understanding…

“Until we know what others think they know, we cannot truly understand their acts.” Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion, 13.


I recognize Lippmann’s context is mass media, but the example he provides is what I would characterize as group dynamics/group relations: a 1919 argument in the U.S Senate in which partisan Republicans and Democrats engage in a discourse that develops from the recognition of a rumor to an assumption of truth. Lippmann argues this incident “reveals how difficult it is…to suspend response until the returns are in. The response is instantaneous. The fiction is taken for truth because the fiction is badly needed” (emphasis added, 19).
The intriguing question (to my mind) then becomes, what motivates the need? Lippmann goes elsewhere – although it may be a step on the way to mine ­čÖé – saying we can’t generalize “about comparative behavior until there is a measurable similarity between the environments to which behavior is a response” (25). Does Lippmann refer here to a synchrony of pseudo-environments (mediated) or to some external, objectified “real” environment? And how does one assess such?

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