Sunday, October 07, 2007

Walter Lippmann revisited.

When I started drawing for the Greensboro Daily News in 1959, the first column of opinion I read appeared in the Washington Post. It was called “Today and Tomorrow” and was written by Walter Lippmann—clearly an erudite, thoughtful, articulate man who embraced a larger vision of the world he occupied than most of his contemporaries in the field.

I have often wondered what Mr. Lippmann would think of today’s columnists and talking heads---- and their mental rubbish that editors and television corporations elevate to the status of contributions worth considering—-specifically, the likes of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Cal Thomas, Sean Hannity, Joe Scarborough. Bob Novak, Glenn Beck and Bill O’Riley—to mention a few.

In his book Public Opinion, Lippmann stated that “We are all captives of the picture in our head—our belief that the world we have experienced is the world that really exists.” He argued that in the affairs of men we are separated by hours, days or weeks by the world out there as it really exists and that the picture in our head may only reflect the real world when that time gap is eliminated by the arrival of knowledge of events that have taken place. We discover that people with which we share immediate space, for example, are now considered our enemy because of a war that was started days or weeks earlier in another space.

Technology has drastically changed that circumstance, in that today, there is no time gap. Today, we live in global real time—often live and in color.

Aside from the inherent contribution of the time gap to the “picture in our mind”, Lippmann came to embrace a suspicious and critical view that public opinion was largely shaped by a process he called the manipulation of consciousness which he dubbed “the manufacture of consent.” Lippmann’s worst assessment would come to fruition in the coalescing of the George W. Bush presidential campaign, the spiritual demise of print media and the ascendancy of television as the main nourishment of public thought.

“It requires wisdom to understand wisdom: the music is nothing if the audience is deaf.”--Lippmann

Bush and his neocon handlers have ushered in an era in which truth was the first victim of his reign and deception the gold standard for establishing a “ picture” in the public mind that best suited his view of reality. The lies about Iraq and the nature and strategy of combating terrorists are will known and documented.

The news media’s acquiescence to the “embedded” coverage of the invasion, the war and the occupation of Iraq was a major contribution to the belief that the world of George W. Bush was the real one that existed at the time of 2004 election

The picture in our mind did not include body bags, rows of flag draped coffins or Iraqi corpses strewn in the rubble of “shock and awe” bombing. The picture in our mind did not include even a whisper of dissent from Colin Powell. Indeed, his contribution was to espouse supporting (and totally erroneous) statistics—“ 500 tons of chemical weapons!”

The best servants of the people, like the best valets, must whisper unpleasant truths in the master's ear. –Lippmann

Today, about 70% of the public have a different picture in their mind. Congressional democrats, after giving George W. Bush a blank check to start an unjustified war—finally have a different picture in their mind. Democratic presidential candidates have a different picture in their mind. Sadly, as Chris Mathews observed during one of his programs—they all seem to have a wishbone where their backbone should be.

The study of error is not only in the highest degree prophylactic, but it serves as a stimulating introduction to the study of truth. –Lippmann

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