Saturday, November 5, 2011

Occupy Wall Street, Fourth Estate?

The history bug reached out and slapped my face today. I was over at my good friend Rose’s Coffee Shop Blog reading a political cartoon, and in it the bartender asked the question: “How’re you fourth estate guys holding up working with the OWS protesters?” He was of course referring to the reporters holding up with the Occupy Wall Street protesters. The reply was: “We speak truth to power, but the filth, the rapes, the violence…!” The bartender answered; “So, report it” (pause) The answer: “We… Never thought of that”. Bartender: “Truth, powerful stuff”.

I agreed with the cartoon and chuckled a little bit uncomfortably. Although I agreed with the essence of the cartoon, I seriously questioned the right of today’s reporter to be called “The Fourth Estate“. As all of you already know “The Fourth Estate” is thought of as an unofficial branch of government. Or, as something that forms our nations laws or direction. The first three are Executive, Legislative and Judicial.

The term, Fourth Estate, is actually derived from a quote from one of my favorite people in history, Sir Edmond Burke. He uttered the words in 1787 while addressing the British Parliment. (from Wikipedia) “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.” As is often true in history, nobody is sure whether Burke was the first to use the term, or merely copied a phrase, but he understood the meaning well.

Being the Fourth Estate has variously been attributed to lawyers, the common people, or people like the Queen, who really has no power, but can be a strong force in suggesting change. Movements or protesters have often been referred to as the fourth estate. The civil rights movement that was led by Doctor Martin Luther king was a Fourth Estate force for government change.

Growing up in the sixties, I thought of the fourth estate as protest movements, like the Viet Nam war protesters, civil rights protesters, and so forth. Protests around the world by the proletariat (Po’ folk) is often referred to a fourth estate movement. There is even a famous 1901 oil painting of a workers protest in Italy that took place in 1890. The movement, and the title of the painting, was “Il Quarto Stato” (The Fourth Estate)

Even though the original quote by Burke was directed toward the press, it was more so loosely attributed anything that was a force to bring about change, especially in government. So it seems that the expression has come full circle and it belongs to the press again.

Now comes the rub… I think that the protesters deserve the title more than the reporters. Today’s reporters are nothing more than mouthpieces for their corporate sponsors. The true Fourth Estate is the movement that will bring about change. That would be the Occupy Wall Street protesters, not the reporters. The news services seem to be struggling to discredit the protests. While we are on the subject of Edmond Burke, he is also the one that said: "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing".

At this point, I need to make myself completely clear… I disagree with most of what the OWS protesters are doing. They are disorganized and confused, and they have no clear focus. The same could be said about the Tea Party movement to a lesser degree. What I highly approve of is the “grass roots” have realized that something is wrong with America, and they want to be a part of changing it, whether it be OWS, Tea Party, or people like you and I. Hardly anyone would argue that we don’t need jobs. The American workforce is pathetically underutilized. Few people actually understand why we are in the difficult position that we find ourselves in. However, I had a friend who predicted this whole scenario with the collapse of the American economic system. He actually predicted that we would be a “Banana Republic” by 2008. However, he failed to see that the rich would rob the poor by bailing out the stock market, banks, and insurance companies. Not even in all his wisdom did he think that America would stand for that. He also failed to realize the power of the press to convince the average American that, yes indeed we needed to bail out the fat cats or America was dead.

I’m old enough to have seen real history happen and real change come about through demonstrations. Civil rights for the black people have been an issue since the beginning of America. Wise people preached for the abolition of slavery. Many people pointed out how unfair it was to hold a man in slavery. When the black slaves were freed, there was still extreme prejudiced against them, especially in the southern states. Many rallies and demonstrations were held in frustration of the way black people were treated. Most of them were futile and widely denounced as foolish, and ill advised. It wasn’t until a strong leader came forward with a plan to bring about civil rights. Dr. Martin Luther King took charge and focused the civil rights movement. He had a plan of non-violent persistence. No matter how badly his demonstrators wanted to sink to violence, he was able to convince them that non-violence was the path. He had a dream, that all men would be judged by the contend of their character and not the color of their skin. He succeeded in bringing about civil rights for the black people, even beyond his wildest dreams. As you know, there is now a Dr. Martin Luther King memorial in Washington D.C. Most everyone views him as a great man.

