|“The [Roman] Colosseum could hold, it is estimated, between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators, having an average audience of some 65,000; it was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles (for only a short time as the hypogeum was soon filled in with mechanisms to support the other activities), animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology.”
Long before shock-DJ Trump shouted “fake news” in a crowded theater of the absurd, and long before he did his Captain Renault in “Casablanca” impression, “I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” [a croupier hands Renault a pile of money],” there was a Fourth Estate aka news media and the press.
Assumed to be providing objective journalistic checks&balances, a look back will show how this is not quite the truth. The phrase “fourth estate” is an addition to the “estates of the realm” which were “the broad orders of social hierarchy used in Christendom (Christian Europe) from the medieval period to early modern Europe. Different systems for dividing society members into estates developed and evolved over time. The best known system is the French Ancien Régime (Old Regime), a three-estate system used until the French Revolution (1789–1799). This system was made up of clergy (the First Estate), aristocracy (the Second Estate), and commoners (the Third Estate).” The latter were “divided into two groups, urban and rural, together making up 98% of France's population.” Sound % familiar?!
A far cry from democratic, calling it the “fourth estate” implies that it exists to report on a rigged system, a system of domination akin to the Doctrine of Christian Discovery that led to the genocide of an estimated 90-95% of the Native Peoples of Turtle Island, beginning with Columbus circa 1492. This isn't to say that there has not been or isn't any journalism/media that does its job, rather that the basic structure of the fourth estate is built on an historically and etymologically traceable premise of de-humanization.
A brief look at the etymology of “estates of the realm” shows the Colosseum arena mindset of the corporate media. “Realm” essentially means that the “kingdom rules,” and “estate” is a land-based “social position of the aristocracy,” again akin to the Doctrine of Christian Discovery which appropriated Native lands in the name of God Inc., a premise still affecting the US legal system to this day, as witness the brutality the corporate-state has 'legally' wielded against the water-protectors of the Missouri River, a brutality that ignores treaty rights, an Orwellian brutality where the innocent are attacked and arrested, a hypocritical brutality condoned by corporate media with their lack of as well as false reporting.
Fourth estate corporate media is a media of domination, reporting on events as if giving the play-by-play at the Colosseum where opposing forces slug it out for survivor status; it's a duality-based mindset, with the 'outsider' media commentators (like scientists testing mice or biology teachers showing how to pick-apart a frog) reaping the advertisement rewards as they cash in on the latest spectacle, bloody or otherwise.
In the US there is the understanding that the fourth estate should be the referee of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government. As the build-up to the invasion of and subsequent genocidal atrocities in Iraq clearly showed, the corporate media is anything but objective. In his spot-on, rousing talk, the esteemed journalist and documentary filmmaker John Pilger tells how “professional journalism” is in the business of “normalizing the unthinkable.” Thus the average reader/viewer will at least once a day emotionally gloss over reports of the modern variations of “gladiatorial contests, animal hunts, executions.”
The TV media's digitally-theatrical spectacle that preceded the war on Iraq and ignored the false reasoning subsequently led to a reported one-million deaths, plus the poisoning of land, air, and water. And this was massive insult to massive injury from the 1990's Security Council/Clinton administration sanctions (because Iraq invaded Kuwait) of which “Iraq experienced shortages of food, medicine, and clean drinking water. And a 1995 Lancet study sponsored by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization concluded that 576,000 children under the age of five perished because of the policy, while a “conservative” estimate put the death toll for the same age group at 350,000. … In a now-infamous 60 Minutes interview in May 1996, Leslie Stahl questioned [then Secretary of State Madeleine] Albright about the policy. “We have heard that a half million children have died,” the veteran journalist said. “I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Albright responded, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.”
But all this is never mourned at 9-11 memorials. Rather it is a product of what Pilger calls “war by journalism.”
And what's happened in Afghanistan, where at least there was a suspicion of finding bin Laden? According to Mark Curtis' heavily footnoted book, “Secret Affairs: Britain's Collusion with Radical Islam,” 2009-10 reports indicate: “Despite billions of dollars in aid allocated to Afghanistan in recent years, development is meagre as a third of the population goes hungry and 73 per cent have no access to safe drinking water.” And “Civilian casualties from the fighting have risen every year since 2001, and the number of deaths was estimated by the UN to be nearly 9,000 up to the end of 2010.”
