Because my name is spelled exactly
as his was, people sometimes ask if we are related. There's
no family or other connection. He was more or less the George Will of his
time, though he had been mildly socialistic as a young man. We shared little beyond our name, and our secular, German Jewish
background. Some scholars whose work I
appreciate have written about his ideas and politics, including:
Historian Howard Zinn,
in Discovering John Reed, contrasted the evolution of
Reed and Lippmann
during World War 1, where Reed moved left and Lippmann
The big periodicals of New York
pressed him to cover the European war for them, and he agreed to go for
the Metropolitan. At the same time he wrote an article for the Masses It
was a war for profit, he said. On the way to Europe, he was conscious of
the rich on the first-class decks, and three thousand Italians kept like
animals in the hold. He was soon in England, in Switzerland and Germany,
and then, in France, walking through the fields of war: rain, mud,
corpses. What depressed him most was the murderous patriotism seizing
everyone on both sides, even some Socialists, like H.G. Wells in England.
When he returned to the States after
four months, he found the radicals Upton Sinclair and John Dewey among the
patriots. And Walter Lippmann too. Lippmann,
now editor of the New Republic, wrote in December, 1914 a curious essay:
"The Legendary John Reed." It defined the distance between
himself and Reed. "By temperament he is not a professional writer or
reporter. He is a person who enjoys himself." And then Lippmann,
who clearly had pride in himself as "a professional writer,"
gave the ultimate dismissal: "Reed has no detachment and is proud of
Read Zinn's essay on John Reed at "Third World Traveler"
Aptheker, author of American Negro Slave Revolts, editor
of the writings of, and literary executor of W.E.B. DuBois, and of the Documentary
History of the Negro People in the United States and numerous other
works on Black history, wrote a comprehensive analysis in 1955 . It was
reprinted in Dr. Aptheker's History and Reality, under
the title "Walter Lippmann and Democracy" Here are three short
We shall not enter into the game of
guessing Mr. Lippmann motivations because we do not
know him or them; because we are interested in his ideas, not his psyche;
and because, therefore, his personal motivations are irrelevant to our
All of his political activities and
intellectual endeavors since then  have been directed towards
preserving monopoly capitalism by bringing to the rich responsible
thinking geared to their interests, by urging upon them a
"reasonable" approach, and by attacking democratic concepts and
Mr. Lippmann, with
the exception of his extreme youth, has always been anti-democratic; his
latest book confirms and sharpens his anti-democratic outlook. Read
the full analysis
"Lippmann and the News"
by MICHAEL SCHUDSON
[from THE NATION, December 31, 2007]
For Lippmann, veracity is not easy to attain, nor is its enemy in
journalism primarily or necessarily a matter of government pressure or
corporate ownership. The same year he published Liberty and the News,
Lippmann, assisted by fellow New Republic editor Charles Merz, published
a forty-two-page supplement to the August 4 issue of The New Republic
called "A Test of the News," which dissected the New York Times's
coverage of the Russian Revolution. Lippmann and Merz concluded that the
coverage was vastly distorted, most of all by the hopes and fears of
reporters and editors themselves, who saw in the Bolsheviks what they
wanted to see. The Times assured readers on ninety-one occasions that
the revolutionary regime was near collapse. FULL:
Murder and Its Meaning"
Elias Vlanton's review of Kati Marton's THE
POLK CONSPIRACY, a book on the role of mainstream journalists in
supporting the Cold War as it was inaugurated after World War II. Vlanton
Kati Marton has written a thrilling account
of Polk's murder and of the cover-up by the American press and
foreign-policy establishment. Her story is fast-paced, compellingly
written and entirely engaging, and many will finish it convinced that
American journalism has finally gotten its man. Marton rightly condemns
American government officials for having been more concerned with
protecting their investment in the Greek government than in finding Polk's
killers. She also properly raps Walter Lippmannfor
his gullibility in having accepted, virtually without question,
information supplied by American officials and General Donovan. But by
singling out Donovan and Lippmannas the chief
villains in the press cover-up of the murder, Marton misses a larger
It wasn't Walter Lippmann alone who
failed George Polk and Gregory Staktopoulos; it was American journalism.
Although a central figure in the case, Lippmannwas
hardly the only journalist to accept blindly that the Communists killed
Polk, while ignoring evidence that suggested right-wing involvement. He
has to share that responsibility with most of his fellows, including
Edward R. Murrow and other top journalists at CBS, the major dailies such
as The New York Times and New York Herald Tribune, and other
American reporters then covering Greece. The only dissenters were a
handful of members of the New York Newspaper Guild.
The Polk Conspiracy
has again drawn attention to how American journalists forty years ago
sacrificed their integrity to solidify domestic support for the cold war.
The uncritical praise The Polk Conspiracy has received, however,
shows how American journalists today accept a terrific story and stylish
prose in lieu of meticulous research and critical analysis. Either way,
they are still not getting it right.
Read the detailed review-essay from The Nation
Activist and scholar
Noam Chomsky said in an
"manufacturing consent" is not mine, I took it from Walter
the leading public intellectual and leading media figure of the twentieth
century, who thought it was a great idea.
He said we should manufacture consent, that's the way democracies should
work. There should be a small group of powerful people, and the rest of
the population should be spectators, and you should force them to consent
by controlling, regimenting their minds.
Read the full Chomsky interview
The techniques of
manufacture of consent are most finely honed in the United States, a more
advanced business-run society than its allies and one that is in important
ways more free than elsewhere, so that the ignorant and stupid masses are
Read the full article in "Z" magazine
Zoltan Zigedy: "Illusions Breed
of the Twentieth Century"
Alan Waters writes
Lippmann proposed that there should be
a system of collaboration between administrators, policymakers, and
fact-finding experts. The role of the citizenry would be to maintain
surveillance over the decision-making procedures of these knowledgeable
rulers. Liberty and the News, Public Opinion, and The Phantom
Public express Lippmann's pessimism concerning
the compatibility of democracy with the social conditions of modern
society. An Enquiry into the Principles of the Good Society
advanced the principle of disinterestedness on the part of statesmen as a
cure to the excesses of majority rule and as an antidote to the dangers of
Cited in Chomsky's "Necessary Illusions"
Lippmann's American Century (Foreign Affairs Fall 1980) Harry C. McPherson
Following a flirtation with socialism prior
to World War I, Lippmann moved quickly to support mainstream thought.
Here's a biographical note on his move from left to right.
From "First World War.com"
Please" (on-line encyclopedia)
Walter Lippmann was a highly respected columnist for the New York Herald Tribune, considered by many the most influential political commentator of the twentieth century. His opinions informed every president from Woodrow Wilson to Richard Nixon."
source image by Al Hershfeld
Conversations with History: Ronald Steel
From the Federal Bureau of Investigation's
Walter Lippmann, a correspondent for New
York Herald Tribune, his niece and one of her friends, were given a
three hour special tour of the FBI exhibits and records on April 17,
1936. Lippmann's name was added to the Bureau's Mailing List to receive
copies of the Bureau Crime Reports made available to the public.
Lippmann was born on September 23, 1889, in New York City and received
his B. A. degree from Harvard University. Lippmann was formerly the
editor, and later a contributor to the magazine, "The New Republic." No
investigation was ever conducted on Walter Lippmann.
But if you read the
material, you will see that they
did track his activities,
particularly in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution of 1917
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