Propaganda & Mass Persuasion: Force of Public Opinion

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Force of Public Opinion

"Force of Public Opinion."
Stuart Ewen's "PR!"

According to Bellamy's prophecy,
"It would be the force of public opinion-opinion bolstered by the instrument of reason - that would perform the task of remaking the world for the benefit of all humanity."

This very belief, that the common people are capable of taking part in a social circuit, where they can exchange ideas and give birth to "reason," is a very liberal idea for the 19th century America. However, journalists like Bellamy had this notion of "intellectual public forum," and this was not limited to him or the journalists, but this very idea of giving the public the power to play around with "reasoning" and "logic" was the central dream of almost every middle-class American. The reason that I quoted Bellamy out of Stuart Ewen's "PR!," is because, he brings out this very fascinating notion of allowing the public to sit together, which essentially can turn into a "public court." Furthermore, he says that
"deliberating upon the social facts and considering the requirements of humankind, an informed and intelligent "public" would be the agency through which a new historical epoch would be initiated."

The above belief, is clearly stating that the public is capable of giving birth to a era of "social enlightenment," only if they are presented with the truth. I believe that this idea is fascinating and would be visible in an ideal society, but unfortunately, today's public is not capable of engaging in such deliberations, because they are continuously brought up by this "one way" mass media, that has dampened their ability to question and reason anything that is presented to them. So Bellamy's idea is completely democratic in essence, but before something like that can be structured in our society, the people must be educated and informed.


Blogger A. Mattson said...

A very good post.

The utopian notion that a reasonable public making rational decisions would create the good society is certainly a democratic ideal that is being promoted by progressive men like Bellamy.

What Ewen is arguing here is that this idea of the centrality of pubic opinion, rationality, and the power of the publicized fact to change the world and right wrongs is crucial to understanding the progressive world view at the turn of the century.

Your pessimism about the capability of the "public" to engage the rational deliberation that Bellamy's utopian vision would require is an important and troubling observation. Does that mean that democracy is not possible? Can you have a real democracy without a rational public?

2/11/2009 10:56 PM  

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