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PUBLIC OPINION

Walter Lippmann

With a New Introduction by

Michael Curtis

Transaction Publishers
New Brunswick (U.S.A.) and London (U.K.)
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DUISBUHG
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8315

Second printing 1998


TO
New material this edition copyright 1991 by Transaction Publishers, New
FAYE LIPPMANN
Brunswick, New Jersey 08903. Originally published in 1992 by The Macmillan
Company. 1922 by Walter Lippmenn.
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,
electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information stor-
age and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. All
inquiries should be addressed to Transaction Publishers, Rutgers-The State Univer-
sity, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08903.
This book is printed on acid-free paper that meets the American National Standard
for Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials.
Library of Congress Catalog Number: 97-28875
ISBN: 1-56000-999-3
Printed in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Lippmann, Walter, 1889-1974.
Public opinion / Walter Lippmann ; with a new introduction by Michael Curtis.
p. em.
Originally published: New York: Macmillan, 1922.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 1-56000-999-3 (pbk. : alk. paper)
1. Public opinion. 2. Public opinion-United States. 3. Social psychology.
4. Social psychology-United States. 5. United States-Politics and govern-
ment. I. Title.
HM261 1997b
303.3'8-dc21 97-28875
CIP
H Behold! human beings living in a sort of underground den, which has

a mouth open towards the light and reaching all across the den; they have
been. here from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that
they cannot move, and can only see before them; for the chains are arranged
in such a manner as to prevent them from turning round their heads. At a
distance above and behind them the light of a fire is blazing, and between the
fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a
low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have
before them, over which they show the puppets.
I set, he said.
And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying vessels,
which appear over the wall; also figures of men and animals, made of wood
and stone and various materials; and some of the prisoners, as you would
expect, are talking, and some of them are silent?
This is a strange image, he said, and they are strange prisoners.
L-':kt ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own shadows, or the
shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the
cave?
True, he said: how could they see anything but the shadows if they were
never allowed to move their heads?
And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would see
only the shadows?
Yes, he said.
And they were able to talk with one another, would they not suppose
that they were naming what was actually before them ?"-The Republic of
Plato, Book Seven. (Jowett Translation.)
CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION TO THE TRANSACTION EDITION. xi
PART I. INTRODUCTION
Chapter Page
1. The World Outside and the Pictures in Our Heads. . . . 3

PART n. APPROACHES TO THE WORLD OUTSIDE

Il, Censorship and Privacy 35


ill. Contract and Opportunity 46
IV. Time and Attention. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
V. Speed, Words, and Clearness. . . . . . . . . . . . 64

PART ill. STEREOTYPES

VI. Stereotypes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79
VIT. Stereotypes as Defense . . . . . . . . . . . 95
Vlll. Blind Spots and Their Value 104
IX. Codes and Their Enemies. . . . . . . . . . . . . 115
X. The Detection of Stereotypes . . . . . . . . . . . 130

PART IV. INTERESTS

XI. The Enlisting of Interest. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159


Xll. Self-Interest Reconsidered. . . . . . . . . . . . . 170

PARTV. THE MAKING OF A COMMON WILL

Xlll, The Transfer of Interest. . . . 193


XIV. Yes or No . 220
XV. Leaders and the Rank and File. . 234

PART VI. THE IMAGE OF DEMOCRACY

XVI. The Self-Centered Man. . . . . . . . . . . . 253


XVll. The Self-Contained Community. . . . . . . . 263
XVIll. The Role of Force, Patronage, and Privilege. . . . . 276
XIX. The Old Image in a New Form: Guild Socialism. . 293
XX. A New Image. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 310 -r
CONTENTS

PART VII. NEWSPAPERS

Chapter Page
XXI. The Buying Public. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 317\ ! INTRODUCTION TO THE
XXII. The Constant Reader. . . . . . . . . . . . . 328 )'.,:
xxm, The Nature of News 338[ TRANSACTION EDITION
XXIV. News, Truth, and a Conclusion. . . . . . . . 358

PART VllI. ORGANIZED INTELLIGENCE Walter Lippmann was the most gifted and influential
XXV
American political journalist of the twentieth century. Over
The Entering Wedge. . . . . 369
XXVI. Intelligence Work. . . . . . .. : .. .. : .. .. .. 379 a long life, 1889-1974, his writings flowed in an unend-
XXVII. The Appeal to the Public. . . . . . . . . . . 398 ing stream, affected by the currents of national and world
XXVill. The Appeal to Reason. . . . . . . . . . . . 411 events as well as by his own intellectual odyssey with its
transmutations in political orientation and conviction.
His works took a variety of forms-editorials for The
New Republic and The World, hundreds of articles, over
20 books, and the syndicated newspaper columns eagerly
read four days a week for 36 years. His enormous output,
calm, analytical and dispassionate in character, impressed
itself on the consciousness not only of the political elite
and interested citizenry but also on popular culture. He
did so to such an extent that he was immortalized in a
New Yorker cartoon in 1935 and by a line in a standard
song by Rodgers and Hart. In magisterial fashion he wrote
both on specific political and diplomatic questions and
on broader philosophical and ethical issues.
I
Lippmann's remarkable intellect and ability was ap-
preciated early in his life. As an undergraduate at Harvard
he had impressed William James, George Santayana, and
the British political scientist Graham Wallas, who dedi-
cated his book, The Great Society (1914) to his 25 year
old former student in acknowledgment of Lippmann's
comments on his lectures. His early influence even ex-
tended to personal matters in 1917 when he avoided serv-
PUBLIC OPINION
CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION

