The Ridiculous Power of the Press: Tyranny of the Fourth Estate

  • Post category:Opinion

The Press’s Latest Power Grab

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It is rumored that the statesman Edmund Burke realized the power of the press in political matters when, upon the floor of Parliament, he coined the term “The Fourth Estate.” While this phrase is often bandied about by pundits and talking heads on TV as a form of “legitimization” of political demagogy, Burke’s linguistic epiphany was not directed as a compliment.

Burke placed the media on the same level as the other classic estates of European geopolitics (the clergy, the nobility and the commoners). Not only in its necessity for a successful government but also in its ability to destabilize the government structure and bring forth corruption and the loss of freedom and liberty. It is in this regard that we must examine the media’s latest power grab and the consequences of allowing the fourth estate to reign unchecked.

The Media Abuses Their Power

Recently, the AP has been calling for a release of the names of all members of the clergy who were accused civilly of abuse, but not charged criminally. On its face, the attempt seems to be well-intentioned. Provide the names of possible pedophiles to the public so that they may protect the community from offenders. We all want to keep children safe and we all want to know who the creepers are in our neighborhoods. This is a given.

However, when we look at giving power to elites- we must also look at the cost of giving away such power. Power, by its very nature, is a zero-sum game. For someone to take established power, individuals must give up power they possess (or it must be taken.) Or in this case, freedoms must be surrendered.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

With the rise of the #MeToo movement, we have seen the power of accusation become more salient than the power of law. The Third (the people) and Fourth estates (Media) have formed a mob rule where people are convicted in the court of public opinion and the rule of law is an afterthought. We have seen this in the destruction of people’s lives before they were convicted. The destruction of people’s lives who were acquitted and even in the destabilization of businesses who have run afoul of the mob.


In each of these cases, the mob has overrun the protections emblazoned on the Constitution by the founding fathers, the protection that each of us has due process rights and they must be respected. If you read my column, you know that I am a firm supporter of the death penalty for those who are convicted of abusing children, sexually or otherwise.

However, in this position, we must always have a modicum of deliberation. Rash judgments lead to unfounded deaths. This is why this position is held with a skeptical appreciation for the judiciary in this country; the slow deliberative process of the courts provides time for people to defend themselves, for the mob to calm down and for logic to triumph over emotion. If this process is followed, then I fully support the lawful execution of every child molester and rapist on the planet. This hinges greatly on the necessity of due process, and this is something that the AP is calling upon the government to ignore.

Accusations, Lies and Scandals

While emotion dictates that we want to know the name of every person accused, we know that this gives a powerful tool to the media to destroy anyone in the other segments of society that opposes them. When accusations, reviewed only by private parties, become the cause for the destruction of a person’s home, business, and life – we have lost what makes us a civilized nation and become the barbarian hoard that allowed for Rome to fall.

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We are American, regardless of race, creed, national origin, sex or any of the tools they try to use to divide us.

Make no mistake, it was not the elephants of Hannibal, nor the Gothic Hordes of Alaric I that caused the fall of Rome, it was the apathy of the Romans to their rights and duties. Their indifference to their freedoms caused the great empire to fall. Now in the 21st century, people are clamoring to give away vested freedoms to the media, all because it is what the mob says is in vogue today.

The question of untested accusations is a serious question, I do not dismiss the AP’s emotional response as a fool’s quiver. The power to test these accusations, however, lies in the courts and the established legal systems, not the new star chamber of the Associated Press. If demagogy and politicking are allowed to be the color of the modern press, then we must assure that there is a wall between the fourth estate and the judiciary.

Much like the wall between the first estate (clergy) and the second estate (Nobility read government), so to must we see a wall between the fourth estate and the second. The interbreeding for powerful media personalities marrying powerful political figures makes the stability of the republic toxic, allowing power vested in the people and the government to be usurped and repackaged as “press.”

We need an effort to fully support the investigation of any claim of abuse, whether sexual or otherwise, whether adult or child, to ensure that we have a free state. The third estate, that is us, is not a tool of the fourth (which I guess I am now a part of also) – it is the most precious group in a Republic because, as free Americans, we are given the ability to defend these rights.

Take Back Control From the Media

One must question when the media attacks our first and second amendment rights why these attacks are so vehement. It is because the first and second amendments are the tools that we are given to defend the remainder of the rights in the constitution from tyranny. As the fourth estate tries to take away the due process rights of individuals, even individuals we do not like, we must remember the words of Martin Neimoller:

“First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me”

Do not allow any power to divide and conquer us, we are more powerful as a people than we are as the convenient boxes politicians and media personalities try to place us in. We are American, regardless of race, creed, national origin, sex or any of the tools they try to use to divide us. We must stand for the due process rights of all, regardless of our emotions, because those that are accused have a right to be heard, just as each one of us has the right to know the truth, not just conjuncture.

Christopher W Smithmyer
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