The Clare Spark Blog

August 25, 2009

Preventive Politics and socially responsible capitalists, 1930s-40s

Talcott Parsons still hot

The following excerpt from my book on the Melville Revival logically follows on the heels of the recent blog on negative images of “the People” and should be read together. It contains some of the most damning material that I found in my research, for “preventive medicine” and “preventive politics” are hellishly and unscientifically intertwined, and have been funded by the most liberal foundations and other sources of support.

[From Hunting Captain Ahab, chapter 9:] The pursuit of Melville in elite eastern universities during the late 1930s was coterminous with the excising of “radical” will through antifascist liberal surgery. As world war loomed, Marxists and many others from Center to Left were predicting fascism in America. New Deal policies, they argued, could not avert or repair the periodic structural crises of capitalism; only a corporate state could suppress the class warfare that would flare anew in the depression that was expected to follow demobilization. Irrationalist moderate conservatives viewed moralistic self-righteousness (on the Left) and selfishness (on the Right) as the source of social violence.

In 1939 or 1940, three moderate men, Robert Hutchins, Paul Hoffman, and William Benton, invited University of Chicago faculty and “personal friends” from big business to join a study group, The American Policy Commission. Hutchins was President of the University of Chicago and defender of Great Books; he and his former partner Chester Bowles would be members of America First; Hoffman was President of Studebaker, later chief administrator for the Marshall Plan and first president of the Ford Foundation; Benton was Vice-President of the University of Chicago, promoter of modern radio advertising, Amos ‘n Andy, and Muzak, later publisher of Encyclopedia Britannica and other educational media, Assistant Secretary of State, then originator of “The Voice of America,” U.S. Senator from Connecticut, and backer of UNESCO enabling legislation. The American Policy Commission evolved into The Committee For Economic Development, institutionalized in 1942; its purpose to meet the anticipated postwar depression with Keynesian economics. The CED distinguished its “socially responsible” policies from those of the laissez-faire National Association of Manufacturers; it brought scholarly specialists together with liberal businessmen to steer America clear of the mad extremes of Fascism and Communism, later McCarthyism, inflated arms budgets, and commercial broadcasting.

The omnipresent political scientist Harold Lasswell was central to their project of preventive politics: the Jung-inspired Lasswell discovered the psychopathology of communism and fascism. Benton’s biographer unambiguously placed Lasswell’s probe in the democratic tradition:

“[Lasswell] looked hard and long at these worldwide disorders of the political mind, hoping to find in them the terms for a program of preventive medicine and that could help maintain America as a free society with equal opportunity for human dignity open to all.”

With the examples of Plato and other classicists at hand, Lasswell and other psychopathologists could protect the old master narrative. Nazis sighted on the horizon (like the jingoistic followers of Father Coughlin and other American fascists) must be the People: sneaky, bloody, perverse, selfish and paranoid. Without good father navigation the hysterical People would be driven by shadows in Plato’s Cave, go berserk and drown “business.” Lasswell was worried about the possible transition from fascism to communism; while attempting to overcome Marxian socialism, (rational) European businessmen had been captured by the “romantic Fascists” of the squeezed “lower middle-class” who might go on to liquidate their former patrons.

Interestingly, for Lasswell in 1936, the scenario in America seemed different. Here the middle class was so identified with “big business” and “big finance” that it was likely to fall for the propaganda against “reds” and smash labor. To avoid “piecemeal fascism” and to enhance “peaceful development,” Lasswell (and other ego psychologists) prescribed class-consciousness (but integration) through pluralist bargaining in “interest groups” to achieve emotional and intellectual independence from monopolistic big business. In 1941, Lasswell urged vigilant sighting and sympathetic treatment of bad seeds:

[Lasswell:] “Public opinion is profoundly distorted when there are deference crises in society; and these appear when the level of deference is suddenly interfered with, and when destructive personalities exercise a directive effect upon public opinion. Some persons are at odds with themselves, carrying heavy loads of anxiety, and from these anxiety types extremism may be expected. We need to become aware of which social practices in the home, school, factory, office–contribute to anxiety and which to security. We may be able to lower the level of the explosive reserves when human development is subject to gross distortion.”

Lasswell could have been describing Herman Melville’s anxious disillusion with paternal authority; perhaps explosions would be obviated by enhanced civilian morale with methods advocated by Harvard social psychologists Murray and Allport, also disseminated in 1941. By 1942, these social scientists were certain: the Head Self was sturdy guardian of “the public interest,” whereas overly egalitarian motions inside the Western Body levelled walls, erected barricades, then tossed up lonesome corpses. In his article “Propaganda and Social Control,” Talcott Parsons, Murray’s Harvard associate and mentor, addressed mental health practitioners, proposing that the government practice “social psychotherapy” to stabilize the national consensus. He advocated subliminal “reinforcement type” propaganda to calm the “revolutionary” and “disruptive” types that were inducing structural change or undermining “confidence in authority and leadership.”

For Parsons, maladjusted neurotics were fomenting conflict and fragmentation, not adaptation and interdependence. But froward rebels could be cured in the socially responsible psychiatrist’s office through “steady discipline to which the patient is subjected in the course of his treatment. While the fact that he is required and allowed to express himself freely may provide some immediate satisfactions, he is not really allowed to ‘get away’ with their implications for the permanent patterning of his life and social relations, but is made, on progressively deeper levels, conscious of the fact that he cannot ‘get away’ with them. The physician places him in a kind of ‘experimental situation’ where this is demonstrated over and over again (561).”

Compare the Parsons protocol with the sermon of a German theologian in 1933 switching “secular Jews,” the most dangerous type of atheist:
“Everywhere where something can disintegrate decomposed, can be destroyed, maybe marriage and family, patriotism or the Christian church, discipline and order, chastity and decency; everywhere there is something to gain, he is involved there. He is mocking with his ingenious joking, with his smart and skillful talent, with his persistent subversive energy. An atheist always acts destructively; but nowhere is the destructive force of this attitude as devastating as in the case of a Jewish person who wasted his rich heritage from the Old Testament and joined the swine.”

