Nov 192010
 

Notes from the book by Alexander Kendrick.

On problems with Congress understanding the role of the USIA:

“Our concern is with the idea. We cannot judge our success by sales. No profit-and-loss statements sums up our operations at the end of each year. No cash register rings when a man changes his mind. No totals are rung up on people impressed with an idea. There is no market history of the rise or fall in the going rate of belief in an ideal.

Often one’s best work may be merely to introduce doubt into a mind already firmly committed. There are no tallies to total, or sums to surmise, when you’ve finished a day of explaining disarmament, or discussing with the disenchanted the hope of an Alliance for Progress.”

“Communications systems are neutral. They have neither conscience nor morality, only a history. They will broadcast truth or falsehood with equal facility. Man communicating with man poses not the problem of how to say it, but more fundamentally, what is he to say?”

“Anything tagged education in this country [the United States] is handicapped at the outset. The American people don’t really believe in education. We had to pass laws to force parents to send their children to school.”

“When television is good, nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite you to sit down in front of your TV set and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland.”

“To be persuasive, we must be believable. To be believable, we must be credible. To be credible, we must be truthful. It is as simple as that.”

“It is very easy to say we are going to speak the truth, but I predict you will have a very difficult time finding out what the truth is.”

[Kendrick: The supreme test arrives when lying is deemed vital to the national security, or prestige, or facesaving.]

“For if the premise on which our pluralistic society rests – which as I understand it is that if the people are given sufficient undiluted information, they will then somehow, even after long, sober second thoughts, reach the right decision – if that premise is wrong, then not only the corporate image, but the corporations are done for.”

“There is no suggestion here that networks or individual stations should operate as philanthropies. But I can find nothing in the Bill of Rights, or the Communications Act, which says they must increase their profits each year, lest the Republic collapse.”

On receiving the Einstein Award: “if television and radio are to be used for the entertainment of all of the people all of the time, we have come perilously close to discovering the real opiate of the people.”

The mass media… were being turned to “less for opinion, still less for radical or liberal opinion, and almost not at all for many-sided discussion.”…”One cannot slake one”s thirst at a dry well.”

“They say future political candidates must be personable on television. Why? Are we reaching the ridiculous stage where we will be invited to taste a candidate, like toothpaste? I find it ominous, this reliance on advertising technique and catchphrases, instead of statesmanship and leadership.”

“There is a false formula for personal security being peddled in our marketplace. It is this, although not so labeled: Don’t join anything. Don’t associate. Don’t write. Don’t take a chance on being wrong. Don’t espouse unpopular causes. Button your lip and drift with the tide. Seek the ease and luxury of complete equanimity, by refusing to make up your minds on issues that wiser heads will one day decide. This product, if it be bought by enough people, leads to paralysis.”

“Our major obligation is not to mistake slogans for solutions.”

Robert Oppenheimer: “The trouble with secrecy isn’t that it inhibits science or that it doesn’t give the public a sense of participation. The trouble with secrecy is that it denies to the Government itself the wisdom and the resources of the whole community, of the whole country. And the only way that you can do this is to let almost anyone say what he thinks – to try to give the best synopses, the best popularizations, the best mediations of technical things that you can, and to let men deny what they think is false, argue what they think is false. You have a to have a free and uncorrupted communication. And this is so the heart of living in a complicated technological world, it is so the heart of freedom, that that is why we are all the time saying, ‘Does this really have to be secret?’ ‘Couldn’t you say more about that?”Are we really acting in a wise way?’ Not because we enjoy chattering, not because we are not aware of the dangers of the world we live in, but because these dangers cannot be met in any other way.”

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