Who is Lippmann?

Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) was a journalist, writer, and academic who wrote about the relationship between democracy and the media during 20th century.  Lippmann won two Pulitzer Prizes for reporting, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.

In Public Opinion, Walter Lippmann argued that “representative government…, in what is ordinarily called politics…, cannot be worked successfully, no matter what the basis of election, unless there is an independent, expert organization for making the unseen facts intelligible.”  In short, Lippmann believed that the government (or the governing class)—by necessity—had to control the dissemination of information to the masses in order for democracy to function.

This is not to say that Lippmann’s motives were malefic.  Indeed, he saw the inability to create a consistent stream of information as the death of democracy.  (Nonetheless, many have questioned Lippmann’s motives.)

Motives aside, it is clear that Lippmann (in his early writings especially) was an avid proponent of propaganda, arguing for a single cohesive stream of information.  If Lippmann saw today’s information environment, he surely would be in awe.  Indeed, Lippmann Would Roll over in his grave at the amount of controversy and lack of continuity in today’s news media.