Thursday, February 14, 2013

Who are the real leaders and rulers? Have you looked toward journalists?

I'm sure many who see the headline I typed will think I've gone too far. Read on. It's all here.

Walter Lippmann, considered by many to be the father of modern journalism, writes in his book "Public Opinion" on page 243:

Leaders often pretend that they have merely uncovered a program which existed in the minds of their public. When they believe it, they are usually deceiving themselves. Programs do not invent themselves synchronously in a multitude of minds. That is not because a multitude of minds is necessarily inferior to that of the leaders, but because thought is the function of an organism, and a mass is not an organism.

This fact is obscured because the mass is constantly exposed to suggestion. It reads not the news, but the news with an aura of suggestion about it, indicating the line of action to be taken. It hears reports, not objective as the facts are, but already stereotyped to a certain pattern of behavior. Thus the ostensible leader often finds that the real leader is a powerful newspaper proprietor. But if, as in a laboratory, one could remove all suggestion and leading from the experience of a multitude, one would, I think, find something like this: A mass exposed to the same stimuli would develop responses that could theoretically be charted in a polygon of error. There would be a certain group that felt sufficiently alike to be classified together. There would be variants of feeling at both ends. These classifications would tend to harden as individuals in each of the classifications made their reactions vocal. That is to say, when the vague feelings of those who felt vaguely had been put into words, they would know more definitely what they felt, and would then feel it more definitely.

Lippmann doesn't take the time to develop this line much further, but I certainly will. He uses this line about who the "real leaders" are, but then separates it from the body politic and positions it as if he's only speaking about politicians.(or to a degree, actual rulers in far off countries) It is my opinion that this entire chapter is a discourse on the true role of journalism. How could anybody so intent on studying public opinion make such an observation that people in the news are the real leaders, but then gloss over it as if it were never said? It's because the surface presentation is not real. Consider the next paragraph following the above quoted:

Leaders in touch with popular feeling are quickly conscious of these reactions. They know that high prices are pressing upon the mass, or that certain classes of individuals are becoming unpopular, or that feeling towards another nation is friendly or hostile. But, always barring the effect of suggestion which is merely the assumption of leadership by the reporter, there would be nothing in the feeling of the mass that fatally determined the choice of any particular policy. All that the feeling of the mass demands is that policy as it is developed and exposed shall be, if not logically, then by analogy and association, connected with the original feeling.

Yet so often, when it comes to pushing for a new policy it is not the politician who is on the front lines, it's the journalists. When the gun control debate pops up after a shooting, who brings it up first? Journalists and reporters. When there's talk of tax policy, tax increases are normally mentioned, and the "usual suspects" so often talked about include media figures.

"Connected with the original feeling", he says. What is the day to day death count from Afghanistan and Iraq? Which journalistic authorities suddenly considered it to not be a big deal anymore? It used to be front page, and worth hours of daily discourse. Now, you don't even see anti-war protesters around anymore. Why would you? The "real leaders" aren't rubbing salt on the wound anymore. There is no connection with the original feeling, the journalists have not created it, they like the guy who's in the presidency now.

There are clearly portions of this chapter which are without question geared toward politicians and rulers, even some historical rulers. On page 246:

But wise leaders are not content to do that. Provided they think publicity will not strengthen opposition too much, and that debate will not delay action too long, they seek a certain measure of consent. They take, if not the whole mass, then the subordinates of the hierarchy sufficiently into their confidence to prepare them for what might happen, and to make them feel that they have freely willed the result. But however sincere the leader may be, there is always, when the facts are very complicated, a certain amount of illusion in these consultations. For it is impossible that all the contingencies shall be as vivid to the whole public as they are to the more experienced and the more imaginative. A fairly large percentage are bound to agree without having taken the time, or without possessing the background, for appreciating the choices which the leader presents to them. No one, however, can ask for more. And only theorists do. If we have had our day in court, if what we had to say was heard, and then if what is done comes out well, most of us do not stop to consider how much our opinion affected the business in hand.

And therefore, if the established powers are sensitive and well-informed, if they are visibly trying to meet popular feeling, and actually removing some of the causes of dissatisfaction, no matter how slowly they proceed, provided they are seen to be proceeding, they have little to fear. It takes stupendous and persistent blundering, plus almost infinite tactlessness, to start a revolution from below. Palace revolutions, interdepartmental revolutions, are a different matter. So, too, is demagogy. That stops at relieving the tension by expressing the feeling. But the statesman knows that such relief is temporary, and if indulged too often, unsanitary. He, therefore, sees to it that he arouses no feeling which he cannot sluice into a program that deals with the facts to which the feelings refer.

Yes, but how is that popular feeling created? He who controls the information controls popular opinion, do they not? And who controls more information? A politician or a ruler? Now, before you answer this question too quickly, consider why so many truely/easily identifiable totalitarian states have state run media. Pravda is the obvious answer that comes to mind, in the old Soviet Union. In modern day Iran, the media is state owned or completely state controlled - Press TV is state owned. Understanding this process is important.

If the ruler controls the media, then the ruler does control the most information, giving them the power to control popular feeling by showing(and thus controlling what people do know) and by not showing(and thus controlling what people do not know). This one of the things that separates a true ruler from an ambitious wannabe. So if politicians do not inherently control the information, then they need to team up with those who do, provided that they are interested in becoming a willing partner. Could we describe Lippmann this way? Yes.

