U.S. President Donald Trump is often criticized for talking too much about the media, burning out on cable news and sparking crises via Twitter. All of the above may be correct, but so might something else: that there is an enormous project under way, one that has the potential to reshape the United States more than any wall or trade deal.

As the head of the U.S. government, Trump's done less than most of his predecessors in his first weeks in power. But he's done far more to introduce an alternative narrative into the mainstream news agenda. From the inauguration weekend brawl over crowd sizes, he's functioned as a malicious editor-in-chief laying traps for The New York Times and CNN with one hand while boosting conservative outlets big and small that reaffirm his worldview.

Trump's initial executive order banning entry to the U.S. to the nationals of seven Muslim countries was shot down by the courts, but it was exhaustively covered, drawing a bright line with the Obama administration and Democrats for supporting more timid actions against travelers from these countries. The coverage legitimized the discussion of terrorism in the context of origin: Some mainstream news outlets' response was to check whether the seven nations produced more terrorists than others, an exercise that inevitably leads to alternative lists.