The Fourth Estate – Political Opinion

(…. is given a condo in Plymouth as severance pay, and retires)

An article about the press is a good place to start political opinion writing at PNC-MN.

The term Fourth Estate has its origins in 17th Century England. It was originally used to describe ‘mob rule’ but mutated to describe the press as the fourth branch of parliament. As an independent entity, the press was presumed a force to keep parliament from straying to far from the truth in its propaganda.

The tradition of the press as ‘independent’ followed democracies around the world. The assessment of a true democracy became synonymous with a country’s press being able to write freely from its experience. This country began with a grassroots, locally based and owned news system. The “Colonial newspapers are unsung heroes of the American Revolution and the Revolutionary War.”

The press became just another big business in the following centuries, the views of the owner, or the interests of its corporate backing, became more influential in a newspapers viewpoint. The web is rapidly squeezing out the printed word. Maximizing any remaining profits, lessened advertising dollars, and cost control often conflict with the practice of responsible journalism.

I can clearly remember discussing the explicit reporting during the Vietnam War, and the social upheavals of the sixties around my family’s dinner table. It is one of the last times I can remember the press as a whole being respected as that independent “fourth estate”. After nearly a decade of perpetual war, our press has become totally docile in order to be fed battlefield footage. They have abrogated their duty to serve the public interest:  “to inform accurately, completely and fairly; to observe critically the conduct of our government and to shed light on any dubious activities; and to sustain a public dialogue on policies of consequence.”

All the pillars of journalism have passed or retired.. The national news media are ruled by owners, stockholders, and advertisers. Economic considerations direct most reporting. The debacle of the smear of Shirley Sherrod , and the failed opportunities for simple research into the truth by multiple news outlets to set the record straight, typifies what journalism has become.

Are we, here, today, the tiny voices of individual blogs, the last bastion of the fourth estate? Welcome the Minnesota Bureau of the Pagan Newswire Collective. We surely have the basic challenge, as unpaid amateurs, of holding ourselves to good journalistic standards and ethics. What are the challenges we face as Pagans, and speaking from a Pagan perspective ?

Pagans, IMHO, and more so than similarly well read people, tend toward isolationism and often see it as necessary to keep their spirit ‘pure’. Many Pagans feel vulnerable and have become adept at hiding within the mainstream. Pagans see the ‘one’ in all things, but fail to see the ‘oneness’ in our nation’s and our world’s issues for all of Earth’s travelers. Some pagans tend to be silently polite in public and maliciously denigrating in private about each other, rather than speaking their hearts and truth directly to each other. We have few skills to separate issues from personalities, and to listen and speak from that space.

How many of us claim tolerance, but act with unwelcoming intolerance in private.  Do we harbor enough mistrust and bad experiences to believe our culture and community cannot learn leadership skills, debate our issues with civility, and move forward together? We have developed a sixth sense for conflict, and silently fast walk the other direction. When will we be able to hear constructive criticism, offer with respect our own thoughts, and hold each other accountable to the highest standards in our relationships, and as spiritual beings?

Well, let it begin here. Paganistan boasts some very experienced, wise, and dedicated folks who have proven, at least in shining moments, their ability to join together to achieve goals beyond themselves individually. I pray this Bureau can support both that lost role as our fourth estate, and support humanity’s call to find our highest selves, together. The early colonial newspapers managed it at this countries founding.

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