Walter Lippmann

Walter Lippmann

Overview
Walter Lippmann was an American intellectual
Intellectual
An intellectual is a person who uses intelligence and critical or analytical reasoning in either a professional or a personal capacity.- Terminology and endeavours :"Intellectual" can denote four types of persons:...

, writer
Writer
A writer is a person who produces literature, such as novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, poetry, or other literary art. Skilled writers are able to use language to portray ideas and images....

, reporter
Journalist
A journalist collects and distributes news and other information. A journalist's work is referred to as journalism.A reporter is a type of journalist who researchs, writes, and reports on information to be presented in mass media, including print media , electronic media , and digital media A...

, and political commentator famous for being among the first to introduce the concept of Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

. Lippmann was twice awarded (1958 and 1962) a Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

 for his syndicated newspaper
Newspaper
A newspaper is a scheduled publication containing news of current events, informative articles, diverse features and advertising. It usually is printed on relatively inexpensive, low-grade paper such as newsprint. By 2007, there were 6580 daily newspapers in the world selling 395 million copies a...

 column, "Today and Tomorrow".

Walter Lippmann was born on 23 September 1889, in New York City, to Jacob and Daisy Baum Lippmann; his upper-middle class German-Jewish family took annual holidays in Europe.
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Quotations

It requires wisdom to understand wisdom: the music is nothing if the audience is deaf.

A Preface to Morals (1929).

The newspaper is in all its literalness the bible of democracy, the book out of which a people determines its conduct.

quoted by Tim Rutten in the Los Angeles Times, Saturday, October 7, 2006
Encyclopedia
Walter Lippmann was an American intellectual
Intellectual
An intellectual is a person who uses intelligence and critical or analytical reasoning in either a professional or a personal capacity.- Terminology and endeavours :"Intellectual" can denote four types of persons:...

, writer
Writer
A writer is a person who produces literature, such as novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, poetry, or other literary art. Skilled writers are able to use language to portray ideas and images....

, reporter
Journalist
A journalist collects and distributes news and other information. A journalist's work is referred to as journalism.A reporter is a type of journalist who researchs, writes, and reports on information to be presented in mass media, including print media , electronic media , and digital media A...

, and political commentator famous for being among the first to introduce the concept of Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

. Lippmann was twice awarded (1958 and 1962) a Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

 for his syndicated newspaper
Newspaper
A newspaper is a scheduled publication containing news of current events, informative articles, diverse features and advertising. It usually is printed on relatively inexpensive, low-grade paper such as newsprint. By 2007, there were 6580 daily newspapers in the world selling 395 million copies a...

 column, "Today and Tomorrow".

Early life


Walter Lippmann was born on 23 September 1889, in New York City, to Jacob and Daisy Baum Lippmann; his upper-middle class German-Jewish family took annual holidays in Europe. At age 17, he entered Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 where he studied under George Santayana
George Santayana
George Santayana was a philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist. A lifelong Spanish citizen, Santayana was raised and educated in the United States and identified himself as an American. He wrote in English and is generally considered an American man of letters...

, William James
William James
William James was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher who was trained as a physician. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and on the philosophy of pragmatism...

, and Graham Wallas
Graham Wallas
Graham Wallas was an English socialist, social psychologist, educationalist, a leader of the Fabian Society and a co-founder of the London School of Economics....

, concentrating upon philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 and languages (he spoke German and French), and earned his degree in three years, graduating as a member of the Phi Beta Kappa society.

Career


Lippmann was a journalist, a media critic and a philosopher who tried to reconcile the tensions between liberty and democracy in a complex and modern world, as in his 1920 book Liberty and the News.

In 1913, Lippmann, Herbert Croly
Herbert Croly
Herbert David Croly was an intellectual leader of the Progressive Movement as an editor, and political philosopher and a co-founder of the magazine The New Republic in early twentieth-century America...

