Man and the multitude; Daniel J. Boorstin, part two
Of course it is. It's increasingly mystifying to us who know what it is that television tests what we mean by intelligence after the age of tennis. And one advantage of the development of intelligence tests is that it provides us a definition for that elusive quality intelligence and now we can simply say if someone asked you what you mean by intelligence you should say that intelligence is what intelligence tests test. And this is the way we have come to think about intelligence. But the development of testing was of course given a great poise by the the the drafts in the first world war. When tests were given to over a million and a half recruits and when all kinds of crude earlier notions were correct there had been it had been number of loose generalizations about how many
men in the United States had the intelligence of them and so on these phrases were used. I think there was there was some revision in thinking when it was found as a result of a case of these tests in the first world war that something like two thirds of the male population in those days were more so. This resulted in a revision of the definition of mental deficiency which is one of the things one of the talents in this country. If we find it difficult to give people what has traditionally been thought of as an education it doesn't bother us at all we simply change the definition of education. But in any case Tess became a mania and a pastime which we find in our magazines and in Newsweek in other news magazines and which have been developed and on television in the recent series of CBS citizenship so-called citizenship test those of us who have raised children are aware of the
extent to which we are dominated and influenced these days by the works of elites depend heavily on the concept of norms. What you can expect at a given age. If if your child behaves in some particularly offensive fashion you can turn to his work of nations and you can be reassured that this is just a normal normally offensive way for children. If he does something very bright you can see that it is a deviation from the norm. Then there came the development of market research and opinion polling which is quite recent which came developed in this century and which of course are quite different in their ancestry or institutional ancestry from the development of the
straw poll. The straw poll in this country goes back to the 18th 20s by the Bach of the Literary Digest poll in 1936. Which Digest poll had it not been based on a scientific sample that helped destroy the faith of people in in strong opinions of people who some acted with without care without attention the sampling and instead it was about nine hundred twelve other clauses and significantly it was from the origins of market research political polling the opinion polls developed and IMO the name of Eastman who wanted to to find out how effective his breakfast food advertising was.
Used it in the year before 19 20 there began to be sort of a department and advertising agencies. By 1935 scientific sampling technique was applied to political and was doing the forts and then came Gallup and many others know this. I developed an awareness of categories and classes of people who could or could not be appealed to by this or that. I mean it took a long time the students of journalism where it took a long time. To develop techniques for finding out you could reach by individual newspapers or magazines and there were a few men who made who made their fortune out of developing the
techniques for studying the size and nature of newspaper audience. Well a number of other developments also. I can only touch on one or two of them. Some of the more obvious which we may forget as being recent in their development which contributed to the opportunity for us to gather information about the groups of people in our society. One of the more important ones which we might overlook was the rise of insurance and especially of a life insurance. In 1860 there were only some 60000 persons in the whole United States who had life insurance policy in 1910 there were nearly seven million straight life policies plus some 23 million industrial life policy. Now in order for the insurance business to proceed it was necessary of course to have statistics to have information about different groups
in the in the community that takes the risks they suffered. Their longevity and so on. Now the growth of statistics then I suggest was basically the growth of these tendencies to quantify of the population distributed into different groups to classify it by the use of numbers was indispensable to the development of what I call Norm consciousness the awareness of different groups models in which people are supposed to hate. That of course came in what is being lobby as a cause of this development. The rise of the social sciences which has sought and created all kinds of models and norms. Now among the peculiar factors in American life that have contributed to this development there is of course the fact that we had the genes here that there were Indians in this continent before the Europeans came and
that this has been a an ethnically heterogeneous society in which there were lots of immigrants in which everybody was an immigrant except this. The awareness that there were these different groups and that the different groups might have different characteristics has contributed heavily to our discovering the norms that I'm now talking about. The noun immigrant was an Americanism surprise and the word that had been used for immigrants and immigrants was interchangeably the word EMI and T. But the word immigrant to characterize someone who comes into a community as distinguished from one of those I was an American is in the development for the end of the 18th century but official immigration statistics were not kept until about 18 20. And in the course of the 19th century development of the census there was an improvement in the
techniques for recording the facts about people who came to this country. Some of those facts remain astonishingly meager. The fact for example that the negro immigrant is significant and symbolic of the problems with the negro. Despite certain lapses of this kind there were new kinds of information collected and it is interesting how American sociology for example in anthropology bones were tied to the study of racial groups and ethnic units that went into the forming of the American population. Lewis Henry Morgan for example a pioneer and apologist started his studies by looking at the Seneca Iroquois Indians in New York near where he lived so that he didn't go off to some place to study. He was looking at.
