“The Fourth Estate,” as a nickname for the press ..
Three Estates themselves — the Crown, the Lords Temporal and Spiritual, and the bourgeoisie — were in theory supposed to be rivalrous interests that kept each other in check. But by the 19th century, after a limited insurgency by upstart industrial interests against the privileges of the landed classes, they had coalesced into a de facto class alliance: The monarchy, landed interests, Church and industrial capitalists against everybody else.
And in the United States the Fourth Estate, likewise, has ceased to be a check on the official branches of power and instead become part of the same interlocking establishment.
The new technologies of free communication and association mean, for the first time, we can take on powerful institutions — on a more than equal basis — without becoming powerful institutions. And that means the days of powerful institutions are numbered.