THE WORLD OUTSIDE AND THE PICTURES


IN OUR HEADS

1
THERE is an island in the ocean where in 1914 a
few Englishmen, Frenchmen, and Germans lived.
No cable reaches that island, and the British mail
steamer comes but once in sixty days. In September
it had not yet come, and the islanders were still
talking about the latest newspaper which told about
the approaching trial of Madame Caillaux for the
shooting of Gaston Calmette. I t was, therefore, with
more than usual eagerness that the whole colony
assembled at the quay on a day in mid-September to
hear from the captain what the verdict had been.
They learned that for over six weeks now those of
them who were English and those of them who were
French had been fighting in behalf of the sanctity
of treaties against those of them who were Germans.
For six strange weeks they had acted as if they were
friends, when in fact they were enemies.
But their plight was not so different from that of
most of the population of Europe. They had been
mistaken for six weeks, on the continen t the interval
may have been only six days or six hours. There was
3
PUBLIC OPINION
CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION

THE WORLD OUTSIDE AND THE PICTURES


IN OUR HEADS
1
THERE is an island in the ocean where in 1914 a
few Englishmen, Frenchmen, and Germans lived.
No cable reaches that island, and the British mail
steamer comes but once in sixty days. In September
it had not yet come, and the islanders were still
talking about the latest newspaper which told about
the approaching trial of Madame Caillaux for the
shooting of Gaston Calmette. It was, therefore, with
more than usual eagerness that the whole colony
assembled at the quay on a day in mid-September to
hear from the captain what the verdict had been.
They learned that for over six weeks now those of
them who were English and those of them who were
French had been fighting in behalf of the sanctity
of treaties against those of them who were Germans.
For six strange weeks they had acted as if they were
friends, when in fact they were enemies.
But their plight was not so different from that of
most of the population of Europe. They had been
mistaken for six weeks, on the continent the interval
may have been only six days or six hours. There was
3
PUBLIC OPINION THE PICTURES IN OUR HEADS 5

an interval. There was a moment when the picture often two qui te contradictory things. We can see,
of Europe on which men were conducting their too, that while they governed and fought, traded and
business as usual, did not in any way correspond to reformed in the world as they imagined it to be,
the Europe which was about to make a jumble of they produced resul ts, or failed to produce any, in the
their lives. There was a time for each man when he world as it was. They started for the Indies and
was still adjusted to an environment that no longer found America. They diagnosed evil and hanged
existed. All over the world as late as July 25th men old women. They thought they could grow rich by
were making goods that they would not be able to always selling and never buying. A caliph, obeying
ship, buying goods they would not be able to import, what he conceived to be the Will of Allah, burned the
careers were being planned, enterprises contemplated, library at Alexandria.
hopes and expectations entertained, all in the belief Writing about the year 389, St. Ambrose stated
that the world as known was the world as it was. the case for the prisoner in Plato's cave who resolutely
. .. They declines to turn his head. " To discuss the nature
trusted .. .. . And then over and position of the earth does not help us in our hope
four years later, on a Thursday morning, came the of the life to come. It is enough to know what
news of an armistice, and people gave vent to their Scripture states. 'That He hung up the earth upon
unutterable relief that the slaughter was over. Yet nothing' (Job xxvi. 7). Why then argue whether He
in the five days before the real armistice carne.though hung it up in air or upon the water, and raise a
the end of the war had been celebrated, several thou- controversy as to how the thin air could sustain the
sand young men died on the battlefields. earth; or why, ifupon the waters, the earth does not
Looking back we can see __ kl.1?w go crashing down to the bottom? . . . Not because
t _in _ ...We the earth is in the middle, as if suspended on even
can see that the it comes to us now fast, now balance, but because the majesty of God constrains
slowly; but that be,a true it by the law of His will, does it endure stable upon
_ ._as.. .. the unstable and the void." 1
It is harder to remember that about the beliefs upon I t does not help us' in our hope of the life to
which we are now acting, but in respect to other come. It is enough to know what Scripture states.
peoples and other ages we flatter ourselves that it is Why then argue? But a century and a half after
easy to see when they were in deadly earnest about St. Ambrose, opinion was still troubled, on this
1:t!9:icrous pictures of the world. We insist, because of occasion by the problem of the antipodes. A monk
our superior hindsight, that the world as they needed 1 Hexaemeron, i. cap 6, quoted in The Mediaval Mind, by Henry
to know it, and the world as they did know it, were Osborn Taylor, Vol. I, p, 73.
6 PUBLIC OPINION THE PICTURES IN OUR HEADS 7

named Cosmas, famous for his scientific attainments, would any pious mariner wish to try. For Cosmas
was therefore deputed to write a Christian Topo- there was nothing in the least absurd about his map.
graphy, or (( Christian Opinion concerning the Only by remembering his absolute conviction that
World." 1 It is clear that he knew exactly what was this was the map of the universe can we begin to
expected of him, for he based all his conclusions on understand how he would have dreaded Magellan
the Scriptures as he read them. It appears, then, or Peary or the aviator who risked a collision with the
that the world is a flat parallelogram, twice as broad angels and the vault of heaven by flying seven miles
from east to west as it is long from north to south. up in the air. In. the same way we can best under-
In the center is the earth surrounded by ocean, stand the furies of war and politics by remembering
which is in turn surrounded by another earth, where that almost the whole of each party believes abso-
men lived before the deluge. This other earth was lutely in its picture of the opposition, that it takes as
Noah's port of embarkation. In the north is a high fact, not what is, but what it supposes to be the fact.
conical mountain around which revolve the sun and And that therefore, like Hamlety.it will stab Pelon-
moon. When the sun is behind the mountain it is ius behind the rustling curtain, thinking him the king,
nigh t. The sky is glued to the edges of the outer and perhaps like Hamlet add:
earth. It consists of four high walls which meet in a "Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!
concave roof, so that the earth is the floor of the I took thee for thy better; take thy fortune."
universe. There is an ocean on the other side of the
sky, constitu ting the "waters that are above the 2
firmamen t. " The space between the celestial ocean Great men, even during their lifetime, are usually
and the ultimate roof of the universe belongs to the known to the public only through a fictitious person-
blest. The space between the earth and sky is ality. Hence the modicum of truth in the old say-
inhabited by the angels. Finally, since St. Paul said ing that no man is a hero to his valet. There IS only
that all men are made to live upon the" face of the a modicum of truth, for the valet, and the private
earth" how could they live on the back where the secretary, are often immersed in the fiction them-
Antipodes are supposed to be? "With such a passage selves.
before his eyes, a Christian, we are told, should not 12ersonalities. Whether they themselves believe In
'even speak of the Antipodes." 2 .
merely..per,.. ,if

