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The middle is gone in American politics. In the media it has pretty much disappeared as well. The United States is in an era of combat journalism. A polarized media symbolizes a polarized country.

Ideological camps led by TV talking heads go at one another like battlefield armies. Even the neutralists, those who make an effort not to come across as warriors, get slotted by internet hammerheads or President Donald Trump’s venom into an enemy camp.

In the age of rage, advocacy journalism sells. Balance is boring. No one is more adept at playing the polarizer than Mr. Trump. He works constantly at demonizing the fourth estate, convincing Americans that those who criticize him are doing so out of ideological bias, not reason.

He has the loudest, most loyal media army of any president, it being his Fox News propaganda machine. With a few exceptions, such as anchor Chris Wallace, the channel is the closest thing I’ve seen to state television since I was a correspondent in the old Soviet Union.

So it was mystifying this week to see Mr. Trump go after the station. Fox “isn’t working for us anymore,” he tweeted. He said he and his supporters will “have to start looking for a new News outlet.”

Triggering his tiff was the decision by Fox to give more air time to progressives like Donna Brazile, a former head of the Democratic National Committee who has a checkered history in the party including managing Al Gore’s feckless 2000 presidential campaign. Fox is “HOPELESS AND CLUELESS” for hiring Ms. Brazile, he tweeted. “They should go all the way to the LEFT and I will still find a way to Win.”

The last thing Mr. Trump should to do is bite the biggest hand that feeds him. To date, his media strategy, as loathsome as it is, has been effective to some degree. With his incessant attacks, calling journalists enemies of the people and so on, he’s been carving into their credibility.

Two of his biggest targets are newspapers of outstanding quality, The New York Times and The Washington Post. They are of liberal reputation but Mr. Trump tries to denigrate them as leftist attack sheets, which they clearly are not.

The American media does in fact come across as anti-Trump. But that doesn’t necessarily signify bias. Given his performance, given the chaos, the serial lying, the demeaning of the office, the race baiting, the policies that have divided the country, honest and accurate coverage of this president is often going to have the look of negative coverage.

But the media sometimes plays to his script. An example came after the Texas and Ohio mass shootings when the Times, in covering the Trump response, ran a positive headline, “Trump Urges Unity vs. Racism.” But following a blizzard of criticism on Twitter from the left the paper promptly changed the headline to a negative one for subsequent editions. The first headline, while not capturing all the context of his speech, was not inaccurate. Times editors were rightly rebuked for the change. Mr. Trump had a field day.

According to a Times report he is now going after the media to such an extent that he is using a network of conservative operatives to investigate backgrounds of journalists in the hope of uncovering embarrassing information. In one such recent instance, it was revealed by the right-wing publication Breitbart that Times editor Tom Wright-Piersanti had written anti-Semitic tweets a decade ago. He has apologized.

A favourite target of Mr. Trump’s is CNN and his wrath is often warranted. CNN has become a leading example of combat journalism. Its panels are stacked with liberals. Hosts like Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon make no secret of where they stand.

But Mr. Trump’s taking on Fox shows a new level of angst as the election approaches and his poll numbers flag. "This man is running scared, it is laughable,” said DNC communications director Xochitl Hinojosa. The fact that he “believes he has control of Fox News is really something else.”

Assisting him in gaining such an impression, the network just hired Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Mr. Trump’s former press secretary, as a commentator.

Mr. Trump’s criticism of Fox is embarrassing for both him and the network. He will likely come to his senses and start loving Fox again. Alienating your major source of support in the country is too boneheaded a move to make, even for him.

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