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Public opinion, identity atomised

One deceitful and yet successful strategy used by mass media to spread truths that don’t exist is by putting words in the mouths of millions, whether these be words of demand, rejection, support or condemnation. Today this strategy is employed by ideologies that seek to encroach on liberties. But this has always been the case.


Blanca Marlen Huertas Acero*


Whether you have applauded or condemned historical events is something that, even if you wanted to refute it, cannot be removed from the evidence.

In effect, it has remained hidden beneath an identity en masse and for the masses, it has been recorded and will continue to appear by the consensus of many who, anonymously, decided to speak on your behalf and assign you a particular position regarding a certain event or a certain person in the evolution of humanity.

This identity is known as public opinion, or as Noelle-Neumann describes it, the fear of being isolated for one’s points of view, for which reason it hides behind the many and not the one.

On account of public opinion, you have gone down in history as an accuser or proponent of past events and of those who committed them. Throughout this global trajectory, from antiquity up until today, you have expressed condemnation, consent, praise, vilification, acceptance or rejection as a representative of visible collective opinion, in contrast to anonymous individual opinion.

Thus, chronologically, we have witnessed your mass opinion and noted your acceptance of the confrontation between Etruscans and Romans, Vikings and Normans, and Greeks and Persians.

Perhaps you were lumbered with the position of rejecting the peace treaty signed between Christians and Calvinists, the end of the Panmunjom Armistice or the cessation of the confrontation between Bosnians, Serbs and Croats.

Maybe you were attributed enthusiasm for the Nazi occupation, multi-continental colonialism and ethnocultural tensions, all this being a drop in the ocean of disparate realities with regard to which you as an anonymous individual have been assigned a public voice either for or against the issue at hand, depending on the source.

Headlines and records of opinion

Since ancient times, the “opinion of the people” has been interpreted and recorded, whether by governments, politicians or the media. Some examples:

“For Canada, national security has to do with problems and challenges that can affect both the country and society, and would be closely related to individual and international security” (from International security from the standpoint of national security strategies, Andrés Dockendorf and Tomás Duval).

“From this perspective, they were perverse, “humanitarian interventions”, and the global public opinion, despite the protests, accepted them as such” (from The fall of the towers, Franz Hinkelammert).

For its part, the press covers everyone and no one in particular in relation to such events: “The Iron Curtain is swept aside. East Germany opens throws open all its borders” (The Daily Telegraph), with respect to the Berlin Wall.

“Republicans and unionists re-enact peace agreement in Belfast” (20 Minutos-EFE), after the Irish peace agreement).

“U.S. accuses China and Russia of cooperating to reveal false information about coronavirus”, France 24, AFP, in reference to the fight against Covid-19. “Should we intervene in Syria?” with regard to the exacerbated tensions in Syria (La Presse). “Mexico is in mourning. The entire country mourns the death of one of its biggest musical icons.” News in Slow Spanish, reporting on the death of singer Armando Manzanero.

Among countless works, texts and tabloids, among hundreds of records – some verifiable, others discredited -, you have remained, in the name of public opinion, as an applauder or judge more than as a spectator.

Whether or not you were present at these events and whether or not you will attend countless events to come, your voice en masse is the one that validates the approval or the rejection, the welcome or the disdain.

If you had witnessed these and many other events, you most likely would not have agreed to what they claim you agreed to in the form of public opinion.

Perhaps you would have embraced the causes that they assumed you rejected in the name of public opinion.

But since the legacy of facts and figures requires a mass speaker to tell future generations what happened, it is clear that among the bias, reliable data, inaccuracies, anecdotes and truthful and accurate information, this watchful eye will continue to be present, with even more momentum now in the digital age.

It is about protecting the narrative under “the structural transformation of public life”, which is how Habermas describes public opinion. The truth is that you – public opinion – have condemned or exonerated, and while the theories around its origin, dynamics and projection advance, Herodotus’ maxim will be fulfilled: “It is easier to deceive many than one.”

*Blanca Marlen Huertas Acero: Colombian journalist and editor, author of the book “Latinos in difficult places.”

(Tranbslated by Lucy Daghorn) – Photos: Pixabay


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