Walter Lippmann

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Walter Lippmann in 1914

Walter Lippmann (September 23, 1889 – December 14, 1974) was a United States writer, journalist, and political commentator. With a career spanning 60 years he was among the first to introduce the concept of Cold War, coining the term "stereotype" in the modern psychological meaning, as well as critiquing media and democracy in his newspaper column and several books, most notably his 1922 book Public Opinion.

Lippmann had a role in Woodrow Wilson's post-World War I board of inquiry, as its research director. His views regarding the role of journalism in a democracy were contrasted with the contemporaneous writings of John Dewey in what has been retrospectively named the Lippmann-Dewey debate. Lippmann won two Pulitzer Prizes, one for his syndicated newspaper column "Today and Tomorrow" and one for his 1961 interview of Nikita Khrushchev.


  • If the estimate of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs is correct, then Russia has lost the cold war in western Europe.
    • The Miami Herald (December 18, 1947), p. 6A.
  • The central drama of our age is how the Western nations and the Asian peoples are to find a tolerable basis of co-existence.
    • "Asia and the West", New York Herald Tribune (European edition; September 15, 1965), p. 4
  • A free press is not a privilege but an organic necessity in a great society. ...Without criticism and reliable and intelligent reporting, the government cannot govern. For there is no adequate way in which it can keep itself informed about what the people of the country are thinking and doing and wanting.

A Preface to Politics (1913)

A Preface to Politics (New York: Michael Kennerley, 1913)
  • You cannot endow even the best machine with initiative; the jolliest steam-roller will not plant flowers.
    • Ch. I: "Routineer and Inventor", p. 30.
  • [A]ll achievement should be measured in human happiness.
    • Ch. IV: "The Golden Rule and After", p. 90
  • Ours is a problem in which deception has become organized and strong; where truth is poisoned at its source; one in which the skill of the shrewdest brains is devoted to misleading a bewildered people.
    • Ch. IV: "The Golden Rule and After", p. 105.
  • Art enlarges experience by admitting us to the inner life of others.
    • Ch. IV: "The Golden Rule and After", p. 110.
  • Between ourselves and our real natures we interpose that wax figure of idealizations and selections which we call our character.
    • Ch. VI: "Some Necessary Iconoclasm", p. 168.
  • [T]here is nothing disastrous in the temporary nature of our ideas. They are always that. But there may very easily be a train of evil in the self-deception which regards them as final. I think God will forgive us our skepticism sooner than our Inquisitions.
    • Ch. VII: "The Making of Creeds", p. 236

The Stakes of Diplomacy (1915)

The Stakes of Diplomacy (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1915)
  • Democracy is a meaningless word unless it signifies that differences of opinion have been expressed, represented, and even satisfied in the decision.
    • Ch. IV: "The Line of Least Resistance", pp. 47–48
  • Unless our ideas are questioned, they become part of the furniture of eternity.
    • Ch. IV: "The Line of Least Resistance", p. 51
  • Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.
    • Ch. IV: "The Line of Least Resistance", p. 51
  • In places where men are used to differences they inevitably become tolerant.
    • Ch. IV: "The Line of Least Resistance", p. 52

Liberty and the News (1920)

Liberty and the News (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Howe, 1920)
  • [T]he present crisis of Western democracy is a crisis in journalism.
    • "Journalism and the Higher Law", p. 5
  • There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and shame the devil.
    • "Journalism and the Higher Law", p. 13
  • [T]he newspaper is in all its literalness the bible of democracy, the book out of which a people determines its conduct.
    • "What Modern Liberty Means", p. 47. Essay first published in The Atlantic (November 1919).
  • There can be no liberty for a community which lacks the information by which to detect lies.
    • "What Modern Liberty Means", p. 64
Public Opinion (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922)
  • Looking back we can see how indirectly we know the environment in which nevertheless we live. We can see that the news of it comes to us now fast, now slowly; but that whatever we believe to be a true picture, we treat as if it were the environment itself.
    • Ch. I: "The World Outside and the Pictures in Our Heads", p. 4
  • The facts we see depend on where we are placed, and the habits of our eyes.
    • Ch. VI: "Stereotypes", p. 80
  • [N]ews and truth are not the same thing and must be clearly distinguished. The function of news is to signalize an event, the function of truth is to bring to light the hidden facts, to set them into relation with each other, and make a picture of reality on which men can act. Only at those points, where social conditions take recognizable and measurable shape, do the body of truth and the body of news coincide.
    • Ch. XXIV: "News, Truth, and a Conclusion", p. 358
    • The clause in bold is sometimes quoted on its own in the form, "The news and the truth are not the same thing."

