashing each other again...a number of bodies fly in the air". The White Clown Cartoon show, like much of the media today, desensitizes the audience to violence, and gives them a false understanding of what something like war really is. This is significant because the community is on the brink of war, but no one cares. Mrs. Phelps's husband has been called into the Army, and Mrs. Phelps is completely nonchalant about it, blithely believing that the war will be "quick" and easy, and that he will be back home within a week. Constant passive reception of controlled media input such as that provided by the White Clown show has left Mrs. Phelps with absolutely no concept of what reality is, and no means or incentive to think about it.
Mildred, Montag's wife, watches television all the time on her three giant screens. She watches a show with white clowns who just juggle, they entertain, they don't require any thinking, or interaction like other shows that require the viewer to participate. The participation of Montag's wife in the television shows leads her to think of them as her family. It is another example how technology has invaded our lives.
If you think about it in terms of today's television, its like the ultimate reality show. You just put the set on and it dominates your life. Imagine if you could put on the Television and it started talking to you, asking you questions.