The medium is a messenger
It is fascinating that the clergy was at one time considered the first estate because the word media has its roots in “medium,” as in a “person who conveys spiritual messages.” Ever notice how you'd be hard-pressed to find anything spiritual in the media? Though I'm admittedly not a big fan, I admire that the likes of Oprah Winfrey have at least added some spiritual topics to the discussion.
Perhaps the hook is not realizing that those who comprise the corporate media are generally not people who, out of the kindness of their hearts and deeply caring about the world and Mother Nature, are genuinely informing the viewer – rather they are purveyors of a product, a brand. Which reminds me... “We need somebody that can take the brand of the United States and make it great again. It's not great again.” That quote (including the latter phase's time-warp grammar) is from shock-DJ Trump's June 2016 speech announcing his presidential bid.
John Pilger's above cited talk further explains that “corporate journalism” came about on the heels of Edward Bernays' PR manipulations some 80 years ago when corporate advertising took over the press and “professional journalism” was invented to attract big advertisers. Pilger adds that, “the mythology of liberal neutrality was spun around the professional journalist” and the current media is “dominated by governments and other establishment interests, that's the essence of professional journalism.”
In the words of Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch in the 1976 film “Network”:
“We deal in illusions, man. None of it is true! But you people sit there day after day, night after night, all ages, colors, creeds. We're all you know. You're beginning to believe the illusions we're spinning here. You're beginning to think that the tube is reality and that your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you. You dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube. You even think like the tube. This is mass madness. You maniacs. In God's name, you people are the real thing. We are the illusion.”Some forty years later, what's to be done? The title of this essay is a genericized way to encourage people to digest world events from another paradigm besides Gladiator Survivor “You're fired!” I could be more specific and give you the typical pep talk about talking with friends, family, neighbors, people at the cafe, and so forth, or how it is wise to spend time looking for other news sources and investigative journalists who report what's actually happening after talking with people at the scene, or that it is a good idea to read honorably researched books that truly analyze situations to the root-causes – but instead I will venture that even then you won't get the full story because it may be lacking emotion.
So I suggest, as the word-root of “media” indicates, that in order to think and feel outside the Colosseum and otherwise outsmart the propaganda peddlers that you seek out people who “convey spiritual messages” and by that I mean wise beings, groups of people, and virtually anyone (including the likes of trees) who will give you a different angle, a different feeling.
The media is not the message (to paraphrase Marshall McLuhan) when it comes from the likes of American Broadcasting Colosseum, National Broadcasting Colosseum, Colosseum Broadcasting System, Colosseum News Network, Comcast, News Corp, Time-Warner, Disney, Vivendi, Bertelsmann, Sony, and other corporate behemoths whose views of how the world should be are transmitted not just through TV and Internet news but magazines, newspapers, publishing houses, films, movie and sports channels, video games, and more.
“In 1841, Thomas Carlyle wrote, “Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.” 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.”
It seems initially that there was good intent in keeping tabs on political decision making, albeit within a framework of domination of land and people.
If videotapes went out of style, why can't fake news?
Does the current media of domination have the pixeled balls to break free from colluding with and/or parroting the warmongering, resource-extracting agenda? Or will it be up to the populace, by paying less and less attention to the branded product, to eventually pull the plug?
2. Estates of the realm
3. “The World is a Stage" - John Pilger
4. “When Iraq Was Clinton’s War”
5. Serpent's Tail, 2010, 2012, p. 334.
6. “Here's Donald Trump's Presidential Announcement Speech”
7. Fourth Estate
Mankh (Walter E. Harris III) is an essayist and resident poet on Axis of Logic. In addition to his work as a writer, he is a small press publisher and Turtle Islander. His recent books include “Musings With The Golden Sparrow” and “Drive-thru Theofascism & The Hero's Journey.”
To read his new blog, go to ScribeVibe.
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