Surrealpolitik: A Test of the News

Authors: Walter Lippmann, Charles Merz

New York: The New Republic (1920)

Quick Summary

A pamphlet analysing the coverage by the NY Times of the Russian Revolution, and finding it wanting.


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From the point of view of professional journalism the reporting of the Russian Revolution is nothing short of a disaster. On the essential questions the net effect was almost always misleading, and misleading news is worse than none at all. Yet on the face of the evidence there is no reason to charge a conspiracy by Americans. They can fairly be charged with boundless credulity, and an untiring readiness to be gulled, and on many occasions with a downright lack of common sense.

Whether they were "giving the public what it wants" or creating a public that took what it got, is beside the point. They were performing the supreme duty in a democracy of supplying the information on which public opinion feeds, and they were derelict in that duty. Their motives may have been excellent. They wanted to win the war; they wanted to save the world. They were nervously excited by exciting events. They were baffled by the complexity of affairs, and the obstacles created by war. But whatever the excuses, the apologies, and the extenuation, the fact remains that a great people in a supreme crisis could not secure the minimum of necessary information on a supremely important event. When that truth has burned itself into men's consciousness, they will examine the news in regard to other events, and begin a searching inquiry into the sources of public opinion. That is the indispensable preliminary to a fundamental task of the Twentieth Century: the insurance to a free people of such a supply of news that a free government can be successfully administered.

A Test of the News - by Charles Merz and Walter Lippmann (Kindle Locations 156-167). (page 156-167 KL)
Tags: [Propaganda, Media]