Once upon a time there was a fourth estate.
They did their best to do their job, which was to keep the elected officials in check. When enough of these scoundrels would get elected, they tended to get out of hand. A few brave journalists would speak their truth, and the public, upon hearing it, would recognize it as such. The upheaval would run it’s course and the scoundrels would leave in disgrace. As the bad times subsided, the bad guys regrouped to figure out a new, improved approach.
This cycle of struggle went back and forth slowly for years, through good times and bad.
One day Kangaroo Bob decided he would change his allegiance in order to become the biggest baddest owner of real estate that the fourth estate had ever seen. He was canny, cunning, ruthless, and could spin like a dervish on meth.
When his peers saw what he’d done, they too rushed in. It became a feeding frenzy. Newspapers and television combined and evolved into bastions of media-cracy, and the public decided that wasn’t so bad. Good news is better than bad news, and it suited them just fine.
Every newscast was like the other, and every paper reported the same stories, in exactly the same way, and avoided reporting some stories because they were considered too complex, too arcane, or too critical of the powerful elite. Plus, they could make a case that it wasn’t what their audience wanted to hear. After all, why make waves?
The people entered a period of fallowness unseen since the great wars 60 years earlier. Many decided to pursue a program of personal greed that encompassed everything from how much their business should be allowed to pollute, to how their faith was the most important one and should be given an elevated status above other faiths.
And many new scoundrels were elected. Brazen, unapologetic ones, that screamed whilst others wanted simply to debate. And they bullied the poor journalists who after all were just trying to make a living, who needs this?
That would have been the end of balance except a new outlet arose and gained strength rapidly. This gave individuals the freedom to report and discuss issues that were important to them. The stories that their own home town and national outlets didn’t want to report as it turns out had been reported all along- overseas.
Soon the stories from abroad found their way on to the screens of people who were trying to figure things out. So many stories were half reported in their usual resources, that they felt ashamed. It troubled many people, who just wanted, just had to know, what the rest of the story was. Why was that so bad?
And suddenly there was a new era of open discussion, and free discourse. Analyses of stories that were not reported because the old guard didn’t think it important enough to report. Yet they misjudged. They seemed to have lacked a focus on what was really important, and it never occurred to them not to be so selective. After all, how can they report everything?
But then the big bad media companies were noticing this was happening. The felt their carefully constructed monopoly could be compromised. They realized it is vital to get control back into their hands. But how to go about it?
Soon they were sidling up beside their pals that ran the cable and telephone companies, and pointed out that they have the power to restrict access to only those willing to pay a fee. After all, business is a fascistic enterprise, not a democratic one. They don’t have to let anyone play unless they can afford admission. And they can charge whatever they like, since they golf with people in government who set forth policy on such matters.
The end of the story has yet to be written. Who do you want to place your bet on?