Pragmatic Harvard social psychologists had appropriated Madisonian pluralist politics, ignoring the libertarian, anti-corporatist aspect of their theoretical underpinnings. For the new moderates, social stability was achieved when triumphalist factions (instigated by religious enthusiasm or other forms of zealotry such as an inordinate love of gain), were replaced by amoral interest groups; relieved of (Hume’s) plundering or leveling extremists, bargains could be struck, reconciling private interest with public good: the moderates would have clambered onto solidly “mobile-middle ground.” Reading Madison in Federalist #10, they could infer that free speech was a safety valve, circumscribed spatially and irrelevant to political processes with realistic goals. Having banished irrationality from their own procedures, the Harvard clique could see themselves as resolutely antifascist, for it was the mob-driven Nazi movement (likened by Parsons to romantic puritans in other writing of 1942) that was pathological.

Ritual rebellions could be safely confined within psychiatrists’ offices or the pages of Typee (or in the bed Ishmael shared with Queequeg). Parsons’ contribution appeared in Psychiatry along with a germinal article “Hitler’s Imagery and German Youth,” by Erik Homburger Erikson, another colleague of Murray’s at Harvard. Erikson presented Hitler as a “great adventurer” possessed of “borderline traits”; he was the perennial adolescent, a big brother to other unyielding gangsters. Erikson held that broken-spirited German fathers lacking inner integration and authority were responsible for the (hysterical) romantic revolt of the sons. Erikson’s identity politics owed more to Murray and the romantic conservative Jung, a theorist of racial character, than to the cosmopolitan and bourgeois Freud. Soon the Jungian analyst Murray (who admired the Wandering Jew Freud’s eyes that penetrated walled-up areas of the psyche) would be advising President Roosevelt that Hitler, the autodidact Id-man, the Dionysiac Man of the Crowd who had overcome big Capital, was an “arch-Romantic,” a composite of Lord Byron and Al Capone, a paranoid schizophrenic, a homosexual, and probably a carrier of Jewish blood through his father; ergo Hitler’s “uncanny knowledge of the average man”should “be appropriated to good advantage.” Disillusion with the Führer was perilous; Murray argued for “a profound conversion of Germany’s attitude” after the Allied victory:

[Murray:] “Disorganization and confusion will be general, creating breeding ground for cults of extreme individualism. A considerable part of the population will be weighted down with a heavy sense of guilt, which should lead to a revival of religion. The soil will be laid [sic] for a spiritual regeneration; and perhaps the Germans, not we, will inherit the future.”

Lasswell and Murray, both progressives, thought as one. In his Power and Personality (1948), Lasswell contemplated the continuing plausibility of Marxist analysis, worried about “paranoids” with their fingers on nuclear buttons, and urged “genuine democrats to expose the dubious and dangerous expectation of democracy through mass revolution.” The world revolution of the twentieth century would probably culminate in mutually annihilating technocratic garrison states unless “the scientists of democracy” intervened to create the “sociocapitalist” “free man’s commonwealth.” Murray’s personality tests (developed in the mid-1930s and during his stint with the OSS during the war) fertilized Lasswell’s febrile, holistic imagination. While deploying the concepts of accountability and openness that for Locke had been indispensable to the functioning of popular sovereignty, Lasswell, with Murray’s personnel assessment tests in tow, had turned Locke upside down:

[Lasswell:] “One of the practical means by which tensions arising from provocativeness can be reduced is by the selection of leaders from among non-destructive, genuinely democratic characters…. This has already gone far in appointive jobs. Several businesses are accustomed to promote executives not only on the basis of the general administrative record but according to scientific methods of personality appraisal. The aim is to discern whether factors in the personality structure counterindicate the placing of heavier responsibilities on the person.
” To a limited extent selection procedures in army, navy and civil administration have been directed to the same end. But the procedure is not yet applied to elective office. What is needed is a National Personnel Assessment Board set up by citizens of unimpeachable integrity which will select and supervise the work of competent experts in the description of democratic and antidemocratic personality. The Assessment Board can maintain continuing inquiry into the most useful tests and provide direct services of certifications of testers. When this institution has been developed it will slowly gather prestige and acceptance. Sooner or later candidates for elective office will have enough sense of responsibility to submit voluntarily to an investigation by the board, which would say only that the candidate has, or has not, met certain defined minimum standards. Gradually, the practice of basic personality disclosure can spread throughout all spheres of life, including not only local, state, national or inter-nation government personnel, but political parties, trade unions, trade associations, churches and other volunteer associations.
[Lasswell, cont.]”It is an axiom of democratic polity that rational opinion depends upon access to pertinent facts and interpretations. Surely no facts are more pertinent than those pertaining to character structure of candidates for leadership. Progressive democratization calls for the development of such new institutions as the Assessment Board for the purpose of modernizing our methods of self-government.” [end Lasswell quote]

The National Personnel Assessment Board set up by citizens of unimpeachable integrity,” “gradually” penetrating every institution, would control definitions of acceptable rational opinion. And yet Lasswell was no friend to totalitarian regimes; as member of the Research Advisory Board and spokesman for CED, he condemned loyalty investigations. Instead of imitating sleazy witch-hunters on the Right or the “negative” tactics of the ACLU on the Left, he called for an overhaul of leaders and the led (the latter ultimately responsible for protecting First Amendment freedoms). A balance would be struck between national security and individual freedom through formation of community discussion groups, to be fed by appropriately cautious government experts supplying an interactive (but “expert”-controlled) free press and public broadcasting system. In the 1950s, Lasswell’s study of political symbols helped social scientists refine their tools in the surveillance of blooming political dissidents. Murray’s OSS recruitment test of 1943 could weed potentially disloyal government employees, while his Thematic Apperception Test (1935) could enhance content-analysis of mass communications. Lasswell frankly explained the purposes that infused the new discipline of communications studies, said to be relevant to literary scholars and historians; indeed he decoded authoritarian styles of discourse throughout.

