Can Democracy Survive in the Post Factual Age A Return

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have started to write a longish article around the general idea that. freedom of thought and speech present themselves in a new light and. raise new problems because of the discovery that opinion can be manu. factured Walter Lippmann 1920, Democracv will come into its own for democracy is a name for a life. of free and enriching communion It had its seer in Walt Whitman It will. hove its consummation when free social inquiry is indissoluble wedded. to the art of full and moving communication John Dewey 1927. here is a long held and often repeated assumption within. liberal pluralist theories of the press that modern democ. racy rests on the foundation of the informed citizen who. makes decisions based on rational objective criteria and. that the news media are perhaps the most crucial source of. this information The citizen the media and democratic government are. neatly stitched together in this civic trilogy And it is this assumption that. has been eroding as we appear to have moved into a post factual age where. the border between fact and fiction news and enttirtainment information. and advertisements has increasingly blurred, For a long time now this assumption has been challenged by liberal and. critical theorists for underestimating the role of ideology in the production. of news This is what might he called the bias critique although on rare. occasions the critique goes beyond bias to consider the very epistemology of. news objectivity The bias critique perhaps the most dominant form of. news criticism during the last three quarters of a century holds out the hope. that the errors of accura y and factiiality may still he corrected saving both. the press and the democratic process, More recently the liberal assumption has been challenged hy liberal and. critical theorists for misunderstanding that the role of the news as an. institution is much more than the provision of information This is what we. might call the cultural critique aud has taken two forms Critical theorists. have focused on the concept of the public sphere asking where and under. what condition is public opinion formed And liberal theorists have begun. to ask under the guise of the public journalism movement what is the role. CA I DEMncKV TSURVIVE m TUFPOST FACTI AL AGE A RETIIRNTO THK. LjFPMA W DEl tT DEB TE ABOirr THT PoUTICS OF NEW S. of news in the creation and maintenance of a democratic culture. These are important challenges and important efforts to address what. has been seen as the latest crisis of the press a crisis of irrelevancy marked. by declining readership declining viewership declining trust and a decline. even in a taste for the serious Much has been written to substantiate the bias. as well as the cultural critique of news and citizenship However the present. monograph will argue that there is a connection between these challenges. B as well as the original impetus,to the traditional assumption of. These are important challenges and the informational role of the. important efforts to address what has news which has only been. heen seen as the latest crisis of the hinted at a connection that links. press a crisis of irrelevancy marked hy what is seen as a problem of bias. or a problem uf civic participa, declining readership declining tion to wbat migbt be called an.
viewership declining trust and a de epistemoiogical politics. cline even in a taste for the serious that is the politics of wbat we. know and how we act as citi,zens is linked to the politics of. how we know This monograph will argue that this link can be usefully. illustrated and its importance explored by returning to a unique moment in. United States media history a debate between social commentator and. journalist Walter Lippmann and pbilosopher John Dewey. This debate is not unfamiliar to those concerned with the interconnec. tions of citizenship media and democracy In fact this debate significantly. brougbt to tbe attention of communication scholars by Jamo s W Carey in the. early 1980s has in the last few years achieved a remarkable celebrity even in. the popular press In large part this has been due to the work of lay Rosen. director of the Project on Public Life and tbe Press at New York University. Rosen saw tbis dialog between Lippmann and Dewey as illustrative of the. contemporary need for the press to see its role in activist terms both serving. to rekindle a vital public life and serve as an active member of that public life. Rosen s work has in turn been drawn on and popularized by James Fallows. in bis recent book Breaking the News, Of particular concern here is the reconstruction of tbe Lippmann Dewey. exchange as it emerges as the theoretical foundation for the public journal. ism movement Carey was acutely interested in wbat this exchange revealed. about the interconnection between epistemology and values and this inter. est was carried forward by scholars sucb as Daniel Czitrom in bis intellectual. history of modern communication theory and John Peters in his consider. ation of the intersection of theories of democracy and theories of communi. cation However in the work of public journalism movement writers like. Rosen and Fallows the significance of the connection between epistemology. and values not to mention power and politics bas faded considerably. Of crucial importance to Dewey s position in this exchange was his. critique of science as an ideology and the connection of tbis critique to the. meaning of democracy Dewey was not simply calling for a more activist. press and public but was at work unriddling for the sake of democracy one. of the most pervasive new forms of power in modern society science as a way. of knowing and science as a new value system which claimed to be value. A key challenge of this monograph then is to recover this critical. dimension of the Lippmann Dewoy exchange in order to broaden the discus. sion as to what is the deeper nature of the current crisis of the press and how. this crisis should be addressed At the same time it is hoped that this work. can help establish an intellectual bridge between the public journalism. movement and the current interest among communication scholars in the. more theoretically sophisticated and more critical idea of the public sphere. particularly as represented by the work of Jurgen Habermas. The guiding question in this historical revisitation will be how did the. turn to an information model of the news some might say a scientization. of the press affect the role of public opinion in U S democracy and. contribute to a redefinition of citizenship as well as democracy in America. Lippmann s answer which in many ways has turned out to be prophetic. was that America s turn to liheralism and particularly to a scientific vision. of liberalism would end up undermining all moral authority As Lippmann. more bluntly put it Liberalism had burned down theharnto roast the pig. Dewey s answer expressed a greater hope for a democratic future But this. faith was not based on the ideals of liberalism as much as in an understanding. of the living character of democracy as a process rather than an end and in. anunderstandingthat the creation of knowledge is a social process that must. be visible and responsive to the collective will of the people. The Lippmann Dewey Debate, In the 1920s an obscure debate took place between Walter Lippmann and. John Dewey at an extraordinary moment in U S history Not only was the. press experiencing a major credibility crisis in its role as a democratic. institution but significant doubts were being raised about the viability of. democracy itself as a form of government, Lippmann in his twenties was already a nationally prominent and. influential journalist Dewey in his sixties was considered one of America s. preeminent philosophers The context for the debate was the growing. despair about the future of democracy President Woodrow Wilson s work to. secure what he thought were the conditions for a lasting peace after World. War I had collapsed in the face of rising nationalism and international. commercial interests Efforts to establish democratic governments in Ger. many and Italy had been thwarted The tremors of the Bolshevik revolution. were still being felt across Europe and in the United States The belief in the. fundamentally irrational nature of humankind was spreading. The depth of doubt over the future of democracy manifested itself not. only in the halls ofacademia and on the editorial pages of major newspapers. but also in tbe nooks and crannies of everyday culture For instance an. official widely used 1928 United States Army Training Manual stated that. democracy led to mobocracy the rule of mobs and that the democratic. CAM DEMOCRACY SimiwE m THE POUT FACTUAL ACE A REnmN TO THE. DEBATE ABULIT THE POIJTICS OF NBVS, attitude toward property was communistic Democracy the manual.
