The society in Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 lost free speech when the public shifted from placing value on quality education and free thinking to sports, entertainment, and pleasure seeking. Captain Beatty and Professor Faber each explain the history behind the society's change in the way of thinking and living to Montag; and, they both blame the public, not a controlling government entity. The concept that it is the public's fault is certainly interesting because it is a possibility for us today.
First, Captain Beatty explains that people slowly stopped buying books, which changed the publishing business. Classics and novels were condensed so much that they eventually didn't really exist. Then, all of the different minorities objected to so many different books and publications that it was simply easier to get rid of the offending books or articles rather than deal with the verbal warfare. Beatty explains further as follows:
"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" (58).
Captain Beatty then explains that as the public stopped reading, deep thinking and philosophy went out the window. Then the government started regulating print because without these things, no one can create intellectual havoc on society. If people have no controversial thoughts with which to use for free speech, then everyone is happy and no one is arguing. Take the thoughts away and the free speech is also taken away.
"If you don't want a man unhappy politically, don't give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war" (61).
Faber's also understands what happened to society that led it to losing free speech. He blames the culture as follows:
"The whole culture's shot through. The skeleton needs melting and reshaping. . . The public itself stopped reading of its own accord. You firemen provide a circus now and then at which buildings are set off and crowds gather for the pretty blaze, but it's a small sideshow indeed, and hardly necessary to keep things in line" (87).
Montag suffers mentally as a result of this society. He is the perfect example of one who sees how people don't have any thoughts of their own to fuel free speech. For example, his wife Mildred can't even tell him what is going on in her TV program let alone understand books that they read together. She can't form an idea against her society because she wasn't taught how to think. Montag, on the other hand, wants to know how to read and think and speak with someone to listen to him.
"Nobody listens any more. I can't talk to the walls because they're yelling at me. I can't talk to my wife; she listens to the walls. I just want someone to hear what I have to say. And maybe if I talk long enough, it'll make sense" (82).
What is free speech worth if no one is listening? Thus, the society lost free speech as they slowly stopped reading, thinking and learning. Then the government stepped in to keep people entertained and distracted so they wouldn't want to learn or listen anymore. The firemen were created as an execution force to intimidate the few intellectuals left from speaking out.