The Fourth Estate and Donald Trump

The term “fourth estate” was coined by Scottish satirist Thomas Carlyle in 1841. He wrote in his book On Heroes and Hero Worship that reporters of Parliament acted as a fourth branch of government. Within the official federal government exists a form of “checks and balances,” but who checks the federal government?

The press.

In an article published by The Washington Post on October 18th, 2017, the press used its role as a watchdog to hold President Trump accountable for some untrue statements made early this week.

This article was written addressing the government’s response (or lack of in this case) to the recent deaths of four American soldiers attacked in Niger. Reportedly, the soldiers died on October 4th, but President Trump waited almost two weeks before commenting on the tragedy.

The public was troubled by what he finally came up with.

The press wouldn’t have made such a fuss about his excuse for a late response if he hadn’t also been found guilty of lying. He claimed publicly to have spoken with the families of each American soldier that has died since his inauguration, stating also that he is one of the few presidents whose made such an effort to personally contact affected families.

He also denied allegations made by Congresswoman Frederica Wilson of Florida in regards to a phone call made to recent widow Myeshia Johnson. The wife of fallen soldier Sgt. La David Johnson received the call from the White House as she rode in a limousine with Congresswoman Wilson. As she tells it, the phone was on speaker and both women listened as President Trump said something to the effect of, “Your husband knew what he signed up for, but I guess it hurts anyway.” Both women were offended by the insensitivity of his words.

The Washington Post had several journalists working on the article, performing interviews, gathering footage and photos and other evidence to back up their statements. After talking with witnesses like Congresswoman Wilson and Gold Star families, the journalists were able to collaborate and present both sides of the story.

Out of the 13 Gold Star families that the Post interviewed, five have not received any personal condolences from the president. Overall, it presents a very bleak and disappointing view of President Trump. Though several statements from these Gold Star families were presented positively in the middle of the article, the last paragraph very strongly clarifies the main idea which is, “Trump is a liar.” 

The bright side of the story is that within hours of publishing this article, Trump wrote a check for $25,000 and sent it to Mr. Chris Baldridge to whom, through a phone call, he had expressed his condolences and promised $25K for the passing of his son, Army Sgt. Dillon Baldridge.

No one expected President Trump to give out money to any of the victims’ families. In fact, Chris Baldridge admits in his interview with The Washington Post that he knew he shouldn’t have expected a check when he opened the envelope sent from the White House. But when a promise is made (in this case, a promise of $25,000), it should be kept.

Thanks to the press, Mr. Baldridge will be receiving his check shortly.

Spiritual Media Literacy

According to Converging Media: A New Introduction to Mass Communication, media literacy can defined as “the process of interacting with and critically analyzing media content by considering its particular presentation, its underlying political or social messages, and its ownership or regulation issues that may affect what is presented and in what form” (Pavlik & McIntosh, 2017, p. 39). Basically, it’s just making sure you really know where the information is coming from, why it’s being presented, and how it’s presented; and then you determine whether or not it is credible information.

If being media literate means being able to access, analyze and evaluate media, then being spiritually literate can mean being able to access, analyze and evaluate spiritual promptings.

This life is essentially a war between good and evil, truth and deception. There are two sides to this war. When we learn to be spiritually literate, we can get on the winning side, just as a media literate person can be more powerfully prepared to fight against (or at least defend himself or herself against) the fallacies and lies that mislead us. We don’t have to be deceived. We can become wise by becoming spiritually literate in all things.

While a gentle nudge from the Holy Ghost to call a friend in need or to recheck the purse when we’ve lost the car keys is a heaven-sent prompting, a carnal temptation is a hell-sent prompting that speaks to the natural man and comes from the devil and his angels. We as human beings have to distinguish which is the source when it comes to receiving these “promptings.” In the process of receiving and decoding celestial messages, we must interpret and act. We struggle with this all the time when a seemingly unimportant idea comes to mind and we shrug it off simply because we are unsure of the source: “Was it just me or was it the Spirit?” In second-guessing ourselves, we limit our potential to correctly decode and act upon the sacred messages that come from God through the Holy Ghost. Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve addressed this in his last General Conference talk in April 2017.

The next thing we need to look at are the effects of these two types of “literacy.” As we learned in class, individuals with high levels of media literacy are empowered because they ask questions and recognize how media can subtly persuade us. Contrastingly, those with low levels of media literacy feel victimized or controlled by media. For example, there is a lot of heated discussion about Mormon doctrine concerning African Americans and the priesthood. You could read an article about it or watch a video and come to the sad conclusion that Mormon doctrine is not God’s doctrine and the LDS church is no longer led by a living prophet—if it ever was in the first place.

For argument’s sake, we need to figure out how spiritual literacy can elevate us to a higher understanding of the information we consume. Being media literate could help today’s curious reader distinguish between fact and fiction pertaining to the history of the Church on this subject. However, being media literate is not enough if the end-goal is to gain that assurance that one’s faith is placed in truth.

Let’s look at a video from November of 1973 about the aforementioned topic of blacks and the priesthood:

The Holy Spirit is there to provide not just guidance, but “divine guidance” as Elder Rasband puts it in his April 2017 conference talk. The men and women in this world who are not familiar with the Spirit or do not recognize his voice must depend solely on temporal literacy; but for those of us who, over the years, have become familiar with his gentle and reassuring voice have access to media literacy on the highest level. It means that any kind of information we receive can and will be confirmed by the Holy Ghost when we desire to know the truth.

If we watch this video thinking only about the source (biased journalists who aren’t Mormon and don’t have the gift of the Holy Ghost), the content (footage from 1973 that interviews now-deceased and imperfect Church officials), the context (only a few years after the Civil Rights Movement began and only five years before the Church made its official statement about the priesthood being available to men of all races), then we lose out on the heavenly testimony that can be gained when we depend on God through prayer and sincere questions. With just media literacy, we can still come to the false conclusion that The Church of Jesus Christ is not the true church because these men who claim to be prophets, seers and revelators spoke false doctrine. With a spiritual level of media literacy, we can rely on the comforting influence of the Spirit of God and recognize many other important truths: that these men are called of God, that this is the true and only true church on the Earth, that God speaks to His prophets and loves all His children equally and infinitely, and though prophets receive revelation from heaven, they are still just mortal men—for that is all God has to work with.