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83 of 86 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon July 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
Way back in 1922, Walter Lippmann analyzed the nature of public opinion with many valuable insights that still hold true today. Note that most of the historical references Lippmann uses to illustrate his theories are from World War I and surrounding events, and some aspects of the political environment of the time are totally irrelevant today. However, this book rises above the confines of its time. Lippmann dealt in an interdisciplinary method that is extremely rare, if not structurally impossible, in today's academic environment. His basic treatise is in the realm of political science but ably brings in supporting theories and knowledge from psychology, sociology, communications, history, and logic. Lippmann's then-current style of writing is also nearly impossible to find in today's social science writing, with a flowing prose loaded with references to classic literature and frequent use of imagined characters and scenarios. Part VI offers a surprisingly no-holds-barred examination of the American political system that is refreshingly free of today's unyielding us-and them ideologies. This feat of the intellect, just slightly outdated in its specific examples but not in its underlying insights, is a powerhouse treatise on how public opinion is constructed and influenced by social trends, politics, and media. [~doomsdayer520~]
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
In PUBLIC OPINION, we have 1 of the foundational texts in the forming of present day public relations. According to all I've read on Walter Lippmann, he was the most influential pundit of his era, so to read his assessment of the public's opinion & what it's worth & how it must be tamed, we (the readers) are being given access to the core elements that lead to what we know today as government & business propaganda.

Lippmann was part of the Creel Committee, whose job it was to sell the idea that America should get involved in World War I to the American people...so the importance of peeking into the thought processes behind that campaign of pro-war propaganda is a priceless opportunity.

If you wish to understand what those in power actually think of the public's importance in a democracy (or democratic republic), make sure you read this book...twice!
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47 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
In this book, the first pundit Walter Lippmann speaks about the journalism, democracy, and the American people - creating a picture that's not pretty but remains very true up until this day. Lippmann's style may be difficult for some, but those who endeavour to read will find it fascinating.

Through the book, Lippmann talks about how there is no real public opinion, how most people have a very limited view of the government, and how the government synthesizes complex views into either-or issues (i.e. "pro-life" v.s. "pro-choice"). The journalists, who should help the American people understand the issue, end up doing little at all. Lippmann offers no real solutions in this book, but for anyone who wants a wake-up call for what's wrong with the government, they should spurn Michael Moore and Ann Coulter and turn to this book.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I have been looking for a decent printing of this incredible book for a long time, but I was foiled again. It seems that this hard-cover Kessinger Publishing version was produced without any quality control whatsoever. Some of the flaws in the printing cause entire pages to be unreadable. The printing of this edition is so deeply flawed it's at the point of being infuriating.

Here are only some of the problems I found -

- Some pages are "wavy" and blurred to the point of being absolutely unreadable. What is said on these pages, I will never know. This flaw resembles what would happen if one were to copy a document on a photocopier while pulling the document out at the same time.

- Random pages are printed with a very dark grey background - making the text quite difficult to see.

- Literally every other page of the book has a strange printing flaw where, at the top of these pages, there is a strange image - something that resembles an accidental, nonsensical banner ad. It's quite large. It seems as if in this image, the mechanics of the scanning equipment are visible. Interesting in it's own weird way I suppose, but very unprofessional and distracting.

