what if the media had not covered Barr’s 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th pre-release pronouncements? Or, what if the media showed these things one time, and thereafter simply and flatly reminded viewers what he said, but did not show him saying it, did not augment the message with the thousand trappings of his office that are part of a video picture? Or better, did not repeat, but merely referenced, his prior messaging? What if we put the onus back on Barr to get his own message out and abroad?

 Media amplification lets him manipulate their allegiance by targeting their power-bases directly.

But that’s not how we do things. We don’t make the man with the message do anything but stand there in front of our cameras one time and spout off. It should be more work for him than that. We don’t have to replay the recordings. It’s good to have them as a record, but we don’t have to air them again and again, over and over.

Trump’s whole team plays modern media like a kazoo. We’ve all noticed that he himself demonstrates little grasp of, and less interest in, how government traditionally works. Nobody acknowledges that he doesn’t need to know the old game, because media provide him with such a slick, efficient end-run. He doesn’t have to dicker with the Hill, forging compromises to get things done. He doesn’t even need to consider what policy positions any legislator values. Media amplification lets him manipulate their allegiance by targeting their power-bases directly. Media replay his message, expressed his way, over and over, to the voters who keep — or don’t keep — these lawmakers in office.. You can’t buy that kind of saturation.

Here’s the trap: Media afford him camera focus, not because he is true or even well-intentioned. (It is not up to us to judge, in the moment, the inner man, we say; we would not want our intentions to be judged that way, not by even loyal opposition. Better just to let him speak and let the audience judge for themselves.) We afford him focus because he holds high office, and his words will impact millions.

But he only retains this power with our help. We are the gatekeepers – we focus the attention of the audience. We direct viewers to pay attention to him, largely by giving them little else to look at, and he tells them what they should think about things. We have 24 hours to fill, and so we play our part in his operation repeatedly. But he’s been recorded; he only needs to exercise once.

Any idiot can play this kazoo.

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