Lippmann openly called for Franklin Roosevelt to assume emergency powers. The danger was not that Roosevelt would ever control too much power, but rather that congress would refuse to surrender it quickly enough! Lippmann also helped to draft Wilson's "Fourteen Points" speech. Willing partner indeed.

Getting back to the book Public Opinion, on page 246/247 he writes this:

The mending of fences consists in offering an occasional scapegoat, in redressing a minor grievance affecting a powerful individual or faction, rearranging certain jobs, placating a group of people who want an arsenal in their home town, or a law to stop somebody's vices. Study the daily activity of any public official who depends on election and you can enlarge this list. There are Congressmen elected year after year who never think of dissipating their energy on public affairs. They prefer to do a little service for a lot of people on a lot of little subjects, rather than to engage in trying to do a big service out there in the void. But the number of people to whom any organization can be a successful valet is limited, and shrewd politicians take care to attend either the influential, or somebody so blatantly uninfluential that to pay any attention to him is a mark of sensational magnanimity. The far greater number who cannot be held by favors, the anonymous multitude, receive propaganda.

Scapegoat? True, he is saying that a politician will offer a scapegoat to shift blame or calm people down, yet how many times now have you seen the Tea Party get falsely blamed by reporters for a horrific shooting, over the past few years? Moving along to page 248, we see this:

That the manufacture of consent is capable of great refinements no one, I think, denies. The process by which public opinions arise is certainly no less intricate than it has appeared in these pages, and the opportunities for manipulation open to anyone who understands the process are plain enough.

This brings it back to the beginning. If the "real leader is a powerful newspaper proprietor" as Lippmann states, then through this chapter we have just revealed why it is that the "powerful newspaper proprietor" is "real leader". He understands the process of manipulation. Fellow journalists have even persued studies, and marveled at how brilliant their manipulations were.

A few paragraphs up, I asked the question: how is that popular feeling created? Here's the answer. The Manufacture of Consent. It's no coincidence that Lippmann himself is writing all of this, he was a journalist by trade. That's what he did. For years. Decades.

But what gives journalists the right to manufacture consent? Lippmann answers this. On page 358. I wrote a longer explanation of this here, if you are curious. But I would suggest you just read his words as written. Here is the summary of what he wrote:

news and truth are not the same thing
There is a very small body of exact knowledge, which it requires no outstanding ability or training to deal with.
The rest is in the journalist's own discretion.

That's why journalists are so flagrant with the facts. There are no facts! Facts are not news, and news is not fact. You have a very small body of exact facts, and a very large body of journalistic discretion. This is the foundation of modern journalism.

Now, why would a journalist be so interested in "manufacturing consent"? As he writes on page 75:

And finally since opinions do not stop at the normal members of society, since for the purposes of an election, a propaganda, a following, numbers constitute power, the quality of attention is still further depressed. The mass of absolutely illiterate, of feeble-minded, grossly neurotic, undernourished and frustrated individuals, is very considerable, much more considerable there is reason to think than we generally suppose. Thus a wide popular appeal is circulated among persons who are mentally children or barbarians, people whose lives are a morass of entanglements, people whose vitality is exhausted, shut-in people, and people whose experience has comprehended no factor in the problem under discussion. The stream of public opinion is stopped by them in little eddies of misunderstanding, where it is discolored with prejudice and far fetched analogy.

You're too stupid to know any better. As he writes on page 304/305:

Now the peculiar virtue of functional democracy is supposed to be that men vote candidly according to their own interests, which it is assumed they know by daily experience. They can do that within the self-contained group. But in its external relations the group as a whole, or its representative, is dealing with matters that transcend immediate experience. The shop does not arrive spontaneously at a view of the whole situation. Therefore, the public opinions of a shop about its rights and duties in the industry and in society, are matters of education or propaganda, not the automatic product of shop-consciousness. Whether the guildsmen elect a delegate, or a representative, they do not escape the problem of the orthodox democrat.

See. You're too stupid. Some of you can be educated about the right ways, but for the rest there's propaganda. This gets at something about the progressive mindset that is inescapable. Progressives do not believe in the notion of "public reason". They think it's voodoo magic, it's a fallacy. Lippmann agrees with Croly on this. Which really isn't too surprising, because if you are aware of the history of a magazine called The New Republic, here is what you will learn:

The New Republic was founded by Herbert Croly and Walter Lippmann......

Have I ever mentioned that when it comes to progressives, I don't see the existence of coincidence? I don't. While Lippmann was out there writing about the "manufacture of consent", Edward Bernays was out there engineering consent.(He would write about it later) Not too different. And Bernays, too, thought people were stupid. Look at the cover of Bernays' book "Propaganda", and notice the letter D:

Democracy is administered by the intelligent minority who know how to regiment and guide the masses

Who are these intelligent minorities? And how do they know this? According to Lippmann, "the ostensible leader often finds that the real leader is a powerful newspaper proprietor", and "the opportunities for manipulation open to anyone who understands the process". Anybody can do this. Not just politicians. In modern America, we do have true state run media. That's PBS and NPR. Does anybody see any real difference between PBS and CNN? NPR or your local newspaper?(format notwithstanding) No, you really don't. The differences are small, but content wise you have largely the same thing. As George Creel(another journalist, the leader of Woodrow Wilson's CPI) wrote about achieving(and they did achieve it), "It was not servants we wanted, but associates."

Notice a pattern? Lippmann was a journalist. Creel was a journalist. Croly was a journalist. Bernays was a journalist.

Well then. If the "real leader" is the "newspaper proprietor", is the journalist an associate of the government or has the government become the associate of the journalist?

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