La participation, est-ce politique? – Séminaire du Lier, Roscoff 2014

Notre question de départ, que nous souhaitons travailler lors de cette atelier*, est la suivante: peut-on qualifier de «politique» la participation par des associations, mais aussi par des professionnels, au débat publique et à la délibération ?

Alors que, traditionnellement, la philosophie politique aborde la question politique en distinguant entre individus et citoyens, c’est-à-dire entre les individus s’engageant dans des associations de la vie civile et la participation des citoyens à la vie politique à travers les institutions, nous voudrions essayer de questionner la possibilité de qualifier de «politique» la participation à mouvements, associations, professions libérales telles que le journalisme ou la magistrature, l’entrépréneuriat, etc. via les notions de devoir ou de responsabilité.
La question de départ, d’un point de vue philosophique, est néanmoins double. Si l’adjectif “politique” doit être questionné, le terme de “participation” ne l’est pas moins. Si nous déplaçons l’attention sur ce terme, restreindre la participation politique au gouvernement ou aux élections, pourrait sembler réductif. Mais sur quoi peut-on faire tenir cette notion de participation? Les notions de “devoir” et de “responsabilité” semblent pertinentes pour commencer à circonscrire une définition de la participation politique. Cette démarche peut-elle montrer une facette complémentaire ou alternative à une définition du politique centrée sur la notion de pouvoir?
Ces questions touchent directement une partie de mon travail de thèse, qui se focalise sur le “devoir de vérité” que les journalistes s’imposerait, ou qui du moins parait leur être imposé par la déontologie qu’au fil des années la corporation s’est donné, en Italie, comme aux États-Unis. En Italie, la législation qui a institué l’ordre des journalistes en 1963, demande à ce que les journalistes respectent la «vérité substantielle des faits», un devoir entériné dans les chartes déontologiques que les journalistes eux-mêmes se sont donné successivement; aux États-Unis, la «vérité journalistique» serait entendue dans un sens «pratique», comme un processus qui commence avec la pratique professionnelle de mettre ensemble et vérifier des faits.

Dans ces deux contextes, la pratique du journalisme se voit donc encadrée par un système de normes plus ou moins officielles qui font référence à une dite «vérité» et qui sont couplées à un dispositif de production qui à son tour encadre la pratique au quotidien: rythmes et formats de production, angles d’attaque, contenus, horaires et lieux de diffusion sont définis et un journaliste ne peut pas faire, dire ou écrire n’importe quoi.

Mais, dans quelle mesure peut-on dire que ce devoir relève du politique? Est-ce la modalité de la participation à la vie sociale qui permettrait de qualifier l’activité journalistique de “politique”?
La première partie de mon travail de thèse s’est concentré sur la compréhension du travail journalistique d’un point de vue sociologique; dans la phase actuelle, je me concentre sur une analyse de textes qui, écrit par des journalistes, actent un retour réflexif sur la pratique du journalisme.

C’est pourquoi j’ai choisi, pour nourrir nos discussions de ce matin, des extraits de textes de Walter Lippmann, qui me semblent mettre en lumière, sans le nommer, l’appel à ce «devoir de vérité» que le journaliste devrait s’imposer. Peut-on, à partir de ces textes, demontrer que la demarche de Lippmann peut-être qualifié de “participation politique”?
Avant de passer au texte, je contextualise quelque peu leur auteur. Walter Lippmann (1889-1974), fut un journaliste américain qui travailla au New Republic, au World, au New York Herald Tribune, Today and Tomorrow, et à Newsweek. Il contribua à populariser le terme de «guerre froide» (qu’il employa pour la première fois en 1947) et l’expression «fabrique du consentement» — qu’il utilisa en 1922. Il étudia à Harvard où il fut élève de William James et George Santayana, dont il a été l’assistant. Après ses études, son premier travail journalistique, en tant qu’assistant, fut celui de suivre la campagne présidentielle de 1912, lors de laquelle il montra un engagement pour Théodore Roosvelt. En septembre 1917, il fut nommé secrétaire général de l’Inquiry, une commission de spécialistes formée par Woodrow Wilson et le colonel Edward Mandell House afin d’étudier les problèmes des nationalités en Europe et de réfléchir sur la façon dont pourrait être redessiné le paysage européen après-guerre. Son œuvre majeure est Public Opinion (1922), un livre où il développe la notion de stéréotype. Ce livre fut suivi en 1925 par de The Phantom Public.

Après la Conférence économique de Londres de juillet 1933, Lippmann va s’intéresser au libéralisme, alors contesté et menacé de toutes parts. Ses recherches aboutiront à la publication en 1937 de son livre The Good Society (traduit en français avec le titre La Cité Libre).
Les extraits que je propose sont tiré de Liberty and the news, un recueil de 1920 dans lequel Lippmann essaye de réconcilier la tension entre liberté et démocratie dans la complexité du monde moderne, et d’un article titré The press and public opinion, qui reproduit le discours prononcé le 25 mars 1931 par Lippmann lors d’un dîner que l’Académie de Sciences Politique organisa en son honneur.

