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Lippmann was born in New York City to German-Jewish parents, Jacob and Daisy Baum Lippmann. The family lived a comfortable, if not privileged, life. Annual family trips to Europe were the rule.
At age 17, he entered Harvard University where he studied under George Santayana, William James, and Graham Wallas . He concentrated on philosophy and languages (he spoke both German and French) and graduated after only three years of study.
In 1913 Lippmann, Herbert Croly, and Walter Weyl became the founding editors of The New Republic magazine. During World War I, Lippmann became an advisor to President Woodrow Wilson and assisted in the drafting of Wilson's Fourteen Points.
Early on, Lippmann was optimistic about American democracy. He believed that the American people would become intellectually-engaged in political and world issues and fulfill their democratic role as an educated electorate. In light of the events leading to World War II and the concomitant scourge of totalitarianism however, he rejected this view. Lippmann came to be seen as Noam Chomsky's moral and intellectual antithesis: He agreed with the Platonic view that the population is a great beast, a herd, that has to be controlled by an intellectual specialist class. In this sense Lippmann might be viewed as a forerunner of US neoconservatism. Chomsky used one of Lippmann's catch phrases for the title of his book about the media: Manufacturing Consent.
It was Lippmann who first identified the tendency of journalists to generalize about other people based on fixed ideas. In addition to his newspaper columns, he published several books. Lippmann was the first to bring the phrase "cold war" to common currency in his 1947 book by the same name.
- A Preface to Politics (1913)
- Drift and Mastery (1914)
- Public Opinion (1922)
- The Phantom Public (1925)
- A Preface to Morals (1929)
- The Good Society (1937)
- The Cold War (1947)
- Essays in the Public Philosophy (1955)
- Revolt against modernity : Leo Strauss, Eric Voegelin & the search for postliberal order / Ted V. McAllister. Lawrence, Kansas, University Press of Kansas, 1996; pp. 58-68.
- Walter Lippmann - Odyssey of a liberal / Barry D. Riccio. New Brunswick, [New Jersey], Transaction Publishers, 1994, 1996.
- Walter Lippman and the American century / Ronald Steel. Boston, Little, Brown and Company, 1980.
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