I was interested in the book, and the central metaphor--that we are awash in cheap and unhealthy information in a way not unlike the glut of cheap and harmful food calories--is an intriguing conceit. However, that simile gets expanded so epically that the book's focus gets diffused. Why am I reading about factory farming and the overuse of corn in our diet for page after page? It's not even remotely because the author is adding anything new to the discussion. It's just rehashed and oversimplified summarizing of books like Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore's Dilemma. And here's the problem: not only has everyone heard all of this criticism of our American diet endlessly before, but the only reason it gets rehearsed for far too long here is because of the author's central conceit, which, as analogies go, is too obvious to require it anyway. As soon as he says that the central analogy is that we consume information like we do food, with all the attendant problems, he hardly needs to repeat for us all the problems with obesity and empty calories.
So the first irony is that the book is fat. It could be a lot leaner. It feels like sections have been added to pad it up to a slim little volume you could call a book, when everything interesting here could be said in a magazine article. Too many empty calories, alas.
The second problem, and one I would hope most readers would care about, though I have my doubts, is the painfully obvious bias the author exhibits when he divides up information into "health food" and "junk food." Kudos to the author for at least acknowledging that he's a liberal who has worked in Democratic politics for years, but that still doesn't excuse the exquisitely obvious way that he divides up the landscape. For pages, I literally dreaded his first mention of Fox News (a station, I must note, that I never watch), for I knew it was coming, and I knew exactly what he would say about it. I won't bore the reader with the details--if you're honest, you know exactly what the most predictable leftist take on conservative media would be. Yet when you have high hopes for a book, to cringe, literally, as it becomes obvious what kind of flatulent, flat-footed bias will be passed off as objectivity... well, it was disheartening.
I could add that, while I don't like any television news stations, what made the predictable Fox-bashing seem more horrible was the way it was couched in a defense of CNN as "the facts." For you see, Fox (and later MSNBC, cynically following Roger Ailes' model) is serving up the "cheese fries in gravy" equivalent of information sustenance, whereas CNN is just "the truth" and "the facts"-- a well-balanced, healthy diet of Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper. And THAT'S why CNN's ratings are so low. It's the information equivalent of broccoli.
Maybe if CNN confirms YOUR bias, it can seem to you like just the "truth" and the "facts." But the idea that it is merely objective is, to put it mildly, absurd.
And so there is your second irony. The author says the problem with information consumption is that people only will watch or read what they want to hear, what confirms their bias. Especially those Fox-watching neo-cons, of course. Whereas those of us who get the objective "truth 'n' facts" from Anderson Cooper, et al., at CNN are open-minded people who can handle the truth. Any mainstream progressive who reads that claim will be flattered and have his biases confirmed.
There are lots of other silly things wrong with this book, such as when the author claims that the printing press ushered in the renaissance (a neat trick for Gutenberg to bring about Petrarch and Pico della Mirandola). But to sell a fatty book that's padded with excess and unnecessary verbiage as if it's an information diet, and to flatter readers that, unlike people who want to be flattered, they're truth-seekers--these things make the book especially disappointing.
Maybe it gets better after the first third. That's how much I could take before I decided to cut my losses and read something more nutritious.