The Good Society (1937)

An Inquiry into the Principles of The Good Society (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1937)
  • Many a time I have wanted to stop talking and find out what I really believed.
    • Introduction, p. x
  • [T]he totalitarian states, whether of the fascist or the communist persuasion, are more than superficially alike as dictatorships, in the suppression of dissent, and in operating planned and directed economies. They are profoundly alike.
    • Ch. V: "The Totalitarian Regimes", §7, p. 89
  • [T]here is only one purpose to which a whole society can be directed by a deliberate plan. That purpose is war, and there is no other.
    • Ch. V: "The Totalitarian Regimes", §7, p. 90
  • In a free society the state does not administer the affairs of men. It administers justice among men who conduct their own affairs.
    • Ch. XII: "The Political Principles of Liberalism", §6, p. 267
  • The self-evident truth which makes men invincible is that inalienably they are inviolate persons.
    • Ch. XVII: "On This Rock", §2, p. 375

A Preface to Morals (1929)

A Preface To Morals, (1982, originally published 1929 by Macmillan), New Brunswick: NJ: Transaction Publishers ISBN 0878559078 ISBN 9780878559077
  • [T]he modern man who has ceased to believe, without ceasing to be credulous, hangs, as it were, between heaven and earth, and is at rest nowhere.
    • Ch. I: "The Problem of Unbelief", §2, p. 9.
  • It does not matter whether the right to govern is hereditary or obtained with the consent of the governed. A State is absolute in the sense which I have in mind when it claims the right to a monopoly of all the force within the community, to make war, to make peace, to conscript life, to tax, to establish and dis-establish property, to define crime, to punish disobedience, to control education, to supervise the family, to regulate personal habits, and to censor opinions. The modern State claims all of these powers, and, in the matter of theory, there is no real difference in the size of the claim between communists, fascists, and democrats.
    • Ch. V: "The Breakdown of Authority", §5, p. 80.
  • The man who says that the world is a machine has really advanced no further than to say that he is so well satisfied with the analogy that he is through with searching any further.
    • Ch. VI: "The Drama of Destiny", §5, p. 130.
  • Ideals are imaginative understanding of that which is desirable in that which is possible.
    • Ch. XII: "The Business of the Great Society", §9, p. 259
  • [L]ove, in spite of the romantics, is not self-sustaining; it endures only when the lovers love many things together, and not merely each other.
    • Ch. XIV: "Love in the Great Society", §6, pp. 308–309
  • It requires wisdom to understand wisdom: the music is nothing if the audience is deaf.
    • Ch. XV: "The Moralist in an Unbelieving World", §2, p. 324.

Essays in The Public Philosophy (1955)

Essays in The Public Philosophy (New York: New American Library, 1956)
  • With exceptions so rare they are regarded as miracles of nature, successful democratic politicians are insecure and intimidated men. They advance politically only as they placate, appease, bribe, seduce, bamboozle, or otherwise manage to manipulate the demanding and threatening elements in their constituencies. The decisive consideration is not whether the proposition is good but whether it is popular—not whether it will work well and prove itself but whether the active talking constituents like it immediately. Politicians rationalize this servitude by saying that in a democracy public men are the servants of the people.
  • A large plural society cannot be governed without recognizing that, transcending its plural interests, there is a rational order with a superior common law.
  • The principles of the good society call for a concern with an order of being--which cannot be proved existentially to the sense organs--where it matters supremely that the human person is inviolable, that reason shall regulate the will, that truth shall prevail over error.
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