Issac Chotnier makes a good observation about Il Trumpe’s ‘shift’ on gun control (boldface mine):
Just to recap: On Wednesday, Trump, via a word salad, endorses gun control, and does so while making clear—as in this priceless exchange with Sen. Dianne Feinstein—that he is completely uninformed and uninterested in the subject at hand. The internet briefly loses its mind at the (admittedly fascinating) spectacle of the clueless president abandoning his base for several minutes. The Times—and I am only picking on them because I read them the most regularly, they deserve to be held to the highest standard, and the quality of their reporting is sometimes undermined by the way that reporting is headlined and framed—decides that this pointless blathering is worthy of a front-page story in Thursday’s print edition and placement as the lead story on nytimes.com for much of Wednesday and Thursday. And then, when the inevitable flip happens, the Times decides that this is “breaking news” because Trump beat a “retreat” on gun control, which his administration has never really embraced and probably never will…
I used to roll my eyes when, in the early, anxious days of the Trump presidency, people would scold the media for paying too much attention to the president’s tweets or words. He was the president, after all, whether anyone liked it or not; his words could set off an international incident, alter foreign relations, and stoke bigotry. They had to be addressed. But what we have learned over the past 13-plus months is that Trump’s babbling on domestic policy is usually irrelevant, and reporters and editors should treat it as such.
…The fact that Trump’s irrelevant words dominate so many news cycles in this sort of atmosphere is absurd. And the fact that we cover them as if they were true—as if he really was going to take away people’s guns and then really had a change of heart—is even more so.
The problem isn’t just that a ‘false news cycle’ is created (FAKE NEWS!). It’s that this pattern sucks all of the oxygen out of the room. It crowds everything else off of the front page–literally, in the case of the NY Times. Last year, when Democrats unveiled a significant policy overhaul, rather than covering its pros and cons, the media focused on Il Trumpe’s various utterances (which includes his tweets). Which was more important? Things Trump says so he can feel good about himself, or the future direction of a major political party?
Until the major news organizations figure this out, we’re going to continue to have bread and circuses–or at least circuses, anyway.