Then toward the end of the 19th century there were many others who contributed to this development William Graham Sumner in his Folkways was concerned with characteristic. I mean he was he was interested in defining what it was that held a group together and this preoccupation with the group and its peculiarities was found in a number of other pioneering works. Perhaps the most important was a work by his Nanyang and Thomas called the Polish peasant in Europe and America which some of you may know which was published in 1989 21 which was a study of the peculiar problems of this class based on the study of letters and all kinds of intimate data. Now about this time of course there was a movement to restrict immigration. Among the more astonishing and forgotten perhaps happening from
the cultural history the 19th century is that the Immigration Restriction League which was founded appropriately enough in Boston in 1894. Was a an organization which had among its leadership nearly every reputable American intellects including many of those only now think of as ancestors of American liberalism for example Ross and the president of almost every reputable new versus. President present. The dean of the fact the University of Chicago and David Starr Jordan the president Stanford almost every leading American intellectual joined in the Immigration Restriction league. The purpose of which was to keep out undesirable immigrants by which they meant all immigrants who were slightly different but the Immigration Restriction did have the effect of reducing by
reaction if only by a reaction and not only either but mainly by reaction an effort to define the characteristics of different groups in the population. In 1970 there was an immigration commission appointed which produced its report 1911 which came to forty two volumes and which although it contains much misinformation and pseudo information is much prejudice is nevertheless does have a good deal of testimony and information about the actual characteristics of different immigrant groups in the great controversy over immigration which which dominated much of American life if you look at the serious journals general magazines of that. You'll be astonished to find that a large proportion of those in them concerned whether immigrants should be admitted and if so what kinds of immigrants.
This produced some incentive to discover the relation between groups and background and certain kinds of activities. The preoccupation of the Immigration Restriction league was of course with subjects like prostitution and delinquency and crime illiteracy and so on. But others use this data to discover the significance of having come from a certain group and having had a certain kind of background out of this kind of interest and developed the sociology of the ghettos in Leeds and Louis Wirth at the University of Chicago was important and in others like Frank and Fraser and need to be Dubois his name has been taken in vain in so many places. And Sinclair Drake and others made a contribution. One of the latest of these contributions of course have been made in one of the greatest I think you've been made by your own Oscar. Now
the the american fact that we are an immigrant nation and then automatically provided us with certain norms certain groups Anglo-Saxon Protestant. The peoples of Eastern and Southern Europe and America and so on. Groups which automatically even though many of them were able to find most of them will define or define some polemical purpose. Nevertheless these were groups in relation to which people could could fit themselves and the controversy itself had the effect of awakening consciousness of membership in these groups. Now overall it is in our own time there came a flourishing popular sociology. We can go back into early American history and we will read Krav saying what is this
man this American and he asked was our first part one of our popular sociologists making all kinds of unsubstantiated generalizations about the American Tocqueville was even more successful than spreading misinformed loose generalizations about America as we love to do and. But nevertheless the interest in generalisations about US has has developed and it is significant. How large a vocabulary of generalization about categories of Americans has developed in the last 25 years. If I was all I need to do is to recite for you a list of phrases. The organization man the man in the gray flannel suit the power elite The Hidden Persuaders
the junior executive the junior executives wife the academic The Ugly American the teenager the senior citizen. Now all these categories have been developed not only in works of nonfiction but also by novels and in movies and of course on television. They have become they've entered the common discourse and people use them frequently to refer to themselves or to others. This has I think created great problems for the novelist as as George Steiner and other critics have pointed out because when you have such a detailed and intimate sociology then what does that leave for the novelist. So the novelist goes in quest of a subject matter
