A healthy skepticism of mainstream reporting that once guided conservatives in an advantageous way has transformed into an all-consuming sense of victimization by the press. This condition has led Republicans to go chasing after candidates they believe can navigate a fraught media minefield rather than those who best exemplify their values and can communicate those values effectively. When it comes to media, the American political right can’t make up its mind. Do they reject it entirely, or do they compete against it? Do they undermine it from within, or do they seek out voices that are capable of speaking over the heads of the press? Sometimes, the answer is all of the above.

Conservatives aren’t imagining things. Media bias is real. An industry devoted to identifying and checking that bias in both the conservative and mainstream press has evolved from a niche to profitable venture. A near myopic obsession with countering that bias has, however, become unhealthy. In observing that selectivity, tone, and omission so often favor narratives favorable to the left, conservatives have given themselves permission to view all reporting in mainstream press outlets with suspicion. In so doing, they’ve given themselves license to escape into alternate realities.

This brooding preoccupation has led to a sad state of affairs. Some conservatives have retreated into bubbles, in which they are provided with comforting misinformation from disreputable foreign sources, which are more than happy to confirm their most antisocial biases. Conservatives who have not sworn off the mainstream political press entirely, and reality along with it, are not rewarded for calling out bias in a nuanced and circumspect fashion. Only garment-rending hyperbole rises above the din and is rewarded with clicks, eyeballs, met quotas, and job retention. Republicans have lost sight of the fact that media are, well, just the medium(s) through which a message is disseminated. In concentrating on the messenger and the medium, the right forgot about the message and lost the plot.