public affairs

According to Lippmann, if other human beings’ behavior “crosses” mine, is “dependent” upon me, or is “interesting” to me, then that’s a rough definition of the boundaries of “public affairs” about which one may have “public opinions” (29).
Lippmann’s summary of reasons why people wind up with disparate pictures of events, issues, etc that require some kind of decision-making seems relevant. Why do “the pictures in people’s heads” lack correspondence with “the world outside?” We all have limited access to facts through

2 thoughts on “public affairs”

  1. I don’t know about Lippman-Dewey, but let’s move on to Laswell: the section on “Sentiment Groups and Publics” (p. 128-129) stirred me up.
    “Demands made regarding public policy must be debatable.” We’ve been debating “demands” about “public policy” concerning blog posting parameters. This has me on decision-making procedures. Re the blog, one thing that’s evident is that I have made independent decisions (decision-by-one) about what to post and when. (see separate post, upcoming)
    Laswell’s comments are in a context of war. I’m trying to narrow the scope to a field of application that we participate in (since we don’t make decisions about when and against whom to go to war). In a “war”, Laswell says “there is no public”, only “sentiment groups….[that] tolerate no dissent.”
    We do have dissent, expressed publicly and privately, so that’s an important step toward a public sphere. Laswell suggests that the degree of “integration” can be deduced by analysing the “attention structure.” Now, by integration I thik he means consensus, or at least cohesion around a course of action between the “ruling classes” and the “masses” – am I on track?
    By “attention structure”, I understand Laswell to mean the kinds of things people talk and write about, what issues they represent in whatever media. (We can’t know what people are thinking about unless there is an external expression of it.) These topics of discourse, then, become the means for tracking the dissemination of information – be it propaganda or fact – and serve as “an index” for what is considered important (in need of, or deserving, one’s attention) and what is not.
    This bond of agreement can be manipulated (and is) when the ruling class fears disagreement or resistance from the masses, and thus distorts “reality” in presenting arguments to the public. The more “discrepancy” there is between what is presented and what is experienced “shows the extent to which the ruling groups assume that their power depends on distortion.”
    It seems there is another possibility, at least on the smaller scale, which is simply that lack of communication (non-, or under-utilization of media) produces its own distortions, which are not necessarily predicated upon fear or any other base emotion. The “innocence” of such breakdown can conceivably be argued (but probaby pointlessly, as a diversion); however the need for transparency, and re-establishing it when its been lost, comes up against (so I speculate) “expectation[s of] internal conflict.”
    These expectations, which must be historically formed and informed by the vagaries of memory, influence approaches to handling potentially conflictual situations…I think this is an intrapersonal incursion (a strong word, I know) into the practice of democracy that needs to be acknowledged openly as a factor in decision-making. This, Stephen, is what I perceive you to be arguing against – that somehow there is a way to draw a distinction between motives, and that this distinction demarcates what can be discussed as part of a decision-making process and what cannot.

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