EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Can I be a Pragmatic Pacifist?

This is a gently updated version of a post I originally published in Deliberately Considered. I post it now, thinking about the latest chapter of the never ending story of the war on terrorism.

I remember struggling with this question as a young man. Subjected to the draft during the Vietnam War being a very early and precocious opponent to the war, I tried to convince myself that I was a pacifist. Wanting to avoid conscription, I read the writings of Gandhi and A.J. Muste. I looked into the pacifist activities of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Although I realized that making the claim of being a Jewish pacifist would be practically difficult, I wanted to explore possibilities. …

EssaysIn DepthLiberal Democracy in QuestionMedia/Publics

Limiting Democracy: The American Media’s World View, and Ours

This article was originally published in Social Research, Vol. 7: No. 3: Fall 2010.

One of the difficulties in discussing the notion that it is the media that limits our idea of politics is that we all have an inherent resistance to believing that our own understanding of the political world is artificially limited. Most of us are willing to talk about political propaganda and the way in which political opinions are manipulated as long as that means somebody else’s opinions. We all prefer to think it happens to other people, not to ourselves.

This is true, first, because it is simply unpleasant to think about oneself being propagandized or being in some way manipulated. But the more substantive reason for this resistance is that the way in which we assess the set of information we receive about the world is very self-reinforcing. There is a certain set of information, a set of sources to which we are subjected or which we seek out, that provides us with information about the world and shapes our political world view…