Modern preventive politics did not begin with the machinations of Lasswell & Co. but with Humean or Burkean autopsies of the regicidal English and French Revolutions. According to the reform-or-ruin school of preventive hygiene, foul winds and cancers appear when aristocrats allow vices to ferment in the bowels; the social bond is broken, virtue and vice trade places. Through alert planning (like education and sports for the masses and psychoanalysis for their betters), elites would become more flexible while containing their passion for libertine excess and luxurious display; meanwhile the People would have healthy outlets for their discontent and desirousness–like libertine excess and luxurious display especially in the mass media.

Thus Reason, Conscience, and the State would be brought into congruence. The reform-or-ruin strategy of social hygiene and preventive politics would dominate the political science and social psychology created by moderate conservatives. Understrapping their dreams of thoroughgoing surveillance, the watchbird watched everybody, leaders and the led. [end excerpt from and Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival, footnotes not included]

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T.W. Adorno and his funny idea of “genuine liberalism”

Paul Klee, Captive Pierrot

[Added 12-5-09: I have been reading up on military psychiatry and found this primer on psychology (Discovering Ourselves) directed at an educated audience. It declares itself to be Freudian, Jungian, and Adlerian, and quite up to date. Recall that Freud’s 1915 essay on thoughts of death in wartime emphasized the never ending struggle between the civilizing impulses and the agressive ones that were in full operation during the Great War (and noted again below). By contrast, the “progressive” and optimistic view of psychotherapy was obviously an attempt to impose “harmony” or “balance”* on the competing superego, ego, and id forces in the psyche; it also declared itself against destructive materialist science (described by them as behaviorism).  Here is the last paragraph in the chapter on the superego–a force that can cause rebellion when it is too harsh and punitive. It should be obvious that the Superego is the State, the (strong) Ego the pragmatic, moderate Leader/psychiatrist/Mental Director, and the Id: the chaotic lower orders or perhaps the market, given to unregulated sex and aggression. [On the Mental Director advocated by Wilfred Trotter, see https://clarespark.com/2009/11/13/supermen-wanted-early-freudians-and-the-mob/. Trotter is lauded in Discovering Ourselves, see below.]

“We see, then, that the superego of man, while it represents a great moral achievement, holds within it the seeds of distress, downfall, destructiveness, and disease. It can be a relentless foe that refuses to be placated. It can be hostile, cruel, and remorseless. It is only when a harmonious relationship exists between the superego, the ego, and the primitive urges of the id that the individual’s personality can be considered well-integrated. A wholesome superego can be and often is a guiding force to health, happiness, and scientific and social progress. It can be a partner in great cosmic or religious affirmations and endeavors.” [Strecker and Appel, Discovering Ourselves: A View of the Human Mind and How it Works (Macmillan, 1943): 99.] Now compare this to Adorno’s view of Freud’s map of the psyche: gone is Freud’s eternal struggle to understand and overcome irrationality, resulting in “everyday unhappiness;” up comes the structural functionalism of Talcott Parsons and the progressives at Harvard. Put a smile on that Leviathan, Dr. Murray!

Here is a footnote to my book, Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival, chapter two, part of which is excerpted in the blog on Left-liberal psychologists at Harvard promoting “civilian morale.”

[Note:] See T.W. Adorno et al, The Authoritarian Personality (New York: Harper, 1950), 71, 781-783. The “Genuine Liberal” type is anti-totalitarian and free of narcissism; in Adorno’s appropriation of Freud, the genuine liberal possesses “that balance between superego, ego, and id which Freud deemed ideal” (71). Adorno’s example of the type is a politically naive, but frank and independent twenty-one year old woman, not given to ultra-femininity/ feminine wiles; she is the daughter of a hiring manager at a railroad; in the family sexual division of labor, her loving mother represents emotions, her father, facts. She is religious (“Perhaps we will all be saved”) and reads Plato for Utopian inspiration. When asked how she felt about Negroes and Jews, she was “guided by the idea of the individual,” but she wouldn’t want to marry a Negro with dark skin or a man with a big nose. However, as a nurse’s aid [sic], she did not object to caring for Negro patients. Adorno quotes her “joke” [what would Freud have said?]: “Maybe if the Jews get in power they would liquidate the majority! That’s not smart. Because we would fight back.” Admirably free of bigotry, she is also free of “repression with regard to her feelings toward her father: ‘I want to marry someone just like my father’ ” (783).

Distinguishing themselves from “manipulative” fascists, the authors, in their concluding sentence, prescribe an antithetical appeal to the emotions: “…we need not suppose that appeal to emotion belongs to those who strive in the direction of fascism, while democratic propaganda must limit itself to reason and restraint. If fear and destructiveness are the major emotional sources of fascism, eros belongs mainly to democracy” (976). Henry A. Murray’s Thematic Apperception Test was used by Adorno’s colleagues creating “the F-scale” (the potential for fascist behavior); Murray’s and Lasswell’s books are recommended in the bibliography. [end footnote]
Adorno, not his collaborators wrote the section on the genuine liberal. His notion of Freud was, of course, wrong. Freud believed that there could be no “balance” between ego, id, and superego, rather that the primitive instincts were so strong that life was a constant struggle to maintain the fragile veneer of civilization. See especially his essay from 1915 reflecting on the appalling war between so-called civilized European nations. For more details on this cohort and their crypto-fascism see https://clarespark.com/2011/03/27/progressive-mind-managers-ca-1941-42/.

