Via the Free Beacon, she’s talking about swing districts here but I’d bet this is true broadly, among all but the bluest enclaves. If you hate Trump, as most of the media does, you’re invested in every minor twist and turn of Mueller’s probe. If you merely dislike him or are “meh” about him, who can muster the mental energy to follow it day to day? Last week I was watching cable news with family and they were exasperated trying to make sense of whatever the latest bread crumb was. (Something to do with Jared, I think. I follow the news for a living and the daily Russiagate drudgery has begun to blur even for me.) Apart from the occasional updated indictment of Manafort, we’re so deep in the weeds that it’s hard to tell what’s significant and what isn’t. Mueller asked witness X a question about Trump’s holdings somewhere? Is that routine or big news? Kushner once spoke to an official from country Y who considered investing in his family’s properties about an unrelated policy matter? Is that illegal or just unethical? No one really knows anything except Mueller and his team. And they’re the only players in Washington who don’t leak.
When you poll Americans on the investigation, they know the right answer to give. Is Mueller’s probe a serious matter worthy of investigation or a witch hunt aimed at taking Trump down? The public splits about 60/40 on that, which is a good result, I think. It is a serious matter and the special counsel should finish his work. But the media’s obsessive daily chatter about the most banal developments, believing we’re careening towards another Watergate, has gotten to the point where even members of the guild have taken to warning their colleagues to dial it down. Mike Allen published a piece on Saturday at Axios reality-checking the Russiagate journalism industry. Now here’s Maeve Reston, on CNN of all places, suggesting that the media’s interest in the subject isn’t, shall we say, in perfect synchronicity with the audience’s interest.
If you pressed Reston on where the fault lies in that mismatch, I bet she’d say it lies with the public, not the network. If Americans want to tune out a matter of great civic interest, they’re free to do so but the media should continue to assign it the attention it’s due on the merits. Fair enough; it’s true that many Republicans aren’t taking the investigation seriously enough because the implications offend their partisan interests. But if you missed it on Saturday, go watch Bill Maher’s quickie monologue on media echo chambers and the inflation of nontroversies into national controversies. I mentioned Russiagate in that post not because it’s a nontroversy — it isn’t — but to illustrate how even real news can end up being overhyped when a clutch of national reporters become encased in a social-media bubble of the like-minded. We’re all stuck in those bubbles; they exist to amplify trivia that flatters the bubble’s political prejudices. That’s why stories like “Source: Mueller looking into what Hicks knows” become stories in the first place. Of course he’s looking into what Hope Hicks knows. There’s nothing newsy or even incriminating in that. But when you (a) hate Trump, (b) are primed to believe this is Watergate II, and (c) spend most of your time chattering with people with the same priorities, naturally you’re going to blast that out as a major development whether it is or not.