Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Where goes our Fourth Estate?

Origins of the Fourth Estate.
Wikipedia defines the Fourth Estate
Fourth Estate is a term referring to the press. The term goes back at least to Thomas Carlyle in the first half of the 19th century. Thomas Macaulay used it in 1828.

Novelist Jeffrey Archer in his work The Fourth Estate made the observation: "In May 1789, Louis XVI summoned to Versailles a full meeting of the 'Estates General'. The First Estate consisted of three hundred clergy. The Second Estate, three hundred nobles. The Third Estate, six hundred commoners. Some years later, after the French Revolution, Edmund Burke, looking up at the Press Gallery of the House of Commons, said, 'Yonder sits the Fourth Estate, and they are more important than them all.'"

The problem with the news media today is that they are too willing to print what they are told to print; while at the same time too unwilling to ask questions, open doors or breath some fresh air into the smoke filled rooms.

The following quotes come from an article entitled “Is the Fourth Estate a Fifth Column?“ written by Bill Moyers, on In These Times, July 11, 2008. While much of the commentary in it were directed at the Bush administration, the observations are just as relevant today with the Obama administration. On Sunday, October 11, 2009 The New York Times quoted White House communications director Anita Dunn as saying of Fox News: “We’re going to treat them the way we would treat an opponent.”  To put it another way, all those who are not with me are against me.

Wikipedia defines a Fifth Column
A fifth column is a group of people who clandestinely undermine a larger group, such as a nation, from within, to the aid of an external enemy.

Is the Fourth Estate a Fifth Column?
Corporate media colludes with democracy’s demise
By Bill Moyers

Across the media landscape, the health of our democracy is imperiled. Buffeted by gale force winds of technological, political and demographic forces, without a truly free and independent press, this 250-year-old experiment in self-government will not make it. As journalism goes, so goes democracy.

The dominant media remains in denial about their role in passing on the government’s unverified claims as facts. That’s the great danger. It’s not simply that they dominate the story we tell ourselves publicly every day. It’s that they don’t allow other alternative competing narratives to emerge, against which the people could measure the veracity of all the claims.

Sadly, in many respects, the Fourth Estate has become the fifth column of democracy, colluding with the powers that be in a culture of deception that subverts the thing most necessary to freedom, and that is the truth.

Bill Moyers is the president of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy and the host of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS.

This article was adapted from Bill Moyers’ keynote address at the National Conference for Media Reform Conference in Minneapolis on June 7. You can read and respond to the full speech at www.pbs.org/moyers.

Read the complete article here:


Bill Moyers really nailed the problem of the biased news media but he probably wasn't thinking how his eloquent commentary on our news media back in the days of the Bush administration would come back to haunt this same news media today. There has never been a better comparison than that of the Fifth Column.

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