Disillusioned with his experience as propagandist for the Wilson government during the First World War, the then journalist Walter Lippmann shut himself in his summer cottage to write a book about the limits of popular self-government in contemporary complex societies. Given that journalism was unable to provide an accurate and comprehensive picture of events to a mostly inattentive audience, it was time to acknowledge that a group of insiders should pre-cook the choices for the outsiders at large.
Published in 1922, Public Opinion would become an instant success. The “manufacture of consent” enabled by propaganda and the mass media, the “stereotypes” we use as cognitive short-cuts to make decisions about politics, the “pseudo-environment” that we build with the “pictures in our heads”, coming from the vicarious experience of foreign events provided by the news mediaâ¦ These ideas espoused by Lippmann in the book served to remind us that we live in Plato”s cave, doomed to passively stare at the shadows that we take for reality, and therefore incapable of governing ourselves as fully-competent citizens.
Historian Ronald Steel, the definitive biographer of Lippmann, noted that the legendary journalist evolved from a mechanic concern (how to report events objectively, de-contaminated of bias and prejudice) to an organic conundrum: What if people do not want to know the truth? This evolution, traceable from Liberty and the News (1920) to The Phantom Public (1925), the prequel and sequel, respectively, of Public Opinion*, still puzzles us today: What if all the fact-checking is useless? What if democracy cannot escape from the limits of confirmation bias and selective exposure? As Steel recalls, Lippmann was well ahead of his time in advancing some of the most recent findings in political psychology: facts won”t change our minds.
The International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics would like to invite submissions for a special issue celebrating the centennial of the publication of Lippmann”s landmark book, Public Opinion. The topics likely to be covered will include:
Submissions will be considered in a two-step fashion: first, interested authors should submit an abstract by December 10, 2021. Those authors whose abstracts are deemed appropriate for the special issue will be notified by the end of January 2022 and will be invited to submit a full paper by July 31, 2022.
The titles and abstracts of the proposed papers may be sent to francisco.seoane@uc3m, and should include title, author(s) institutional affiliantion(s), and a 300-word summary. Please, state in the subject of your email “Lippmann special issue”.
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