Prime Public OpinionAuthor Walter Lippmann –

The Manner Of Presentation Is So Objective And Projective That One Finishes The Book Almost Without Realizing That It Is Perhaps The Most Effective Indictment Of Democracy Ever Penned John Dewey, The New RepublicControversial And Compelling, This Work By A Two Time Pulitzer Prize Winner Remains Ever Vital Walter Lippmann Is Ranked Among The Most Influential Public Figures Of His Era, And His Reputation Endures As One Of History S Greatest Journalists In Public Opinion, Lippmann Examines Democratic Theory, Citizenship In A Democratic Society, And The Role Of The Media In Forming Public Perceptions, Expectations, And Actions Where Mass Opinion Dominates The Government, The Author Observes, There Is A Morbid Derangement Of The True Functions Of Power The Derangement Brings About The Enfeeblement, Verging On Paralysis, Of The Capacity To Govern This Breakdown In The Constitutional Order Is The Cause Of The Precipitate And Catastrophic Decline Of Western Society, He Warned, Adding, It May, If It Cannot Be Arrested And Reversed, Bring About The Fall Of The West Public Opinion Explores Censorship And Privacy, Stereotypes, Leadership, And The Image Of Democracy In Doing So, It Changed The Nature Of Political Science As A Scholarly Discipline, Helped Launch The Profession Of Public Relations, And Introduced Concepts That Continue To Play An Important Role In Current Political Theory It Remains Essential Reading For Students And Others With An Interest In Politics, Journalism, And History

10 thoughts on “Public Opinion

  1. says:

    I read this book after reading Brian s review here this book is really quite interesting is in the fact that it is a kind of modernisation of Plato s Republic I m not just saying that because it starts by quoting the allegory of the cave, but because all of the central ideas of the book seem to me to be essentially Platonic For example, democracy is presented as a really good idea in theory , but one that is incapable of working in practice This is put forward for much the same reason s Plato used in criticising democracy that it is too easy to be perverted by flatterers, that the people are too blinded by their day to day needs to understand the great sweep of history, and that the masses are lead by their loins and stomachs than by their reason.But this book also updates Plato by reference to what was at the time the latest in psychological research which shows that mere humans don t cope very well with complexity The problem is that the world is an incredibly complex place People understand their own needs quite well, but, and this is where the book is much intelligent than say, works by Hayek or Friedman, an understanding of these immediate needs simply isn t enough to understand the complexities of life in society Where Hayek and Friedman resolve this complication by essentially denying society see Margaret Thatcher s famous there is no such thing as society, there are individuals and there are families Lippmann does quite the opposite He says that because there is such a thing as society and since the path necessary to forge society onward is too complex to be understood by the great mass of humanity, there is a need for experts to mould the minds of people in society so that they choose the right path His definition of an expert as someone disinterested and a kind of boffin is also amusing.Given people are confronted by complexity all of the time the solution they have for dealing with this complexity is essentially to resort to stereotypes And he doesn t limit this just to the great unwashed everyone is guilty of these simplifications The problem is we couldn t function without such simplifications but obviously enough, our simplified view always leaves us in danger of choosing the wrong path and, again, this is why those disinterested souls what Plato referred to as Philosopher Kings need to intervene to ensure that government of the people and for the people doesn t end up government by the people The people are never disinterested enough to make good rulers And when they vote for something they don t vote for a single reason but for a complexity of reasons, with people voting for the same candidate often for quite opposite reasons This part of the book was particularly interesting.Many of the same arguments put today about why we can t really have a free press where also standard then, it seems and I hadn t really expected this For example, you might be excused for believing that it was the internet that brought about the argument that because we aren t prepared to pay for our news, that we need to expect that those who will pay for our news, advertisers, will filter what we read through their perspective and in their interests But it is argued here that the little amount we are prepared to pay for newspapers, even back then, also meant that the news was effectively free and therefore advertising has always played this role.The best of this was his discussion of why strike action is generally portrayed badly in the press To Lippmann it is simply a matter of self interest Not just the self interest of the ruling class you know, the owners of the factories being or less the same group as the owners of the papers and so the papers generally taking their side as a matter of course But rather it is also the self interest of the readers The readers, on average, are unlikely to be directly involved in the strike but, if the strike is effective, they are likely to be affected by the strike Perhaps the striking factory makes something they need to buy Perhaps it will stop them being able to work themselves through the lack of supply of something they use in their work such being the interconnections of life in society So, the fact strike action is likely to have a negative impact on the reader much likely that than it is to have a positive impact on them it is fairly safe for newspapers to not be on the side of the strikers Also, the reasons why people go on strike generally either sound selfish or are too complicated to make into a simple story to tell Anyway, people think in stereotypes and one of the stereotypes is that strikes are always bad Now, I still hold to the na ve view that newspapers advance the class interests of their owners and that is part of the reason why strikes are generally portrayed as bad but I did find this alternative view interesting too.There is, and always will be, something chilling in the Platonic vision of the master race finding useful lies to tell to the great mass of ill informed humanity so as to distract and direct them towards the best of all possible worlds But at least there is an honesty to this book that is quite missing from so much else today That people like Murdoch act out these views today is not in the least hidden by the fact they say nearly the exact opposite of what they do in practice Give me the chilling truth over the pacifying lie any day.A lot of this book is quite dated now I m not sure how interesting the discussion on guild socialism is, to be honest, and many of the discussions on WW1 were overly long for me and too specific for me to really see their worth in supporting the argument of the book but I think you could nearly get away with reading the first and last chapters of this to get enough of an overview to be going on with.

