Peasants Of The Fourth Estate

In 1789, the bankrupt French monarchy called into existence a meeting of the Estates General, which predictably and lamentably ended up creating a revolutionary maelstrom that ended up sweeping King Louis XVI and his dynasty from the throne and establishing a period of chaos that would last for twenty-five years and bring warfare and destruction to five continents as the repercussions of revolution made themselves apparent.  The contemporary press likes to fashion itself as the Fourth Estate, in distinction to the clergy (first estate), nobles (second estate), and commoners (third estate), although a strict historical view would consider the journalists to be among the more activist and politically inclined members of the third estate, those failed philosophes who would so quickly turn into murderous revolutionaries.  Be that as it may, if we consider the contemporary press to be a separate fourth estate in the current political order, then to be an independent personal blogger of no great connections or means is to be among the peasants of the fourth estate.  There are consequences of this that are worthy of some reflection and discussion, and few people are likely to discuss them or care about them more than the peasants themselves.

I wish to make it plain that I do not view being a peasant as a bad thing.  Traditionally speaking, for a variety of reasons peasants have been rather conservative.  There are several reasons for this.  Peasants have traditionally never been a part of a wider elite and have traditionally been tied to the rural economy, with the concerns that rural life and farming have.  For the peasant rapid change is generally a bad thing and militarism is also a bad thing since it tends to destroy crops and harm the well-being of the peasant.  Speaking personally, my own family background is rather heavy (especially on my father’s side of the family, but also with my maternal grandparents as well) in rural landowners who have mixed blue-collar labor with gardening and farming.  Obviously my own background has tended to influence a certain temperamental conservatism that is certainly in evidence in the writings that I engage in and my perspective of what I read, as may be readily understood by others.  This personal experience is not so different from what would have happened during the French Revolutionary period, where temperamentally conservative and religious peasants tended to find themselves represented by more radical elements, which might be associated with the leftist journalistic bias that we witness among those who tend to be the most vocal members of the Fourth Estate as was the case with the Third Estate in revolutionary France.

Who speaks for the ordinary and not very famous people who nevertheless engage in a great deal of public writing?  As we can see at present, those who claim to speak on behalf of the Fourth Estate tend to have certain political and institutional biases as a result of their unrepresentative experience that tends to greatly harm the well-being and interest of those who are not so well known.  As has been the case traditionally throughout history, peasants have had to learn to speak for themselves, because those who speak for them have their own agendas that are hostile to the well-being of the people that they claim to represent.  Could you imagine someone like Victor Davis Hanson, a man whose family background and historical interests are not so different from my own having someone like Cesar Chavez as a spokesperson?  Could the peasants of the Vendee be adequately represented by the likes of Pol Pot?  No and no.  To the extent that people are able to represent themselves by speaking their own mind, they can demonstrate the broader perspectives that are too often ignored when we only look at the self-appointed elites who claim to represent everyone in a particular category of people who are united only by a shared interest in writing about and commenting on the affairs of the day.  And it is only by demonstrating those broad concerns and perspectives that we can defend the freedoms given to the press.  To the extent that the press speaks with the same biased and corrupt voice, its corruption endangers the well-being of society as a whole, including those who would speak differently and better but lack the same reach as their noisier peers.

Let us therefore recognize that the true beneficiaries of the freedom of speech and freedom of the press are not those who misuse it for their own selfish gain and to pursue their own destructive political agendas, but rather those whose speech may be heard only by close friends and family and whose words, however voluminous, remain obscure to mankind.  For the voices of elites will always find their way into the public record because of their skill in finding places where their voice may be heard.  It is for the mass of people who would otherwise be silent but for the freedoms we now possess that those rights are the most important, because if people did not speak for themselves, we would have no idea what such people truly thought to counteract the biased and mistaken view of those who would presume to speak on behalf of those whose interests and perspectives are wildly opposed to these self-appointed representatives.  And the only way to counteract this presumption is to encourage and to record and to regard the perspective of those who can speak for themselves without the need of others to represent them before a candid world.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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