1. Since the war, especially, editors have come to believe that their highest duty is not to report but to instruct, not to print news but to save civilization, not to publish what Benjamin Harris calls “the Circumstances of Publique Affairs, both abroad and at home”, but to keep the nation on the straight and narrow path. Like the Kings of England, they have elected themselves Defenders of the Faith. “For five years,” says Mr. Cobb of the  New York World,  “there has been no free play of public opinion in the world. Confronted by the inexorable necessities of war, governments conscripted public opinion. … They goose-stepped it. They taught it to stand at attention and salute. … It sometimes seems that after the armistice was signed, millions of Americans must have taken a vow that they would never again do any thinking for themselves. They were willing to die for their country, but not willing to think for it”. That minority, which is proudly prepared to think for it, and not only prepared, but cocksure that it alone knows how to think for it, has adopted the theory that the public should know what is good for it.

The work of reporters has thus become confused with the work of preachers, revivalists, prophets and agitators. The current theory of American news-paperdom is that an abstraction like the truth and a grace like fairness must be sacrificed whenever anyone  thinks the necessities of civilization require the sacrifice. To Archbishop Whately’s dictum that it matters greatly whether you put truth in the first place or the second, the candid expounder of modern journalism would reply that he put truth second to what he conceived to be the national interest. Judged simply by their product, men like Mr. Ochs or Viscount Northcliffe believe that their respective nations will perish and civilization decay unless their idea of what is patriotic is permitted to temper the curiosity of their readers. They believe that edification is more important than veracity.

(Liberty and the news, Harcourt Brace and Howe, New York, 1920, pp.7-9)
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2. Just as the most poisonous form of disorder is the mob incited from high places, the most immoral act the immorality of a government, so the most destructive form of untruth is sophistry and propaganda by those whose profession it is to report the news. The news columns are common carriers. When those who control them arrogate to themselves the right to determine by their own consciences what shall be reported and for what purpose, democracy is unworkable. Public opinion is blockaded. For when a people can no longer confidently repair “to the best fountains for their information”, then anyone’s guess and anyone’s rumor, each man’s hope and each man’s whim becomes the basis of government. All that the sharpest critics of democracy have alleged is true, if there is no steady supply of trustworthy and relevant news. Incompetence and aimlessness, corruption and disloyalty, panic and ultimate disaster, must come to any people which is denied an assured access to the facts. No one can manage anything on pap. Neither can a people. Statesmen may devise policies; they will end in futility, as so many have recently ended, if the propagandists and censors can put a painted screen where there should be a window to the world. Few episodes in recent history are more poignant than that of the British Prime Minister, sitting at the breakfast table with that morning’s paper before him protesting that he cannot do the sensible thing in regard to Russia because a powerful newspaper proprietor has drugged the public. That incident is a photograph of the supreme danger which confronts popular government. All other dangers are contingent upon it, for the news is the chief source of the opinion by which government now proceeds. So long as there is interposed between the ordinary citizen and the facts a news organization determining by entirely private and unexamined standards, no matter how lofty, what he shall know, and hence what he shall believe, no one will be able to say that the substance of democratic government is secure. The theory of our constitution, says Mr. Justice Holmes, is that truth is the only ground upon which men’s wishes safely can be carried out. In so far as those who purvey the news make of their own beliefs a higher law than truth, they arc attacking the foundations of our constitutional system. There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and shame the devil. That I have few illusions as to the difficulty of truthful reporting anyone can see who reads these pages. If truthfulness were simply a matter of sincerity the future would be rather simple. But the modern news problem is not solely a question of the newspaperman’s morals. It is, as I have tried to show in what follows, the intricate result of a civilization too extensive for any man’s personal observation. As the problem is manifold, so must be the remedy. There is no panacea. But however puzzling the matter may be, there are some things that anyone may assert about it, and assert without fear of contradiction. They are that there is a problem of the news which is of absolutely basic importance to the survival of popular government, and that the importance of that problem is not vividly realized nor sufficiently considered.

(Liberty and the news, Harcourt Brace and Howe, New York, 1920, pp.10-14)
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3. If we ask ourselves, then, what it is that we are certain of in our national life, what it is that we are surest of, what it is that we can defend with the clearest conscience, with the least hesitation and doubt, I do not think we can name a single concrete policy or principle. Is it the tariff? Is it prohibition? Is it public ownership of water power? Is it the Monroe Doctrine? Is it the farm debentures? Is it the present charter of New York City? It is the present Constitution of New York State? Is it the present Constitution of the United States with all its amendments and in all its changing judicial interpretations? Is it the policies of Mr. Hoover, or Mr. Roosevelt, or Mr. Walker, Mr. Norris or Mr. Norman Thomas? However passionately we may believe what we believe, in moments of cool candor and honesty with ourselves we cannot really believe that the whole truth has been revealed to them or to us. There must remain in all specific convictions a residue of skepticism. If it does not we have learned little from human experience.

What then can we adhere to, since in our world we cannot be sure we have attained the truth? We can adhere, I believe, to the ways in which men have found the truth and to the spirit in which they have sought it. We do not know the answers to all our problems. We do not even know what all our problems are. We have only to look backward into history to see how often men have been preoccupied with issues that did not matter while they overlooked those which changed the course of history. Is there any reason to suppose that we see our world in any truer perspective? I should suppose not.

(The Press and Public Opinion, in Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 46, No. 2, June 1931, pp. 167-168)

 

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* Texte proposé comme introduction à l’atelier “Participation politique” du séminaire collectif du Lier, tenu à Roscoff le 24 septembre 2014


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