Secrecy and Publicity: Dilemmas of Democracy

Secrecy and Publicity: Dilemmas of Democracy

Secrecy and Publicity: Dilemmas of Democracy

Secrecy and Publicity: Dilemmas of Democracy

Excerpt

The central argument of this book can be simply stated: the ability to manipulate opinion has given democratic government a powerful new weapon for controlling the electorate to which it is in theory subordinate. Through the skillful use of techniques of publicity, along with the suppression of information by practices of official secrecy, the rulers in a democratic state can go a long way toward shaping the contours of majority opinion. At the same time, the threat of adverse publicity initiated by governmental action can be used to intimidate a minority or to discourage, if not silence, dissent. To the extent that these efforts are successful, public opinion becomes the servant rather than the master of government, reversing the relationship which democratic theory assumes and narrowing the gap between democratic and totalitarian societies.

The five years that have elapsed since the original publication of this book do not force any amendment of this thesis. In this country, for example, the tactics pursued in the manipulation of opinion vary from one administration to another, but the objective remains the same--to achieve a uniform consensus behind official policy. The administration of Presi-

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