Psuedo-realities in Journalism

7 Feb

Lippmann presents the evolution from attrition to propaganda and studies how the public is spending their time reading newspapers. In the 1900’s, statements released on the behalf of political figures by their public representatives might not have been entirely true. During times of war, representatives were worried that by painting an imperfect picture on possible defeat, they would “break the formula to which the public was accustomed.”

This formula consisted on “light versions” of the truth. The press believed that maintaining a pseudo-reality of hope in public affairs was important as to not cause the public to believe in their shortcomings. Attrition was a tactic meant to discourage the enemy, and engage the public in finger pointing. “They used their power to make the Allied publics see affairs as they desired them to be seen.” (Lippmann. “Censorship and Privacy.” p. 27.) Propaganda was created on this foundation of government officials not wanting the public to question this pseudo-environment they’ve created for them. Propaganda cannot exist without censorship.

The amount of time the public takes to read newspapers is subjectable. Lippmann focuses on three studies on the estimation of the public’s time spent on newspapers: Hotchkiss and Franken’s report on male and female college students; Scott’s male business professionals in New York; and an estimated model of newspapers excluding advertisements. Results confirmed that big city college students and business professional’s consumption of newspapers haven’t changed in the last 20 years, yet what has changed was the increase of news stories creating an increase of newspaper time consumption from 15 minutes to a quarter of an hour.

In War Made Easy – How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death pt. 1, Lippmann’s “propaganda” and this film connect through military secrecy and censorship. The government doesn’t want the public to question military strategy, costs and reasons for war by creating a pseudo-reality that the public hardly questions. This leads us to understand that the tactic of attrition still lives today. Propaganda presented in the manner of public interest, will keep the public enthusiastic during times of war. For example, George Bush’s creation of the “Axis of Evil” as a means to further his war agenda on terror.

This propaganda was meant to fire up American’s into believing the Iraq War was justifiable. Yet after the war was done, the public began to see the war was pointless, and began questioning the system. People are fed up with being fed propaganda, and are doing what government officials feared back in the 1900’s: questioning everything.


Lippmann, “Censorship and Privacy,” “Time and Attention.”

Earp, Jeremy. Alper, Loretta. 2007. War Made Easy – How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death


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