Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Blogosphere and the Fifth Estate

The generally accepted definition of the Fourth Estate is that it is comprised of a community of journalists; a rather broad definition which takes in all levels of the media, from the so-called Main Stream Media to the writings of individuals. This definition says nothing about quality, ownership, editorial views, agendas, sources of revenues and impact or influence.

The phrase "Main Stream Media" has become common in today's parlance and seems to connote institutions with aspects and qualities of power, continuity, influence, availability, acceptance and impact.

For purposes of this essay, I include as elements of the Main Stream Media, in addition to the major print media institutions, the major TV networks and the major Cable news companies. All qualify by virtue of their reputation for power and influence, ratings and as readily available to a mass audience.

What brought about the need to differentiate between the so-called Main Stream Media(MSM) and other media institutions, and why is it important to discuss it?

One example can be found on Alternet,org; Norman Solomon's piece about the news director of CNN, and his complicity with the Pentagon to sell the war in Iraq in return for their imprimatur for employing retired generals. The obvious purpose was to promote and enhance CNN's appearance of credibility. It was a hidden agenda in that there was no public disclosure to the viewers of CNN of any deal with the Pentagon.

It's unlikely that one would find accounts of such complicity in the MSM, at least not on the front page, let alone above the fold, nor in the pre-break hooks of the TV media, Network or Cable. The story of huge sums of taxpayer money spent by the Bush administration on contracts with PR firms to provide pre-packaged, administration -friendly propaganda to that same MSM is more likely to be found on Internet Sites like,,, and in the writings of those who are publishing their own independent views on the Internet.

Fortunately, Nature abhors a vacuum, and in this case the vacuum is comprised of an absence in the MSM of honesty. Hidden agendas and quid/pro deals sacrifice credibility, to which consumers of news are awakening.

Nature is filling that vacuum by what we might call the re-emergence of the Fifth Estate, the expressions and writings of those who understand and appeal to the market of honest and outraged citizens who have had it, will no longer buy the spin and who are looking for authors of knowledge, honesty and credibility. They want to read and hear commentators who are willing to hold to account those who cloak a suspect agenda in the guise of familiarity and previous reputations of respectability; but no longer deserved.

I refer to those authors who wish to use the Internet to make respectable, high road contributions, regardless of their point of view, on politics, culture, religion, science and such. By contrast, there are those who use the Internet to make ugly, sleazy, low life contributions of pornography, hate, racism, xenophobic and homophobic rants and the like. I understand that such labels are subjective, but as it is said about pornography, you know it when you see it.

Many of us who are interested enough to be involved and have opinions will wait to express them by voting in November, 2008. That's the provision provided to objectors by the writers of the Constitution. Unlike Parlimentarian governments, which can be ousted by votes of no confidence most anytime, our Constitution provides for ousting a government, or supporting it, by a public vote on a scheduled basis.

Unfortunately and sadly, many of us will not be able to vote in 2008 due to difficult and understandable circumstances; overwhelming problems of daily survival due to health, physical, mental and emotional problems.

Then there are those of us who just don't bother, don't respond to any kind of overture or appeal, and are seemingly unreachable. They will always be with us.

Even with such discounting, the number of citizens who can vote but don't is about half of those who could. One wonders how the world might look today if that half of voters who didn't bother, did.

I believe that some don't bother to vote in part because they have lost respect for politicians as a whole, and also because they have come to distrust the MSM to publish facts, be independent of political pressure and not engage in quid/pro deals to enhance their appearance of credibility by agreeing to support the agendas of those with whom they make the deals.

Some of us have decided to write about what we believe, not influenced by pressures to be profitable, nor by a need to maintain good relations with politicians in order to insure access to them.

We post essays to our blogs on the Internet blogosphere, what, to me, is the modern manifestation of the Fifth Estate, the voice of the people. Some respected journalists have likened it to the pamphleteers of our Founding Fathers era; Ben Franklin's "Poor Richards' Almanac" and the writings of James Madison, for example.

Contributions such as Norman Solomon's mentioned above, and those of other authors, are published on professionally designed and managed Internet sites like Truthdig, Truthout and Alternet. In my view they are also examples of the Fifth Estate. Though more institutionalized than individual bloggers, they don't seem to pull their punches when it comes to the need to be critical publicly of politicians. The ones I've cited lean toward left of center, but are critical, especially lately, of the feckless Democratic majority.

Total objectivity is an abstract concept. The very fact that a human being expresses a view, that view is, by definition, subjective; it represents the subject's view. In this essay I have tried to make the case that the Fifth Estate, as represented by independent bloggers and authors published on Internet sites, are less likely to be influenced by pressure of profitability and access than the Main Stream Media. Being for or against the Iraq war for example is not what I'm talking about. Making quid/pro deals with anyone, for or against anything, is what I am warning against.


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