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Manufacturing Consent: Walter Lippmann

Lippmann observed that people make up their minds before they define the facts, while the ideal would be to gather and analyze the facts before reaching conclusions. This in conjunction with an increasingly technological, complex, and interdependent world, points out that the primary defect of democracy is the impossible ideal of the "omnicompetent citizen".

He also maintained that mass media is an ineffective method of genuinely educating the public. The first reason is the ineffectiveness of journalists and the second reason is that "the mass of the reading public is not interested in learning and assimilating the results of accurate investigation."

For Lippmann, the news and truth need not be synonymous, as the “function of news is to signalize an event, the function of truth is to bring to light the hidden facts, to set them in relation with each other, and make a picture of reality on which men can act.” The news, therefore, is “imperfectly recorded” and too fragile to bear the charge as “an organ of direct democracy.”

So the substitute of genuinely educating the public is for journalist to engage in “intelligence work” and transmit information from an elite class of technocrats to the public for the purpose of forming their opinions. The voting citizen then in turn chooses the policies that they been manufactured into consenting to, thus closing the loop.

The phrase Manufacturing Consent comes from Public Opinion, 1922.

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