Popular OSU professor exposes current censorship at ´Fahrenheit 451' program Feb. 18

joey senat(STILLWATER, OKLA. / Feb. 12, 2014) –– “One Book, One Community: Stillwater Reads Fahrenheit 451” continues this week with Dr. Joey Senat who will present "Popular Intolerance and Political Cowardice: Stepping Stones to a Fahrenheit 451 Future" at the Stillwater Public Library on Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. The presentation will discuss current instances of censorship, the meaning of the First Amendment and the public's ignorance of those First Amendment rights.

“Acts of censorship are happening today,” said Senat.  “Private citizens are silencing disagreeable viewpoints through peer pressure and economic pressure. John Stuart Mill called this pressure ‘popular intolerance.’ At the same time, government censorship continues even when such actions are obviously unconstitutional. Hence, the ‘political cowardice’ I refer to in the title. Politicians would rather vote for censorship than anger a perceived majority of their constituents.”

In Senat’s opinion, “Fahrenheit 451” addresses similar issues.

“Ray Bradbury, who was writing about mass communication, describes a society in which it is popular to be intolerant,” said Senat. “Consequently, the mass media avoid offending the audience to earn more revenue from advertisers seeking larger numbers of consumers.”

According to Senat, when it comes to having its rights diminished, the public may be its own worst enemy.

“A number of scholars have noted that the greatest threat to the First Amendment is the public’s ignorance of the rights it holds,” said Senat. “But it extends beyond the First Amendment. How many Oklahomans even know that their state Constitution provides freedoms of speech and press that are greater than those provided in the First Amendment?”

For Senat, the prescription is education and public involvement.

“Teaching civics has to become a top priority for high schools and the public has to become more civically engaged,” said Senat. “At the same time, those who try to engage shouldn’t be bullied by the government. This can begin in high school when administrators intimidate students from asking tough questions and from discussing social and political issues on which people disagree.”

Senat is an associate journalism professor at Oklahoma State University’s School of Media and Strategic Communications, College of Arts & Sciences. He is the author of “Mass Communication Law in Oklahoma” and has written a number of articles and papers regarding First Amendment and freedom of information issues.

Senat received the 2007 Marian Opala First Amendment Award and the 2005 Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists’ Award for Distinguished Service to the First Amendment. He has been a featured speaker numerous times for Oklahoma’s annual First Amendment Congress.

Upcoming programs in the One Book, One Community series include an expert panel on censorship in schools and libraries on Feb. 24; a Stillwater Speaks World Café forum about privacy on Feb. 27; and a day full of classes and performances with Aquila Theatre on March 7.

“One Book, One Community: Stillwater Reads Fahrenheit 451” is sponsored by Stillwater Public Library, OSU Library and Sheerar Museum of Stillwater History.

Additional partners for One Book, One Community include Stillwater Public Library Trust, Friends of the OSU Library, City of Stillwater, Friends of the Stillwater Public Library, KOSU, OK Quality Printing, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, OSU Allied Arts, OSU English Department, OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications, OSU School of Teaching and Curriculum Leadership, Stillwater Journal, Stillwater NewsPress and Stillwater Speaks.

For more information, visit the Stillwater Public Library web site at http://library.stillwater.org, email askalibrarian@stillwater.org or call 405-372-3633.

The Stillwater Public Library is located at 1107 S. Duck St. (the corner of Duck and 12th Ave.).