The demonstrations on the streets, the last few years, are reminiscent of the first days of the civil rights movement. It smells the same. It smells like hope. Especially the last few months. I anticipate that a leader will step forward and show the demonstrators what they are doing wrong, and how to make to right. I expect this grassroots movement to continue until we finally see change. The good news… I have never seen change that wasn’t for the better!

I’m still rather fond of Capitalism, maybe it was because I was taught that there was an “American Dream”, where if you were honest and worked hard you could succeed. We trusted our government to keep the game fair and the playing field level. We were supposed to be protected against the likes of the Bernie Madofs of the world. I am very fond of even the most extremely rich people in the world. Bill & Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett, and people like Richard Branson deserve nothing but my greatest admiration for the good that they do in the world, and they are very generous with their riches. But… there are greedy evil people amongst the very wealthy, people that don’t care that you don’t have a job, they would ship your job offshore in a heartbeat if it would improve their bottom line. They were taught in business school to make the tough choices. They figured out that if they controlled the media, “The Fourth Estate”, they could choose who gets elected. They have been very effective.  But, beyond my sage friends ability, that predicted the collapse of America, he was unable to see that they would rob the middle class for another round of wealth and bonuses. We are now poised upon the brink again. The stock market whipping wildly up and down is nothing more than the wealthy controlling the stock market, buying low and selling high. If the market doesn’t move, nobody makes any money… Hmmm. Maybe a great leader will step forward. Maybe we can actually elect people that represent us. The government no longer does that.
“He who wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.” Edmond Burke

I know, as a consumer, you are required to get the most that you can for your money. If you need to shop at Walmart to stretch your dollar, and feed and clothes your kids, you should do that. That is simple family economics. BUT, if there were import tariffs on countries that don’t meet standards of fairness to the American worker, we would ALL be working and we would all be getting paid better. But, it is the job of our government t keep the balance of trade fair. Maybe you see things differently, but here are the facts. Lets use China for an example. The 12 year old kid that made your shoes, probably works 12 hours a day for very little. Only top communist party officials make good money. The magnificent new cities, that are being financed by the American dollar, are not for their workers, they are for the top party officials. They get their electrical power from a huge dam built across The Three Gorges. That dam is the equivalent of damming the Golden Gate and flooding the Sacramento Valley. They did it all without a permit. Can we do that in America? Would we allow it? Should we allow it? Heck no! So why do we buy Chinese products? Just because they are cheap? No, it’s because our government does not protect our markets from their unfair completion. The last point about China, is that they manipulate their money, to be valued lower than the dollar. So, that makes their products automatically cheaper, but it keeps dollars flowing to their shores.

So, I have great hopes that these grass roots movements will succeed in bringing forth a great leader.

“People crushed by law, have no hopes but from power. If laws are their enemies, they will be enemies to laws; and those who have much to hope and nothing to lose, will always be dangerous.”
Edmond Burke


Ernie Branscomb said...

Now, stop complaining that I haven't posted anything!

Jon said...

Ernie, joust about found a 10 foot pole to touch this one with.

Your question of the right of today's reporter to be called to be called "The Fourth Estate".

Perchance you meant to refer to the Mainstream Fourth Estate in America. If you did, then it helps me to remind myself of a shoe thumping guy at the UN.

One of my favorite Quotes on Statistics is from him. So to paraphrase him as to the Fourth Estate in Mainstream America in their reporting I say: 'Our News is what we the reporters use to turn what we want into the Truth'.


Of course it helps to remember Niki was in charge of the TRUTH in Moscow during the Siege of Moscow.

Your insight as to Burke's dangerous people and the crushing effect in the excess' of law is reflected in Harold's defeat at Hastings. American Troops in Afghanistan met little resistance as they occupied that country due to the oppressive Laws forced on the population by the Police of Islams Divine Laws. Genghis Khan was the last force to occupy that Country. But the Great Khan conquered, where as we occupy.

Me thinks what you 'smell' is Fudge cooking in the kitchen. But thank you for day dreaming.