Far less should he go to the Antipodes; nor should


any Christian prince give him a ship to try; nor
biogr'aphies of great people
1Lecky, Rationalismi Europe, Vol. I, pp. 2:76-8.
2Id. .fan 'more readily the histories of these two
8 PUBLIC OPINION THE PICTURES IN OUR HEADS 9

selves. The official biographer reproduces the public and here at last, crowned and radiant, was the
life, the revealing memoir the other. The Charnwood
. "
sprIng.
Lincoln, for example, is a noble portrai t, not of an ac- M. Jean de Pierrefeu 1 saw hero-worship at first
tual human being, but of an epic figure, replete with hand, for he was an officer on Joffre's staff at the
significance, who moves on much the same level of moment of that soldier's greatest fame:
reality as Aeneas or St. George. Oliver's Hamilton " For two years, the entire world paid an almost divine
is a rnajestic abstraction, the sculpture of an idea, homage to the victor of the Marne. The baggage-master
(C an essay" as Mr. Oliver himself calls it, "on Amer- literally bent under the weight of the boxes, of the pack-
ican union." I t is a formal monument to the state- ages and letters which unknown people sent him with a
craft of federalism, hardly the biography of a person. frantic testimonial of their admiration. I think that
So.metimes people create their own facade when they outside of General Joffre, no commander in the war has
think they are revealing the interior scene. The been able to realize a comparable idea of what glory is.
Repington diaries and Margot Asquith's are a species They sent him boxes of candy from all the great confec-
of self-portraiture in which the intimate detail is tioners of the world, boxes of champagne, fine wines of
every vintage, fruits, game, ornaments and utensils,
most revealing as an index of how the authors like
clothes, smoking materials, inkstands, paperweights.
to think about themselves.
Every territory sent its speciality. The painter sent his
But . t picture, the sculptor his statuette, the dear old lady a
. . comforter or socks, the shepherd in his hut carved a pipe
VIctoria came to the throne, says Mr.
Strachey,t for his sake. All the manufacturers of the world who were
"among the outside public there was a great wave hostile to Germany shipped their products, Havana its
of enthusiasm. Sentiment and romance were com- cigars, Portugal its port wine. I have known a hairdresser
ing into fashion; and the spectacle of the Iittle who had nothing better to do than to make a portrait of
girl-queen, innocent, modest, with fair hair and pink the General out of hair belonging to persons who were
cheeks, driving through her capital, filled the hearts dear to him; a professional penman had the same idea,
of the beholders with raptures of affectionate loyalty. but the features were composed of thousands of little
What, above all, struck everybody with overwhelm- phrases in tiny characters which sang the praise of the
General. As to letters, he had them in all scripts, from
ing force was the contrast between Queen Victoria
all countries, written in every dialect, affectionate letters,
and her uncles. The nasty old men, debauched and
grateful, overflowing with love, filled with adoration.
selfish, pigheaded and ridiculous, with their per- They called him Savior of the World, Father of his Coun-
burden of debt.s, confusions, and disreput- try, Agent of God, Benefactor of Humanity, etc. . . .
abIlItIes-they had vanished like the snows of winter
1 Jean de Pierrefeu, G. Q. G. Trois ans au Grand Quartier General,
1 Lytton Strachey, Queen Fictoria, p, 72. PP94"-95
PUBLIC OPINION THE PICfURES IN OUR HEADS II

