The Failures of the Fourth Estate

The Failures of the Fourth Estate

“No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.”


                                —Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804

For those who may not be familiar with the term, “the fourth estate,” let me define it for you & believe me, it gives me no joy in feeling it most likely necessary to do so. I have worked in the education profession for over 20 years so I’ve seen first hand how woefully lacking we are when it comes to educating our citizens.

The founding fathers were students or children of the Enlightenment if you will. Therefore, they knew full well how vital it is for a citizenry to be well-informed because they knew the history of the Dark Ages in Europe where the educated were mostly either the priests or the “nobility.” This was done deliberately so as to more easily control the citizens i.e. peasants.

In contrast, several, not all, of our founding fathers believed that without an educated citizenry, we too could slip back into a Dark Ages and be taken over by a corrupt aristocracy or oligarchy. Therefore, they included the free press in the Bill of Rights because it’s vital as a force to keep the three branches of government in check. And the last sentence in the quote I started this essay with should jump out at anyone not willfully ignorant i.e. the majority of Trump supporters.

You see, Donald the Dick knows only too well what all the other authoritarians & tyrants present & past know i.e. keep the people ignorant by constantly denigrating the free press or journalists, and you can remain in power. But, let the citizenry hear the valid criticisms of journalists, professors, writers, etc., and your power is eroded.

Admittedly, the press has been a dismal failure as a general rule but this doesn’t excuse the brazen attempts on Trump’s part to totally discredit any & every reporter who says anything critical about him. For the sake of brevity—I’m often guilty of being long-winded—I will simply refer any of you who care to understand this present dilemma, to the classic by Noam Chomsky & Edward Hermann, “The Manufacture of Consent.” And in a word, our “free press” has by and large failed abysmally due to the cannibalization of its principles by Capitalism’s insatiable appetite for ever greater profits.

Moreover, another major factor in why our press has prostituted itself to such a significant degree is the fact that, we, the citizens, haven’t done our duty as citizens of a democratic republic by keeping the pressure on the owners of the media. For example, I bet the majority of Americans aren’t even aware of the fact that the airwaves i.e. means by which television, radio, etc. are broadcast to us are owned by us. No, we blithely go through life silent & happy as long as they provide our daily distractions i.e. “entertainment” in the form of sports, soap operas, “reality” T.V., sit-coms, etc. and as a result, even the news has morphed into what is now referred to as “infotainment.”

America has become the laughing stock of the rest of the world. Why? Because we live in our bubble believing we are the greatest nation on earth but if you’ve done any traveling at all outside the U.S., and you meet other citizens of other nations & have a serious conversation, you’ll soon see that no, we’re not so wonderful. That’s all part of the constant propaganda we’ve been inundated with from the cradle to the grave.

Continuing on, another factor for our pitiful state of affairs is the fact that we have also allowed the corporate media to monopolize the ownership of the media & I’ve seen it go from 50 corporations in 1983 to just five corporations today. Think about it, five individuals determining what will and what won’t be published or aired on radio, television, cable news, magazines, newspapers, etc. And one of the most depressing aspects of all of this is that Rupert Murdoch’s “News Corporation” has been allowed to masquerade as “news” via “FOX News” for over 20 years. 

Here are a few, carefully chosen paragraphs from an article that breaks down just how significant it is that these five or six media conglomerates have such an influence on the American public as well as the public of most of the world’s citizens;

“These five conglomerates are Time Warner, Disney, Murdochs’ News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, and Viacom (formerly CBS). Their control spans most of the newspapers, magazines, books, radio and TV stations, movie studios, and much of the web news content of the United States. These conglomerates are in large measure responsible for inculcating the social, political, economic, and moral values of both adults and children in the United States….

….It was not always like this. Immediately after World War II three out of four US newspapers were independently owned. But the media-control numbers have been shrinking ever since then due to mergers, acquisitions, and other processes. By 1983, 50 corporations controlled 90 percent of US media. But today just five giant conglomerates control 90 percent of what most Americans read, watch, and listen to.

It is notable and should be emphasized that all the five major media conglomerates are corporate members of the Council on Foreign relations. This organization is a US think-tank whose members have been instrumental in formulating US government policies resulting in sanctions, destabilization efforts, and outright military attacks on nations which have never attacked the US.

The Council’s members’ activities helped to promote the Iraq war, the bombings of Serbia and Libya, and the recent overthrow of the elected government of the Ukraine. The promotion of these policies by the media conglomerates which belong to the Council has been key to preparing the American public to accept these policies….

….It should also be noted that the conglomerates themselves are giant corporations. They are among the largest companies in the world. They contribute to both of America’s big parties, the Republicans and Democrats, while supporting their policies. US media companies have also received from the Reagan, Clinton, and Bush administrations progressively greater media deregulation, which permitted ever greater media ownership concentration, culminating for the first time in allowing all the media in a community or city to be owned by one company….. “

FOX is America’s version of what the Russian newspaper, “Pravda,” except the Russians knew it was propaganda i.e. bullshit. And you wonder why we have a president like Donald of the Duck Dynasty Klan, who gets his news daily from watching FOX, and who is again obliviously the most anti-intellectual president we’ve ever had? Trump isn’t an anomaly, no, he’s the symptom of an illiterate society and he’s clearly not capable mentally, emotionally, or morally of governing our nation. He could only get away with his racist remarks & scapegoating of Muslims, immigrants, gays, reporters, intellectuals, etc. etc. etc., in a country where being educated is considered being an elitist snob & anti-American.

In conclusion, my hero, Edward Snowden, the friend of the 99.9% of the world’s population summed it up nicely and humbly in the film, “Citizen Four” by Laura Poitras and also stars, Glenn Greenwald, one of the world’s greatest journalists in terms of integrity, when Snowden said something like; “It’s about Control.”

He’s referring to the mass surveillance of every human being on earth that uses a phone, computer, etc. and especially uses the “social media” platforms like Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, etc. In brief, they i.e. the governments of the world & the corporate cockroaches who are the de facto rulers of the world pulling the strings in the background, are storing our personal info so they can control us i.e. threaten us with jail, etc. if we become a threat to their power or control over us.

So, if we don’t inform ourselves & all who will listen, we are ensuring our own enslavement & possible death. This essay is dedicated to all my brothers & sisters in the Flower Power Revolution around the globe. As the famous maxim says, “The only thing we have to lose is our chains.”

Peace & Perseverance!


P.S. A good place to start is by destroying your “Smart” phone.

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January 2021

A Writer without Readers is like an Actor without an audience.