*The authors of Discovering Ourselves apply balance in several instances: Introversion and extroversion (both are Jungian categories) should be “balanced.” This advice is directed toward dreamy do-nothings (introverts) and executives or clubwomen housewives (extroverts), all of whom have not yet climbed on board the New Deal ship of state. The wandering housewife example is particularly interesting, because she should be at home raising balanced children, able to master the challenges of early childhood and adolescence, hence raising socially responsible adults.

August 19, 2009

Noam Chomsky’s misrepresentation of Walter Lippmann’s chief ideas on manufacturing consent

Walter Lippmann

[For a related blog see https://clarespark.com/2012/01/12/the-counter-culture-vs-the-establishment/]

I first defended Walter Lippmann’s chief ideas from the 1920s and 1930s on a KPFK radio program, then worked up this longer analysis for a discussion group on Humanities Net (the History of Diplomacy). It is archived there, but the material remains timely, as science is always on the defensive, and the entire subject of “public opinion” is paramount in importance to any would-be democracy.

For instance, as I showed in my book, Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival,  Melville’s character Captain Ahab was appropriated by “moderately” conservative psychoanalysts and sociologists calling for government psychological warfare during and after World War II, and blaming fascism on Byronic/Ahab-ish puritanism and romanticism, at times recommending the adoption of (Byronic, Ahab-ish, Jewish) Hitler’s astute and effective techniques of mind-management in order to evacuate the Radical Enlightenment (i.e., civil liberties, rational-secular education, the accountability of “experts” directly to the people). One of these, the political scientist Harold Lasswell (featured in my book), is now paired in his Wikipedia entry with Walter Lippmann as a proponent of propaganda designed to make us dependent upon experts, who may not be interrogated by non-experts. Anyone who has read Lippmann’s Liberty and the News, would have to be outraged by this comparison. Meanwhile, Chomsky still draws crowds among the Left and the social psychologists whose antidemocratic policies I have addressed remain unexposed.

[Added 3-11-10: Jonah  Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism (p.109) similarly misreads Lippmann. He footnotes an apparently damning quote from Public Opinion, but then gives no page number. See https://clarespark.com/2010/03/10/jonah-goldbergs-liberal-fascism-part-one/]

The H-Diplo interchanges started with a query, 7 December 2001, and raised the hackles of Chomsky-ites who defended Chomsky to the death:

[My query:] I am trying to get a handle on why Noam Chomsky and his followers are so hostile to Walter Lippmann. I have read Lippmann’s Public Opinion and the sequel The Phantom Public  (both published in the 1920s), and there is no basis for the Chomskyite claim that Lippmann thought that the manufacture of consent was a good idea; it was quite the opposite.

Moreover, the second work (Phantom Public) was decidedly Heraclitean, postmodern and cultural/ethical relativist in its epistemology; one would think that the New Left academic cohort would have embraced Lippmann (though perhaps experiencing discomfort with his defense of fact-finding and truth vs. falsehood, a task best handled by experts).

I would also like to add that from my reading of right-wing populist screeds (and including the Carroll Quigley tome), that Walter Lippmann is a favorite bogeyman, along with other “Jews” and their Anglo-Saxon co-conspirators who have allegedly controlled the mass media to the detriment of participatory democracy.

[Second H-Diplo posting, 15 Jan.2002:] This message responds to questions and claims offered by a few list members with respect to whether or not Noam Chomsky and his followers have misrepresented Walter Lippmann’s positions on the role of experts and others in the formation of public opinion. Specifically, in my initial query on this list I alluded to the Chomskyite distortion of Lippmann’s attitude to “the manufacture of consent” in his book, Public Opinion (1922).

Chomsky’s characterization of Lippmann and his role in what is often called “elite culture” is frequently repeated in both written and spoken form, and widely disseminated to college audiences. For instance, in his talk “Media Control,” at M.I.T., 3/17/91, Chomsky noted that “Walter Lippman, who was the dean of American journalists, a major foreign and domestic policy critic and also a major theorist of liberal democracy…argued that what he called a ‘revolution in the art of democracy,’ could be used to ‘manufacture consent,’ that is, to bring about agreement on the part of the public for things they didn’t want by the new techniques of propaganda.” And speaking to the Society of Professional Journalists at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, 4/30/00, a graduate student noted in the Minutes for the Society, “Chomsky frames his media criticism around Walter Lippmann’s famous term, “manufactured consent…The public’s role is to be spectators, not participants, and that is the sound of the trampling and roar of an obedient herd.”

Chomsky’s constant invocation of Lippmann is reflected in the title of his book co-authored with Edward S. Herman, Manufacturing Consent: the political economy of mass media  (1988) and in the videorecording Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (National Film Board of Canada, 1992). The award-winning film, an argument that Chomsky has been denied access to what is commonly called “the corporate media,” shows sentences on the printed page from Public Opinion (with the words “manufacture of consent”) purportedly demonstrating that Lippmann was, in fact, a powerful advocate of mind-management . I saw the film when it was used by the Public Broadcasting System as a fund drive premium for Los Angeles station KCET and was stunned. [This was an unforgivable crime against the historical record. C.S. 8-19-09]

As a preface to further remarks, I offer the following comments about the general context surrounding the debate over Lippmann. WL  is frequently linked to Freud and his nephew Edward Bernays (see my bibliography below). As many of these titles suggest, Lippmann, Freud and Bernays are the “spinmeisters” who originated the practice of brainwashing the public. Both Bernays and Lippmann had worked for George Creel’s Committee during the First World War, as Chomsky and his followers note. Deploying their propaganda techniques, they claim that Bernays has corrupted the working class with consumerism, and, through symbol manipulation (allegedly advocated by Lippmann, who had studied Freud, as had Bernays), they engineer the consent of the masses to the takeover of government by big business. Thus the State becomes the engine of imperialist war in the sole interest of commercial values, hence destroying the spirituality that hitherto protected and united peace-loving communities. This linkage seemed to me to echo well-known populist allegations that “the Jews” control the media, to the detriment of “the people” who are thereby hornswoggled. Further, according to a recent NBC television special, “Roots of Rage” Arab populations believe that in fact the Jews do control the media (I don’t know if there were any polls taken). Other reports note that many Arabs believe that “Hollywood” can make anything look real, i.e. the supposedly manufactured bin Laden tape recently circulated. It is thus essential for us to be very careful about the relationship between the media and public opinion, especially on the foreign policy issues that are the focus of this discussion group.

