The global 4th estate that is emerging with the likes of WikiLeaks is roughly threefold. This means that there are three mutually dependent and inter-related components. These are:
1) Research with precision:
This first stage is a science of matching words with actions with traditional fact checking and go to the source connecting of dots. It is a process of investigating the actual events as manifested actions and words that are used to represent them to understand a true connection between them. This can then reveal any possible gap or intentional manipulation. This connecting words to the actual event tends to expose secrecy and hidden motivations. Lies and abuse of power from public figures that need to be held accountable can only be effectively revealed when the sourcing is consistent and thorough. Like any scientific research, the citing and disclosure of full source materials is necessary so the recipient or audience can check the context. Once this first step is made, then there will be a possibility of editorial freedom.
2) Artistic presentation: Open up perception and call for engagement.
This stage is just a beginning of the larger public engagement. Opening of dialogue where everyone can be engaged out of their own experience and access to accurate sourcing are necessary for equality in dialogue. Any person willing to apply themselves should be able to make a conclusion independently and freely. This stage has recently been hijacked by the actions and intentions behind PR (Public Relations), which is now primarily a euphemism for propaganda. The creed of transparency transforms the control and power that accompanies PR machinery into an artistic activity that engenders informed consent of the public engagement with the information rather than a manipulated or manufactured one.
3) The Court of Public Opinion:
Journalism is not inherently the fourth estate. It can only earn that role by employing an artistic gesture of dialogue that transforms citizens who have too often become passive consumers of manufactured perspective to instead become active participants who critically engage with the materials. It opens a space for public forum, which eventually forms the court of public opinion, where people’s collective conscience thrives as the last resort for justice informs witness, judge and jury of public opinion.
The global 4th estate is not only seen by the work of WikiLeaks, but is budding all around the world to counter the failing mainstream journalism that is caught in the containerized and hierarchical mentality. Avenues through which this may unfold are Social Media, Film Makers and Cultural Creatives.
The age of Internet and the failure of consolidated corporate journalism begat a new phenomenon in the social media environment composed of bloggers, independent news sites, twitter and FB networks that grow from the demand for truth. When mainstream media repeats the official scripts and don’t reveal what is happening on the ground level, ordinary people have begun to document perspectives on events unfiltered by corporate or government interests. This is beginning to dissolve the insulated reality sustained by the corporate media. It is like Indy media that gathered all the footage taken by activists to show what happened on the streets of Seattle during the WTO. Ordinary citizens took pictures and bore witness to what happened to Oscar Grant on the BART platform in Oakland. The growing interest in bloggers and alternative media is testimony for the need for grassroots new social media. There is huge potential in this, as more of the news is moving onto the Internet, which is inherently a more level playing field.
Documentary films are becoming more and more journalistic and are a way of disclosing information and bringing out social problems to public consciousness. Whether it is corporate crime, health care issues, Michael Moore’s work is one of the exemplary successes of this kind work. The recent film, The Cove revealed the secrecy of dolphin killing concealed in Japan through getting the real scenes out into the world. Films are also used as a medium to expose conspiracy, corruption and abuse as seen in Iraq for Sale and Food INC. With films like TheCorporation, they can be educational and engage the public to think critically.
Cultural Creativesis a term coined by sociologist Paul H. Ray and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson. It is a word used to describe a segment of the population that apply unconventional artistic and creative ways to engage in social change. In the realm of information, one can see creative effort to combat the media blackout of the voices of the people, what long time activist Ralph Nader described as a “Theatre of the absurd” focusing on the trivial while shutting out views that challenge the system.
Cultural Creativesare artists of all genres, from comedians to poets, from musicians to painters. They seem to move beyond art for the sake of art and use their work as an instrument to lead people to the source, the world as it is before their perception is molded by propaganda.
Image Credit - seomoz.org
Comedian Steven Colbert brings real truth in news through satire. For instance, on his Comedy Central show, TheColbert Report, Steven Colbert plays a character that marries a narrow perspective modeled on ‘Fox News’ with a progressive analysis and slant through both the premise and content. The segment on The Word is a prime example of this style of surrealism at work. Here he takes the meaning of a word or phrase that is usually understood in a certain way and flips it over, with the subtext or wry satirical commentary written next to it. Like a trickster, whenever he characterizes the word in a slanted way, other unspoken meanings are given voice to open a fuller multidimensional perspective to the audience. The segment Formidable Opponent does something similar. Here Steven splits himself into two opposing characters. They engage in a one-way dialogue to reveal the impossible contradictions that pass for what we often accept as reality. By mimicking and thus revealing the machinations of the propaganda machine, he schools the witness consciousness in the audience, which can then see through the baldfaced lies and manipulation. In this segment he even offers glimpses into the motives behind the manufactured mainstream ‘news’ that he is parodying.
On the global stage, there is TheJuiceMedia Rap News. Hugo Farrant, plays the anchorman character, Robert Foster, as he teams up with Giordano Nanni, co-writer and director to open the closed corporate occupied frequencies. They bring together contrasting views, juxtaposing characters with insight to give voice to marginalized perspectives. All of this is delivered with elegant rhythms and rap, bringing the full spectrum of images, access to which is denied by the diversionary spectacle of the corporate media.
Image Credit - Grant Neufeld
The Yes Men surprise everyone by pulling eloquent stunts at official conferences. They disguise themselves as representatives of corporations, delivering in a matter of fact manner views that the corporation would express if they had any capacity or inclination to act as if people mattered. Here, in official attire they too take what is situated as constructed, accepted reality; the stage of the press conference or symposium and insert themselves creatively to disrupt the system for a moment. The whole context then is changed by mouthing the exact opposite of what the corporate script would have them say. This effectively brings attention to issues that are obfuscated or ignored by the mainstream media.
Image Credit - eslpod.com
The Onion uses humor to twist views on current events. Often the news is so bombastic and ridiculous that if one is not aware it is totally fake news, one can fall into a state of shock. It is bold how they come up with seemingly impossible reports that fit the format and tone of current mainstream news and also reveals the absurdity of reality as we tend to see it. Imagination triggered by laughter takes us from our known reality to have a fresh look in the stale discourse, propaganda and distraction that nowadays passes for news.
Cultural creatives of the present time often work in the surrealistic realm and much of the success of the work of cultural creatives lies in its surrealistic nature, characteristics of which include subversiveness,spontaneity and imagination. They are in a sense expert surrealists. This surrealism dissolves the apparent solid line between reality and fiction and moves beyond a rigid dualistic consciousness that frames the world in mutual exclusion, like the supposed two party system in the United States. It avoids direct confrontation with opposing views and instead compassionately invites people to play on the edge. This less confrontational artistic act allows them to plant their own plot to be enacted without being noticed. Imagination prevents them from being easily defined with a fixed ideology and framed as black or white. As a result they can make their work more flexible and acceptable by many across all political and ideological lines and mobilize without engendering much opposition. This ultimately allows them to reveal vital information that unexpectedly and momentary creates a crack in public perception to let people see things that are concealed. After all, artists know how to engage the audience genuinely and out of who they are without tricks or manipulation.
Most importantly, ordinary citizens around the world use these creative avenues to form a powerful trend that is emerging as the global 4th estate. Those who choose to can become part of this global fourth estate that is a watchdog, guarding the world from abuse and corruption of power. It is up to each of us to take the lead and create the world that we want and this emerging global 4th estate is its essential platform.
The small portion of this article was updated on Nov 5, 2010. For further reading on the Global 4th Estate by this author, follow the link.