What Kirsten Doesn’t Get (or Acknowledge) about Media Bias for Obama

Fox News Watch today focused on questions about media bias and its influence on the campaigns for President. Host, John Scott, showed the results of a Fox News Opinion Dynamics Poll, saying that “67% of Americans think the media want Obama to win the election.”

None of the panelists—Jane Hall, Cal Thomas, Jim Pinkerton, and Kirsten Powers—disagreed. As Kirsten Powers said, “most reporters are registered Democrats, so it’s not surprising that they might be voting for the Democratic candidate.” She went on to say, though, that “at the end of the day it doesn’t matter.” Why? “Because no voter is going to go in and make a vote on election day” based on what the press is doing.

Come again? This sounds like a flat out denial of media influence on voting outcomes. John Scott seemed surprised and said you have to believe that media affection for a single candidate makes a difference. Kirsten’s response was to ask, “Then how did Bush get elected two times?”

This is another example of goofy pundit logic. Yes, George Bush was elected twice, and true, this obviously wasn’t the outcome preferred by a liberal press. But this does not mean that voters were not influenced by the media. After all, there were people who voted for Al Gore in the first election and for John Kerry in the second. How does Kirsten know that none of those people were influenced by the pro-Democrat media?

I think she does know that the media played a role. In the first election, you’ll recall, the final vote tally was close. Al Gore still thinks he won. But the margin may have been greater in favor of Bush if the media had been completely opaque about its preferences. Kirsten Powers and others like her have to know this. So their fawning over candidate Obama during his “European Vacation” may well be calculated to trim those margins a smidgen more. And a smidgen may be all it takes.


If you can catch him in a moment of candor, ask Barack Obama how he feels about the media coverage he’s getting. He has to like it, since garnering coverage seems to be a primary reason for his junket (supported, by the way, with taxpayer money).

Why Book Covers Matter

As a reader, I care about what books in my library look like. As an author, I care about what my books look like. Cover art has its own aesthetic. It should appeal. It should say something about what is between the covers, but without saying too much. And, if you’re a marketing director at a publishing firm, it should have what they call “pop”—it should get a prospective buyer (notice, I didn’t say reader) to turn the book over, to read the blurbs, to inspect the pages. With that sort of investment, there’s a better chance the book will sell (whether or not it’s read).

There’s more to the aesthetic of a book than its cover design. What does it feel like in the hand? How are the pages trimmed? Are they ragged, or clean? What about the paper itself? What is its quality? The font, the margins, the kerning. These all matter.

The cover is special. It’s the most noticed feature of the aesthetic of any book. And yet, for me at least, it isn’t always noticed. Countless times I have perused a book without noticing, much less examining, its cover. Not everyone is flawed in this way. I’m sure that what I don’t attend to directly still leaves an impression via its subliminal power. But when I do notice, this noticing is often the source of two different feelings, which may or may not concur. I’m either bewildered by the art or pleased by it, or both.

What I mean by bewildered is quite simple. I don’t get it. I can’t make heads or tails of it. I don’t understand it. And this is what is arresting about it. The design of the cover confuses me or strikes me as impertinent. I assume that the cover is designed. That is, there’s an explanation why this cover is attached to this book. But the explanation escapes me. This intrigues me, especially if the art is at the same time pleasing.

When I say I’m pleased by the cover art of a book, I mean that it gives me pleasure. This is more difficult to explain. And the pleasure induced by a particular cover may be diminished or it may be intensified by the effort to explain its special appeal. Explaining the appeal of a book cover must begin with a description of the experience induced. And this is remarkably variable.

At any rate, this experience of pleasure may be a selling point for me. I may wish to own a copy of the book as much for its cover design as for any other reason. I may feel this way even if I realize that the book holds this “limited” attraction for me. I may even buy the book. This could explain, at least in some cases, why I have purchased a book at a brick and mortar establishment, even if I could have saved a few dollars by ordering it online. It isn’t necessarily an indication of impatience. It may have to do with an attachment to this particular copy of the book I hold in my hands. It is this one that has provided the pleasure. I will zigzag through the columns of books, each shelved book beckoning hopelessly for my attention. I will stand in line, beholding the book with persistent wonder. I will step up to the cashier and hand over my credit card with satisfaction.