Having read Public Opinion and seen the numerous slams at Lippmann mentioned above, several years ago I asked Ronald Steel, Lippmann’s biographer, if Chomsky had not mischaracterized WL’s position. He said that I was correct, but then cautioned me to read The Phantom Public, where I would see what an elitist Lippmann really was. I have read the latter book and also Drift and Mastery (1914), written when Lippmann was only 24, an outspoken socialist, and about to become a founding editor of The New Republic; it is an optimistic affirmation of the possibilities of a scientifically conceived, trained, and informed democratic polity. There is no evidence that Lippmann (then or later) had contempt for democracy, let alone workers, consumers, women, or any other members of a “bewildered herd” as one list member alleges. “Bewildered” is a word Lippmann often uses, and applies it to himself and to every other person attempting to grasp the huge changes in scale and the titanic social forces aroused by industrial society, along with its sharply divergent proposals for reform or revolution. It is a modest and humble but hopeful book, and strongly influenced by Freud insofar as Lippmann wishes to make the hitherto unconscious elements of our volition susceptible to apprehension and constructive redirection. (It should be mentioned here that Woodrow Wilson and Lippmann, following Theodore Roosevelt, had divergent views on the role of experts in an industrial society [Cooper, 1983], and the Wilson-Roosevelt rivalry may be an element of the historical sub-text underlying the Chomsky-Lippmann debate.)

The most persuasive riposte I can offer to those who believe Chomsky (along with other antagonists claiming that Lippmann was an antidemocrat, i.e. an elitist opponent of “popular sovereignty” [Riccio, 1994] is to quote relevant passages from Public Opinion, including the one cited by list member Charles Young (p.248) as evidence in support of the allegation that Lippmann was indeed advocating mind-control.

First, Lippmann lays out the project of the book at the end of his first chapter “The Pictures In Our Heads.”

…”The substance of the argument is that democracy in its original form never seriously faced the problem which arises because the pictures inside people’s heads do not automatically correspond with the world outside. And then, because the democratic theory is under criticism by socialist thinkers, there follows an examination of the most advanced and coherent of these criticisms, as made by the English Guild Socialists. My purpose here is to find out whether these reformers take into account the main difficulties of public opinion. My conclusion is that they ignore these difficulties, as completely as did the original democrats, because they, too, assume, and in a much more complicated civilization, that somehow mysteriously there exists in the hearts of men a knowledge of the world beyond their reach.

[Lippmann continues:] “I argue that representative government, either in what is ordinarily called politics, or in industry, cannot be worked successfully, no matter what the basis of the election, unless there is an independent, expert organization for making the unseen facts intelligible to those who have to make the decisions. I attempt, therefore, to argue that the serious acceptance of the principle that personal representation must be supplemented by representation of the unseen facts would alone permit a satisfactory decentralization, and allow us to escape from the intolerable and unworkable fiction that each of us must acquire a competent opinion about all public affairs. It is argued that the problem of the press is confused because the critics and the apologists expect the press to realize this fiction, expect it to make up for all that was not foreseen in the theory of democracy, and the readers expect this miracle to be performed at no cost or trouble to themselves. The newspapers are regarded by democrats as a panacea for their own defects, whereas analysis of the nature of news and of the economic basis of journalism seems to show that the newspapers necessarily and inevitably reflect, and therefore, in greater or lesser measure, intensify, the defective organization of public opinion. My conclusion is that public opinions must be organized for the press if they are to be sound, not by the press as is the case today. This organization I conceive to be in the first instance the task of a political science that has won its proper place as formulator, in advance of real decision, instead of apologist, critic, or reporter after the decision has been made. I try to indicate that the perplexities of government and industry are conspiring to give political science this enormous opportunity to enrich itself and to serve the public. And, of course, I hope that these pages will help a few people to realize that opportunity more vividly, and therefore to pursue it more consciously.” (pp.31-32, Harcourt Brace edition, 1922)

The second excerpt uses the contested term “manufacture of consent” in the chapter entitled “Leaders and the Rank and File”:

“The established leaders of any organization have great natural advantages. They are believed to have better sources of information. The books and papers are in their offices. They took part in the important conferences. They met the important people. They have responsibility. It is, therefore, easier for them to secure attention and to speak in a convincing tone. But also they have a very great deal of control over access to the facts. Every official is in some degree a censor. And since no one can suppress information, either by concealing it or forgetting to mention it, without some notion of what he wishes the public to know, every leader is in some degree a propagandist. Strategically placed, and compelled often to choose even at the best between the equally cogent though conflicting ideals of safety for the institution, and candor to his public, the official finds himself deciding more and more consciously what fact, in what setting, in what guise he shall permit the public to know. [subsection 4 follows]
“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.
[Lippmann, cont.] “The creation of consent is not a new art. It is a very old one which was supposed to have died out with the appearance of democracy. But it has not died out. It has, in fact, improved enormously in technic, because it is now based on analysis rather than on rule of thumb. And so, 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.
“Within the life of the generation now in control of affairs, persuasion has become a self-conscious art and a regular organ of popular government. None of us begins to understand the consequences, but it is no daring prophecy to say that the knowledge of how to create consent will alter every political calculation and modify every political premise. 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 old 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.” (Lippmann, 247-249)

Does Lippmann want his political science fact-finders to hide the truth from the populace; i.e. to “manufacture consent” ? In distinguishing between the news and truth, he is clearly on the side of correcting misconceptions propagated by media: “…news 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 in relation with each other, and make a picture of reality on which men can act. Only at these points, where social conditions take recognizable and measurable shape, do the body of truth and the body of news coincide.” (358)