And not only Frenchmen, but Americans, Argentinians, tion, no mysterious death or mysterious conflagration
Australians, etc. etc. . .. Thousands of little children, anywhere in the world of which the causes did not
without their parents' knowledge, took pen in hand and wind back to these personal sources of evil.
wrote to tell him their love: most of them called him Our
Father. And there was poignancy about their effusions, 3
their adoration, these sighs of deliverance that escaped
Worldwide concentration of this kind on a sym-
from thousands of hearts at the defeat of barbarism. To all
bolic personality is rare enough to be clearly re-
these naif little souls, Joffre seemed like St. George crush..
ing the dragon. Certainly he incarnated for the conscience markable, and every author has a weakness for the
of mankind the victory of good over evil, of light over dark- striking and irrefutable example. The vivisection of
ness. war reveals such examples, but it does not make them
Lunatics, simpletons, the half-crazy and the crazy outof nothing. In a more normal public life, symbolic
turned their darkened brains toward him as toward pictures are no less governant of behavior, but each
reason itself. I have read the letter of a person living in symbol is far less inclusive because there are so many
Sydney, who begged the General to save him from his competing ones. Not only is each symbol charged i
enemies; another, a New Zealander, requested him to send with less feeling because at most it represents only a f:
some soldiers to the house of a gentleman who owed him part of the population, but even within that part J
ten pounds and would not pay. there is infinitely less suppression of individual dif-]
Finally, some hundreds of young girls, overcoming the
ference, The symbols of public opinion, in times on
timidity of their sex, asked for engagements, their families
moderate security, are subject to check and
not to know about it; others wished only to serve him."
parison and argument. They come and go, coalesce
This ideal Joffre was compounded out of the vic- and are forgotten, never organizing perfectIy the I
tory won by him, his staff and his troops, the despair emotion of the whole group. There is, after all, ;
of the war, the personal sorrows, and the hope of just one human activity left in which whole popula- '1
future victory. But beside hero-worship there is tions accomplish the union sacree. I t occurs in those (
the exorcism of devils. .' the. same mechanism middle phases of a war when fear, pugnacity, and
throu h which heroes are incarnate(f'-aeviTs'''are'made.essa
'"'''''
hatred have secured complete dominion of the spirit,
If everything good was to from Joffre, Foch, either to crush every other instinct or to enlist it,
Wilson, or Roosevelt, everything evil originated in and before weariness is felt.
the Kaiser Wilhelm, Lenin and Trotsky. They were At almost all other times, and even in war when it
as t is deadlocked, a sufficiently greater range of feelings is
!2E--g2Q: To many simple and frightened minds aroused to establish conflict, choice, hesitation, and
there was no poli tical reverse, no strike, no obstruc- compromise. .. of public opinion
12 PUBLIC OPINION THE PICTURES IN OUR HEADS 13
usually bears, as we shall see," the Pictures of French and German soldiers she has seen,
of 'how but it is impossible for her to imagine three million
. . .the . . by. men. No one, in fact, can imagine them, and the
means ....... . professionals do not try. They think of them as, say,
how it was followed im- two hundred divisions. But Miss Sherwin has no
mediately by the breakdown of each natron s sym- access to the order of battle maps, and so if she is
bolic picture of the other: Britain the Defender of to think about the war, she fastens upon J offre and
Public Law, France watching at the Frontier of the Kaiser ,as if they ill a
Freedom, America the Crusader. And think then duel. Perhaps"lfyo"il""could see what she sees with her
of how within each nation the symbolic picture of "'minCfs eye, the image in its composition might be
itself frayed out, as party and class conflict and not unlike an Eighteenth Cen tury engraving of a
personal ambition began to stir postponed issues. great soldier. He stands there boldly unruffled and
And then of how the symbolic pictures of the leaders more than life size, with a shadowy army of tiny
gave way, as one by one, Wilson, Clemenceau, Lloyd little figures winding off into the landscape behind.
George, ceased to be the incarna tion of human hope, Nor it seems are great men oblivious to these expec-
and became mere!y the negotiators and administra- tations. M. de Pierrefeu tells of a photographer's
tors for a disillusioned world. visit to Joffre. The General was in his "middle class
Whether we regret this as one of the soft evils of office, before the worktable without papers, where he
peace or applaud it as a return to sanity is obviously sat down to write his signature. Suddenly it was
no matter here. Our first concern with fictions and noticed that there were no maps on the walls. But
symbols is to forget their value to the existing social since according to popular ideas it is not possible to
order, and to think of them simply as an important think of a general without maps, a few were placed
part of the machinery of human communication. in position for the picture, and removed soon after-
Now in any society that is not completely self- wards." 1
contained in its interests and so small that every- The only feeling that anyone can have about an
one can know all about everything that happens,
ideas deal with events that are out of sight and hard 'h'is .
to grasp. Miss Sherwin of Gopher Prairie." is aware know, we cannot
that a war is raging in France and tries to conceive truly understand their acts. I have seen a young
it. She has never been to France, and certainly she girl, brought up in a Pennsylvania mining town,
has never been along what is now the battlefront. plunged suddenly from entire cheerfulness into a
1 Part v. 2 See Sinclair Lewis, Main Street. 1 Op. cit., p. 99.
PUBLIC OPINION THE PICTURES IN OUR HEADS
paroxysm of grief when a gust of wind cracked first stone who did not believe in the Russian army
the kitchen window-pane. For hours she was in- that passed through England in August, 1914, did
consolable, and to me incomprehensible. But when not accept any tale of atrocities without direct proof,
she was able to talk, it transpired that if a window- and never saw a plot, a traitor, or a spy where there
pane broke it meant that a close relative had died. was none. Let him cast a stone who never passed on
She was, therefore, mourning for her father, who as the real inside truth what he had heard someone
had frightened her into running away from home. say who knew no more than he did.
The father was, of course, quite thoroughly alive as a In all these instances we must note particularly
telegraphic inquiry soon proved. But until the one common factor. It is
telegram came, the cracked glass was an authentic and his environment of To
message to that girl. Why it was authentic only a
prolonged investigation by a skilled psychiatrist could But because it is behavior, the consequences, if
show. But even the most casual observer could see they are acts, operate not in the pseudo-environment
that the girl, enormously upset by her family troubles, where the behavior is stimulated, but in the real
had hallucinated a complete fiction out of one ex- environment where action eventuates. If the be-
ternal fact, a remembered superstition, and a tur- havior is not a practical act, but what we call roughly
moil of remorse, and fear and love for her father. thought and emotion, it may be a long time before
Abnormality in these instances is only a matter of there is any noticeable break in the texture of the
degree. When an Attorney-General, who has been fictitious world. But when the stimulus of the
?y a bomb on his doorstep, pseudo-fact resul ts in action on things or other people,
himself by reading of revolutionary contradiction soon develops. Then comes the sen-
lIterature that a revolution is to happen on the first sation of butting one's head against a stone wall,
of May 19 2 0 , we recognize that much the same of learning by experience, and witnessing Herbert
mechanism is at work. The war, of course, furnished Spencer's tragedy of the murder of a Beautiful
many examples of this pattern: the casual fact, the Theory by a Gang of Brutal Facts, the discomfort
creative imagination, the will to believe, and out of in short of a maladjustment. For certainly, at the
these three elements, a counterfeit of reality to which level of social life, what is called the adjustment of
there was a violent instinctive response. For it is man to his environment takes place through the me-
clear enough that under certain conditions men re- dium of fictions.
spond as rowerfull y to fictions as they do to reali ties, By fictions I do not mean lies. I mean a represen-
and that In many cases they help to create the very tlon"'offne"'"e'ii':Vi'ronmen"f'wfiicn"'is'iii'Ies'ser'or"""reater
ta__ __ __ .. .
fictions to which they respond. Let him cast the 'degree made by man himself. The range of fiction
__
. ,'-.." .. ,. -,,::I""'-""""'"""i "."':",.- '. '"r.","" '--."'-,; -; '::' ,'._ . "'/(,',"c':' ; ,..--... ,',r,,-:;-;,-i,;;.l:... :." ,",' },."j
16 PUBLIC OPINION THE PICTURES IN OUR HEADS 17
extends all the way from complete hallucination to scene of action, theh.. .
the scientists' perfectly self-conscious use of a sche- .
matic model, or his decision that for his particular upon 'the. of I t is like a play suggested
problem accuracy beyond a certain number of deci- experience, in which the
mal places is not important. plot is transacted in the real lives of the actors, and
.. . . not merely in their stage parts. The moving picture
. . is often emphasizes with great skill this double drama
. .. .. . of interior motive and external behavior. Two men
. .. are quarreling, ostensibly about some money, but
.. ..,. their passion is inexplicable. Then the picture fades