  2. says:

    Want to understand the last hundred years, and maybe the next hundred, in terms of the interplay between mass media and people s assumptions The short book is an awfully good start.

  3. says:

    This book is unfairly maligned because Chomsky holds it out as an example of elite liberal ideology and it is a fair example in that regard , but Lippmann has a point about public opinion He wasn t the first or last to point out that the spontaneous majorities on various subjects are not necessarily rational or advantageous, and that they usually aren t when the public bases opinions off of sketchy information and that this is a common phenomenon Further, his argument that news and the truth are distinct should be uncontroversial in 2013 His point that they can not be the same thing, because truth can not be delivered in easily digestible pieces, should also ring true to most critical minds witnessing the so called Information Age play out.What makes Lippmann so unpopular is his solution to the problems of human ignorance and irrationality in a democracy experts Experts help wrap up a real problem that Lippmann describes quite vividly, but Lippmann does not seem to accept that those who make decisions who in his mind must be distinct from experts and in fact he sees an institutionalization of independent intelligence gatherers protected from legislators and the executive are still subject to the bulk of the problems he describes A President is not an expert, zhe must rely on experts to form a judgment and make a decision, and so ultimately a President must be an expert of experts All the problems about dealing with an unseen environment remain, only they are pushed farther down the line a bit.

  4. says:

    Whatever else one may think of this classic, it is written to take one s breath away The images of Lippmann s prose alone e.g the Platonic, iconic pictures in the mind, itself an almost mandatory talking point for those who pass through liberal arts education in America guarantee that this book will repay reading and rereading As for those who dismiss or belittle Lippmann as an elitist ready to cede political power to the expertise of the few, I am not convinced Yes, he wrote in favor of those who might, as Chomsky later caught him, willfully manufacture consent Surely, not a happy image in an era sandwiched between the propaganda of two world wars But still, I am not convinced that Lippmann s views are or ever were principally incompatible with a healthy public and a democratic state It appears, recent historians have shown, that most of the legendary debate posited between Lippmann and John Dewey was fabricated well after the 1920s and 1930s Most of it, for understandable reasons, by the ever incandescent James W Carey in the 1980s Considering the spread of volunteer communities that leverage their own self policed, peer reviewed expertise for the benefit of the many in scalable, collaborative ways, online and off, it seems that this work finds fresh relevance in a digital era It s no longer Dewey s democracy versus Lippmann s experts it s time for Deweyan democrats to reacquaint themselves with Lippmann, and Public Opinion makes a great meeting point.

  5. says:

    I really liked this book Although it was written than 80 years ago I think that it addresses a very current issue This book begins with a discussion of social psychology It explains how people see through different paradigms Then he builds from this a political theory He denies democracy and discusses the federalist government, but I found that these designations are not as understandable in the modern vernacular You have to pay close attention to system in which he is defining these terms The theory assumes a lack of capacity in people that is kind of upsetting, but it is easily understandable in the context of the civil and first world war that the school of realist democracy was reacting to Lippmann suggests a solution based in the use of insular experts helping to inform and direct government He believes that these experts should enlighten the public, but he says that the public can only be involved in a direct democracy in small agrarian societies such as those Thomas Jefferson promoted There is also an interesting discussion of history in a present tense He sites H.G Wells history of the world which is a book that has fallen greatly out of use since a lot of science has changed since it was written He also talks a lot about the founding fathers and fights in policy between Jefferson, Hamilton, Washington and Madison These are contexts that tend to get blurred in modern overviews of history, but are obviously very clear and important for Lippmann.