, and Walter Weyl
Walter Weyl
Walter Weyl was an intellectual leader of the Progressive movement in the United States. his most influential book, The New Democracy was a classic statement of democratic meliorism, revealing his path to a future of progress and modernization based on middle class values, aspirations and brain...

 became the founding editors of The New Republic
The New Republic
The magazine has also published two articles concerning income inequality, largely criticizing conservative economists for their attempts to deny the existence or negative effect increasing income inequality is having on the United States...

 magazine. During World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, Lippmann became an adviser to President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913...

 and assisted in the drafting of Wilson's Fourteen Points
Fourteen Points
The Fourteen Points was a speech given by United States President Woodrow Wilson to a joint session of Congress on January 8, 1918. The address was intended to assure the country that the Great War was being fought for a moral cause and for postwar peace in Europe...

 speech. He sharply criticized George Creel
George Creel
George Creel was an investigative journalist, a politician, and, most famously, the head of the United States Committee on Public Information, a propaganda organization created by President Woodrow Wilson during World War I. He said of himself that "an open mind is not part of my inheritance...

, whom the President appointed to head wartime propaganda efforts at the committee on Public Information
Committee on Public Information
The Committee on Public Information, also known as the CPI or the Creel Committee, was an independent agency of the government of the United States created to influence U.S. public opinion regarding American participation in World War I...

. While he was prepared to curb his liberal instincts because of the war saying he had "no doctrinaire belief in free speech", he nonetheless advised Wilson that censorship should "never be entrusted to anyone who is not himself tolerant, nor to anyone who is unacquainted with the long record of folly which is the history of suppression."

Walter Lippmann examined the coverage of newspapers and saw many inaccuracies and other problems. He and Charles Merz, in a 1920 study entitled A Test of the News
A Test of the News
A Test of the News is a 1920 study done by Walter Lippmann, a US journalist, and Charles Merz, later editorial page editor of the New York Times. They examined press coverage of the Bolshevik revolution for a three year period beginning with the overthrow of the Tsar in February 1917...

, stated that The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

 coverage of the Bolshevik revolution
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

 was biased and inaccurate. In addition to his Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

-winning column "Today and Tomorrow," he published several books. Lippmann was the first to bring the phrase "cold war
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

" to common currency in his 1947 book by the same name.

It was Lippmann who first identified the tendency of journalists to generalize about other people based on fixed ideas. He argued that people—including journalists—are more apt to believe "the pictures in their heads" than come to judgment by critical thinking
Critical thinking
Critical thinking is the process or method of thinking that questions assumptions. It is a way of deciding whether a claim is true, false, or sometimes true and sometimes false, or partly true and partly false. The origins of critical thinking can be traced in Western thought to the Socratic...

. Humans condense ideas into symbols, he wrote, and journalism, a force quickly becoming the mass media
Mass media
Mass media refers collectively to all media technologies which are intended to reach a large audience via mass communication. Broadcast media transmit their information electronically and comprise of television, film and radio, movies, CDs, DVDs and some other gadgets like cameras or video consoles...

, is an ineffective method of educating the public. Even if journalists did better jobs of informing the public about important issues, Lippmann believed "the mass of the reading public is not interested in learning and assimilating the results of accurate investigation." Citizens, he wrote, were too self-centered to care about public policy except as pertaining to pressing local issues.

Lippmann saw the purpose of journalism as "intelligence work
Intelligence (information gathering)
Intelligence assessment is the development of forecasts of behaviour or recommended courses of action to the leadership of an organization, based on a wide range of available information sources both overt and covert. Assessments are developed in response to requirements declared by the leadership...

". Within this role, journalists are a link between policymakers and the public. A journalist seeks facts from policymakers which he then transmits to citizens who form a public opinion. In this model, the information may be used to hold policymakers accountable to citizens. This theory was spawned by the industrial era and some critics argue the model needs rethinking in post-industrial societies
Post-industrial society
If a nation becomes "post-industrial" it passes through, or dodges, a phase of society predominated by a manufacturing-based economy and moves on to a structure of society based on the provision of information, innovation, finance, and services.-Characteristics:...

