Heralding the rise of the daily newspaper  in 1831, French poet and politician Alphonse de Lamartine declared  journalism would emerge as “the whole of human thought,” but that thought itself “will not have time to ripen, to accumulate into the form  of a book.”  The book, Lamartine proclaimed, “will arrive too late.”

“The only book possible from today is a newspaper,” he concluded.

Lamartine was prescient. Nowness—not depth, quality, or ethics—came to define the press. This has metastasized to obscenity in the digital  age. Indeed, media critic Tom Rosenstiel believes “the press has moved toward sensationalism, entertainment, and opinion.” That might be an  understatement. Ripeness of thought has little refuge under mass  media’s tyranny of immediacy.

Today, Americans are urged to perceive mass media as the palladium of  our “democracy.” But America is hardly a democracy. “The 20th  century—and with undoubted good reason—has had occasion to reiterate  that view,” writes Kirkpatrick Sale, “in the face of mass parties, mass  politics, and mass governments claiming to be democratic.”

In this context, “democracy” is substantially political expediency, and its most effective huckster is the press.  Those concerned with how to  pursue, seize, and maintain political power understand this all too well.”

Read the full story in Chronicles.