Books of Interest: Public Philosopher, Selected Letters of Walter Lippmann edited by John Morton Blum


Excerpt from a letter dated October 25,1940 to Alexander Woollcott page 397:

“…For while I want my friends to understand what I do, I have a fanatical conviction that columnists who undertake to interpret events should not regard themselves as public personages with a constituency to which they are responsible.

It seems to me that once the columnist thinks himself as a public somebody over and above the intrinsic value and integrity of what is published under his name, he ceases to think as clearly and as disinterestedly as his readers have a right to expect him to think. Like a politician, he aquires a public character, which he comes to admire and to worry about preserving and improving; his personal life, his self-esteem, his allegiances, his interests and ambitions become indistinguishable from his judgements of events. In thirty years of journalism I think I have learned to know the pitfalls of the profession and, leaving aside the gross forms of corruption, such as profiting by inside knowledge and currying favor with those who have favors to give, and following the fashions, the most insidious of all the temptations is to think oneself as engaged in a public career on the stage of the world rather than as an observant writer of newspaper articles about some of the things that are happening in the world.

So I take the view that I write of matters about which I think I have something to say but that as a person I am nobody of any public importance, that I am not adviser-at-large to mankind or even those who read occasionally or often what I write. This is the code which I follow. …”     

About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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