Lippmann’s chapter “The Appeal To The Public” speaks directly to teachers, and once again reiterates his commitment to scientific method, and the mastery of the irrational (the theme of Drift and Mastery). Note that the professionals are not hoarding their expertise:

[This is my favorite part: C.S., 8-19-09] “The study of error is not only in the highest degree prophylactic, but it serves as a stimulating introduction to the study of truth. As our minds become more deeply aware of their own subjectivism, we find a zest in objective method that is not otherwise there. We see vividly, as normally we should not, the enormous mischief and casual cruelty of our prejudices. And the destruction of a prejudice, though painful at first, because of its connection with our self-respect, gives an immense relief and fine pride when it is successfully done. There is a radical enlargement of the range of attention. As the current categories dissolve, a hard, simple version of the world breaks up. The scene turns, vivid and full. There follows an emotional incentive to hearty appreciation of scientific method, which otherwise it is not easy to arouse, and is impossible to sustain. Prejudices are so much easier and more interesting. For if you teach the principles of science as if they had always been accepted, their chief virtue as a discipline, which is objectivity, will make them dull. But teach them at first as victories over the superstitions of the mind, and the exhilaration of the chase and of the conquest may carry the pupil over that hard transition from his own self-bound experience to the phase where his curiosity has matured, and his reason has acquired passion.” (my italics, 409-410).

As for The Phantom Public (1925), Lippmann criticizes those who claim to speak for the public interest or community or nation or society while concealing their own particular interests. He proposes that a fully pluralist political and intellectual environment will offer the opportunity for such deceptions to be exposed by the opposition. The book is yet another attempt to rethink democratic political practices, and reiterates the position that the complexity and technicalities of industrial society (modernity) put an impossible burden on individual voters, who are asked to become proficient in areas for which no one is prepared. Lippmann’s implication is that peer review is needed to sort out which experts we should endorse. I don’t find his concern elitist, but rather realistic. This view is also consistent with his earlier critiques of populism, Marxian socialism, and Wilson’s New Freedom, plus all other movements that practice reductive social labeling and neglect the concrete individual and his behavior who does not fit the ideal type of exploiter, etc.

It is also worth noting that a recent study of Lippmann and his cohort takes to task the revisionist historiography of the 1960s and 1970s that characterized the progressives as “misleading if not dishonest.” Whereas they could have been seen as persons in a dilemma: that is, they were democratic theorists without a political base that could realize their idealistic admonitions. [Thompson, 1987, 287-88] Thompson also notes that Lippmann had been contemplating a revision of democratic social theory at least since 1915 (when he was still influenced by English socialists).

I am not an uncritical acolyte of Walter Lippmann, but I do not see how any democrat can fail to worry about the state of culture and education during the period when Lippmann was a public intellectual, or the terrible decline of standards today. I do think that it behooves scholars, as a matter of ethics and professionalism, not to distort the views of their opponents. Finally, if others on this list know of other refutations of the Chomsky claim that Lippmann is an antidemocrat and mind-manager, arch manufacturer of consent, I would like to know about them. If there are none or few, then this matter should be widely publicized, for Chomsky’s bitter and negative views of American identity and U.S. foreign policy have had a broad impact on college youth and many an autodidact.

Bibliography.

Chomsky, Noam and Edward S. Herman. Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of Mass Media. New York: Pantheon, 1988.

Cooper, John Milton, Jr.. The Warrior and the Priest. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1983

Ewen, Stuart. PR! A Social History of Spin. New York: Basic Books, 1996.

Ewen, Stuart. Interviewed by David Barsamian. _Z Magazine_, May 2000.

Gabler, Neal. “The Fathers of P.R.” New York Times Magazine, 31 Dec.1995, 28-29.

Jackson, Charles E. “The Long and Influential Life of the Original Spinmeister.” Boston Globe, 23 Aug.1998, C2. Review of Larry Tye, The Father of Spin.

Lippmann, Walter. Drift and Mastery. New York: Mitchell Kennerly, 1914.

Lippmann, Walter. Public Opinion . New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1922.

Lippmann, Walter. The Phantom Public. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1925.

Riccio, Barry D. Walter Lippmann: Odyssey of a Liberal. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1994.

Thompson, John A. Reformers and War: American progressive publicists and the First World War. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge UP, 1987.

Valby, Karen. Minutes for Chomsky lecture, Society of Professional Journalists, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, 30 April 2000.

Wintonick, Peter and Mark Achbar. Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media. National Film Board of Canada, 1992.

Worth, Mark. “Who Are ‘They’? Alex Carey Outs The Founders of the American Propaganda Machine.” Internet review of Alex Carey, Taking The Risk Out of Democracy (University of Illinois Press, 1997).

Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, Manufacturing Consent: the political economy of mass media (Pantheon, 1988), and then consult the videorecording Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (National Film Board of Canada, 1992, distributed by Zeitgeist Films), and the accompanying companion book, Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media: the companion book to the award-winning film, by Peter Wintonick and Mark Achbar (Montreal: Black Rose Press, 1994).

August 18, 2009

Storming Pacifica: revising my view of Pacifica history, July 22, 1999

His Master’s Voice

[August 18, 2009. The response to my memoir, My Life at Pacifica, has been so strong that I am posting an essay I wrote while an internal civil war was taking place between factions in the Pacifica “community.” Some of my points are reiterated in the memoir, but the material uncovered by Matthew Lasar is so important, that I am posting my thoughts from 1999 here while the storm was raging, though Storming Pacifica is also available on the internet. For a more personal memoir plus links to postwar anti-democratic sociology see https://clarespark.com/2010/07/04/pacifica-radio-and-the-progressive-movement/. There are surprises here.]

