11 March 2012

Manufacturing Consent

Public Opinion by Walter Lippmann, 1921, Excerpts

The manufacture of consent is not a new art. It is a very old one which was supposed to have died out with the appearance of democracy. But it has not died out. It has, in fact, improved enormously in technique, because it is now based on analysis rather than of rule of thumb. The processes by which public opinions arise and the opportunities for manipulation are open to anyone who understands the process.

To most of the big topics of news, the facts are not simple, and not at all obvious. News and truth are not the same thing, and must be clearly distinguished. The function of news is to signalize an event, the function of truth is to bring to light the hidden facts, to set them into relation with each other, and make a picture of reality on which men can act.

The picture which the publicity man makes for the reporter is the one he wishes the public to see. He is censor and propagandist, responsible to the whole truth only as it accords with his employers’ own interests. The development of the publicity man is a clear sign that the facts of modern life do not spontaneously take a shape. They are given shape by somebody. Thus the ostensible leader often finds that the real leader is a powerful newspaper proprietor.

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