In the feudal era there were the “three estates” — the clergy, the nobility and the commons. The first and second were eradicated in Robespierre’s Revolution. But in the 18th and 19th century, Edmund Burke and Thomas Carlyle identified what the latter called a “stupendous Fourth Estate.” Wrote William Thackeray: “Of the Corporation of the Goosequill — of the Press … of the fourth estate. … There she is — the great engine — she never sleeps. She has her ambassadors in every quarter of the world — her courtiers upon every road. Her officers march along with armies, and her envoys walk into statesmen’s cabinets.”Share
The fourth estate, the press, the disciples of Voltaire, had replaced the clergy it had dethroned as the new arbiters of morality and rectitude. Today the press decides what words are permissible and what thoughts are acceptable. The press conducts the inquisitions where heretics are blacklisted and excommunicated from the company of decent men, while others are forgiven if they recant their heresies.
With the rise of network television and its vast audience, the fourth estate reached apogee in the 1960s and 1970s, playing lead roles in elevating JFK and breaking Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. Yet before he went down, Nixon inflicted deep and enduring wounds upon the fourth estate. When the national press and its auxiliaries sought to break his Vietnam War policy in 1969, Nixon called on the “great silent majority” to stand by him and dispatched Vice President Spiro Agnew to launch a counter-strike on network prejudice and power. A huge majority rallied to Nixon and Agnew, exposing how far out of touch with America our Lords Spiritual and Lords Temporal had become. Nixon, the man most hated by the elites in the postwar era, save Joe McCarthy, who also detested and battled the press, then ran up a 49-state landslide against the candidate of the media and counter-culture, George McGovern. Media bitterness knew no bounds. (Read more.)