In his Friday column in the New York Times, David Brooks floats several large-sounding numbers to pretend that the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement promises big gains for Americans. However, as Dean Baker points out, these are so grossly misleading as to be worthless. For example, the $131 billion in gains that he cites take so long to be realized that we are talking about the TPP making the US as rich on January 1, 2030 as it would otherwise be in mid-March of that year. And if we take into account that the agreement will have negative distributional effects, such as increasing the price of prescription drugs, it would be more accurate to say that most Americans will suffer a net loss in their income as a result of the TPP.

Brooks appears for all practical purposes to be innumerate, and numbers in his columns, especially with regard to economic issues, appear mostly as ornamentation rather than as a means of describing quantitative relationships in the world. However it is worth looking at his overall argument: for Brooks, Trump is spearheading a “Coming Political Realignment,” which less clumsy politicians may bring to fruition even after his likely failure. That alignment involves a new debate between open versus closed, “open borders, free trade, cosmopolitan culture and global intervention” versus “closed borders, trade barriers, local and nationalistic culture and an America First foreign policy.”

But what Brooks fails to notice is that the media, together with the policy makers that it mostly supports, has done vastly more than Donald Trump or any politician to frame the debate in this way. In fact, even Donald Trump’s capture of the Republican nomination would have been very unlikely without the estimated $2 billion of free publicity that they slathered on him. Bernie Sanders offered a much more sensible “political realignment” that moved millions of Americans, one in which the battle was joined on one side by mega-corporations and banks, Wall Street and corrupted politicians, polluters, tax-evaders and outsourcers, and the other by a majority who had been deprived of their fair share of the country’s growing income. He received a small fraction of the coverage granted to Trump.

The major media, in which Brooks is a quintessential and widely followed pundit, reinforces the movement towards this “coming realignment” every day. Almost all the words and concepts of Brooks’ description are something of a farce. “Free trade” is a relatively minor component of the corporate power grab that is labeled as the TPP. “Global intervention” is about unnecessary wars in which thousands of Americans lose their lives and hundreds of thousands more are wounded so that our leaders can preserve a dying empire. The “cosmopolitanism” and “openness” of the elite that supports American foreign policy is every bit as racist, and in the rest of the world often more violently so, as the Trumpism that wants to build walls and ban Muslim immigrants.

Brooks has correctly identified a political trend that is currently growing in the US and Europe. But it is only because the major media have turned the world upside-down that Trump, Brooks, and right-wing leaders in the UK and Europe have any chance of framing these great political divides as a grotesque caricature of their reality.