If you ever paid attention during history class, you must have heard about the estates of the realm. It was the European way of organizing society during the Middle Ages and Early Modern period. The best-known is the French three-estate system established during the Ancien Régime. Where the clergy, nobility and commoners represented respectively the first, second and third estate. Later on a fourth and recently even a 5th power were added, even though they have nothing to do with the original estate.

4th Power

This term was introduced at the end of the 18th century in Great Britain and used to point out the power of print journalism. It only implicitly refers to the original estates of the realm because it actually has nothing to do with it.

With the invention of the printing press, the practice of hand-writing news sheets was rapidly replaced. However the first newspapers dated from the 16th century, the term only became common in the early 17th century. This all sounds rather historical but can you imagine how this changed our lives. From only knowing what happened in the inner circle, all of a sudden the people’s world view was extended with quite some miles.

Print media and their journalists quickly started to gain power since they had a great influence on the public opinion. For the first time since the existence of mankind there was a way to inform a larger of people rather quickly. When in the early 20th century also the radio was invented and a few years later television, it became hard to keep things a secret.

Depending on the type of newspaper, radio channel or TV chain news, will be brought to you differently. Even though there’s a lot of copy-pasting going on due to the tight time schedules. Since most people have a great trust in most media. They will assume that everything they read, hear or see is the truth. Definitely when it comes to the so-called objective channels such as newspapers and TV bulletins. Based on the info they provide, their audience will form an opinion of their own. And this makes them an extremely powerful player.

The best example in the history of mankind is World War II where the Nazis used newspapers, radio and even movies to spread their ideologies. We all know how that turned out!

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5th Power

With the 5th Estate or 5th Power is referred to groups of outlier viewpoints in modern society. The term is most associated with bloggers, influencers who became the new information providers. And of course social media. News never went around the world so quickly. And opinions were never shared that openly behind the safe zones called computer, tablet and smartphone. We can only applaud when seeing that “commoners” such as ourselves finally have their own platform to write and share.

Since the rise of the 5th power information about animal suffering, infringement against human rights and all subjects that matter were shared and cared about on a large scale. One that never could have been reached in the past. Besides politicians, presenters and journalists finally also the regular people got a voice. And with that voice great things can be reached.

But like always there’s also a downside to these recent developments. Sometimes online media, bloggers and even regular people are more focussed on clicks and likes than the actual content. And some opinions, even though we support freedom of speech, shouldn’t be shared since they affect others in a negative way. We suggest to read, watch, hear, be inspired and post. But never forget to look at a subject from all sides before you form an opinion of your own. Nowadays every single individuals shares in the effect!

 Photo credits: Wikipedia