menis".. ot"our
" .. .. ..
'. ideas.'''''(''- The "aJternatlve..
. the"' out and what one or the other of the two men sees
with his mind's eye is reenacted. Across the table
they were quarreling about money. In memory
fu>w"""orsensatio'n,:thit 'is" not for-' they are back in their youth when the girl jilted
however"'' reTre's'l11ng it is to see at times with a per- him for the other man. The exterior drama is
fectly innocent eye, innocence itself is not wisdom, explained: the hero is not greedy; the hero is in
though a source and corrective of wisdom. love.
\ For ,the real environment is altogether too big, too A scene not so different was played in theUnited
\ . . t?() States Senate. At breakfast on the morning of
\ . . September 29, 19 I 9, some of the Senators read a news
dispatch in the Washington Post about the landing
of American marines on the Dalmatian coast. The
newspaper said:
'. it.:
Their FACTS NOW ESTABLISHED
persistent difficulty is to secure maps on which their
own need, or someone else's need, has not sketched in "The following important facts appear already estab-
lished. The orders to Rear Admiral Andrews command-
the coast of Bohemia.
ing the American naval forces in the Adriatic, came from
4 the British Admiralty via the War Council and Rear
.. . Admiral Knapps in London. The approval or dis-
,__t he approval of the American Navy Department was not
1 James, Principles of Psychology, Vol. II, p. 638. asked. . . .
18 PUBLIC OPINION THE PICTURES IN OUR HEADS
acted (( under orders of sitting
WITHOUT DANIELS' KNOWLEDGE
somewhere," but he cannot
"Mr. Daniels was admittedly placed in a peculiar posi- Unitecl.States__Q1L Supreme Council
tion when cables reached here stating that the forces over to the Constitution of the United States.
which he is presumed to have exclusive control were carry- Therefore Mr. New of Indiana submits a resolution
ing on what amounted to naval warfare without his knowl- calling for the facts.
edge. It was fully realized that the British Admiralty So far the Senators still recognize vaguely that I)
might desire to issue orders to Rear Admiral Andrews to
they are discussing a rumor. Being lawyers they still
act on behalf of Great Britain and her Allies, because the
remember some of the forms of evidence. But as
situation required sacrifice on the part of some nation if
D'Annunzio's followers were to be held in check. red-blooded men they already experience all the'
" It was further realized that under the new league of indignation which is appropriate to the fact that
nations plan foreigners would be in a position to direct American marines have been ordered into war by a
American Naval forces in emergencies with or without the foreign government and . .-
consent of the American Navy Department. . . ." etc. gress. ,Emotionally they want to believe it, because
(Italics mine). Republicans fighting the League of Nations.
This arouses the Democratic leader, Mr. Hitchcock
The first Senator to comment is Mr. Knox of of Nebraska. He defends the Supreme Council:
Pennsylvania. Indignantly he demands investiga- it was acting under the war powers. Pea..c ehasnot
tion. In Mr. Brandegee of Connecticut, who spoke _". the
next, indignation has already stimulated credulity. the action was necessary and
Where Mr. Knox indignan tl y wishes to know if the 'legal. Both sides now assume that the report is true,
report is true, Mr. Brandegee, a half a minute later, and the conclusions they draw are the conclusions of
would like to know what would have happened if their partisanship. Yet this extraordinary assump-
marines had been killed. Mr. Knox, interested in the tion is in a debate over a resolution to investigate the
question, forgets that he asked for an inquiry, and re- truth of the assumption. It reveals how difficult it
plies. If American marines had been killed, it would is, even for trained lawyers, to suspend response until
be war. The mood of the debate is still conditional. the returns are in. The response is instantaneous.
Debate proceeds. Mr. McCormick of Illinois reminds The fiction is taken for truth because the fiction is
the Senate that the Wilson administration is prone to .---'- " "',', 'W_', " , .

