Walter Lippmann and PublicOpinion in early 20th century America
Lasswell on Communication and Political Propaganda• We need to link what we were discussing in the previous lecture about propaganda with our concentration on the ideas of Harold Lasswell with today’s discussion about Walter Lippmann who was specifically concerned with public opinion.• Lasswell communications modelWho (says) What (to) Whom (in) What Channel (with) What Effectand on politics: Politics is who gets what, when, and how
Lasswell: propaganda 1)form; and 2)channels1. FORM in which the significant symbols are embodied to reach the public may be spoken, -written, pictorial, or musical, and2. CHANNELS : number of stimulus carriers is infinite: newspapers, (as students mentioned propaganda warfare between the two parties in PNG) leaflets, placards, posters, billboards, sports grounds, public transport;(today: radio, TV, Internet)
LASSWELL: definition of propaganda in his article on “The Theory of Political Propaganda” (1927)• “the management of collective attitudes by the manipulation of significant symbols”• attitude is taken to mean a tendency to act according to certain patterns of valuation that may not be based on direct experience.
History and increasing importance of propaganda as a tool of governmentIn earlier times rulers could impose their will through force, rule by the sword; but this changes with the coming of the Reformation and the Renaissance, the printing press, the industrial revolution and the rise of the middle classes, and finally the working classNow public opinion matters, leaders have to win the consent of the governed. This is summed up by Lasswell in the last paragraph of the reading from “The Theory of Political Propaganda” (1927):
• The ever-present function of propaganda in modern life is in large measure attributable to the social disorganization which has been precipitated by the rapid advent of technological changes. Impersonality has supplanted personal loyalty to leaders. Literacy and the physical channels of communication have quickened the connection between those who rule and the ruled. Conventions have arisen which favor the ventilation of opinions and the taking of votes. Most of that which formerly could be done by violence and intimidation must now be done by argument and persuasion. Democracy is the dictatorship of palaver (Lasswell, 1927)
Walter Lippmann: Public Opinion ,“The Pictures inside our Heads” andStereotypes• Walter Lippmann was a key figure in the shaping and studying of Public Opinion in the 20th century.
Context for the ideas of Lasswell & LippmannPROPAGANDA IN THE NEW AGE OF MASS COMMUNICATIONS1.Propaganda played an important part in WWI2. Nature of 20th century American society• Mass communications, mass society, urbanization, European migration, people on the move to America and across America, cars on the highways, trains criss-crossing America, factories, cinema introduced new visual age (power of visual imagery) radio introduced, mass production in industry, capitalism, advertising industry to sell the goods being produced by the new technologies• Result: whole new type of society; connected society, beginnings of a wired world• Conclusion: this is the essential historical background to the new theories about mass communication being developed… by thinkers like Lasswell and Lippmann
Lippmann on Public Opinion & Democracy in AmericaIdea of American style democracy:• Public opinion would be expressed periodically through elections and as a constant pressure on officials.• Public opinion, in turn, would be cultivated by a free and vigorous pressBut, Lippmann thought that the 18th century equation of a free press, informed citizens and viable was no longer possible in the modern age (then first half of 20th century)
Lippmann, Public Opinion, 1922• Ideas about formation of public opinion developed; using terms like: pictures inside our heads, fictions and symbols, and stereotypes• (Anecdote to illustrate: 1914, a number of Germans, Frenchmen, and Englishmen trapped on an island at the outbreak of the First World War, were friends until news of the outbreak of war arrived by boat - because no access to information) –
Pictures inside out heads• Discrepancy between the world and the “realities’ we perceive and act upon;• Most of what we know of the environment we live in comes to us indirectly, but“whatever we believe to be a true picture, we treat as if it were the environment itself”
Most knowledge of environment through Fictions and Symbols• IMPORTANT FOR EXISTING SOCIAL ORDER• IMPORTANT TO HUMAN COMMUNICATION• Nearly every individual deals with events that are out of sight and hard to grasp. Lippmann (1922) observes,• "The only feeling that anyone can have about an event he does not experience is the feeling aroused by his mental image of that event."
• We often respond as powerfully to fictions as to realities, and often we help create those fictions.• In every case, there has been inserted between us and the environment a pseudoenvironment, and it is to this pseudoenvironment that we respond.• Propaganda, is an effort to alter the pictures to which we respond.
Why pictures inside our heads often mislead us in our dealings with the outside world:• censorship;• limitations of social contact;• meagre time available each day for paying attention to public affairs;• distortions as a result of compressing events into short messages—abstraction• The use of a small vocabulary to describe a complex world ;• and the fear of facing facts that threaten our lives
Lippmann’s conclusion about democratic government in 20th century mass society• In Public Opinion (1922), Lippmann compared the masses to a “great beast” and a “bewildered herd” that needed to be guided by a governing class.Phantom Public (1925)"The individual man does not have opinions on public affairs... I cannot imagine how he could know, and there is not the least reason for thinking, as mystical democrats have thought, that the compounding of individual ignorances in masses of people can produce a continuous directing force in public affairs
STEREOTYPES: Lippmann introduced the term• “Stereotype: A fixed, commonly held notion or image of a person or group, based on an oversimplification of some observed or imagined trait of behaviour or appearance.” (modern definition)• http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/special_initiatives/toolkit/stereotypes/what_are_stereotypes.cfm• Some examples (not from Lippmann) Mexicans are lazy and came into America illegally; all Arabs and Muslims are terrorists; the English have bad teeth; Italian or French people are the best lovers; African Americans are all good at sport; blondes are dumb.
Lippmann and Stereotypes• Lippmann presented “stereotypes” as a characteristic element of human perception. He argued that they were essential in the modern world because the global reach of contemporary society, made it impossible for people to make sense of the world on the basis of first-hand knowledge.
Where stereotypes come from• For Lippmann, the stereotypes did not come from the individual. For the most part we do not first see, and then define, we define first and then see.• We pick out what our culture has already defined for us, and we tend to perceive that which we have picked out in the form stereotyped for us by our culture.• Media trades in stereotypes• Characteristic of modern mass societies in contrast to the more closed societies before the mass communications revolution
QUESTIONS1. What does Lippmann mean by “the pictures inside our heads”?2. Why does he think people respond to the modern environment by forming pictures inside their heads and through mental maps or stereotypes?3. What connection do you see between Lippmann’s ideas and communication for development?