Liberty And The Newsby Walter Lippmann
In this forthright critique of the press as a threat to American democracy and a danger to the value of liberty at large, Lippman asserts the central, indispensable connection between liberty and truth. Taking aim at the press, Lippman denounces its propensity to promote its own agendas and purposes rather than promulgate the truthful exchange of facts and the free flow of ideas.
Liberty and the News is a masterful portrayal of a problem still highly relevant today. Lippman's insights and vision for a better way to disseminate the news are highly eluminating.
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'A test of the news' "deals with the reporting of. the Russian Revolution from March, 1917, to March, 1920. The analysis covers thirty-six months and over one thousand issues of a daily newspaper [the New York Times]. The authors have examined all news items about Russia in that period in the newspaper selected; between three and four thousand items were noted." The authors wrote, "The only question asked is whether the reader of the news was given a picture of various phases of the revolution which survived the test of events, or whether he was misled into believing that the outcome of events would be radically different from the actual outcome." They noted, "In the two years from November, 1917, to November, 1919, no less than ninety-one times was it stated that the Soviets were nearing their rope's end, or actually had reached it." In November 1919, a representative of the Czech army said of the government propped up by the British government, "our army has been forced against its convictions to support a state of absolute despotism and unlawfulness which had had its beginnings here under defense of the Czech arms. The military authorities of the Government of Omsk are permitting criminal actions that will stagger the entire world. The burning of villages, the murder of masses of peaceful inhabitants and the shooting of hundreds of persons of democratic convictions and also those only suspected of political disloyalty occurs daily." Polish forces attacked Russia in January 1919. The Times said, "The Bolsheviki have forced the Poles to take up arms by their advance into Polish territory. . The Bolsheviki are advancing toward Vilna." But Vilna was not in Poland. There had been no Russian 'advance into Polish territory'. But there had been a Polish advance into Russian territory. The authors wrote, "in the guise of news they picture Russia, and not Poland, as the aggressor as early as January, 1919." They noted that by 2 December 1919, Polish armies were more than 180 miles into Russia: "the repeated threats of a Bolshevist offensive simply served as a smokescreen for Polish aggression." On 21 January 1920, the Times stated as fact, "The strategy of the Bolshevist military campaign during the coming Spring contemplates a massed attack against Poland, as the first step in a projected Red invasion of Europe and a military diversion through Turkestan and Afghanistan toward India." On 29 January, the Soviet government, with Polish forces still 180 miles inside its borders, again 'recognized the independence and sovereignty of the Polish republic' and again invited Polish statesmen to enter into peace talks. They wrote of, "14 dispatches in the month of January , warning of Red Peril to India and Poland, Europe and Azerbaijan, Persia; Georgia and Mesopotamia." But there followed no invasions of India, Europe, Persia or Mesopotamia. The dispatches, from London, Paris and Washington, were from 'British military authorities', 'diplomatic circles', 'government sources' and 'well-informed diplomats'. Some things don't change. The authors summed up, "In the large, the news about Russia is a case of seeing not what was, but what men wished to see. . 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."