If you don’t know me personally, you might be wondering, ” Walter Lippmann”, haven’t I heard that name before? Well, you very well may have. The “other” Walter Lippmann was more or less the George Will of his time, though he had been mildly socialistic as a young man. We shared little beyond our name, and our secular, German Jewish background. But, because my name is spelled exactly as his was, people sometimes ask if we are related. There’s no family or other connection. Here’s a list of some scholars whose work I appreciate who’ve written about his ideas and politics.
Historian Herbert Aptheker, author of American Negro Slave Revolts, editor of the writings of, and literary executor of W.E.B. DuBois, and of the Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States and numerous other works on Black history, wrote a comprehensive analysis in 1955 . It was reprinted in Dr. Aptheker’s History and Reality.under the title “Walter Lippmann and Democracy” Here are three short excerpts:
We shall not enter into the game of guessing Mr. Lippmann motivations because we do not know him or them; because we are interested in his ideas, not his psyche; and because, therefore, his personal motivations are irrelevant to our inquiry.
All of his political activities and intellectual endeavors since then  have been directed towards preserving monopoly capitalism by bringing to the rich responsible thinking geared to their interests, by urging upon them a “reasonable” approach, and by attacking democratic concepts and practices.
Mr. Lippmann, with the exception of his extreme youth, has always been anti-democratic; his latest book confirms and sharpens his anti-democratic outlook. Read the full analysis
Howard Zinn, in Discovering John Reed, contrasted the evolution of Reed and Lippmann during World War 1, where Reed moved left and Lippmann moved right:
The big periodicals of New York pressed him to cover the European war for them, and he agreed to go for the Metropolitan. At the same time he wrote an article for the Masses It was a war for profit, he said. On the way to Europe, he was conscious of the rich on the first-class decks, and three thousand Italians kept like animals in the hold. He was soon in England, in Switzerland and Germany, and then, in France, walking through the fields of war: rain, mud, corpses. What depressed him most was the murderous patriotism seizing everyone on both sides, even some Socialists, like H.G. Wells in England.
When he returned to the States after four months, he found the radicals Upton Sinclair and John Dewey among the patriots. And Walter Lippmann too. Lippmann, now editor of the New Republic, wrote in December, 1914 a curious essay: “The Legendary John Reed.” It defined the distance between himself and Reed. “By temperament he is not a professional writer or reporter. He is a person who enjoys himself.” And then Lippmann, who clearly had pride in himself as “a professional writer,” gave the ultimate dismissal: “Reed has no detachment and is proud of it.”
Read Zinn’s essay on John Reed at “Third World Traveler”
“A Murder and It’s Meaning”
Elias Vlanton’s review of Kati Marton’s THE POLK CONSPIRACY, a book on the role of mainstream journalists in supporting the Cold War as it was inaugurated after World War II. Vlanton says:
Kati Marton has written a thrilling account of Polk’s murder and of the cover-up by the American press and foreign-policy establishment. Her story is fast-paced, compellingly written and entirely engaging, and many will finish it convinced that American journalism has finally gotten its man. Marton rightly condemns American government officials for having been more concerned with protecting their investment in the Greek government than in finding Polk’s killers. She also properly raps Walter Lippmann for his gullibility in having accepted, virtually without question, the information supplied by American officials and General Donovan. But by singling out Donovan and Lippmannas the chief villains in the press cover-up of the murder, Marton misses a larger point.
It wasn’t Walter Lippmannalone who failed George Polk and Gregory Staktopoulos; it was American journalism. Although a central figure in the case, Lippmannwas hardly the only journalist to accept blindly that the Communists killed Polk, while ignoring evidence that suggested right-wing involvement. He has to share that responsibility with most of his fellows, including Edward R. Murrow and other top journalists at CBS, the major dailies such as The New York Times and New York Herald Tribune, and other American reporters then covering Greece. The only dissenters were a handful of members of the New York Newspaper Guild.
The Polk Conspiracy has again drawn attention to how American journalists forty years ago sacrificed their integrity to solidify domestic support for the cold war. The uncritical praise The Polk Conspiracy has received, however, shows how American journalists today accept a terrific story and stylish prose in lieu of meticulous research and critical analysis. Either way, they are still not getting it right.
Activist and scholar
Noam Chomsky said in an interview:
….the term “manufacturing consent” is not mine, I took it from Walter Lippmann, the leading public intellectual and leading media figure of the twentieth century, who thought it was a great idea. Read the full Chomsky interview
In “Deterring Democracy”
The techniques of manufacture of consent are most finely honed in the United States, a more advanced business-run society than its allies and one that is in important ways more free than elsewhere so that the ignorant and stupid masses are more dangerous.
In “Thinkers of the Twentieth Century” Alan Waters writes
Lippmann proposed that there should be a system of collaboration between administrators, policymakers, and fact-finding experts. The role of the citizenry would be to maintain surveillance over the decision-making procedures of these knowledgeable rulers. Liberty and the News, Public Opinion, and The Phantom Public express Lippmann’s pessimism concerning the compatibility of democracy with the social conditions of modern society. An Enquiry into the Principles of the Good Society advanced the principle of disinterestedness on the part of statesmen as a cure to the excesses of majority rule and as an antidote to the dangers of elitism.
Following a flirtation with socialism prior to World War I, Lippmann moved quickly to support mainstream thought. Here’s a biographical note on his move from left to right. From “First World War.com”
“Information Please” (on-line encyclopedia)