"The Fourth Estate": How Majority Opinion is Made - Precht/Welzer
Created: 05.10.2022, 18:00
By: Sven Trautwein
Hardly any book title has polarized in recent months as "The Fourth Estate" by Richard David Precht and Harald Welzer.
Are the authors correct in their opinion of the media?
Since the book was published and the first talk show appearances, Richard David Precht and Harald Welzer have dominated the media, criticizing them in "The Fourth Estate - How Majority Opinion is Made, Even When It Isn't One".
In this way they become a consensus that they have fueled themselves.
In this case, the resonance in newspapers and on social media can help them to get some more book sales.
But what is “The Fourth Estate” about?
Richard David Precht, Harald Welzer "The fourth power": About the book
Richard David Precht, Harald Welzer “The Fourth Estate” © S. Fischer
What mass media reports often differs from the views and impressions of large parts of the population - especially when it comes to explosive events.
This often gives the impression that the mass media in Germany are being manipulated by the government or “the state”.
But today's self-alignment of the media has nothing to do with controlled manipulation.
The mass media in Germany are not the executive organs of state opinion-making.
They are the executive organs of their own opinion-making: with an ever-increasing tendency to be one-sided, simplifying, moralizing, outrageous and defamatory.
And they depict the very own echo chambers of a scene that is always watching what the other is saying or writing, anxious not to deviate from it.
This fear is the best possible fertilizer for the disintegration of society.
Because excessiveness and one-sidedness of the judgment destroy the well-meaning dispute, the democratic struggle for good solutions.
Precht and Welzer have been working through the past few years on three major media issues (2015 refugee crisis, pandemic and Ukraine war) and trying to explain that the mass media all set a direction of opinion and only in the rarest of cases allow a different way, a different opinion.
The start of the criticism on this topic was the book launch as part of the Lanz program on September 29th.
Critics say, however, that the account of the two authors has not been empirically proven at any point.
Richard David Precht (l) and Harald Welzer address the media and their supposed power in their book "The Fourth Power".
© Henning Kaiser/Holger Hollemann/dpa
Richard David Precht, Harald Welzer "The Fourth Estate": Majority opinion is required
If the two authors have their way, it is high time not only to let an “educated elite” have their say, but – to put it bluntly – “the man/woman from the street”.
The personnel list of the governing parties is used here.
After all, there are above-average numbers of lawyers here.
A discourse would therefore no longer really take place, since other voices were not represented.
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If you look at the sales rank of the book, it has already landed very high in the usual bookstore chains.
This is likely to continue in the coming days and weeks.
What you can take away with you as an inclined reader is certainly that different voices are necessary for a discourse.
The book provides some examples of this.
Richard David Precht, Harald Welzer "The fourth power": My conclusion
In their book, Precht and Welzer describe how “the media” succumb to a kind of herd instinct when it comes to big issues.
This is difficult to generalize about.
The book always provides a call for more diverse voices in certain subject areas.
Richard David Precht, Harald Welzer "The Fourth Estate"
2022, S. Fischer ISBN-13 978-3-103-97507-9
Price: Hardcover €22, e-book €19.99 287 pages (different format) – Order now (promotional link)
Richard David Precht, Harald Welzer
Richard David Precht, born in 1964, is a philosopher, publicist and author and one of the most distinguished intellectuals in the German-speaking world.
He is an honorary professor of philosophy at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg and an honorary professor of philosophy and aesthetics at the Hanns Eisler Academy of Music in Berlin.
Harald Welzer is one of the most combative intellectuals in Germany.
With wit and astute arguments, he is committed to a better and open society, to sustainability and democracy.
He is Professor of Transformation Design at the University of Flensburg.
He also teaches at the University of St. Gallen and at the ETH Zurich.