The Failure of the 4th Estate

OneSharpeGuy's picture

As, at the writing of this article, we are in the 15th day of a government shutdown, if you tune into your favorite news source, depending on your political persuasion, your opinions will be reinforced as the news deejays tell you why the other side is at blame; Ed Schultz will tell you it's the Republicans, Hannity will tell you its the Democrats, Rush Limbaugh will tell you it's Obama because blah blah blah, slur slur slur slur, hate speech hate speech hate speech (translation: He's Black).

I take however, a different approach.  We have come to this impasse, because the free press has surrendered its freedom. 

Freedom of the Press.  A concept born and raised in America, dating back as far as Zeneger v. New York in 1735 reinforced and entrenched in U.S. law in the First Amendment to the Constitution. Freedom of the press, granted to ensure that citizens make responsible, informed choices rather than acting out of ignorance or misinformation and further, that elected representatives uphold their oaths of office and carry out the wishes of those who elected them.

You see, if the fourth estate was acting responsibly, we couldn't even ask questions like, "Should the G.O.P. refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless Obama agrees to repeal Obama care?"  First and foremost, the question is absurd. You don't negotiate a budget by trying to force your opposition to repeal an existing law. The concept is ridiculous and any reporter that pushes such an absurdity past his lips should by all rights be drummed out of the profession.  Instead, today, they appoint you to the White House Press core.

How did we even arrive at this point, where in the interest of unbiased reporting, fact checking, truth telling and responsible journalism are thought of as wonky and unpopular?  Ironically, it goes back almost 20 years, to the first great health care debate.  The G.O.P. successfully labeled President Clinton's healthcare initiative as Hillary care and through use of operatives like Herman Caine, successfully convinced Americans the providing health care for all Americans was somehow un-American.  In the fallout from the healthcare defeat, the Republican Party was elected to a majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years.  Newt Gingrich, the newly elected Speaker of the house, decided that in order for Republicans to keep the majority, the American people had to be convinced to hate the Democratic Party.  They eventually aligned themselves with the religious zealots of the day, and once you get the American people by the souls, their hearts and mind will eventually follow.  As the political conversation got stupider, press coverage of the insanity became less and less informative, and then, in 1998 the Star commission revealed the President Bill Clinton got a blow job. So began the downfall of American Journalism, for it seemed every news broadcast at some point alluded to the fact that the President got a blow job, without of course specifically saying blow job.

Fast forward a few years to the buildup before the Iraq war, when Ambassador Joe Wilson, in response to a line a President Bush's  2003 State of the Union Speech, about Iraq seeking significant quantities of uranium from Africa, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times concluding "some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat." The Bush administration set forth to club into oblivion, any semblance of life that was left in the baby seal that had become freedom of press, by embarking on a campaign to smear Wilson, including exposing the identity of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame as a C.I.A. operative.  The administration made it perfectly clear to any and all concerned that unflattering press coverage of the administrations affairs were unwarranted and would not go unanswered.  Not necessarily so slowly, but surely, the free press folded and lead by Judith Miller, began to repeat the transcendental chants of Weapons of Mass Destruction and what ever the Bush White House wanted, because access to the Whitehouse, beyond all else, was apparently more important to these new sycophants than unbiased reporting of facts.

Freedom of the Press, now weary and faint from constant conflict, was dealt its final blow, when Dan Rather, in a 60 minutes story about President Bush's Military Career, was ultimately fired when the authenticity of the documents for which Rather based his findings was called into question.  From that point forward, on air personalities became cheerleaders for whom ever wielded the most political power, and or, had the biggest check book. 

Some where along the line in this twisted state of affairs, the Fox News Network became the media arm of the Republican party, and at this point, although the title still says news, they rarely get around to reporting any.  The Mainstream media, in response, just blames everything on "both sides" because Fox has the most viewers so apparently, that means they get to set the tone.

And so we have come to a point, wherein the news anchor, can actually say with a straight face and in the same paragraph, that Obamcare is tremendously unpopular and yet riddled with problems because the system is constantly flooded with users trying to sign-up.  They make no attempt to explain the contradiction just uttered, though every once in a while, they follow such a statement up with "it’s just so confusing."  Hey idiot, if you're confused, you're in a newsroom.  Chances are, somewhere nearby, in that very newsroom, somebody can explain it to you.  If after that, you're still confused, then you probably shouldn't be reporting the news.  Oh, I understand; when Chuck Todd and David Gregory stand on top of the heap, mediocrity is going to be the star you shoot for.

The rhetorical question with which I'll end this rant is this:

When We the People, have been abandoned by the 4th estate, when Free Press has failed us, what recourse do We the People Have?