Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Walter Lippmann explains how journalists and media can and do create opinion

In the book "Public Opinion", Walter Lippmann writes the following: (Page 355)
It is a problem of provoking feeling in the reader, of inducing him to feel a sense of personal identification with the stories he is reading. News which does not offer this opportunity to introduce oneself into the struggle which it depicts cannot appeal to a wide audience. The audience must participate in the news, much as it participates in the drama, by personal identification. Just as everyone holds his breath when the heroine is in danger, as he helps Babe Ruth swing his bat, so in subtler form the reader enters into the news. In order that he shall enter he must find a familiar foothold in the story, and this is supplied to him by the use of stereotypes. They tell him that if an association of plumbers is called a "combine" it is appropriate to develop his hostility; if it is called a "group of leading business men" the cue is for a favorable reaction.

It is in a combination of these elements that the power to create opinion resides. Editorials reinforce.

Anybody involved with the Tea Party has seen this in action on a very personal level, considering the reporting difference between us and Occupy.

Walter Lippmann has been described as "The Father of Modern Journalism". Seeing the sort of word play quoted above plainly advocated, and knowing that modern journalists widely employ this tactic today, it's easy to see why that title is deserved. This is chapter 23. In the following chapter(24), Lippmann explains the following:

1: News and truth are not the same thing.

2: There is a very small body of exact knowledge, which it requires no outstanding ability or training to deal with.

3: The rest is in the journalist's own discretion.

So pretty much, journalists have carte blanche to do whatever the heck they want with the news. They can use it as they please. Which is why, as Lippmann himself explains about budding politicians: (Chapter 15)

The ostensible leader often finds that the real leader is a powerful newspaper proprietor

Following the "Lippmann Formula of Journalism" (I just made that up), it makes perfect sense that nobody could stand up to any journalist or media magnate. They control the levers of information, they use it like a weapon, and they carry the distinction and prestige of being disinterested observers. So they can make you into a demon and get away with it. They could get you elected without appearing political.

That's power.


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