WALTER LIPPMANN’S THEORY OF PUBLIC OPINION FORMATION

WALTER LIPPMANN’S THEORY OF PUBLIC OPINION FORMATION.

Throughout the 1930s, many other members of the social elite, especially those at major universities, shared Lasswell’s vision of a benevolent social science–led technocracy. They believed that physical science and social science held the keys to fighting totalitarianism and preserving democracy. As such, Lasswell’s work commanded the attention of leading academics and opinion leaders, including one of the most powerful opinion makers of the time—Walter Lippmann, a nationally syndicated columnist for the New York Times.

Lippmann shared Lasswell’s skepticism about the ability of average people to make sense of their social world and to make rational decisions about their actions. In Public Opinion (1922), he pointed out the discrepancies that necessarily exist between “the world outside and the pictures in our heads.” Because these discrepancies were inevitable, Lippmann doubted that average people could govern themselves as classic democratic theory assumed they could. The world of the 1930s was an especially complex place, and the political forces were very dangerous. People simply couldn’t learn enough from media to help them understand it all. Even if journalists took their responsibility seriously, they couldn’t overcome the psychological and social barriers that prevented average people from developing useful pictures in their heads. Political essayist Eric Alterman quoted and summarized Lippmann’s position:

Writing in the early twenties, Lippmann famously compared the average citizen to a deaf spectator sitting in the back row. He does not know what is happening, why it is happening, what ought to happen. “He lives in a world he cannot see, does not understand and is unable to direct.” Journalism, with its weakness for sensationalism, made things worse. Governance was better left to a “specialized class of men” with inside information. No one expects a steel-worker to understand physics, so why should he be expected to understand politics?

These ideas raised serious questions about the viability of democracy and the role of a free press in it. What do you do in a democracy if you can’t trust the people to cast informed votes? What good is a free press if it is impossible to effectively transmit enough of the most vital forms of information to the public? What can you do if people are so traumatized by dealing with everyday problems that they have no time to think about global issues? The fact that Lippmann made his living working as a newspaper columnist lent credibility to his pessimism. In advancing these arguments, he directly contradicted the Libertarian assumptions (free speech and free press; see Chapter 5) that were the intellectual foundation of the U.S. media system.

Like Lasswell, Lippmann believed that propaganda posed such a severe challenge that drastic changes in our political system were required. The public was vulnerable to propaganda, so some mechanism or agency was needed to protect them from it. A benign but enormously potent form of media control was necessary. Self-censorship by media probably wouldn’t be sufficient. Lippmann shared Lasswell’s conclusion that the best solution to these problems was to place control of information gathering and distribution in the hands of a benevolent technocracy— a scientific elite—who could be trusted to use scientific methods to sort fact from fiction and make good decisions about who should receive various messages. To accomplish this, Lippmann proposed the establishment of a quasi-governmental intelligence bureau that would carefully evaluate information and supply it to other elites for decision making. This bureau could also determine which information should be transmitted through the mass media and which information people were better off not knowing.

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Effects of Information Technologies

With the existing new technologies and innovations emerging every other day, the information technology is an increasingly interesting platform not just for developers, but also for all sorts of non-technical common people.

With the need for making things easier in the daily life and with the technological advancements, more and more daily activities are shifting online. Having said this, the web can be a very useful tool as well as an intimidating proposition at the same time.

Computer based technology and information systems are actually quite large and vast spread in their utility, have broader spectrum and details. For instance when anyone uses the web for browsing, sending or receiving e-mails, playing online games or even sharing multimedia files with others, all the data has to pass through a set of complicated networks and soft-wares. There are many processes involved that are responsible for management of such systems.

The prime concern of computer related technology is to provide effective and efficient environment, utility of information, software’s and even knowledge and solutions to the common man in a user-friendly manner.

Even the vast majority of people who are still unfamiliar with the technology of computers and the internet, surely find it handy in providing a great means of communication to the whole wide world.

Internet plays a role of a large knowledge base and a crucial place for the latest news, trends and information. Internet even is a big boon to the business or research persons.

Computer related technologies have a strong impact on the world. These have attracted many students and professionals to the field of information technology. There are thousands of web sites and web hosting opportunities available which are ever growing.

There was some problem in the information superhighway of computer technology in the early 90’s because it was not envisioned at that time that the general public would be turning to it in such large numbers. It was supposed to be a walkway reserved for bespectacled physicists and university professionals. With the introduction of the World Wide Web which we know today as ‘www’ was once considered as a medium for sharing text files has gone a major facelift in a period of a decade or so. With the web browsers designed to quickly find and organize information, the internet seeped deeper into popular culture and has become an integral part of daily life and even office work.

The unique fusion of the user interface, animations, video and radio streaming are the ever developing capabilities and advancements of the browsers that have the developers intrigued and working tirelessly.

There are many researches already claiming that the effect of the computer technology, more specifically the online footprint on an internet user’s life is at an average more than that is due to watching TV. What television is renowned for is its multimedia content. The internet with its rich applications and focused capacity of gaining more popular viewer ship is moving in the right direction

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