Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Fifth Estate

There is a trailer showing now for a soon-to-open film titled The Fifth Estate.  I knew the term but for the life of me couldn’t remember why, or what significance it might have for today’s culture.  I told Mary that I thought the Fourth Estate was the press, but couldn’t remember what the first Three were.  We set off on our respective quests: me, to Google and Wikipedia (to which I contribute by the way), and she to the dictionary in our family room, a wedding present of 53 years, which is used almost every day.

She came up with a definition of the Fourth estate as being scientists.  I came up with the Fourth being indeed the press, but the first Three?

A complete surprise!

Parliament
Turns out the term was coined by Thomas Carlyle who paraphrased Edmond Burke commenting on a change in Parliament procedure that would allow the public to know what was going on in their government by letting the press attend sessions.  The press was termed the Fourth Estate; the first three being respectively, the Clergy, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons.  Prior to 1787, although the public had a say as to who represented them, they had no knowledge as to how well they did so.

William Randolph Hearst
Almost immediately the more liberal United States embraced the concept.  The press was tremendously influential in our politics, as evidenced in the Jingoism and Isolationist fervor surrounding the Spanish-American War.  Influence continued, as did the awareness of the value of the press in garnering public support for Executive agenda.  The press began to flex its political muscle with the rise of William Randolph Hearst, who moved into the large American cities and started what was called “yellow journalism”.  His power began to be used by political machines such as Tammany Hall to unify support from mostly new immigrants.

By the time I became interested in journalism, the press’s political influence was being edged aside by that of science, since the Cold War and the fear of The Bomb were making the populace concerned with the race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union for science mastery: hence Mary’s definition as to what constituted the Fourth Estate.
Julian Assange

Whoever chose the title for the film that explores the rather convoluted and interesting life of Julian Assange made an apt change.  The creator of WikiLeaks has certainly brought the influence of the press into perspective by morphing into what Social Media brings to the table.  Of all the changes we see in the print media: movement toward online reading, streaming, podcasts, news on demand, Yelp-like critical comment, and content condensation, none would seem to have gained more power faster than sharing information in a real-time manner.

Whether in the populist “spring” movements, Facebook and Twitter political influence, the whys and wherefores of drone attacks, or negotiating through the media, as we watch argument about debt ceilings and the ACA, there is no doubt that social media such as WikiLeaks have a profound effect on the political scene, not the least being how money is raised.
Benedict Cumberbatch

As one who has no dog in the fight, I am content to watch from the sidelines and marvel at the pace of change around me.  I am anxious to see what Benedict Cumberbatch does with the role.  I have been very pleased with what he did to reinvent Sherlock Holmes.

My next post is going to touch on a subject without being salacious: a STD.  Curious?  Come visit.

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