Somebody didn't care.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2008
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Lippman is sadly under-appreciated these days, I hadn't even heard his name until the past year, when, while working on my dissertation, I came across this book. Written in lucid, clear prose, yet dealing with incredibly complex theoretical and philosophical issues, Public Opinion argues that not only is there not really an agreed-upon "Public Opinion," but that people rarely even understand what they think they know, let alone what they can agree upon with other people. Lippman persuasively demonstrates that opinions are formed in such a way that they have little or no bearing upon "really existing" facts and truth most of the time, and instead are ill-informed, vague, and haphazard in their application of rational thought. Lippman closes by arguing that, since no one has the time or ability to be as informed as they are expected to be on every issue, what is needed is a group of intellectuals dedicated towards improving the quality of media we receive; a sort of "filter" which can correct misperceptions and inform the public at large. (Although, in his subsequent Lippman becomes even more pessimistic, arguing that there is no such thing as "the public".) This book is a must-read for those fascinated by media, politics, or even more general philosophical/culture questions.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on November 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
Lippmann is great, but the BN Publishing edition of this book is beyond terrible. Misplaced (or simply missing) punctuation, misspelled words, no italics or boldface where they are needed, random line breaks in the middle of sentences, no indented paragraphs, no margins on the pages, haphazard footnotes ... you get the idea.
The content is worth four or five stars for all the reasons that other reviewers have mentioned, but this printing is simply unreadable.
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36 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 1999
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
The measure of a great book is how well it stands the test of time. "Public Opinion" meets and exceeds that standard. It should be read by everyone who cares about the idea of American democracy. Walter Lippmann's insights will still be valuable in 2022. Highly recommnded.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This is Lippmann's classic critique on media and public opinion written in the 1920s. His prose is easy to read and filled with a slew of anecdotes and casual asides. The book focuses on newspapers because they were the dominant news medium in his day, but many of his criticisms are still applicable to television and the internet today. Ironically, Lippmann was a strong opponent of socialism but his concern about the "manufacture of consent" inspired Noam Chomsky's scathing critique of the free-market media industry in Manufacturing Consent.

One thing to keep in mind when ordering: this book has been reprinted numerous times by a variety of publishers with results of varying quality. Some of the publishers cut out Lippmann's footnotes or tack them onto the end of sentences rather than formatting them properly. I chose the version published by Free Press in 1997 because the formatting and typefaces they used are clean and remain true to the way the book was originally published. Check the "Look Inside" option to make sure you get a good-looking edition.
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23 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2000
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
In spite of its fairly advanced age (over 75), this remains a highly readable book. Its pages on stereotypes are more valid than ever. And the author could write an excellent English. Knowledgeable, informative and urbane. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I bought this book after reading Chomsky's, "Manufacturing Consent." I recommend to everyone that they check up on the sources that are cited by others. I was actually a huge fan of Chomsky until I read Public Opinion, because I couldn't believe how much he misrepresented, not only details in the book, but Lippmann's main thesis, which is nothing more than a detailed exploration of how people come to know what they think they know.
From the Intro:

"Our first concern with fictions and symbols is to forget their value to the existing social order and to think of them simply as an important part of the machinery of human communication. Now in any society that is not completely self contained in its interests and, so small that everyone can know all about everything that happens, ideas deal with events that are out of sight and hard to grasp. Miss Sherwin of Gopher Prairie is aware that a war is raging in France [WWI] and tries to conceive it. She has never been to France and certainly she has never been along what is now the battlefront.
Pictures of French and German soldiers she has seen, but it is impossible for her to imagine three million men. No one, in fact, can imagine them, and the professionals do not try. They think of them as, say, two hundred divisions. But Miss Sherwin has no access to the order of battle maps, and so if she is to think about the war, she fastens upon Joffre and the Kaiser as if they were engaged in a personal duel. Perhaps if you could see what she sees with her mind's eye, the image in its composition might be not unlike an Eighteenth Century engraving of a great soldier. He stands there boldly unruffled and more than life size, with a shadowy army of tiny little figures winding off into the landscape behind. Nor it seems are great men oblivious to these expectations. M. de Pierrefeu tells of a photographer's visit to Joffre. The General was in his "`middle class office, before the worktable without papers, where he sat down to write his signature. Suddenly it was noticed that there were no maps on the walls. But since according to popular ideas it is not possible to think of a general without maps, a few were placed in position for the picture, and removed soon afterwards.'"

From this very basic and incontestable base, he then explores the implication of these facts upon democratic theory, socialist theory, economic theory (he tears apart the notion of a harmonious collection of selfish interests in free market capitalism), etc... He then talks in detail about exactly how the news is made, and even what constitutes news, and why. This doesn't come until the end of the book, and I'm convinced that Chomsky never got that far, because Lippmann tears holes in much of his Manufacturing Consent thesis in 1925, by simply noting the details of why some facts become news and some things simply don't. He is able to highlight the effects of press publicists and special interest lobbyists on the system long before anyone else was talking about them in the 1990's. I think everyone else is just now catching up with Lippmann, and many have yet to come close.
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