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The Monopoly of Knowledge Creation and the Illusion of Choice

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The monopoly of knowledge creation brings with it an illusion of choice, which is a major factor behind the massive upset or disappointment at the results of the U.S. presidential election.

This elections has left most of the world--not just Americans--in a stupor of disbelief at the sweeping victory by Donald Trump. Why is this so? Because majority of the human family who have access to the news media are discipled by it. In Asia, Africa and across the globe, many are disappointed at the results because the news media and polls reported in favour of Clinton while demonizing Trump but in reality revealed something else.

What happened and why are so many disenchanted and/or confused? This is the subject this piece will attempt to interrogate.

I am neither a North American nor a supporter of either of its two major parties. I am simply a global citizen who is interested in happenings in the government, governance and leadership spaces in our world. The just-ended presidential election is of particular interest to me because it was historic, game-changing and filled with many lessons in the aforementioned spaces of interest, which I will cover in subsequent papers.

This election and the subsequent results have unearthed the current architecture of global-governance infrastructure and the systems that run on them. The current world order was set in place after World War 2.

Today we'll discuss the news media and its role in the global upset of this decade. We will look at its role in the just-ended US presidential elections.

What is the Fourth Estate?

The news media is sometimes known as the Fourth Estate. What does this mean? According to Wikipedia:

"Fourth Estate" most commonly refers to the news media, especially print journalism or "the press". Thomas Carlyle attributed the origin of the term to Edmund Burke, who used it in a parliamentary debate in 1787 on the opening up of press reporting of the House of Commons of Great Britain.

What specifically did Carlyle say? He wrote:

Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters' Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important than they all. It is not a figure of speech, or a witty saying; it is a literal fact, ... Printing, which comes necessarily out of Writing, I say often, is equivalent to Democracy: invent Writing, Democracy is inevitable ... Whoever can speak, speaking now to the whole nation, becomes a power, a branch of government, with inalienable weight in lawmaking, in all acts of authority. It matters not what rank he has, what revenues or garnitures: the requisite thing is that he have a tongue which others will listen to; this and nothing more is requisite.

--Carlyle (1905) pp.349-350

Burke understood the immense influence that reporters have--so much so he equated their work to a branch of government with inalienable weight in lawmaking, in all acts of authority. And yet many will argue that this is the only branch of government that under big-brother government goes largely unregulated because speech must be "free".

The Fourth Estate stands for the fourth 'power' that checks and counterbalances the three state 'powers', namely the executive, legislature and judiciary. But the question is who balances their unfettered power and authority?

Role of the Fourth Estate

The Fourth Estate is depicted as the people's watchdog. To be effective as a watchdog, it is commonly assumed that the news media must be independent of the state. In other words, it can only act as a watchdog by a free-market organization of the news media. It is also commonly assumed that news media is concerned with rational debate and, for this to transpire, it must not only be independent of national governments but also of their owners who may at times operate as transnational entities. The news media is not only accorded the role of watchdog but also as a civic forum and agenda setter--speaking truth to power.

The question though is who speaks truth to the new media? They shape public opinion but who shapes theirs?

Politicasters and the Fourth Estate

Because of the power they wield, the owners of these news-media outlets are sometimes more powerful than presidents. The next sections will capture why. And because politicasters know and understand the power of the new media to shape the perception and public opinion, they form alliances with these owners who have influence in their organizations. It is an age-old truth that "he who pays the piper calls the tune" and this is certainly true for the news media. Owners call shots. And majority of the news media are owned by a few families with close ties to politicasters.

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