10 September 2008

Our Farce Estate

My Thanks to MC Don Dees for his Jenius Jots shout-out over at Dondequiera.com. And another one to Gabriel Pagán of I Can't Spell fame for a similar tweet-out in Twitter space.

Puerto Rico has about 4 million people living under a putative democracy. One of the central pillars of a democracy has traditionally been the Fourth Estate, a free press, whose primary roles of forging public opinion and checking the power of the three government branches (Executive, Legislative and Judicial) are a cornerstone of public freedoms and progress.

But.

There remain only three daily newspapers on My Island. One, El Vocero, a former blood-soaked rag turned milquetoast crusader, is as solid as a glass-jawed boxer clobbered by a heyday Mike Tyson 1-2 combination. The other two dailies are actually one, as Primera Hora and El Nuevo Día are both owned by the Ferré-Rangel cartel. 

...A cartel who also own the largest single-investor share in Banco Popular, filter and conduit of roughly 68% of the government's monies, ranging from budget funds to tax-protected corporate earnings.

...A cartel who also owned--and still has a piece of--the largest cement producer on the Island, a product used in about 84% of all residential and commercial construction here.

...A cartel who is directly linked to 6 of the 7 local Supreme Court Justices, each of whom was at one time a member or partner of the law firm that has long represented it.

...And a cartel who vehemently deny the reports that their daily newspapers--bolstered by a hefty network of regional papers that combined absorb 64% of all newspaper ads locally--have been sold (in 2007) to a Chilean media conglomerate.

However.

Four vice-presidents and the Business Editor of Primera Hora are Chileans, imported because "there are no capable executives in Puerto Rico" and both papers have fired--actually, purged--key executive personnel and replaced them with lower-paid, largely inexperienced personnel. The cartel also closed the Orlando daily version of El Nuevo Día, alleging $5-$6 million annual losses, just months after touting in bold headlines that it was "growing spectacularly."  Seems obvious that sale-enhancing cost-cutting tactics are being used to enhance the cartel's current and near-future value.

Two angles here: One is that the Ferré-Rangel cartel has had a long, extensive, consistent and persistent track record of suppressing and distorting news and polls, covering up or even making up stories to suit their own personal, professional, commercial or political interests. These are allegations that find roots of truth over and over again, from angling polls to spiking stories to leaning on people to get their way. When a cartel like the Ferré-Rangel group has such obvious and hidden power, the only way to retain it is to use it. And they use it.

In essence, the Fourth Estate doesn't exist in Puerto Rico, having become nothing more than the blunt tool of a power-broker. A blunt tool not only in terms of use, but also in terms of intellect, for a newspaper whose journalism function has been hijacked for dissembling, diversion and blackmail cannot ever be an intellectual force for public good: It can only be a dirty hammer for private wrecking.

The other angle is that Our "Fourth Estate" is not even technically Ours, for even in its dirty hammer role, the hand that increasingly wields it is foreign. Now maybe one can argue that an outsider's hand could turn the dirty hammer into a useful, more objective tool, but why would a foreigner want to change what is basically a cash machine into something--well--foreign? And even if the outsiders wanted to do so, would they actually know how to properly and contextually represent Our "best" Fourth Estate role?

A democracy--even one as swamp-addled as Ours--needs a healthy, active and perceptive Fourth Estate to grow. A Fourth Estate that is a forum of insight and debate, of questions that uncover honest answers and that reveal motivations and reasons. A Fourth Estate that forges opinions and provides context, not a Farce Estate that pukes fake facsimiles of "objectivity" and "public interests" amounting to nothing more than flashes of greed, whim, cynicism and spite. What We need--if We are to truly achieve the progress We deserve--is a Fourth Estate carrying out its fundamental duty with a steady eye, a keen mind and a clear vision, thus eliminating Our disgusting Farce Estate that gives Us only a jaundiced leer, rampant schizophrenia and lizard-brain myopia wrapped in naked greed.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

   

1 comment:

ramonathebrave said...

Just another way for people to be kept in the darkness. When it's not the literal darkness, it's the figurative one. Poor, poor Puerto Rico. Or should I say Poorto Rico?