There were many background experiences in Vonnegut's life that probably influenced the attitudes reflected in Harrison Bergeron.
Vonnegut was a soldier in the US Army during WWII, was captured in Germany, and survived Allied bombing raids of Dresden that killed over 100,000 civilians and were kept secret for many years after the war. Vonnegut's distrust of centralized government began as a result of his awareness of the whole of this situation.
Five months before Harrison Bergeron was published (Oct., 1961), the relatively new but rapidly growing medium of television was being widely criticized for its effect on audiences. The newly appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Newton Minow, described television
"a vast wasteland'' of destructive or meaningless programs. Minow claimed that instead of challenging people to think, television programming was making it easier for people to avoid serious thought.
Vonnegut's opinion of television is reflected in Harrison Bergeron - he considered it a waste of time and force intent on destroying independent thought by people.
Finally, Vonnegut used the story to deliver his commentary regarding the civil rights movement of the early 1960's, specifically his mocking of those who were afraid to accept differences between people.