As I write this, hundreds of Berkeley radicals are in their element: many believing that the Corporate State acting through Dr. Mary Frances Berry, Chief Officer of the Pacifica Foundation National Governing Board, is determined to destroy KPFA and the entire Pacifica Foundation (founded in their community fifty years ago this year), aggrieved Bay Area listeners and their allies throughout our country have mounted demo after demo since Berry shut “their” station down Tuesday, July 13. Among other actions they have picketed the KPFA transmitter lest it carry “scab” programming from KPFK (the Los Angeles Pacifica Station), formed a tent city to maintain an around-the-clock presence outside the radio station, kept the internet buzzing with accounts of the latest management outrages, demanded the immediate reinstatement of fired KPFA manager Nicole Sawaya, demanded repeal of the gag rule that forbids any discussion of the dispute over Pacifica air, demanded the resignation of top management (Berry and Executive Director Lynn Chadwick), demanded to see the financial records of what may be a failing organization secretly planning to sell off at least one of its valuable broadcast licenses (WBAI), and lobbied other media to cover this, the worst crisis in the long, contentious history of Pacifica radio. (Reports are coming in indicating that several protesters have been brutally treated by the police.) Meanwhile local board members from three Pacifica stations have sued the Foundation, complaining it illegally transferred all governance to the National Board, hence removing any input whatsoever from Local Advisory Boards, and, by the complainants’ inference, silencing the voices of the subscribers who pay everyone’s salaries, and who are free (solely) to withdraw their financial support. Most importantly, the protesters want all this activity to culminate in a massive transformation of governance, to grass-roots control of the Pacifica Foundation, and a return to the original Pacifica Mission as formulated by its founder, Lewis K. Hill.

Pacifica Foundation management depicts the opposition as paranoid and opposed to “growth,” “professionalism,” and “cultural diversity.” (Management, no less than the opposition, legitimates its rule by appealing to the original Mission Statement. For instance, in his Report to the Listener, July 20, 1999, the KPFK manager not only mentioned the Mission as [the Bible] of the current regime, but played a multicultural reading of that part of the Articles of Incorporation that mandates the study of the causes of conflict. The current conflict, he constantly emphasized, was the result of “over-the-top” uninformed violent activity by a tiny minority from “Berzerkely”.)

This is all very riveting, and I would be jubilant if I thought that “community control,” institutional transparency, and accountability would strengthen the Foundation, restore its financial viability, and help it to realize the liberal implications of its mission as formulated in the Articles of Incorporation. I am not jubilant; I am rather apprehensive. What the current battle does, however, is give us pause to consider the subtly quietist implication, or perhaps, more accurately, the implementation, of the original Pacifica vision that has, over the long haul, led to the current bizarre polarization–a polarization of people who share many core beliefs about radical politics.

Reading the rhetoric dispensed by the tireless and dedicated protesters, one would think that we are witnessing a revitalized democratic social movement. No one, to my knowledge, has pointed out that the intellectual assumptions that have governed public broadcasting, the counter-culture, much of the New Left, and Left-wing academia alike, especially since the late 1960s, are part of the legacy of the European Far Right. Sadly, the Pacifica dissidents share the same discourse as the managers they deplore. I refer to multiculturalism, a.k.a. cultural relativism as promulgated by the Populist-Progressive movement of conservative reform that reacted to the liberal, proto-socialist nineteenth century. “Cultural diversity” as promulgated by today’s “progressive” Left signifies the völkisch or “communitarian” or primitivist inheritance of J.G. Von Herder and German Romanticism generally, the blood-and-soil ideology that attempted to roll back the Scientific Revolution and its offspring: the Enlightenment, the rise of the secular state, individual civil rights (equality before the law), “careers open to the talents,” and popular sovereignty, creations of radical liberals. These rejected libertarian ideals were associated with “rootless cosmopolitans” as their rooted enemies called them. The rooted cosmopolitans, like fascist ideologues of the 1930s, wrote “history” as the struggle between Good and Evil. Their obsessive interest was in “social cohesion” and “equilibrium.” Money/”bourgeois society”/(later, the Bomb) was the root of all social and environmental disintegration or “disruption”; by contrast, the good King of the High Middle Ages held “the (local) community” and Nature together in the Great Chain of Being. As multiculturalists, the rooted cosmopolitans emphasize “inclusion” and “identity” conceived in the same static terms as medievalists and Renaissance humanists defending hierarchy and order against the incursions of science and other democratizing forces such as mass literacy. Rootless cosmopolitans, it was argued, not only had no identities themselves, they were the creators of mob society as their insidious materialist doctrines separated ordinary people from their families of origin, breaking what Edmund Burke would call narrative continuity with the (idealized, orderly) past.

It was the progressives who established public broadcasting, always understood as “expert”-controlled and top-down in decision-making, but adorned with “community discussion groups” as one political scientist associated with the Committee For Economic Development and the upper-class peace movement, Harold Lasswell, described this innovation in the late 1940s. (See especially his Power and Personality, 1948, and National Security and Individual Freedom, 1950). Indeed, Lew Hill, the revered, even deified, Founder of Pacifica Radio in Berkeley wrote the liberal-sounding Mission Statement to pacify the Ford Foundation (an early underwriter), other (conservative) liberals, and the FCC, according to Matthew Lasar’s recently published Pacifica Radio: The Rise of an Alternative Network (Temple University Press).

In his prospectus of 1947, Hill reassured the FCC that “The whole object of the Foundation’s educational program in the field of public affairs and social problems is to study these matters, and to help the public study them with exactly that freedom from excusiveness and partisanship which the FCC lays down as a condition for the use of radio channels.” According to Lasar, Hill didn’t mean it; indeed he even covered up his radical past when he thought it would help his credibility with liberals (49).