.

Though a journalist himself, he held no assumption of news and truth being synonymous. For him the “function of news is to signalize an event, the function of truth is to bring to light the hidden facts, to set them in relation with each other, and make a picture of reality on which men can act.” A journalist’s version of the truth is subjective and limited to how he constructs his reality. The news, therefore, is “imperfectly recorded” and too fragile to bear the charge as “an organ of direct democracy.”

To his mind, democratic ideals had deteriorated, voters were largely ignorant about issues and policies, they lacked the competence to participate in public life and cared little for participating in the political process. In Public Opinion
Public Opinion
Public Opinion , by Walter Lippman, is a critical assessment of functional democratic government, especially the irrational, and often self-serving, social perceptions that influence individual behavior, and prevent optimal societal cohesion...

 (1922), Lippmann noted that the stability the government achieved during the patronage era of the 1800s was threatened by modern realities. He wrote that a “governing class” must rise to face the new challenges.

The basic problem of democracy, he wrote, was the accuracy of news and protection of sources
Protection of sources
The protection of sources, sometimes also referred to as the confidentiality of sources or in the U.S. as the reporter's privilege, is a right accorded to journalists under the laws of many countries, as well as under international law...

. He argued that distorted information was inherent in the human mind. People make up their minds before they define the facts, while the ideal would be to gather and analyze the facts before reaching conclusions. By seeing first, he argued, it is possible to sanitize polluted information. Lippmann argued that seeing through stereotype
Stereotype
A stereotype is a popular belief about specific social groups or types of individuals. The concepts of "stereotype" and "prejudice" are often confused with many other different meanings...

s (which he coined in this specific meaning) subjected us to partial truths. Lippmann called the notion of a public competent to direct public affairs a "false ideal." He compared the political savvy of an average man to a theater-goer walking into a play in the middle of the third act and leaving before the last curtain.

Early on Lippmann said the herd of citizens must be governed by “a specialized class whose interests reach beyond the locality." This class is composed of experts, specialists and bureaucrats. The experts, who often are referred to as "elites," were to be a machinery of knowledge that circumvents the primary defect of democracy, the impossible ideal of the "omnicompetent citizen". Later, in The Phantom Public
The Phantom Public
The Phantom Public is a book published in 1925 by journalist Walter Lippmann, in which he expresses his lack of faith in the democratic system, arguing that the public exists merely as an illusion, myth, and inevitably a phantom...

 (1925), he recognized that the class of experts were also, in most respects, outsiders to any particular problem, and hence, not capable of effective action. Philosopher John Dewey
John Dewey
John Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. Dewey was an important early developer of the philosophy of pragmatism and one of the founders of functional psychology...

 (1859–1952) agreed with Lippmann's assertions that the modern world was becoming too complex for every citizen to grasp all its aspects, but Dewey, unlike Lippmann, believed that the public (a composite of many “publics” within society) could form a “Great Community” that could become educated about issues, come to judgments and arrive at solutions to societal problems.

Following the removal from office of Henry A. Wallace
Henry A. Wallace
Henry Agard Wallace was the 33rd Vice President of the United States , the Secretary of Agriculture , and the Secretary of Commerce . In the 1948 presidential election, Wallace was the nominee of the Progressive Party.-Early life:Henry A...

 in September 1946, Lippmann became the leading public advocate of the need to respect a Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 sphere of influence
Sphere of influence
In the field of international relations, a sphere of influence is a spatial region or conceptual division over which a state or organization has significant cultural, economic, military or political influence....

 in Europe, as opposed to the containment strategy being advocated at the time by people like George F. Kennan
George F. Kennan
George Frost Kennan was an American adviser, diplomat, political scientist and historian, best known as "the father of containment" and as a key figure in the emergence of the Cold War...

.

