The Fourth Estate

From Potemkin Russia to the dangerous Middle east, isolationist North Korea to renegade Venezuela – the views on countries & regions are the first thing you see when you open up the main page of major newspaper dailies today. You read and hone your views on the geopolitical affairs and bring out your flair in coffee table conversations and late-night drifts into the happenings of the world. You form your own views, shape your own strategies and hone your own rebuttals so as to quench your curiosity of this world around you.

How would you feel if you were to be told that everything you have believed in or stood up for has been conscientiously drilled onto you by diligent agents over a span of multiple years gobbling up your entire life? That what you take up to be free will and liberal mindset is actually a product of someone else’s thinking? Everything that you have believed in, or taught to be moral and right, is in fact not so? Scary, isn’t it? It’s akin to losing one’s identity and drifting in a world where your opinions are not your own. A mere hint of such a possibility can also send your world into a haze as anything you hear or read or understand would then be put under a scanner and be doubted. Is it me or is it someone else? Some call it systematic bias, but I believe its more dangerous than what the inane terminology suggests.

Take for instance, your views on the world around you. The rogue nations and their policies with respect to the free world of yore. Your biases are so much tilted against these “unknown” worlds, that you miss out on keeping a logical head above you and indulge instead in a time-honored, well-received, worldly wisdom promulgation. Its impossible to be in the know, in a MECE (mutually-exclusive-collectively-exhaustive) way, about all the different sides in a war, let alone a protracted one such as what we see in the world today. How then, are we to pronounce judgement on what is right and what is not? Without the prop of facts and comprehensive understanding, even as I leave out the more important part of “actual experience”, there is no way our views would be even remotely close to the reality on ground. In this respect then, we tend to rely on our sole source of understanding – the fourth estate of modern government. And there, much as when you are in a plane flying 50,000 feet above the air, you are at the mercy of the pilot or the journalist community, in helping you navigate the rough and tumbles of the complex world we live in. His biases are now your own. Even granting that most of the respected journalists are inbred with the dictums of responsible journalism and their presentation is, on the surface, encompassing of diverse viewpoints, the subtle ways of grammar and of language could, even in this instant, turn facts into opinions and correspondingly enhance your biases further. Moreover, we do hear what we want to hear pretty much most of the time. The same holds true for reading and who’s to say that despite the best efforts of the author, our takeaways from the perused article always seem to corroborate our own viewpoint.

I have reservations on judgements, especially the moralistic ones. One does not simply know enough to indulge in it. One is also not aware of the biases that are constantly lurking behind the facade of logical thinking. Further, while history and context are not necessary justifications for crime and immoral behavior, they provide us with a solid reason not to trivialize issues with half-baked theories and moralistic judgements. The world we live in is far more complex than that, and one would do well to respect that fact. After all, that’s what makes living here that much more interesting isn’t it?

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