We feel multiple sensations while browsing through a newspaper. Today’s needull is a masterful article discusses how light reading has grown into prominence.
The piece satirizes just the condition Benjamin had identified: a public yanked from one sensation to the next, unable to assimilate anything and unable to stop. “Wherever a newspaper lies / there I must hurry—out of greed / for paper, always more paper.”
Comparisons between Hitler’s Germany and our own time are rightly regarded with suspicion, but the critique of the feuilleton is relevant to an age in which the abundance of news and opinion seems somehow to have left us less informed and more close-minded. One reason for this is that the news has become a cultural product, one that glibly reinforces its consumers’ worldview. The world doesn’t appear until after the press. Benjamin’s critique suggests that this situation is not technologically determined, nor the product of overt manipulation, but the result of the subjection of ideas to the logic of the marketplace.