formally then when we were rather gingerly and slightly prudish about these matters the novelist could talk about those things which Kinsey and his disciples clinically. But when we have our Kinsey's and other sociologist telling us the details of white collar life and so on do what then happens to the to a movie and other sociological moment. Now what I'm suggesting then is that there has been a kind of a convergence of all these forces the development of statistics the development of awareness of categories by the elaboration of social science and we are now talking about what we might call the feedback of social science into our own consciousness into the society. The development of an awareness and increasing awareness inclusion or exclusion from clearly definable
groups groups for voting for Marry for divorce. For adultery and so on. We we have a normal consciousness developed which teaches us how we are expected to behave and we are likely to behave. If I take only myself for example I am a member of the following statistic communities own. Communities and norms of a college professor and member a member of the family and owner of a color television set the home owner occupier and. I know where I can go to find out what people like me wear what we think about LBJ or LSD or divorce or the reputation of Jackie Kennedy after the Manchester books.
I can tell whether Brady odorant on whether I shave daily whether I use a blade or an electric razor. Chris Craft. Category is different classes and sometimes which we resist. Those of us who reach a certain age don't like to think of ourselves as being of that age. But there is a tendency to reinforce all these norms and I am only not going to touch on it which is so obvious. We reinforce these norms in a way in which they could not have been reinforced by advertising of course is the great reinforcer. Which reminds us what is the thinking and cigarette whether we are the sort of individualists salute
whether we look like this man in this advertising like some other moron. The reinforcement of the norm by photography by movies by television is extremely powerful. Now there is another element that comes in here which is slightly on the say but which is extremely important which I find tantalizing and I don't know really quite how to fit it in. One of the consequences is the rise of Norm consciousness is the movement of what I would call movement from facts to data. Now the important items of knowledge which people used to talk about were either generally facts that is statements about the way things are or ideas abstract and which these statements could be generalized.
It was assumed that there were certain people dizzy and or people with no purposes knew about other people's prejudices and knew how to play on them how to use them. The Korea lameness Robespierre and Hitler. These were people who were low enough to become acquainted with other people's prejudices to use them. And what direction they were taking. However whether we are a politician or merchant faction people's prejudices become the most important and I now use the word data that we can now. The information about what the state of people's prejudices and irrational pressure has become a new category of information an account of a President is important. All you need do is to read those passages in Theodore whites making of the president
1964 in which he describes how John Fitzgerald Kennedy managed his primary in Wisconsin and in West Virginia in or using Lou Harris poll. All you need do is look there to see the enormous importance of this new category the category the opinion category. Concerning what other people like. However irrational but it has the consequence of providing new categories which I learned to do with. Another activity is the category of people who can't stand Bobby Kennedy. That becomes a category. Now what I have been trying to suggest and I want to conclude by drawing together some of this and indicating what may be some of the consequences of the rise of non-conscious the awareness of more and more different groups and categories under which we sit. Now
one of the consequences of this is to give a a delusive sharpness to people's opinions on everything. Should people have formed opinions on the subject. Might it might not be just as well that people should stop and freeze their notions on whether women should wear slacks in public. Perhaps there are more subjects for them to attend to. But one of the consequences of it is of course that those people who have no opinion of themselves become a category. No opinion category. Now there's a second Tennessee which is the tendency to view opinion as ever phenomenal or secondary. What do I believe. Wait a minute till I see what opinion group I sit in to this turn and see which inevitably grows out of the emphasis of the social sciences the social sciences inevitably emphasize society.
