He’s pushing against an open door with his audience because the media is, indeed, worse than ever before. As the media environment has fractured, organizations feel less obligation to try to cultivate a broader audience. And as politics becomes more culturally charged, the divide between the heartland and the coasts where the media lives and works becomes even more stark and important. Then, there’s the reaction to Trump himself. Since he is genuinely outrageous, especially to coastal sensibilities, the media feels justified in its unremittingly harsh coverage, perhaps even believing that if it is breathlessly hysterical enough, it can drive him from office.
Some in the media are happy to play along with the role Trump allots them, as long as it serves the twin goals of self-referentiality and ratings. CNN at times appears to be a network devoted to covering things that the president says about the network. Prior to Trump’s rally in Phoenix, CNN relentlessly promoted the event. Then it took the whole thing, and devoted the rest of the night to blow-out coverage of commentators pronouncing themselves outraged and dismayed. At the end of the day, what had really happened? Nothing much, but at least something entertaining had filled the air.