the waging of small unauthorized wars. He repeats A few days later an official report showed tha
Theodore Roosevelt's quip about "waging peace." marines were not landed by order of the British
More debate. Mr. Brandegee notes that the marines Government or of the Supreme Council. They had
20 PUBLIC OPINION THE PICTURES IN OUR HEADS 21

not been fighting the Italians. They had been landed It is to these special worlds, it is to these private
at the request of the Italian Government to protect or group, or class, or provincial, or occupational, or
I talians, and the American commander had been national, or sectarian artifacts, that the political
officially thanked by the Italian authorities. The adjustment of mankind in the Great Society takes
,,,,,,,,.,",,.,,',-wv,.tlmarines were not at war with Italy. They had acted place. Their variety and complication are impossible
according to an established international practice to describe. Yet these fictions determine a very
which had nothing to do with the League of Nations. great part of men's political behavior. We must
tJ.\.;I' The scene of action was the Adriatic. The picture think of perhaps fifty sovereign parliaments consist-
> ".',:)of that scene in the Senators' heads at Washington ing of at least a hundred legislative bodies. With
furnished, in this case probably with intent to them belong at least fifty hierarchies of provincial and
deceive, by a man who cared nothing about the municipal assemblies, which with their executive, ad-
Adriatic, but much about defeating the League. ministrative and legislative organs, constitute formal
To this picture the Senate responded by a strengthen- authority on earth. But that does not begin to
ing of its partisan differences over the League. reveal the complexity of political life. For in each of
these innumerable centers of authority there are
5 parties, and these parties are themselves hierarchies
Whether in this particular case the Senate was with their roots in classes, sections, cliques and clans;
above or below its normal standard, it is not neces- and within these are the individual politicians, each
sary to decide. Nor whether the Senate compares the personal center of a web of connection and mem-
favorably with the House, or with other parlia- ory and fear and hope.
ments. At the moment, I should like to think only Somehow or other, for reasons often necessarily
abou t the obscure, as the resul t of domination or compromise or
.. . ."h".. . .s.ti.mJJli.. ..tQm.,.. .their a logroll, there emerge from these poEtical bodies
. For when full allowance has commands, which set armies in motion or make
E'een""nl'aae"''f6r' deliberate fraud, political science peace, conscript life, tax, exile, imprison, protect
has still to account for such facts as two nations property or confiscate it, encourage one kind of
attacking one another, each convinced that it is acting enterprise and discourage another, facilitate immi-
in self-defense, or two classes at war each certain that gration or obstruct it, improve communication or
it speaks for the common interest. They live, we are censor it, establish schools, build navies, proclaim
likely to say, in different worlds. More accurately, (( policies," and "destiny," raise economic barriers,
they live in the same world, but they think and feel in make property or unmake it, bring one people under
differen tones. the rule of another, or favor one class as against
22 PUBLIC OPINION THE PICTURES IN OUR HEADS

another. For each of these decisions some view of faces and presences of unearthly friends. The
the facts is taken to be conclusive, some view of the fourth man may be a theosophist, and only too
circumstances is accepted as the basis of inference probably a vegetarian; and I do not see why I should
and as the stimulus of feeling. What view of the not gratify myself with the fancy that the fifth man is
facts, and why that one? a devil worshiper. . . . Now whether or not this sort
And yet even this does not begin to exhaust the real of variety is valuable, this sort of unity is shaky.
complexity. in a To expect that all men for all time will go on thinking
... .. differen t things, and yet doing the same things, is a
",' -,;::.'
and institutions, volun-
,." .:, , '" / ... ..
doubtful speculation. I t is not founding society on a
... communion, or even on a convention, but rather on a
. .". . . neighbor coincidence. Four men may meet under the same
$ften. .decisi?l1. tha lamp post; one to paint it pea green as part of a great
. what are these decisions based'? municipal reform; one to read his breviary in the
"Modern society, . " says M r. Ch esterton, 1S 1n- CC light of it; one to embrace it with accidental ardour
trinsically insecure because it is based on the notion in a fit of alcoholic enthusiasm; and the last merely
that all men will do the same thing for differen t because the pea green post is a conspicuous point of
reasons . . . . And as within the head of any convict rendezvous with his young lady. But to expect this
may be the hell of a quite solitary crime, so in the to happen night after night is unwise. . . ." 1
house or under the hat of any suburban clerk may For the four men at the lamp post substitute the
be the limbo of a quite separate philosophy. The governments, the parties, the corporations, the socie-
first man may be a complete Materialist and feel his ties, the social sets, the trades and professions, uni-
own body as a horrible machine manufacturing his versities, sects, and nationalities of the world. Think
own mind. He may listen to his thoughts as to the of the legislator voting a statute that will affect
dull ticking of a clock. The man next door may be a distant peoples, a statesman coming to a decision.
Christian Scientist and regard his own body as some- Think of .Peace, .
how rather less substantial than his own shadow. in a foreign
He may come almost to regard his own arms and legs country trying to discern the intentions of his own
as delusions like moving serpents in the dream of governmen t and of the foreign government, a pro-
delirium tremens. The third man in the street may moter working a concession in a backward country,
not be a Christian Scientist but, on the contrary, a an editor demanding a war, a clergyman calling on
Christian. He may live in a fairy tale as his neigh-
1 G. K. Chesterton, "The Mad Hatter and the Sane Householder,"
bors would say; a secret but solid fairy tale full of the J7anity Fair, January, 192 1, p. 54-
PUBLIC OPINION THE PICTURES IN OUR HEADS