While there was a tendency for the Humanities and a size man. When you emphasize society you're talking about environment. And this of course pushes us in the direction of discovering our opinions not by looking at the evidence but by looking at our situation. In this sense Marx and the materialist interpreters of history have had a quiet victory. People increasingly come to believe that how I live determines what I believe rather than vice versa. And of course a third consequence is a self-consciousness about everything a lack of spontaneity. And a tendency to calculate and reflect before reacting on any subject which is not necessarily to become more rational pinioned to be more use. Now all of this of course is a special and has special significance in the
most literate and media ridden culture. If people can hear about the existence of these categories they're not likely to be affected by them nor worry about where they fit in to them. But you know extremely literate culture and I include television among the resources of literacy. Of course we are we have we tend once we begin to become known conscious to see the nation as divided and groups. There must be external and classified possibly in statistical ways of separating. We now have a town in America and. Polish-Americans and poverty and groups that can be separated by certain statistical characteristics. The nation then as we see it no longer consists of persons whose judgments Aben but rather consists of.
The groups which are constantly forming and reforming opinions in certain proportions according to the categories in which they belong. We then tend to see the nation more fragmented than ever and find it increasingly difficult to see any such thing as a majority. There is also an effect of ourselves. What I would call the mirror effect a tendency for experience to reinforce our existing attitude. Everywhere I turn I have my normal consciousness reinforced. I pick up a paper and learn the percentages of people who favor LBJ or oppose the war in Vietnam. If I watch a television program it's a program aimed at people like me who watch programs like that at that hour. Then I learned what brands of aspirin beer cigarettes or automobiles tend to be preferred by people like me. If I raise my children by the norms in Spock or Gazelle I become accustomed to learn from the Sunday supplement that I should not feel guilty when I'm angry at my children.
The article says 80 percent of college bred parents feel inadequate to raising their children anyway and that 85 percent of their children feel they're being raised quite sensibly despite that. What is the effect on the concept of freedom. Norm consciousness tells me what I should expect myself to think and feel to allow them to hate. Do I favor open occupancy. That's just the way a stated percentage of white city dwellers feel. Do I dislike Elizabeth Taylor. Do I like many skirts. Do I find my feeling for President Johnson going up and down with the prospects for peace. Don't ask me just tell me. The moral of this perhaps and I'm sure you find many others who suggested and it was a large book which I hope they have it will read while the voice of the dolphins it's a very playful and beautiful
in which are some of the learned Dolphins dominate the story. And one of their climactic points by Omega Roe which is the name for one of the more attractive Dolphins asked the question Are Americans free to say what they think. If they do not think. What they are not free to say thank you. For if you've been listening to Daniel J Borst and professor of American history at the University of Chicago he spoke on the culture of communications at the eight session of the University of Illinois Centennial symposium. The next program miniseries will feature the discussion of Mr. Boston's lecture it will answer questions from visiting professors faculty members at the University of Illinois and
- Man and the multitude
- Daniel J. Boorstin, part two
- Producing Organization
- University of Illinois
- WILL Illinois Public Media
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-rj48tx03).
- This program, the second of two parts, presents Daniel J. Boorstin, University of Chicago, on "The Culture of Communications."
- A lecture series commemorating the centennial of the University of Illinois.
- Social Issues
- Media type
Producing Organization: University of Illinois
Producing Organization: WILL Illinois Public Media
Speaker: Boorstin, Daniel J. (Daniel Joseph), 1914-2004
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-41-8 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “Man and the multitude; Daniel J. Boorstin, part two,” 1967-10-24, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 14, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-rj48tx03.
- MLA: “Man and the multitude; Daniel J. Boorstin, part two.” 1967-10-24. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 14, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-rj48tx03>.
- APA: Man and the multitude; Daniel J. Boorstin, part two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-rj48tx03