|Father of Modern Journalism|
In 1913, Lippmann, Herbert Croly, and Walter Weyl became the founding editors of The New Republic magazine. During World War I, Lippmann became an adviser to President Woodrow Wilson and assisted in the drafting of Wilson's Fourteen Points speech.
Lippmann had wide access to the nation's decision makers and had no sympathy for communism. After Lippmann had become famous, theGolos spy ring used Mary Price, his secretary, to garner information on items Lippmann chose not to write about or names of Lippmann's sources, often not carried in stories, but of use to the Soviet Ministry for State Security.
He and Charles Merz, in a 1920 study entitled A Test of the News, stated thatThe New York Times' coverage of the Bolshevik revolution was biased and inaccurate. In addition to his Pulitzer Prize-winning column "Today and Tomorrow," he published several books. Lippmann was the first to bring the phrase "cold war" to common currency in his 1947 book by the same name.
e argued that people—including journalists—are more apt to believe "the pictures in their heads" than come to judgment by critical thinking. Humans condense ideas into symbols, he wrote, and journalism, a force quickly becoming the mass media, 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". 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 inpost-industrial societies.
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 (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. He saw the public as Plato did, a great beast or a bewildered herd – floundering in the “chaos of local opinions."
The basic problem of democracy, he wrote, was the accuracy of news and protection of sources. 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 stereotypes (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 (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 (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 in September 1946, Lippmann became the leading public advocate of the need to respect a Soviet sphere of influence in Europe, as opposed to the containment strategy being advocated at the time by people like George F. Kennan.
Lippmann was an informal adviser to several presidents. He had a rather famous feud with Lyndon Johnson over his handling of the Vietnam War, of which Lippman had become highly critical.
On September 14, 1964, President Johnson presented Lippmann with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
A meeting of intellectuals organized in Paris in August 1938 by French philosopher Louis Rougier, Colloque Walter Lippmann was named after Walter Lippmann. Walter Lippmann House at Harvard University, which houses the Nieman Foundation for Journalism, is named after him too. Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman 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.
- A Preface to Politics (1913) ISBN 1-59102-292-4
- Drift and Mastery (1914) ISBN 0-299-10604-7
- The Stakes of Diplomacy (1915)
- The Political Scene (1919)
- Liberty and the News (1920)
- Public Opinion (1922) ISBN 0-02-919130-0
- The Phantom Public (1925) ISBN 1-56000-677-3
- Men of Destiny (1927) ISBN 0-295-95026-9
- American Inquisitors (1928)
- A Preface to Morals (1929) ISBN 0-87855-907-8
- Interpretations 1931-1932 (1932)
- The Method of Freedom (1934) out-of-print
- The New Imperative (1935)
- Interpretations 1933-1935 (1936)
- The Good Society (1937) ISBN 0-7658-0804-8
- U.S. Foreign Policy: Shield of the Republic (1943)
- U.S. War Aims (1944)
- The Cold War (1947) ISBN 0-06-131723-3
- Essays in the Public Philosophy (1955) ISBN 0-88738-791-8
With William O. Scroggs
"News and truth are not the same thing..." -Public Opinion (1922)
"The common interests, very largely, elude public opinion entirely, and can be managed only by a specialized class whose personal interests reach beyond the locality." -Public Opinion (1922)
"When men can no longer be theists, they must, if they are civilized, become humanists."
"When distant and unfamiliar and complex things are communicated to great masses of people, the truth suffers a considerable and often a radical distortion. The complex is made over into the simple, the hypothetical into the dogmatic, and the relative into an absolute."
"The great social adventure of America is no longer the conquest of the wilderness but the absorption of fifty different peoples."
"There is no arguing with the pretenders to a divine knowledge and to a divine mission. They are possessed with the sin of pride, they have yielded to the perennial temptation."
"Unless the reformer can invent something which substitutes attractive virtues for attractive vices, he will fail."
"We are all captives of the picture in our head - our belief that the world we have experienced is the world that really exists."
"What we call a democratic society might be defined for certain purposes as one in which the majority is always prepared to put down a revolutionary minority."
"Brains, you know, are suspect in the Republican Party."
"Industry is a better horse to ride than genius."
"It is perfectly true that that government is best which governs least. It is equally true that that government is best which provides most."
"It requires wisdom to understand wisdom: the music is nothing if the audience is deaf."
"It does not require wisdom to understand wisdom, merely average faculties; if a wise-man's audience cannot understand him he will find a mode of communication, a wise man will surely not just carry on headless and regardless" -Asderathos
"Men who are orthodox when they are young are in danger of being middle-aged all their lives."
"Most men, after a little freedom, have preferred authority with the consoling assurances and the economy of effort it brings."
"Once you touch the biographies of human beings, the notion that political beliefs are logically determined collapses like a pricked balloon."
"Only the consciousness of a purpose that is mightier than any man and worthy of all men can fortify and inspirit and compose the souls of men."
"Our conscience is not the vessel of eternal verities. It grows with our social life, and a new social condition means a radical change in conscience."