Blogs and Estate 5: Why One Is Not the Other.
(Like many Internet users, I adore novelty. The following response to this particular flashblog would have looked better if it had more flash. But I don't have the time, skill or means to purchase and use the required authoring software effectively. I can write, though.)
We're here to talk about what is now known as, perhaps, the Five Estates. It's a nice name, with a lot of history under it — the first three Estates made their appearance during the old French Estates-General: they were, in essence, the Nobles, the Clergy and Everyone Else.
Edward Burke, claimed Carlyle, named the Fourth Estate as the Press itself, in the context of explicit advocacy and in its ability to frame political issues. And, if you've been reading up on your blogs, someone decided to name us bloggers the Fifth Estate, and placing ourselves in what seems to be an implicit competition with the venerable Fourth.
Estate Boyaz in da Hizzouse
The the first two estates are cute anachorisms, of course — the way society has changed in the past three hundred years has ensured that nobility and piety take, at most, an advisory position in governance. The Third Estate — Everyone Else — makes the decisions now, with the Fourth and the Fifth influencing and informing the Third.
The Fourth Estate's influence is obvious, and their reach powerful. There's no need to deny that they do not exist. The Fifth exists as well, but they aren't blogs. They'll never be blogs. The Internet, another contender of the Fifth Estate, will never be the Fifth Estate. Even the Internet is too small to comprise the whole of the Fifth Estate.
On the nature of blogs
Asking bloggers to define what blogs are, and you'll get as many answers as there are bloggers. It is, however, fairly easy to define what a blog is based on its ‘physical’ characteristics. A blog is a web site, or a web application. It is made of individual entries, arranged chronologically.
That's it. A blog is a medium — an “intervening substance that carries messages or information”.
I said, earlier on, that blogs were too small to encompass the entirety of the Fifth Estate. I'm still right, but that's not the only reason why blogs are not the Fifth Estate. You see, blogs, like many convergence technologies, straddle many fields.
One of the many fields it straddles is the Fourth Estate.
As much as Jeff Ooi would hate me to say it, he is a Fourth Estate Blogger. Not because he has political or monetary connections to press agencies (I doubt it), not because he pushes for their agendas (quite the opposite), but because he practices a form of journalism. He reports.
Blogs like Screenshots and Brand New Malaysian, as well as thousands of other news sites and op-ed peddlers and commentators and reviewers and hate-mongers and rumour-spreaders, all belong to the Fourth Estate — not because with who or what they are associated with, but because of what they do. Their task is to inform. Or comment. Or influence the Third Estate with the use of information, both right and wrong.
It is less of who they are associated with, and more with what they do. This is an important distinction to make.
Whither the Fifth?
So what is the Fifth Estate, then? If you want a good example of a Fifth Estate blog, take a look at TV Smith. Yes, he does have one foot in the Fourth Estate — the things he writes about are based on current events, and his goal is to influence you partially, with reason. But then again, he and Jeff and Mack are members of Estate 3 as well; as am I. We're all law-abiding, vote-eligible citizens. What separates TV Smith from Jeff and Mack is that he parodies while informing.
The distinction between Estate 4 and 5 is imagination. Both use it to an extent, but Estate 4 uses imagination sparingly most of the time. Estate 5's bailiwick is imagination.
I suppose you can guess what I think Estate 5 is. Estate 5 is art.
The Fifth Estate Revealed
It sounds too crackpot to be true. The domicile of pretension, the Fifth Estate? But artists are about as pretentious as journalists are dishonest, or bloggers are elitist. While some are the above, it does not mean that others should be tarred with the same brush.
Art refers to all creative endeavours, excluding survival and reproduction. Any product that is of the creative impulse is art. Which of course mean that rumour-spreaders and hate-mongers belong to Estate 5 as much as they do to Estate 4, but that's convergence for you.
Art influences Estate 3 in different ways than Estate 4. While Estate 4 may engage in the faculties of reason and knowledge to influence Estate 3's decision-making, Estate 5 speaks to Estate 3's emotions and fears. Art reflects and directs the energies of The People, and allows them Understanding where Knowledge barely suffices.
You can read about the Holocaust, and know how the Jews suffered and died. Or you can read Spiegelman's Maus, and finally understand its horror. You can read about Palestine, and know its history and the links between the disparate peoples there. Or you can read Sacco's work, and finally understand its insanity. You can read about the Iranian Revolution, or you can read Satrapi's Persepolis (book I and II) and finally understand what it was to grow up in such an time. You can read news broadcasts, op-ed columns about 9-11. Or you can read, again, Spiegelman, and understand the anguish of living through a time when all your illusions died.
You'll have to forgive me. My comics bias is showing.
Where do we belong?
So where do blogs show up in all of this? Where do blogs fit it?
Everywhere. Blogs pepper the space, like every other media you can define, between Estates 3, 4 and 5. There are diaries, some open to the world, some not, that straddle the space between 3 and 5. There are op-ed columns that straddle 4 and 5. There are journals, from men and women On The Scene, that swing from 3 to 4. Some diaries never stray beyond Estate 3. There are newsblogs that wholly belong to Estate 4. There are art-pieces that wholly belong to Estate 5.
Just like any other kind of media.