The physicality of this unified experience cannot be matched by a paypal order. I will leave the store “holding the bag,” feeling responsible for my purchase. I may pull the book out and place it on the passenger seat of my car, giving it occasional sidelong glances as I return home, and thus extending the experience of pleasure. The prolongation of the experience adds texture to the experience.

At home, I will leave the book out for awhile, so that the initial pleasure returns for brief instants as I tend to other business. I will wait to “process” the book, to assign its place in my collection. For now, its place is distinctive. It is not just one more book among many. It has a distinctive power over my attention.

To be sure, and thankfully, there won’t be many books like this. Man does not live, aesthetically or otherwise, by books alone. But the quality of life may be improved by the cover of a book.


A Book about Book Covers

Links about Book Covers

First Lines: Thinking of the Future When It’s Become the Present

“Not until my ears popped and the plane was coming down over the winking lights of Bogatá—or really it looked like any other city at night—did I raise my eyes from the page I’d been puzzling at and begin to think of the girl, or woman, the friend or acquaintance, Natasha, whom I was flying so far to visit. That’s how it was with me then: I couldn’t think of the future until I arrived there.”

—Dwight B. Wilmerding, lead character in the novel Indecision, by Benjamin Kunkel

“I couldn’t think of the future until I arrived there.” In this case, the character is literally arriving by plane at

Book Cover for Indecision, by Benjamin Kunkel

Book Cover for Indecision, by Benjamin Kunkel

Bogatá, and he’s thinking—really thinking—for the first time about the point of his trip. Whatever he was reading before this moment had occupied his attention and had nothing to do with what was going to happen next.

Wilmerding was there to visit Natasha, and he’d come a long way by plane. Natasha doesn’t have a settled identity for this protagonist. She is, variously, “the girl, or woman, the friend or acquaintance” he’s come to see. These are his thoughts. But if this is so, why has he travelled so far to see her?

That’s what we want to find out, isn’t it?

As for Bogatá, on approach into the airport, it didn’t look different than any other city at night. Has he seen Shanghai, I wonder? But I take his point—in a way, cities do look alike, even the ones we’re seeing for the first time. We approach a new place intent on noticing what’s foreign about it. We’re romantics when it comes to travel. But if we think about it, we really must be more modest. We have projected a difference that doesn’t exist.

Wilmerding hints that his penchant for waiting ’til the future arrives before thinking about it is now past. That’s interesting. What accounts for this idiosyncrasy? And are we any different? Shall we find out?

That’s our question as we stand in the Barnes and Noble fiction isle trying to decide whether to buy and read Kunkel’s novel. We are in the grip of Indecision.

First Lines: What Does Sunday Sound Like?

Sometimes you read the first line of a novel and you just have to take the next step. If you’re lucky, the next sentence is equally galvanizing, and before you know it, you’re deep into another read.

The experience is rare. But it happened for me again the other day. The sentence that did it comes from John Wyndham’s book The Day of the Triffids: “When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.”

First Edition Cover of John Wyndham's Novel, The Day of the Triffids (1951)

First Edition Cover of John Wyndham's Novel, The Day of the Triffids (1951)

The Day of the Triffids is favorably reviewed by its numerous readers. For example, it averages four-and-a-half stars at Amazon for sixty-nine customer reviews. But it’s still not known very well outside the sci-fi community. Paul Thompson, of Devon, England, has dedicated a website to this book. It’s called “The Reader’s Guide to John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids.”

Here is an artist’s rendition of a triffid:

Sketch of a Triffid

Sketch of a Triffid

Best discussions of The Day of the Triffids:

If you’re familiar with Wyndham’s novel, please post your thoughts.

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