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Revolt Against the Fourth Estate

In the feudal era there were the “three estates”—the clergy, the nobility, and the commons. The first and second were eradicated in Robespierre’s Revolution. But in the 18th and 19th century, Edmund Burke and Thomas Carlyle identified what the latter called a “stupendous Fourth Estate.”

Wrote William Thackeray: “Of the Corporation of the Goosequill — of the Press … of the fourth estate. … There she is — the great engine — she never sleeps. She has her ambassadors in every quarter of the world — her courtiers upon every road. Her officers march along with armies, and her envoys walk into statesmen’s cabinets.”

The fourth estate, the press, the disciples of Voltaire, had replaced the clergy it had dethroned as the new arbiters of morality and rectitude. Today the press decides what words are permissible and what thoughts are acceptable. The press conducts the inquisitions where heretics are blacklisted and excommunicated from the company of decent men, while others are forgiven if they recant their heresies.

With the rise of network television and its vast audience, the fourth estate reached apogee in the 1960s and 1970s, playing lead roles in elevating JFK and breaking Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.

Yet before he went down, Nixon inflicted deep and enduring wounds upon the fourth estate. When the national press and its auxiliaries sought to break his Vietnam War policy in 1969, Nixon called on the “great silent majority” to stand by him and dispatched Vice President Spiro Agnew to launch a counter-strike on network prejudice and power.

A huge majority rallied to Nixon and Agnew, exposing how far out of touch with America our Lords Spiritual and Lords Temporal had become. Nixon, the man most hated by the elites in the postwar era, save Joe McCarthy, who also detested and battled the press, then ran up a 49-state landslide against the candidate of the media and counter-culture, George McGovern. Media bitterness knew no bounds.

And with Watergate, the press extracted its pound of flesh. By August 1974, it had reached a new apex of national prestige.

In The Making of the President 1972, Teddy White described the power the “adversary press” had acquired over America’s public life.

The power of the press in America is a primordial one. It sets the agenda of public discussion, and this sweeping political power is unrestrained by any law. It determines what people will talk and think about — an authority that in other nations is reserved for tyrants, priests, parties and mandarins.

Nixon and Agnew were attacked for not understanding the First Amendment freedom of the press. But all they were doing was using their First Amendment freedom of speech to raise doubts about the objectivity, reliability and truthfulness of the adversary press.

Since those days, conservatives have attacked the mainstream media attacking them. And four decades of this endless warfare has stripped the press of its pious pretense to neutrality. Millions now regard the media as ideologues who are masquerading as journalists and use press privileges and power to pursue agendas not dissimilar to those of the candidates and parties they oppose.

Even before Nixon and Agnew, conservatives believed this. At the Goldwater convention at the Cow Palace in 1964 when ex-President Eisenhower mentioned “sensation-seeking columnists and commentators,” to his amazement, the hall exploded.

thisarticleappears janfeb16 [1]Enter The Donald.

His popularity is traceable to the fact that he rejects the moral authority of the media, breaks their commandments, and mocks their condemnations. His contempt for the norms of Political Correctness is daily on display. And that large slice of America that detests a media whose public approval now rivals that of Congress, relishes this defiance. The last thing these folks want Trump to do is to apologize to the press.

And the media have played right into Trump’s hand.

They constantly denounce him as grossly insensitive for what he has said about women, Mexicans, Muslims, McCain, and a reporter with a disability. Such crimes against decency, says the press, disqualify Trump as a candidate for president.

Yet, when they demand he apologize, Trump doubles down. And when they demand that Republicans repudiate him, the GOP base replies:

Who are you to tell us whom we may nominate? You are not friends. You are not going to vote for us. And the names you call Trump — bigot, racist, xenophobe, sexist — are the names you call us, nothing but cuss words that a corrupt establishment uses on those it most detests.

What the Trump campaign reveals is that, to populists and Republicans, the political establishment and its media arm are looked upon the way the commons and peasantry of 1789 looked upon the ancien regime and the king’s courtiers at Versailles.

Yet, now that the fourth estate is as discredited as the clergy in 1789, the larger problem is that there is no arbiter of truth, morality, and decency left whom we all respect. Like 4th-century Romans, we barely agree on what those terms mean anymore.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority. [2] Copyright 2015 Creators.com.

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15 Comments To "Revolt Against the Fourth Estate"

#1 Comment By libertarian jerry On December 4, 2015 @ 12:21 am

Well said Pat. And for the shining of the light on the bias of the Mainstream Media,which is controlled by 5 or 6 Media Moguls,we can thank the enormous growth of the 21st Century version of the Gutenberg Press….the Internet. For it is the Internet where more and more people learn all the facts that lead to the critical thinking that defies what the Main Stream Media wants people to think.

