The Man in the Street: The Impact of American Public Opinion on Foreign Policy

By Thomas A. Bailey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWELVE
THE HARVEST OF IGNORANCE

"Do not be too severe upon the errors of the people, but reclaim them by enlightening them."--THOMAS JEFFERSON, 1787


1

IT WILL BE instructive, even though depressing, to turn from the ignorance of our least favored group to the danger growing out of ignorance on the part of the American people generally. A lack of information on foreign affairs is not confined solely to the sub-eighth graders.

The unenlightened populace is the dupe of demagogues. Father Coughlin, the microphone messiah of the 1930's, had a listening audience of nearly four million, most of whom were drawn from the more ignorant lower- income group. His violent anti-British and proisolationist fulminations contributed to the final defeat of the World Court in 1935 and to the purblind neutrality legislation of the late 1930's.

Suspender-snapping politicians, like Governor Talmadge of Georgia, batten on the ignorant mob. "The man with the hoe is too prone to follow the politician with the hokum," observed the Wall Street Journal in 1926. Someone has said that if the politician will but fashion a better claptrap, the vulgar herd will beat a path to his door. The demagogue succeeds in America because too many of the ignorant want to be led by the nose, and because in this uncertain world they demand certainties. These he provides, and he is on his way to position and power.

The vast majority of the American people want to spare themselves the pain of heavy thinking, and they demand simple solutions. Some years ago a professor of economics delivered a scholarly address to a popular audience on economic problems and foreign affairs. The applause that rewarded his discourse was anemic but respectful. The next speaker rose and said: "Professor Dry-as-Dust has given us a learned address, but I think he missed the essential point--what the world wants is brotherly love." The applause was deafening. Emerson was not far from the mark when he observed: "The great majority of men seem to be minors." Yet these minors, who are perpetually minors, are called upon to exercise the responsibilities of adults.

The ill-informed masses are also dupes of the sloganeer. The slogan in a democracy is a treacherous device not only because it makes for herd thinking but because it is a substitute for hard thinking. Smooth, alliterative slogans, like "Fifty-four forty or fight," are shouted most loudly by those with the biggest mouths and the smallest brains. We tend to think that by shouting a slogan we solve the problems that gave rise to it; we have the pleasant feeling of generating a maximum of statesmanship with a minimum of mental effort.

-140-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Man in the Street: The Impact of American Public Opinion on Foreign Policy
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 338

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.