  6. says:

    Nobody on Earth is omniscient and to make sense of the sea of info that surrounds us all all we make use of what Lippmann calls stereotypes, preconceptions of ideas that help us fill in the gaps between the points of information we re exposed to People carry different stereotypes with them and the same people can look at the exact same evidence and come to different conclusions, not to say that there aren t cases where the shared stereotypes of society can lead to near unanimous agreement.I get this point of view and I agree with it, although I began to anticipate Lippmann s embrace of relativism that never actually happens There s never any outright declaration that because people can have differing interpretations of the facts we ought to embrace nihilism, relativism, pyrrhonism, or even pragmatism, though William James is cited a lot, because of course, his work in psychology Given what he writes about, Lippmann seems to believe that there is an objective world out there, the information of which can be easily manipulated and affect the course of politics, which he seems to be rather concerned about He dismisses the idea of a coherent public opinion Society cannot be viewed as any sort of being, and to personify it is misleading Instead of you have a mass of individual opinions, vastly differing, easily manipulated and some of them manage to filter up through the mechanisms of democracy and affect public policy A lot of decisions however involve factors that can disregard what the public believes, especially in an emergency It s a very cynical view of democracy and and honest one I disagree with Rousseau on so much but one of the things I believe he got right is that democracy only works in small countries, I believe for this very reason Public opinion is less of an incoherent mess in such examples, and people are at least closer to the very small number of leaders actually involved in decisions.The theme of stereotypes and the very limited points of contact we actually have with our world of information continues with historical and political examples Sometimes I felt like I was reading a book about World War One The French government figures out the best way to continue lying to the public, the U.S mobilizes it s propaganda apparatus after joining the war, US senators debate on military action after a garbled report about Americans troops in Italy reaches congress He also writes about the press and how in a world of near infinite events, a few of them manage to find themselves into our publications as news The book ends with a remedy for the ills that Lippman identifies and it s a very straightforward and unsurprising call for critical thinking The teacher can instruct his students for example, to look in his newspaper for the place where the dispatch was filed, for the name of the correspondent, the name of the press service, the authority given for the statement, the circumstances under which the statement was securedto ask himself whether the reporter saw what he describes, and to remember how that reporter described other events in the past He can teach him the character of censorship, of the idea of privacy, and furnish him with knowledge of past propaganda He can make him aware of the stereotype, and can educate a habit of introspection about the imagery evoked by printed words He can produce a life long realization of the way codes impose a special pattern upon the imagination He can teach men to catch themselves making allegories, dramatizing relations, and personifying abstractions He can show the pupil how he identifies himself with these allegories, how he becomes interested, and how he selects the attitude, heroic, romantic, economic which he adopts while holding a particular opinion.The rating might seem a little low I really liked the psychology aspects of the book, but many of the politics sections seemed to take a life of their own They weren t necessarily boring I like reading about politics, but I felt they wandered to far from the point, and even could ve fit into their own book.

  7. says:

    So overwrought with examples and anecdotes very little concrete information bleeds through Man, what a blowhard.

  8. says:

    , ..

  9. says:

    At times wonderfully poetic and pregnant, other times needlessly obtuse A classic, or a piece of prescient writing, some might call it, the Public Opinion delivers highly relevant food for thought on media in post democratic world.

  10. says:

    There is a lot of information in this book Indeed, I had a respectful amount of annotation from my reading however, I must return to my notes to retain what I read If I were to rate this book on the material, the theories, concepts and conclusions, I would rate it as a five However, it requires so much work to get through the intellectual psycho babble of much of his writing it is just not worth the effort for the average person For this reason, I rated it a three.It seemed to me that his writing was his effort to display his erudition than to communicate with his readers I believe that an author should write so that a bond is created with the readers in such a way that they can readily understand what the author is trying to communicate In this book, however, Mr Lippman virtually shouts, Look at me Look how erudite I am.