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SCENE V. he bedchamber of the king, vast and shadowy. On heaped-up cushions and covers of yellow and blue, under a pearl-sewn, creamy, velvet baldachin, embroidered with peacocks, lies Meng Beng, mortally stricken; his face bears the ashen pallor that only dark skins show. The ministers, the servants, the courtiers, the countless motley gathering of an Eastern court, are scattered in anxious groups, watching, waiting, murmuring. Only the space near the couch is clear. Without, the dawn breaks over the sea, and, stealing through the openings, makes the great chamber flush till it looks like porphyry.
The tolling of a deep gong and the voices of a myriad birds invade the throbbing silence of the palace.
“He passes," murmurs the physicians. Every one's gaze turns to the dying man.
“Yet his star is in the ascendant,” say the astrologers.
The rising sun touches him with its light like a caress. He opens his eyes. His sons advance. They raise him on his cushions and give a restorative. Suddenly he rallies slightly.
The doors at the far end are rudely opened A woman, young and lovely, advances, thrusting aside the many hands stretched out to bar her path.
She reaches the King.
“I bring you Life, Star of my Soul,” she cried. “I bring you life,” and, so saying, falls dead at his feet.
The courtiers rush forward.
The sun lies like a golden benediction over all. The Curtain Jewels glisten, corruscate. The whole world of birds
Toward a Critique of Public Opinion
AST month, in the first paper of have reported and what we can im
this series, it was pointed out that agine. many barriers stand between us and Yet even the eye-witness does not the facts of contemporary life. Cen- bring back a naive picture of the scene. sorship, propaganda, personal and pro- For experience seems to show that he fessional areas of privacy, the little himself brings something to the scene time most of us give to the study of which later he takes away from it; public affairs, the physical difficulty that oftener than not what he imagines of reaching the vast American public, to be the account of an event is really the limitations of interest imposed up- a transfiguration of it. A report is on us by our social circles, and the the joint product of the knower and chance of distortion and inaccuracy in- known, in which the rôle of the obvolved in our methods of news trans- server is always selective and usually mission—all these barriers were dis- creative. The facts we see depend on cussed. Now comes a further step in where we are placed and the habits of the study—the subtle chemistry of our our eyes. own minds that colors and transfigures There is economy in this. For the information after we get it.)
attempt to see all things freshly and in Each of us lives and works on a detail, rather than as types and gensmall part of the earth's surface, eralities, is exhausting, and among moves in a small circle, and of these busy affairs virtually out of the quesacquaintances knows only a few inti- tion. Modern life is hurried and mately. Of any public event that multifarious; above all, physical dishas wide effects we see at best only a tance separates men who are often in phase and an aspect. This is as true vital contact with each other, such as of the eminent insiders who draft employer and employee, official and treaties, make laws, and issue orders voter. There is neither time nor opas it is of those who have treaties portunity for intimate acquaintance. framed for them, laws promulgated to Instead we notice a trait which marks
a them, orders given at them. Inevi- a well-known type, and fill in the rest tably, our opinions cover a bigger space, of the picture by means of the stereoa longer reach of time, a greater num- types, or preconceived images, we ber of things, than we can directly carry about in our heads. He is an observe. They have, therefore, to be agitator. That much we notice or are pieced together out of what others told. Well, an agitator is this sort of
! This is the second of a series of papers on public opinion, culled from Mr. Lippmann's forthcoming book on “Public Opinion." The occasional transition paragraphs in brackets are not Mr. Lippmann's, but are inserted by the editor.-THE EDITOR.
person, and so he is this sort of person. cording to a code which we possess, we He is an intellectual. He is a pluto- will make our reports of what is going crat. He is a foreigner. He is a "South on describe a world run by our code. European.” He is from the Back Bay. But if our philosophy tells us that He is a Harvard man. How different each man is only a small part of the
a from the statement, he is a Yale man! world, that his intelligence catches at He is a regular fellow. He is a West- best only phases and aspects in a Pointer. He is an old army sergeant. coarse net of ideas, then, when we He is a Greenwich Villager: what don't use our stereotypes, we tend to know we know about him then? And about that they are only stereotypes, to hold her? He is an international banker. them lightly, to modify them gladly. He is from Main Street.
