In the United States, the First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, along with other essential freedoms:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Why is freedom of the press enumerated separately from freedom of speech, as all the press really serves as is a medium for voices expressing their speech, freely?
Justice Potter Stewart, who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court from 1958 to 1981, had this to say on the matter: “That the First Amendment speaks separately of freedom of speech and freedom of the press is no constitutional accident, but an acknowledgment of the critical role played by the press in American society. The Constitution requires sensitivity to that role, and to the special needs of the press in performing it effectively.”
Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Richard Price, “wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”
Without an independent media, a non-traditional fifth estate expressing a range of opinions, our electorate cannot be said to be “well informed.” Americans need a range of views and opinions, a wide array of ideas and perspectives. From all this, truth may be determined.
Of course, the fourth estate refers to the traditional press and media outlets, and the fifth estate really means those news sources considered less mainstream, more willing to “go out on a limb,” as it were, in deviating from the standards script. These “smaller” voices have greater latitude in expressing unpopular or outlier views.
In Europe, the three estates of the realm referred to the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners. Thomas Carlyle penned a description of the fourth estate that explains the reality of the situation in his book entitled On Heroes and Hero Worship: “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.”
So, what happens when the fourth estate moves in lockstep, spouting the exact same propaganda, verbatim? What happens when the fourth estate criticizes the fifth estate, the only voices unbound by economic or social arrangement to report this way or that? Can such yet rightly be considered to even be news media any longer?
If this situation obtains, we are left in a dangerous situation, a curious arrangement worthy of examination.
Presently, this is, in fact, the prevailing reality in these United States, as our mainstream news services seem to be unanimous in their position, even using the same exact words.
In the accompanying video clip, it’s clear that out major media establishments now speak with one voice. What we are witnessing is disturbing on many levels; it’s ironic that this chorus of voices speaks in unison, not deviating from the script by a single word. To borrow from their own (a questionable descriptor) words, “this is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”
What follows is a transcript, in part, of their “important message” to the American people:
“we are concerned about…one sided news stories plaguing our country…the sharing of biased and false news has become all to common on social media. More alarming, some media outlets publish these stories as true without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the media use these platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda and agenda to control exactly what people think and this is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”
Staten Islander believes all voices should be heard, and not just those speaking loudest, or part of the largest group. True; some ideas may be outlandish, some opinions may be fraught with error, but it’s up to the American public to decide what is what. We have faith that our fellow constituents are up to the task; there’s no reason to spoon-feed pablum to the masses as though people cannot think for themselves.
This is a dangerous trend and the public should be aware that the media is failing in its mission to report the news. Speaking with one voice, such is an impossibility. We need to hear as many views as possible, even those unpopular or ludicrous. We at Staten Islander say, “Let the people decide.”