Lew Hill, who came from big nouveau riche oil and insurance money in Tulsa Oklahoma, was a C.O. in World War II. Disturbingly, as Lasar tells us, around 1939-1940, Hill and his close friend Roy Finch (the source of this story) joined A.J. Muste in the belief that “stories about Nazi atrocities [were] anti-German propaganda, similar to false stories circulated during the First World War.” (14). After the war, along with Quaker allies and other C.O.s, Hill envisioned a radio station that would persuade working-class cannon fodder to resist the U.S. military, and most urgently, he intended to inject the principle of non-violence into the multi-ethnic militant Bay Area labor movement (44-45). Lasar complained that Hill “knew that on paper he would have to create a pacifist and a liberal radio station at the same time; he would have to emphasize pacifist ideas and dialogue as the path to peace, but also fairness and individual rights.” (43). Hill was dissatisfied with the tiny numbers of pacifists, as his first prospectus (1946) made clear: Quoting Hill, Lasar writes that war resisters, “especially since 1939–have been made to feel their severe impotence in the surge of public affairs outside their subscription and mailing lists.” Pacifists need to move beyond intellectual appeals or “ivory towerism,” as the prospectus put it, which had done little to alter public opinion. “Average beliefs have their form and interpretation in matters close to home, in the events of the neighborhood and city,” he wrote. “In the average man, on whom war prevention depends, the sense of right action is not a sense of large philosophical orientation, but one of a familiar and satisfying adjustment to the people and institutions in his immediate environment.” The task for pacifists, therefore, was to speak of peace not only through lofty principles but also through constant reference to “familiar things,” indeed to become familiar to the community by serving it as a radio station. “Pacifica Foundation,” Hill wrote in a single-sentence paragraph, “has been organized to begin this job.” (43)

Pacifica’s founders turned out to be postmodernists avant la lettre. As Lasar goes on to explain, materialist and historicist methods of analysis were rejected as deterministic (i.e., opposed to the concept of free will), hence were rejected by the “skeptical” Lew Hill, an admirer of Christian Existentialists such as Kierkegaard and Niebuhr. Lasar’s discussion of the original Pacifica Charter says it all. “The most important of the five purposes committed Pacifica to…the principle of pacifist dialogue: the idea that peace emerged not out of polemics but out of the process of diverse groups of people communicating with each other…To Pacifica’s founders, a lasting “understanding” between nations, races, or individuals did not mean that the parties involved had arrived at an objective truth but simply that through the exchange of language they had come to know each other better–as “humans,” rather than through some other ideological category, such as race, nationality, or class. “We really believed in the power of the word as the source of identity in human beings,” Richard Moore later explained. This knowledge, the first Pacificans hoped, would lead to the peaceful resolution of conflict…Richard Moore remembered a skeptic asking Hill what he would do if a Nazi broke into this house and pointed a gun at him. “I’d try and talk,” Hill replied. (44) [end Lasar quote]

They were all Heart. So much for the anti-intellectual foundations of Pacifica: “race, nationality, or class” were not facts in the real world (or factoids as in the case of race, though race and ethnicity are taken to be biological facts, with dire social consequences), but “ideological” constructions. Here is radical subjectivism at its most blatant. At its very inception, then, rigorous institutional analysis and the accurate (objective) description of institutional structures, discourses and practices were implicitly rejected as the devil’s work. The core values of liberalism: fairness and individual rights, values that had often led to reform and structural transformation where indicated, must be the cause of the wars and social violence (especially labor militancy?) that these particular pacifists deplored. Pacifica would talk to simple people about simple homely things. Moral reformer William Wordsworth, reacting to the tumultuous response to the French Revolution and the social movements it energized, couldn’t have said it better (see The Excursion as a guide to the etiquette of victimization, urging English intellectuals to instill the virtues and consolations of Faith, Hope, and Charity as the centerpiece of a popular education aimed at the rural peasantry and the uprooted industrial class alike). For the new Pacificans, music, poetry, and drama, Lasar notes, would serve pacifist ends, appealing to the diverse folk cultures of local labor (46).

Fast forward to the late 1990s, as other localists (“cultural nationalists” or as I would prefer to call them, organic conservatives) battle each other for control of the Foundation, asserting group facts, group rights, racial quotas, programming that must reflect changing demographics. The nationalists are deeply conservative in their (selective) ancestor-worship, while some of the anarchist, “anti-imperialist” protesters seem content with such backwardness and fragmentation as identity politics inevitably produce. Not surprisingly, “the peasant problem” (as some Marxists call it) is everywhere as individual programmers continue to fight over turf, claiming to represent “the community” that “looks like them.” And “the community” has no truck with dissenting individuals, freethinking artists experimenting with new forms, or empirical analysis of social problems; rather its advocates resort to the ritual repetition of slogans defining the enemy as monolithic and hegemonic, whether that enemy to simplicity and spiritual values be the bogus Enlightenment, the idea of Progress, markets, high culture, Amerika, white males, patriarchy, Wall Street, commercialism, consumerism, science and technology, positivism, etc.

Logically, with such overwhelming forces (the Devil is everywhere, remember) arrayed against the spiritually-attuned grass-roots, what must be the emotional and social consequences? Led by Lasar’s research into Pacifica’s early history, I now have a better view of the crisis, and why there has been so much desperation, impotent rage, alienation, depression, cultural despair, and acquiescence to corruption. Well-meaning radicals fatally continue to reject the “bourgeois,” hence tainted, critical tools that would have brought coherence and quality to Pacifica’s mandated (if vaguely stated) exploration of the causes of war and all forms of social violence. The current critics of Pacifica management should consider where the Foundation has been before it offers alternative forms of governance and programming to a muddled, ineffectual, and declining organization. There was no Golden Age; what we have now is a golden opportunity to rethink every aspect of public radio, but especially Pacifica. Shall it be bound to the illusory Good King, reaction, narrow racial/ethnic politics, and cultural backwardness or shall it be wide-open, experimental, and a safe environment for those who believe that an excellent universal education, grounded in the observable facts of the real world, is indispensable to a more peaceful future?

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