We tend, also, to realize more and We are told about the world before more clearly when our ideas started, we see it. We imagine most things where they started, how they came to before we experience them. And us, why we accepted them. All useful those perconceptions, unless educa- history is antiseptic in this fashion. tion has made us acutely aware, It enables us to know what fairygovern deeply the whole process of tale, what school-book, what tradiperception. They mark out certain tion, what novel, play, picture, phrase, objects as familiar or strange, em- planted one preconception in this phasizing the difference, so that the mind, another in that mind. slightly familiar is seen as very familiar, and the somewhat strange as sharply
§ 2 alien. They are aroused by small Skilled diplomatists, compelled to signs, which may vary from a true talk out loud to the warring peoples, index to a vague analogy. Aroused, learned how to use a large repertoire of they flood fresh vision with older stereotypes. They were dealing with images, and project into the world a precarious alliance of powers, each of what has been resurrected in memory. which was maintaining its war unity Were there no virtual uniformities in only by the most careful leadership. the environment, there would be no The ordinary soldier and his wife, economy and only error in the human heroic and selfless beyond anything habit of accepting foresight for sight. in the chronicles of courage, were still But there are uniformities sufficiently not heroic enough to face death gladly accurate, and the need of economizing for all the ideas which were said by attention is so inevitable that the the foreign offices of foreign powers to abandonment of all stereotypes for a be essential to the future of civilizawholly innocent approach to experience tion. There were ports, mines, rocky would impoverish human life.
mountain-passes, and villages that What matters is the character of the many soldiers would not willingly have stereotypes, and the gullibility with crossed no-man's-land to obtain for which we employ them. And these their allies. in the end depend upon those inclusive Now, it happened in one nation that patterns which constitute our philoso- the war party which was in control of phy of life. If in that philosophy we the foreign office, the high command, assume that the world is codified ac- and most of the press, had claims on
the territory of several of its neighbors. which had been federated into RuriThese claims were called the Greater tania had formerly traded in those Ruritania by the cultivated classes markets, and the upper-class culture who regarded Kipling, Treitschke, and was Ruritanian. On the principle of Maurice Barrès as one hundred per cultural superiority and the necessity cent. Ruritanian. But the grandiose of defending civilization, the lands were idea aroused no enthusiasm abroad. claimed. Finally, there was a port So holding this finest flower of the wholly disconnected from Ruritania Ruritanian genius, as their poet laure- geographically, ethnically, economiate said, to their hearts, Ruritania's cally, historically, traditionally. It was statesmen went forth to divide and demanded on the grounds that it was conquer. They divided the claim into needed for national defense. sectors. For each piece they invoked In the treaties that concluded the that stereotype which some one or Great War you can multiply examples more of their allies found it difficult to of this kind. Now, I do not wish to resist, because that ally had claims for imply that I think it was possible to which it hoped to find approval by resettle Europe consistently on any one the use of this same stereotype. of these principles. I am certain that
The first sector happened to be a it was not. The very use of these mountainous region inhabited by alien principles, so pretentious and so absopeasants. Ruritania demanded it to lute, meant that the spirit of accommocomplete her natural geographical dation did not prevail, and that, therefrontier. By fixing the attention long fore, the substance of peace was not enough on the ineffable value of what there. For the moment you start to is natural, those alien peasants just discuss factories, mines, mountains, dissolved into fog, and only the slope or even political authority as perfect of the mountains was visible. The examples of some eternal principle or next sector was inhabited by Ruritan- other, you are not arguing; you are ians, and on the principle that no fighting. That eternal principle cenpeople ought to live under alien rule, sors out all the objections, isolates the they were reannexed. Then came a issue from its background and its concity of considerable commercial im- text, and sets going in you some strong
, portance not inhabited by Ruritanians, emotion, appropriate enough to the
. But until the eighteenth century it had principle, highly inappropriate to the been part of Ruritania, and on the docks, warehouses, and real estate. principle of historic right it was an- And having started on that line, yournexed. Farther on there was a splen- self and your opponents now a stormdid mineral deposit owned by aliens cloud, you cannot stop. A real danand worked by aliens. On the princi- ger exists. To meet it you have to ple of reparation for damage it was invoke more absolute principles in annexed. Beyond this there was a order to defend what he can attack. territory inhabited ninety-seven per Then you have to defend the defenses, cent. by aliens constituting the natural erect buffers, and buffers for the buffer,
, geographical frontier of another na- until the whole affair is so scrambled tion, never historically a part of that it seems less dangerous to fight Ruritania. But one of the provinces than to keep on talking.