concluded led to demogogism license agitation discontent anarchy. Against this hackdrop the debate came to focus on the meaning and role. of the news and the public in a democratic society. Lippmann because of his grave doubts over the capacity of the average. citizen to engage in rational self government advocated a turn to positivistic. science not just for journalism but forthepracticeof democracy as a whole. For Lippmann given the inevitable tendency of individuals to distort what. they see coupled with the basic irrationality of humankind the only hope. for democratic govornment was to reinvent it This new more realistic. democracy would he tempered and guided hy a form of knowledge which. Lippmann helieved rose above subjectivity and politics science The. Pandora sBoxof the relativity of truth would be care fully resealed and a line. drawn if not neatly then at least boldly between fact and fiction. For Dewey the crisis of the individual subjectivity and the crisis of. democracy were not to he solved by science alone Science had its own. problems For Dewey one of the great ironies of science was that after it had. performed such an efficient job of shattering belief in a metaphysical truth. in ahsokite truths such as God or the spirit of history it attempted to claim. that position for itself That is the positivist notion of science made the. ironic claim that its truth existed outside of the influence or control of human. action Yet positivism provided no basis for this claim For Dewey scientific. knowledge was human made knowledge To claim that science was the. answer to the crisis of subjectivity and the crisis of democracy was not to. solve either of those problems but to avoid them or worse hide them. Dewey argued that democracy has suffered from the bureaucratization. and impersonalization of industrial life and from the growing power of. economic forces to secure their interests in government either directly. through compulsion or threat or indirectly in the manipulation of public. opinion The answer to these problems Dewoy argued is not to establish an. intellectual aristocracy in the name of science where the pretense is that. they have access to a truth untainted hy human interests The answer Dewey. argued is to work to revive the power of the public so that it can speak for. itself and demand that its interests the public s interests be discovered. heard and followed, The path for Dewey meant a direct confrontation with the interrelation. ship of science the press and democracy The heart of this relationship. Dewey said was communication But by communication Dewey did not. mean the machinery of communication but the art of communication the. process by which citizens in a society came toiinderstand the nature of their. interdependence through a system of shared meaning In terms of the press. the path for Dewey was a turn to what might be called public journalism. although the term public journali sm as it is heing used today contains much. less than what Dewey was calling for, For both Lippmann and Dewey somehow the problem of epistemology. about how we come to know what we know was connected hoth to. communication and citizenship,An Odd Debate, In many respects the debate between Lippmann and Dewey was un. usual Simply as a debate it did not take the form we typically associate with. debating There was no face to face confrontation No live coverage In fact. it was carried out over a period of years mainly in the form of books and. essays And one might even wonder if Lippmann knew he was even part of. the debate Where Dewey in his essays and book felt compelled to answer. directly Lippmann s arguments Lippmann never returned the courtesy. As a rising political superstar perhaps Lippmann helieved he had bigger. fish to fry Dewey certainly was not a small fish In his sixties as a professor. at Columbia University he was generally regarded as one of the preeminent. American philosophers of the time However his influence on government. and politics was no match for Lippmann s While Dewey had access to the. editorial pages of the New York Times to express his opinions about the issues. of the day Lippmann d ined with the presidents and occasionally wrote their. speeches Lippmann it would seem had more on his mind than Dewey. Lippmann appeared less interested in achieving consistency in his. philosophical and political positions than in influencing the movers and. shakers with his vision For Dewey a long time outsider Lippmann was a. Debate About the Politics of News Carl Bybee 1999 BY THE ASSOCIATION FOR EDUCATION IN JOURNALISM AND MASS COMMUNICATION The author is a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communica tion at the University of Oregon have started to write a longish article around the general idea that freedom of thought and speech present themselves in a new light and raise new problems because

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