The Fifth Estate

Why the internet means that the government no longer has a monopoly over propaganda.

To understand the concept of estates is to head back down the path of history and to take a look at the social construct.

It was deemed that the first estate were the aristocrats, which were followed by the second estate being the clergy. The third estate would be the common people.

If people are common enough with these terms, they would be able to note that the Fourth Estate is that of the press, nowadays better known as the media. And for a long time, since the French revolution and the publication of Jean-Paul Marat, calling for more heads to be guillotined, the media has always maintained an influence on all other estates, to the point that there are those who state that this fourth estate is the greatest of all.

But the fact is that this fourth estate had to be independent. Governments, such as ours, started fearing the idea that a newspaper could be so influential in the 1980s, leading to the ban of The Star and, if I may even equate it, Tunku Abdul Rahman’s mouthpiece used to criticise Tun Mahathir’s leadership.

If you wish to look further, it is a historical fact that Tun Mahathir himself started maturing in political thought by writing for the press as well during his student days.

However, this was during a time of non-existence of what I would call the fifth estate, the Internet.

In the current condition of the world, the Internet has allowed the dissemination of all information and knowledge without borders, empowering the third estate, the people, in a way that has never before been seen in humanity’s years on this planet.

The fifth estate has also caused governments to be disenfranchised in a sense that, since they had control over the fourth estate, they were of the opinion that nothing could stop their monopoly over propaganda. This has proven to instill fear in all governments, especially with Iran pushing for a ‘halal’ nationwide intranet to stop dissenting opinions into the nation, the development of China’s Twitter substitute, Weibo, and even the fact that the United States and Europe are working doubly hard to stop file sharing in order to maintain their invested corporations’ profit margins.

Similarly in Malaysia, while having the MSC had clearly stated that there should be no censorship of the Internet, such is no longer true. This is clear from the banning of sites such as Pirate Bay before, and also that of Iran’s Ahlul Bait news agency, a censorship that wishes to restrict both the freedoms guaranteed by the pact to gain super-corridor status.

The rise of the fifth estate caused the development of social media tools which, while creating large profit margins, also give people the ability and function to share and disseminate thoughts on a global scale. This in turn has made government’s and their monopoly of the fourth estate irrelevant, thus leading to governments and leaders themselves moving unto cyberspace in order to stake their claim in an infinite universe.

However, the fifth estate has also the ability to make members of the third estate come out and say what they wish in a fashion that cannot be regulated, nor can it be halted by the simplicity of regulations and laws of a single nation.

If anything, the fifth estate will lead to a period of renaissance, bringing to life the myth of the existence of an all-worldly knowledgeable entity that will provide enlightenment to the masses where governments will only be able to see as a threat to their stability due to their loss of ability in making the third estate mere sheep to be herded.

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Hafidz Baharom is a nonsensical openly 'overtly happy' individual who spent his childhood in Shah Alam, went to school in Shah Alam and got his degree in Shah Alam. He writes at his Tumblr blog,dubmeshalom, and would rather write openly and be cynical about anything and everything he wants to.

Posted on 24 May 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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2 Responses to The Fifth Estate

  1. The Humbug Party

    Young in age but mature in thought. I hope there are more like you.

  2. Pepper Lim

    Nice!