Dust up… in the Fourth Estate

Your Eyewitness is getting his popcorn ready for the elections called by the Guyana Press Association (GPA) – scheduled for tomorrow!! Now, you may think he has some skin in the game, since he churns out this daily commentary in a newspaper. But noooo! His output, which comes from his inner soul as he ruminates on the daily goings-on, isn’t considered “journalistic”!! That, of course, raises the question as to what’s “journalistic”!!
Like everything in which we’re enmeshed, it goes back to Europe of the Dark Ages, when the people were divided into three groups, or “estates” – the nobility, the clergy, and the plebes or commoners like us. To be a commoner had a worse connotation than when we say nowadays that someone is “common”!! Well, after the French Revolution, the rising business strata out of the commoners fought for more power from the nobility. They used pamphlets to alert their literate fellows as to their rights against the always potentially rapacious nobility!! In the next half-century, these pamphleteers, or newspapermen, became the “Fourth Estate”.
And as the years went by, newspaper publishers, who influenced that new way of choosing the new nobility – called “branches of government” – through a weird device called “elections”, started to become quite full of themselves!! The folks who worked for them – the working stiffs, called “journalists” – also assumed airs!! They had the power to bring down elected governments by the stand they took on particular issues. Take, for instance, the Washington Post, where journalists Woodward and Bernstein ejected the most powerful leader in the free world – Richard Nixon – in 1973!! That’s power, baby!!
Well, some of the First Estate (governments) decided that they had to “defend their honour” against the antagonistic “Fourth Estate”. And so, we got “government media”, like the BBC in England or PBS in the US, that tried to be “neutral” by being anodyne!! In the Third World – like in Guyana – the Government followed the principle of “do fuh do na obeah” – and took on the unfriendly Fourth Estate. Think of the early PPP and the plantation-friendly Argosy and then the Chronicle!
Well, Burnham and the PNC took that attitude to a whole new level (depth?) when he banned newsprint from the press that opposed him. So the lesson, dear reader, is that, in Guyana, we got a history with the First and Fourth Estates, with the media that either support or oppose the Government of the day!!
So, pick your side for the rumble!! Cause right now it, like they said in “The Godfather”, they’ve gone to the mattresses!! And your Eyewitness is thinking about Groucho Marx’s credo: “I wouldn’t belong to a club that would have me as a member!!”

…and social media??
But even he enjoys the cat calling, hair pulling and face scratching by the journalists as they bitch about “preliminary Voters Lists” and registration. Your Eyewitness can’t help but think that this is just “(Guyanese) politics by other means”!! But they do say that eventually enemies that fight each other do become alike after a while. It’s called “convergence” by journalists!!
But the irony that appears to’ve escaped the notice of the journalistic pugilists is that – even as they seem headed for some serious bloodletting that’ll leave both sides weakened – they’re being confronted by another competitor for their title of “the Fourth Estate”!! This is the social media platforms that, across the world – and in Guyana – are reaching a far greater chunk of the Third Estate – commoners – by embracing “commonness”!! And this means they now have the power to make or break governments!!
So, what we have here – to your Eyewitness – is a case of the Third Estate fighting among themselves as the Titanic keels over!!

…over the flood??
The May-June rains have arrived in style!! And Georgetown’s flooded once again. But after the duelling M&CC vs Local Government had both made stabs at cleaning the clogged drains, looks like they’re too exhausted to play the blame game??!