The Function of a Free Press
The Function of a Free Press
What does the term “Fourth
Estate” really mean and why is its proper function so crucial to the very
spirit of a free society? To find out, we must understand what the first three estates
are and what makes the fourth one so different.
According to Dr. Debora B.
Schwartz of California Polytechnic State University, the first three estates
are the Church, the Nobility, and the peasantry
Today, that would roughly
translate to the world’s great religions (the First Estate), the Federal
Bureaucracy or the political class (the Second Estate), and all the rest of us,
the citizens that make up our society (the Third Estate).
Quite simply, the terms are
yet another way of dividing people by class within a society.
Our country’s ever-increasing
bend toward Socialism is reminiscent of the ancient Asian world, where the
acronym SPAM was a way of dividing Chinese, Korean, and Japanese societies into classes from most revered to most reviled. The S in Chinese and Korean society stood
for the Scholar-official (for the Japanese, S was for Samurai). Next came P for the Peasantry, then A for the Artisans, and finally, M for the lowest and most loathsome
group in their minds; the Merchants.
And like Socialism, these
ancient Asian cultures looked upon the entrepreneur with disgust. The pursuit
of profit and individual accomplishment was frowned upon, because the
“collective” success had to be paramount over the individual.
Yet, it is this very
individual freedom to achieve greatly that has catapulted American society into
an economic juggernaut where opportunity to achieve is equal, never the
However, if the Asian system
of stratification and the first three estates represent a hierarchy of society,
then who or what is the fourth estate?
It is generally accepted that
Edmund Burke coined the phrase with, “regard
to the free press when journalists began reporting on the House of Commons in
the UK.”  And
Burke contended that these members of the press stood outside the normal
stratification so they could report “freely” on the actions of government
without any repercussions or recriminations by said government.
The American citizen should
have every expectation from those with the awesome responsibility of the Fourth
Estate of receiving straight-up, fact-based news; that is, to stand above the
fray to deliver not just what they think
we should know, but what we need to know. Genuine news media should only
publish factual, non-biased information that’s sourced and verified,… period.
And leave the analysis to the pundits who reside in the Second Estate and the
free interpretation—without denigration—to the citizens who reside in the
But that’s not what the
alleged media have been feeding us for decades. We are treated with filtered
through the lens of the reporter’s opinion or political bent. Unfortunately,
the traditional news sources (the big three networks and liberally dominated
print media) have all but forfeited their once indomitable status as
incorruptible sources of news.
They’re making the news.
They’re now publishing their
opinion on the front page, rather than the opinion pages.
The only way to salvage our free
press will be the same way we will have to salvage our political system. The
so-called professional journalist no
longer exists. They have disgraced themselves beyond believability, as have our
politicians! They have essentially become an unholy alliance. And what happens
when the press colludes with the government they’re supposed to keep honest?
Now think about that. What
does this freedom entail?
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