#2 Comment By Illierati On December 4, 2015 @ 6:42 am

I see all this is true and somehow at the same time we see the Republicans acting insanely, threatening the entire world economy with a US default, enforcing a denial of climate change that is unique in the world and threatens all our futures, making up facts that would lead to a war with iran.

Through all of these the press has taken a ‘views differ’ aproach in an attempt to be ‘balanced’ and not call craziness and lies what they are. How can all these things be true? I cant help but think the only answer is the level of crazy in the american right is higher than a Brit could comprehend.

#3 Comment By Johan On December 4, 2015 @ 7:55 am

The media put a higher value on egalitarian ideology than on public safety and well being, hence the pro-immigration obsession. I love it that Trump has the opposite priorities.

#4 Comment By Lee On December 4, 2015 @ 10:43 am

Illierati makes a good point. Most of the time I avoid taking a look at mainstream news, do not watch movies or television…cut the cable over a decade ago.

During those times when media exposure is un-avoidable, or curiosity gets the best of me. I have a very low tolerance for the sensation of watching a bunch of stark raving lunatics. Even catching a few minutes of an Awards show or sitcom makes my skin crawl like walking through an asylum that offers no support to the mentally ill.

I haven’t voted since 1992, but like several others I know…we just might register long enough to go cast a ballot for Trump. The only thing the Donald needs to do to make us happy, is to continue beating the bees news with a stick.

I as others had given up on the US Government representing anyone’s interest, excepting their own…a long time ago.

#5 Comment By Clint On December 4, 2015 @ 10:52 am

If other GOP candidates want to draw voters they can witness how Trump takes on The Mainstream Media and their PC Agenda and shoves it in their faces.
It appears that in recent GOP debates those GOP candidates who slammed back at their Media “Gotcha Questions” inquisitors, attracted voters in the following polls.

Polls show that around 4 in 10 Americans trust The Media.

Lesson: Hammer back at The Media and attract American voters.

#6 Comment By Jay Jeffries On December 4, 2015 @ 1:25 pm

This is, unfortunately, true. Thanks to Nixon & his dishonest dealings with the American people via Watergate, the press views candidates with an air of “let’s find the dirt”; candidates now openly despise the media, culminating in dimwit Sarah Palin coining the phrase “the lame-stream media”. Sadly, this now allows someone as shifty, dishonest and crude as Donald Trump to act in a completely un-Presidential manner with impunity. We’re definitely the poorer for it…

#7 Comment By bacon On December 4, 2015 @ 1:50 pm

Mr. Buchanan is nothing if not consistent – consistently right in his views on US foreign involvement, just as consistently, reflexively wrong on domestic issues. The media, to use a broader but probably more contemporary word than “press”, may be all the things he accuses it of being, but the right has media outlets just as effective as the left and both sides shine light on dark places in our society. Look at treatment of the media in Egypt, China, North Korea, Russia. For all repressive governments, suppression of anything like a free press is a major concern. Our media may be irritating, arrogant, self-congratulatory, insert your preferred derogatory term here, but they render a vital service to society.

As an aside, I don’t know how Mr. Buchanan sees himself, but my view of him is formed by reading his work in TAC and other magazines and newspapers and by seeing him on television. He is by any reasonable definition a member of the media.

#8 Comment By Majumder On December 4, 2015 @ 2:52 pm

“The last thing these folks want Trump to do is to apologize to the press.”

Sir,

Last night in a few Republican radio talk-shows I heard absolute denunciation of D.J. Trump’s candidacy for Republican Party nomination!

What was Mr. Trump’s latest offense?

I heard so many Republican talk-show hosts claiming that Mr. Trump did not talk and act like a staunch supporter of the Jewish State of Israel in Middle East during a Republican Jewish Coalition meeting yesterday.

When I questioned a local academic why it is important for Mr. Trump to be a staunch ally of Israel before any Republican Party primary actually takes place next year when, in fact, 64% American Jewish voters voted for our current Democrat president in the White House during 2012 presidential election.

The local academic replied that, without 100% allegiance to the Jewish State in Middle East no Republican primary candidate has ever won the Republican Party nomination.

#9 Comment By EliteCommInc. On December 4, 2015 @ 3:07 pm

“Through all of these the press has taken a ‘views differ’ aproach in an attempt to be ‘balanced’ and not call craziness and lies what they are. How can all these things be true? I cant help but think the only answer is the level of crazy in the american right is higher than a Brit could comprehend.”

