For nearly 180 years, the press has been referred to as the “Fourth Estate,” and in the U.S. since 1949, as the “Fourth Branch of Government.” The reason is that the press has historically played an important role in influencing politics and the course of government.

In a representative democracy, the media has two important jobs: to keep the public informed, and to keep serve as a conduit of information between the citizenry and lawmakers so that the former knows what the latter is up to   and the latter understand what the former expect from them. In the U.S. – in fact, throughout the entire Western World – the “Fourth Estate” has been failing miserably in carrying out these tasks.

It’s not just how the U.S. corporate media has enabled Trump’s rise to power. It’s how the Western media has justified horrendous war crimes committed by past Administrations and the expansion of militarized police states in Europe and the Americas in the name of “national security” and the so-called “war on terror.” Even today, as politicians around the world start rattling sabers and beating chests preparing for a new and dangerous arms race, the corporate media is egging them on – just as William Randolph Hearst did almost 120 years ago when his newspapers whipped up support for the Spanish-American War.

Virtually nobody in the corporate media is questioning any of it. Even when stories are called out as “fake news,” there is rarely an apology or a retraction. Ironically, by positioning itself as the “opposition party” to Trump and by promoting lies and half-truths, the mainstream media is enabling his dangerous and delusional agenda.

How Trump operates business is open to debate, but one thing has become abundantly clear in the past several days since his inauguration: he has no clue about how to govern. Surrounded by sycophants with their own warped agenda, what Trump needs is education and a dose of reality.

Trump needs to understand how Islamic terrorism is a direct result of decades of Western interference and involvement in the Middle East as colonial and neo-colonial powers have manipulated events for their own benefit (a classic example being the CIA overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh – Iran’s first democratically-elected leader – in 1953). He needs to understand how the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned about has continued to exercise control and influence in order to keep the wars going so the defense industry can continue to line its own pockets.

As a businessman, Trump should also understand the dangers of a monopoly. Currently, the mainstream media is controlled by six trans-national corporations that control approximately 90% of everything we see and hear.

If Trump really knew something about free markets and how they influence society, he would take a tip from the playbook of another Republican Administration – that of Theodore Roosevelt, who went down in history as a “Trustbuster.” Those media conglomerates would be broken up and sold to hundreds of smaller, independent outlets who have no agenda or interests in serving the oligarchy.

On that subject, Trump should also be made to understand the dangers of “false economy,” and how millions of people going without health care services will prove far more costly than the alternative of guaranteed health care for all. He should be made to understand the true economic costs of fossil fuels – and how there is indeed great wealth to be made in the development of green energy. He needs to be told in no uncertain terms about the financial costs of environmental destruction and global climate change. He needs to be shown how an educated citizenry unburdened by excessive debt is an investment, not an expense.

 But for the corporate media, it is easier – not to mention far more profitable – to simply attack Trump’s rantings and whip up hysteria, while offering little or nothing in the way of real criticism of his policies or putting forth realistic solutions.

The bottom line is that the best weapons against ignorance, tyranny, and corruption are truth and transparency, along with a good dose of common sense. Tragically, the Fourth Estate is deliberately failing in its obligations in this respect.

K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.