The Fourth Estate brought us news, presented opinions and often played the role of guardian, even becoming an attack dog, when it found abuse of power in one of the three branches of government. We did not assume complete objectivity, which would have been too much to ask of fellow human beings, but we expected truth, and at the very least we demanded a dearth of ideological paddling of particular political creeds.The past twenty years saw enormous consolidations occur at alarming rates throughout the corporate landscape, to an extent that the term, "too big to fail," became acceptable terminology. Through repetition, the phrase evolved into an affirmation, and the insanity of its meaning escaped inquisitive common sense.
These consolidations inevitably affected all areas of media and resulted in the formation of gigantic entertainment and culture empires with some subsidiaries masquerading as news companies. In today's media sovereignties, the term, "journalism," no longer applies to any performance or occupation preoccupying their employees. Their commissions have dissolved into endeavors that would more appropriately be called, "celebrity reporting." The writers and talking heads have themselves become celebrities, and the objects of their reports are celebrities created by the media conglomerates. The "star" making machines are profitable cogs for their masters.
Whether the celebrities are the Hollywood version, the corporate executive edition or the latest political rendition, the pandering dialogue is neither inquisitive nor analytical. Whether addressing business or politics, our media has become boringly consistent and vacuous as if every news program or publication was its own adaptation of People magazine. Pretty pictures passing by, saying nothing, providing no insight or truth, but shouting, "look at me, I am a trademark."
It may be some time before we recover from the lack of analysis into the ideological games that were played by politicians manipulating the levers of influence that created the housing bubble. Not one member of the Administration, present or previous, nor any member of Congress, has been purposefully brought to task by anyone in the mainstream media. We have not benefitted from any vigorous investigate reporting on the creation of the financial fiasco currently being endured and creating stress for all taxpayers. Where are our 21st Century versions of Woodward and Bernstein? The few who attempt such efforts are independent, and considered marginal. Their labors bear little fruit. If the mainstream media doesn't pick up the story, its likelihood of gaining traction is minimal at best.
It is fortunate that the internet's pervasive presence provides ample sources for those who wish to research. While there are stimulating ideas coming out of the blogosphere, expecting great things from the net now appears to be misguided. The influential web sites also need advertisers. They rush to attract more eyes than the next, and in so doing, only join the ranks of the irrelevant, ratings obsessed, mainstream media.
The time has come for the phrase, "too big to succeed," to take effect, and become entrenched in our vocabulary, particularly as it relates to members of The Fourth Estate. We need to clamor for a refurbishing of the fourth pillar so necessary in the sustenance of a healthy democracy. The accelerating polarization being perpetrated on society by the entertainment and culture industry posing as, "news," must be reversed, before we return to a state similar to pre-revolutionary France where the Three Estates considered were the Aristocracy, the Clergy, and the People. However, the People had no say in the allocation of their tax money once it was collected.
James Raider writes The Pacific Gate Post