Posts Tagged Harold Lasswell
April 28, 2010
Flashback Friday articles mirrored in-part from other websites will be high-caliber missives not only because they contain extremely pertinent information for our times, but also because those seeking truth may not realize they are available.
Mass media is the most powerful tool used by the ruling class to manipulate the masses. It shapes and molds opinions and attitudes and defines what is normal and acceptable. This article looks at the workings of mass media through the theories of its major thinkers, its power structure and the techniques it uses, in order to understand its true role in society.
Programming Through Mass Media
Mass media are media forms designed to reach the largest audience possible. They include television, movies, radio, newspapers, magazines, books, records, video games and the internet. Many studies have been conducted in the past century to measure the effects of mass media on the population in order to discover the best techniques to influence it. From those studies emerged the science of Communications, which is used in marketing, public relations and politics. Mass communication is a necessary tool to insure the functionality of a large democracy; it is also a necessary tool for a dictatorship. It all depends on its usage.
In the 1958 preface for A Brave New World, Aldous Huxley paints a rather grim portrait of society. He believes it is controlled by an “impersonal force”, a ruling elite, which manipulates the population using various methods.
“Impersonal forces over which we have almost no control seem to be pushing us all in the direction of the Brave New Worldian nightmare; and this impersonal pushing is being consciously accelerated by representatives of commercial and political organizations who have developed a number of new techniques for manipulating, in the interest of some minority, the thoughts and feelings of the masses.”
– Aldous Huxley, Preface to A Brave New World
His bleak outlook is not a simple hypothesis or a paranoid delusion. It is a documented fact, present in the world’s most important studies on mass media. Here are some of them:
Walter Lippmann, an American intellectual, writer and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner brought forth one of the first works concerning the usage of mass media in America. In Public Opinion (1922), Lippmann compared the masses to a “great beast” and a “bewildered herd” that needed to be guided by a governing class. He described the ruling elite as “a specialized class whose interests reach beyond the locality.” This class is composed of experts, specialists and bureaucrats. According to Lippmann, the experts, who often are referred to as “elites,” are to be a machinery of knowledge that circumvents the primary defect of democracy, the impossible ideal of the “omnicompetent citizen.” The trampling and roaring “bewildered herd” has its function: to be “the interested spectators of action,” i.e. not participants. Participation is the duty of “the responsible man”, which is not the regular citizen.
Mass media and propaganda are therefore tools that must be used by the elite to rule the public without physical coercion. One important concept presented by Lippmann is the “manufacture of consent”, which is, in short, the manipulation of public opinion to accept the elite’s agenda. It is Lippmann’s opinion that the general public is not qualified to reason and to decide on important issues. It is therefore important for the elite to decide “for its own good” and then sell those decisions to the masses.
“That the manufacture of consent is capable of great refinements no one, I think, denies. The process by which public opinions arise is certainly no less intricate than it has appeared in these pages, and the opportunities for manipulation open to anyone who understands the process are plain enough. . . . as a result of psychological research, coupled with the modern means of communication, the practice of democracy has turned a corner. A revolution is taking place, infinitely more significant than any shifting of economic power. . . . Under the impact of propaganda, not necessarily in the sinister meaning of the word alone, the old constants of our thinking have become variables. It is no longer possible, for example, to believe in the original dogma of democracy; that the knowledge needed for the management of human affairs comes up spontaneously from the human heart. Where we act on that theory we expose ourselves to self-deception, and to forms of persuasion that we cannot verify. It has been demonstrated that we cannot rely upon intuition, conscience, or the accidents of casual opinion if we are to deal with the world beyond our reach.”
–Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion