Everything Bad is Good for You Review

The mainstream media takes a shot at pop culture every chance it gets. Politicians join crusades to ban video games. Reality TV is brain-dead entertainment. Steven Johnson says it all makes us smarter, a gutsy cry for people to use common sense when dealing with these things, and he pulls it off.

While the deep scientific communities may argue he hasn't performed any hard research, everyone else, those who can simply process a basic thought, will make perfect sense of Johnson's argument. There's really no need for research. He showcases his side via every day examples, relaying back to the reader previous points that simply make you say out loud, "This guy is right!" He makes his case starting with video games, moves to TV, and then the internet. He then wraps it all up in convincing style that's easy enough to anyone to pick up and read over a short weekend.

Early in this somewhat short book, Johnson makes a perfect example from a High School math equivalency test, and then compares it to a section in Nintendo's Zelda. Not only does the comparison make sense, he makes the perfect argument that either way the problem is presented, the thought process to make it to the end answer is the same. He even tackles the topic of media violence briefly before the book finishes, stating the one stat that most major news outlets seem to miss: Violent crime rates have taken a significant hit as media violence has increased.

He also makes his case through television, using the multiple plot lines some shows now feature. Thirty years ago, a show like CSI never would have worked, simply because other television shows were so straightforward. After years of exposure, we've now managed to move past the simplicity of Mork & Mindy, and into an era of complicated stories that require, at times, a deep thought process just to follow. Johnson slowly works his side, pulling you in by example, and then sending you back out thoroughly convinced.

At times, he takes multiple pages to explain how all of this works. That's fine. It makes for a stronger argument, and one that's hard not to believe when you're done. It's a book more people should read then they will, and hopefully, his argument will enter into mainstream thought. At the very least, if you don't buy the fact that Zelda can make kids smarter, you'll understand that a kid isn't just sitting there brain-dead for hours at a time.

Comments (1)

This guy was just on The Daily Show. The book looked like one of those common sense things, so I figured it would be a good book.

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