the police to regulate amusement, a club lounging- is worse than shallow to generalize at all about
room making up its mind about a strike, a sewing comparative behavior until there is a measurable
circle preparing to regulate the schools, nine judges similarity between the environments to which be-
deciding whether a legislature in Oregon may fix the havior is a response.
working hours of women, a cabinet meeting to decide The pragmatic value of this idea is that it intro-
on the recogni tion of a government, a party con- duces a much needed refinement into the ancient con-
vention choosing a candidate and wri ting apIatform, troversy about nature and nurture, innate quality
twen ty-seven million voters casting their ballots, an and environment. For the pseudo-environment
Irishman in Cork thinking about an Irishman in is a hybrid compounded of "human nature" and
Belfast, a Third International planning to recon- "conditions." To my mind it shows the uselessness
struct the whole of human society, a board of of pontificating about what man is and always will
directors confronted with a set of their employees' be from what we observe man to be doing, or about
demands, a boy choosing a career, a merchant esti- what are the necessary conditions of society. EQ.!".
mating supply and demand for the coming season, . to,
a speculator predicting the course of the market, a . AIJ that.. ..
banker deciding whether to put credit behind a new know is how thev behave in response to what can
enterprise, the advertiser, the reader of advertis- ... .. >:."i',-\.. "":".""',',''.''','-.'"':.'.'. -'" -',' ..c ".. -",," ,.", .. ,- .... ,.. .' '- '-c'.'"""'.<'
. - .,. -,--.:"-"', ,.,.

ments. . . .Think of the different sorts of Americans No conclusion about man or the
thinking abou t their notions of" The Bri tish Empire" Great Society can honestly be made on evidence like
or "France" or "Russia" or "Mexico." It is not that.
so different from Mr. Chesterton's four men at the This, then., will be the clue
'.-....... to
.. . "........
'..
our inquiry. We
.. .. ,
pea green lamp post. .what "each man does is based not

6
.
made bv himself or ziven to him.
. If his atlas tells
And so before we involve ourselves in the jungle . .
sail near what he
of obscurities about the innate differences of men, we believes to be the edge of our planet for fear of falling
shall do well to fix our attention upon the extraor- off. If his maps include a fountain of eternal youth,
dinary differences in what men know of the world. 1 a Ponce de Leon will go in quest of it. If someone
I do not doubt that there are important biological digs up yellow dirt that looks like gold, he will for a
differences. Since man is an animal it would be time act exactly as if he had found gold. Thewayi..!!..
strange if there were not. But as rational beings it which the world is '. ... ..
1 Cf. 'Vallas, Our Social Heritage, pp. 77 et seq. particular moment what men will do. It does not
26 PUBLIC OPINION THE PICTURES IN OUR HEADS

determine what they will achieve. It determines enhancement, mastery, are undoubtedly names for
their effort, their feelings, their hopes, not their some of the ways people act. There may be instinc-
accomplishments and results. The very men who tive dispositions which work toward such ends. But
most loudly proclaim their cc materialism" and their no statement of the end, or any description of the
contempt for cc ideologues," the Marxian commun- tendencies to seek it, can explain the behavior which
ists, place their entire hope on what? On the forma- results. The very fact that men all is
tion by propaganda of a class-conscious group. But proof that. ." ..
---dleii= .

what is propaganda, if not the effort to alter


i
.,. .,,,,n'., ",.' ..... " . '...",.., ' , . , ' . , ' .. ""'.'. " ,,'" .. ,.
con'scrous::' .
.
r-a-: .. " ,.,," ' . " '. ' ." .,"'''''''-

. ? National direct .. ., indire,ct and


consciousness but another' way'? . Arid'Professor Gid- . .beunknown, .and ",
dings' consciousness of kind, but a process of believ- (if each of us fitted as snugly into the world as the
ing that we recognize among the multitude certain child in the womb),
ones marked as our kind? have. exceptfor the first nine
Try to explain social life as the pursuit of pleasure -moiiEns- o{'i tsexistencenohuman being.manages its,
and the avoidance of pain. You will soon be saying .. ..
u'-"Tfie'diief d1fficufty Tii-'adapting the psychoanalytic
C

that the hedonist begs the question, for even suppos-


ing that man does pursue these ends, the crucial scheme to political thought arises in this connection.
problem of why he thinks one course rather than The Freudians are concerned with the maladjust-
another likely to produce pleasure, is untouched. ment of distinct individuals to other individuals
Does the guidance of man's conscience explain? How and to concrete circumstances, They have assumed
then does he happen to have the particular con- that if internal derangements could be straightened
science which he has? The theory of economic self- out, there would be little or no confusion about what
in terest? But how do men come to conceive their is the obviously normal relationship. But public
interest in one way rather than another? The desire opinion deals with indirect, unseen, and puzzling
for security, or prestige, or domination, or what is facts, and there is nothing obvious about them.
vaguely called self-realization? How do men con- The situations to which public opinions refer are
ceive their security, what do they consider prestige, known only as opinions. The psychoanalyst, on the
how do they figure out the means of domination, or other hand, almost always assumes that the environ-
wha t is the notion of self which they wish to realize? ment is knowable, and if not knowable then at least
Pleasure, pain, conscience, acquisition, protection, bearable, to any unclouded intelligence. This assump-
28 PUBLIC OPINION THE PICTURES IN OUR HEADS

tion of his is the problem of public opinion. Instead public opinion as criteria by which to study public
of taking for granted an environment that is readily opInIon.
known, the social analyst is most concerned in study-
ing how the larger political environment is conceived, 7 I