Lippmann was an informal adviser to several presidents. On September 14, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson presented Lippmann with the Presidential Medal of Freedom
Presidential Medal of Freedom
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is an award bestowed by the President of the United States and is—along with thecomparable Congressional Gold Medal bestowed by an act of U.S. Congress—the highest civilian award in the United States...

. He later had a rather famous feud with Johnson over his handling of the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, of which Lippmann had become highly critical.

Lippman retired from his syndicated column in 1967, and died in 1974.

Legacy: Almond-Lippman Consensus


A meeting of intellectuals organized in Paris in August 1938 by French philosopher Louis Rougier
Louis Rougier
Louis Auguste Paul Rougier was a French philosopher. Rougier made many important contributions to epistemology, philosophy of science, political philosophy and the history of Christianity.-Biography:Rougier was born in Lyon...

, Colloque Walter Lippmann
Colloque Walter Lippmann
The Colloque Walter Lippmann was a meeting of intellectuals organized in Paris in August 1938 by French philosopher Louis Rougier. After the 1920s and 1930s saw a decline in the interest for classical liberalism the aim was to construct a new Liberalism as a rejection of collectivism, socialism and...

 was named after Walter Lippmann. Walter Lippmann House at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

, which houses the Nieman Foundation for Journalism
Nieman Foundation for Journalism
The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University is the primary journalism institution at Harvard. It was founded in 1938 as the result of a $1 million bequest by Agnes Wahl Nieman, the widow of Lucius W. Nieman, founder of The Milwaukee Journal...

, is named after him too. Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky
Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and activist. He is an Institute Professor and Professor in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT, where he has worked for over 50 years. Chomsky has been described as the "father of modern linguistics" and...

 and Edward S. Herman
Edward S. Herman
Edward S. Herman is an American economist and media analyst with a specialty in corporate and regulatory issues as well as political economy and the media. He is Professor Emeritus of Finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He also teaches at Annenberg School for...

 used one of Lippmann's catch phrases—the "Manufacture of Consent"-- for the title of their book, Manufacturing Consent, which contains sections critical of Lippmann's views about the media.

The similarities between Almond's
Gabriel Almond
Gabriel A. Almond was an American political scientist best known for his pioneering work on comparative politics, political development, and political culture.-Biography:...

 view and Lippmann's produced what became known as the Almond-Lippmann consensus
Almond-Lippmann consensus
The Almond-Lippmann consensus is a widespread negative view jointly articulated by Gabriel Almond and Walter Lippmann that U.S. public opinion is volatile, incoherent, and irrelevant to the policy-making process.-Mood Swings or Pragmatism:...

, which is based on three assumptions:
  1. Public opinion is volatile, shifting erratically in response to the most recent developments. Mass beliefs early in the twentieth century were "too pacifist in peace and too bellicose in war, too neutralist or appeasing in negotiations or too intransigent"
  2. Public opinion is incoherent, lacking an organized or a consistent structure to such an extent that the views of U.S. citizens could best be descried as "nonattitudes"
  3. Public opinion is irrelevant to the policy-making process. Political leaders ignore public opinion because most Americans can neither "understand nor influence the very events upon which their lives and happiness are known to depend."

Death


Lippmann died on December 14, 1974, at age 85 in New York, New York.

He has been honored by the United States Postal Service
United States Postal Service
The United States Postal Service is an independent agency of the United States government responsible for providing postal service in the United States...

 with a 6¢ Great Americans series
Great Americans series
The Great Americans series is a set of definitive stamps issued by the United States Postal Service, starting on December 27, 1980 with the 19¢ stamp depicting Sequoyah, and continuing through 2002, the final stamp being the 78¢ Alice Paul self-adhesive stamp. The series, noted for its simplicity...

 postage stamp
Postage stamp
A postage stamp is a small piece of paper that is purchased and displayed on an item of mail as evidence of payment of postage. Typically, stamps are made from special paper, with a national designation and denomination on the face, and a gum adhesive on the reverse side...

.

External links