For decades, we’ve been living under the misimpression, purveyed by our media elites, that politics revolves around the president. First, it was Bill Clinton; then it was George W. Bush; then it was Barack Obama; now, it’s Donald Trump. All matters of policy and rhetoric must be filtered through the prism of the man occupying the Oval Office.
But this executive-centric vision of the political universe is completely wrong. We’ve been subjected to a pre-Copernican political model. In reality, the actual center of gravity around which all politics revolves are the media themselves. The stories we see are promoted by the media; the stories we don’t are buried by them. The figures we admire are touted by the media; the figures we hate are ripped by them. Members of the media will suggest that this is merely a responsive mechanism: that they give us the facts, we react to those facts, and they react to our reactions. But that simply isn’t true. The media shape the news cycle.
That’s most obvious this week in light of the media’s blanket coverage of former FBI director James Comey’s book. Now there’s a lot of real news to be covered, and the media are covering it – but they’re certainly spending an inordinate amount of time on Comey’s dud. Comey’s book reveals no new information; the excerpts that have been covered by the media suggest, as Chris Wallace of Fox News says, a “bitchy” book focused on mulling over past slights and musing over the possibility that Trump really did pay hookers to pee on him in Russia. The media have salivated over every silly opinion – even though the only news in the book seems to be that Comey may have thought twice about announcing the re-opened Hillary investigation if he had thought the election was close. Instead of pointing out the fact that the book doesn’t break news, then, the media have turned to repeating Comey’s overheated rhetoric about Trump being a “mob boss” with a character defect.
But knowing that the media would obsess over Comey, his publisher has already printed some 850,000 copies of his book. And the media will undoubtedly spend all of next week trying to breathe life into the book, like Mandy Patinkin trying to revive Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride, hoping he’s only mostly dead.
If the media had any sense, they’d move beyond Comey. They’d start covering the revelations surrounding fired deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, who lost his job for lying repeatedly; they’d keep their eyes on the investigation into Michael Cohen; hell, they’d spend more time talking about Syria. But because the media get to place their lens wherever they want it, Comey will make bank.
This is why conservatives resonate to Trump’s complaints about the media. Hell, Trump’s late to the ballgame: Bernard Goldberg’s book on media bias became a massive bestseller fully 15 years ago. Newt Gingrich nearly won the 2012 nomination based on attacking the media. To pretend that the media aren’t the centers of the political universe is to ignore the reality.