and how it can be conceived more successfully. The Tbe that we


psychoanalys t examines the adj us tmen t to an X, ou .
called by him the environment; the social analyst
examines the X, called by him the pseudo-environ-
ment. ...
He is, of course, permanently and constantly in .,.'" ,
:''!vQnt... sp.a.o""a.sllffi .. t
.. Clenp-QX,tilonHQ....
f r ality
. ,.... to ....'C
,.,v, ..
manag'e'"
.
debt to the new psychology, not only because when his ".,survival
,...... , and
" ".
snatch what on the scale
,' ,
of" tiiiie.
rightly applied it so greatly helps people to stand on fe-w ..momen ts of. .
their own feet, come what may, but because the
study of dreams, fantasy and rationalization has
'! :.t. '. nvented .
.' of' hearing'what rro ear
thrown ligh t on how the pseudo-environmen t is put "cou1Cf of weighing immense masses and infin-
together. But he cannot assume as his criterion 'iteslm'ar"ones; of counting and separating more Items
either what is called a "normal biological career" 1 than he' can' ifiarviaua1ty""reTu'em5er:"""He"'l's" Tearniii'g"'
within the existing social order, or a career" freed . io.. .. . v.. . .9f. .
from religious suppression and dogmatic conven- ..
tions" outside." What for a sociologist is a normal . ,trnst:WQrthy.. pi<:.tll re
social career? Or one freed from suppressions and .
con ven tions ? Conservative cri tics do, to be sure, ,." features of the world outside which have to
assume the first, and roman tic ones the second. do with the behavior of other human beings, in so far
Bu t in assuming them they are taking the whole as that behavior crosses ours, is dependent upon us,
world for granted. They are saying in effect either or is interesting to us, we call roughly public affairs.
that society is the sort of thing which corresponds to The.. . .
their idea of what is normal, or the sort of thing which .
corresponds to their idea of what is free. Both ideas and .. . .
are merely public opinions, and while the psycho- Those. pictures.. . .. ."
analyst as physician may perhaps assume them, the . ..
. . . name.:,.,of.,
sociologist may not take the products of existing And
1 Edward J. Kempf, Psychopathology, p. 116. 2 Id., p. 151. ''8(; 'in the chapters which follow we shall inquire
3 PUBLIC OPINION THE PICTURES IN OUR HEADS 31
first into some of the reasons why the
so.. . of
. . ."
.. c:l,e>,,<
Under' this heading we shall consider .,F.1,.th.. . . ..
:first the. .. the And' . because the democratic theory is under
are the cri ticism by socialist thinkers, there follows an
al can .... tivelX1l1eager examination of the most advanced and coherent of
time availa ble in . J9.r.. these criticisms, as made by the English Guild Social-
public affairs, the ists. My purpose here is to find out whether these re-
have to be formers take into account the main difficulties of pub-
.difficulty of making .. . a lic opinion. My conclusion is that they ignore the
\;C>l'll plica tedwor difficulties, as completely as did the original demo-
facts which would seem" to'''inreaten the established
..' "".' ',". co. .. ',. : . -,-' ." ..' -: ," ,,"_'._',',_,' .. ,'. ,'_' __, .." ,i
.." _':' .,.,.,, __ __, c_< ,','-' , ,"f -' ' . . , , ' ",c '. _, ,'. __. -"'.' c', .. ' _:,c "c
crats because they, too, assume, and in a much more
routine of 's Jive',.<r, civilization, that somehow mysteriously
The analysis then ,; from these more or less there exists in the hearts of men a knowledge of the
external limitations . ClYe.stiQn.ofI1(),v"this world beyond their reach.
. o fmessages from-. I argue tha,t in
sto're'a::"up Images, .'1',
WHat IS orulnan y cau: ,,;&:.,.
...
'.'.'"...',. ' ,. '. '.. 1
. l e' ::J' no.
..lit.. i 's. . ..0 r i
i. f. .i. n d
. u.'.
..'.'."'.'.'_.'.. '..". ' . . .. "..'.'.. .'.'..'., ',.....
",. str. -v.
",c/."
c.. " c.

-,
< .' . . "

which interpret, fill . turn. .


powerfully direct the play of our atten of election, unless . . there.dsian...
i.s.ion itself.
'v....: ho'.i! making the . !!?::",..
in .
.............

the. individual person...theIirni who have to make the


"Q,YJige, f9r mec.L into . a therefore, to argue that the
identified with his own""iiiterests as he 'feels and con:' ceptance of the principle that. personal rc:prese!lta-
sections it examines' tion must be supplemented by representation
t .. is . alone permit a satisfactory
Pu blic Opinion, Will, a.. .Gr,Ql!.1?
.,.. allow us. to escape Jrom the and
Mind, . . a Social' .. :'Yha ,.,.,"

and unworkable fiction that. each of us


..' ." '-

!() it, isformed. tl'ltlst a competent opinion about


The first constitute the descriptive sec- affairs. the problem of the press IS
tion of the book. There follows an analysis of the confused because the cd'tics and the apologists expect
traditional democratic theory of public opinion. The _.. the press to realize this fiction, expect it to make up
for all that was not foreseen in the theory of democ-
32 PUBLIC OPINION

racy, and that the readers expect this miracle to be


performed at no cost or trouble to themselves. The
newspapers are regarded by democrats as a panacea for
their own defects, whereas _analysis of the nature of

hQW"""thft t y
','
intensify, the op'ln=
t""'"be
PART II

APPROACHES TO THE WORLD OUTSIDE

i tsproper . CHAPTER 2. CENSORSHIP AND PRIVACY

'(),[ .real ()11) .,", ins of " 3. CONTACT AND OPPORTUNITY


;f'" apol ogist, ":dec,:i -nas " 4. TIME AND ATTENTION
I" " 5. SPEED, WORDS, AND CLEARNESS

'\, .. . . qiiittr'ti!ig,=!g:grfe
" enormous opportuni ty to enrich
..,.. ,Atlcl' ()f course, I hope
that these pages' will rfelp 'it realize that
opportuni ty more vividl y, and therefore to pursue it
more consciously r

Related Interests