I think your comments make Mr. Buchanan’s point. I am not sure what news programming you are stenin to, but a fair and balanced rendering on the issues you reference has never been attempted by the mainstream press corps. And I mean not ever.

Mr. Stoessell’s programming views long since dismissed from the mainstream has repeatedly challenged the global warming and the other liberal pet peeves that have little or no scientific veracity, but a lot of bull horns.

Challenge them and what one gets is a commentary such as yours full of name calling, character assisination and little if any direct refutation of the issues.

and this,

“I see all this is true and somehow at the same time we see the Republicans acting insanely, threatening the entire world economy with a US default,”

Apparently, you missed the singular fact that the US has created it’s own potential default, by borrowing and spending more money that it has avaiable. If anything, the current batch of Republicans have ben all to happy to joing democrats and the mainsteam media in continuing the practice, often accompanied by the scare tactics, you have conveniently provided.

What has created any press to a US default is our unbalnced financial sheet. We are foolishly following the South American banking Basel I and II to ruin. I would prefer we avoid our European exemplars of this financial progrom.

But you have made Mr. Buchanan’s case quite. Let me guess, I am a stupid, neantherdahl, who can’t comprehend the complex mechanisms of ecpnomic systems or climate.

#10 Comment By Emilio On December 4, 2015 @ 6:57 pm

The nobility wasn’t eradicated, it turned into the industrialized corporate elite. They never lose their power and want to make us slaves again, now through consumerism. I like the idea that the real product is the audience, we are being packaged and cataloged, not the endless parade of soaps and big screen TVs and video games, interrupted by sitcoms and news and reality shows and other laxatives masquerading as product. Their greatest product is me, the consumer, and I’m the one being consumed. It’s cannibalism, which is probably why Lee gets that sickening feeling I myself get.

That’s an interesting insight about the fourth estate having overtaken the defunct clergy as moral arbiters, but I don’t think that development is fully formed yet. The clergy still carry some moral weight, and there is competition from elsewhere as well. Maybe the fourth estate–media and journalism–is largely the same as before, a collection of busybodies and gadflies and polemicists yakking about everything under the sun. But as far as what’s measurably different, the most significant thing that changed about the clergy from two or three centuries ago is that they no longer have a stranglehold on education, especially higher education. Long before the rise of the fourth estate, a churchman and a man of letters were usually one and the same. There were few, if any, realistic avenues for developed learning but through the sieve of the church. So maybe the new moral arbiters of truth are less the journalists, and more the liberal scientific elite who write our social science and hard science textbooks. Journalists aren’t serious enough to be a lasting source of a new moral arbitration worthy of the second estate’s legacy. They are probably just conduits.

Maybe that’s why I don’t see the Trump phenomenon as very significant. I think he’s as shallow as the average journalist, with about as much staying power (in politics).

#11 Comment By Emilio On December 4, 2015 @ 7:18 pm

Journalists aren’t serious enough to be a lasting source of a new moral arbitration worthy of the _first_ estate’s legacy, I meant to say.

#12 Comment By AJ On December 4, 2015 @ 9:39 pm

“Yet, now that the fourth estate is as discredited as the clergy in 1789, the larger problem is that there is no arbiter of truth, morality, and decency left whom we all respect. Like 4th-century Romans, we barely agree on what those terms mean anymore.”

No arbiter of the truth? Are you forgetting alternative media, of which TAC is one, and that this very article is a case in point? 😉

#13 Comment By ADM64 On December 4, 2015 @ 11:09 pm

A good, eloquent article. There are many issues I don’t agree with Mr. Buchanan on but I’m fully with him on this.

#14 Comment By Ronald Keeperman On December 5, 2015 @ 5:46 am

The keynote “not dissimilar to those they oppose” is for me a universal truth. Left, center, and right Cookie Monsters abound and “Political Correctness” itself an oxymoron a driving force of personal and class dishonesty. The “estates” are in the end quite singular, for there is only one that awaits us all. That piece of real estate where great minds congregate.

#15 Comment By Rostale On December 5, 2015 @ 10:50 am

“Millions now regard the media as ideologues who are masquerading as journalists ”

If you look earlier on in history, you will see the entire idea of “fair and objective” journalist as an artificial creation.

Before the fairness doctrine it was generally assumed that a news source was representing a viewpoint and not merely presenting facts in an unbiased manner. It was only because of the fairness doctrine that people started to think that journalists were neutral observers, with the fairness doctrine removed, we have now returned to the state of affairs where it is well known that news sources are all biased and advancing an agenda.