and Society Tripe - and medieval media claptrap
A Senior Editor of the Lake House
press referred to the description of ''fourth estate'' last week
at a Law and Society Trust sponsored seminar as "medieval rhetoric.''
(It is on tape courtesy Trans Asia.)
rhetoric' description from a state-controlled-press scribe came
when this writer said that "a free independent press generally
referred to as the Fourth Estate is considered one of the pillars
of an efficient functioning democracy.'' Which of course it is.
Fourth Estate was coined by Lord Macaulay in 1828 because of the
importance the members of the press played as a political force.
He described the gallery of the House of Commons in which reporters
sit, as the 'fourth estate of the realm.' The traditional three
estates being the lords spiritual, the lords temporal and the commons.
In the modern sense the three are Judiciary, Executive and Legislature.
The recognition of the importance of the media is reflected in our
Constitution. Section 16 (1) of our Constitution enshrines in our
Bill of Rights. The section states it categorically that this freedom
of expression includes "
freedom of the press and other
." (Professor Kader Asmal speaking to the Foreign
Correspondents in Johannesburg.)
In the modern
sense therefore, the four estates are Executive, Judiciary and Legislature,
followed by the Fourth Estate, the press.
the years, the press has become so powerful that it has soon acquired
unique status of "Fourth Estate". It is supposed to play
a key role and a crucial role of a watchdog, to see that the other
three institutions legislature, Executive, Judiciary function fairly
within the constitutional framework and serve the people for whose
welfare they were created.'' (Justice K. J. Reddy, inaugural function
of the India First Foundation.'')
The term Fourth
Estate, coined in the 19th century -- is by no means medieval rhetoric
-- and is, as the above quotes show, a term that connotes in no
uncertain terms that the press, as Fourth Estate, is one pillar
of a democratic state, next to the Judiciary the Executive and the
Legislature. This is why, Mr blissfully-ignorant-scribe, the press
is called the Fourth Estate, and not the Fifteenth estate or the
Twentieth estate for instance.
This then is
the trouble with today's NGO sponsored Media Democracy and Human
Rights champions, who do not know the fundamentals of what they
are talking about, and have to write copious and pompous papers
to make claims such as "pronouncements by the media about its
role in society is replete with claims about fulfilling a vital
function in democratic society.''
It is not a
new claim - this claim by the media that it is fulfilling a vital
function in democratic society. Copious papers do not have to be
written about it, because, even though the paper presenters, with
all they get from the NGO gravy train and their ingratiating sponsors
don't know it -- the fact is that the press has fundamentally and
for long been regarded as (see above) the fourth pillar of a functioning
So is it impolite
to say what I am saying about today's NGO culture of spurious advocacy
of Human Rights Democracy etc., through allies and fellow travellers
who are on the gravy train? Whose hypocrisy in advocating human
rights while they collude with the state in repressing these same
rights through the press, is only exceeded by their lack of knowledge
about what democratic freedoms are? What crime have we committed
to listen to these people and their declarations on Media and Human
Rights, when they do not know (repeat do not even know) what the
Fourth Estate is or is supposed to stand for?
No, it is not
impolite to talk about this kind of NGO absurd-theatre. Mark Twain
understood that mere recitation of facts was not enough - the news
needs some attitude: He said (of course in the American context.)
"Our newspapers have one peculiarity--it is American--their
irreverence . . . They are irreverent toward pretty much everything,
but where they laugh one good king to death, they laugh a thousand
cruel and infamous shams into the grave, and the account is squared.
Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only sure defense.''
This is why
we need to be irreverent of (and laugh to the grave) the sham NGO
culture of championing Media and Human Rights. A culture which almost
demands our reverence.
at the said Seminar chided this writer for saying something about
kept-press free media hypocrites. "This is not what we want''
she began to say. Who cares what you want?
was about Media Democracy and Human Rights, and that's what is wanted
and what should be talked about, in no uncertain terms , not the
self-serving claptrap that the obscenely rapacious and incestuous
NGO community wants for itself.
Next time the
NGO community wants to insult seminar goers with this kind of tripe
from the panel ("Fourth estate is medieval rhetoric'') they
might as well announce that this is an exercise by NGO hacks ---
of the NGOs for the NGOs and by the NGOs. It has nothing to do with
democracy and media and human rights.
When the ''medieval
rhetoric'' absurdity was challenged, the panellist had the temerity
to say that the Fourth Estate concept is not enshrined in the constitution.
That's wrong by far. Our constitution (like the South African constitution,
see quote above), guarantees in Article 14 (1) (a) The Freedom of
Speech and Expression including Publication. That revelation might
be too much for our panellist. But he still couldn't accept that
the Fourth Estate is the fourth pillar of a democratic state - -
its the watchdog in the organic democratic symbiosis that
ensures that the other three pillars coexist. It has always been
considered so in democracies, as the above quotes show in abundance.
Here is one more quote to rub it in: "Freedom of expression
and information, as you may be aware, is the cornerstone of democracy
in this country. The Fourth Estate, along with the Executive, Legislature
and Judiciary, hold up the great edifice that is the Democratic
Republic of India and, in order to do so, requires to function in
an exemplarily free and fair manner.'' (Pamela Phillipose Indian
Now our spurious
NGO champions and their panellists want to stand this centuries
old wisdom on its head, and what's more in the name of Human Rights
Media and Democracy at that. Mark Twain was right.
The press needs
not only to be irreverent, but also to tell these spurious NGO charlatans
and their sponsors exactly where to get off.