How To Be Right… in a World Gone Wrong

How To Be Right… in a World Gone Wrong

Every day, James O’Brien listens to people blaming benefits scroungers, the EU, Muslims, feminists and immigrants. But what makes James’s daily LBC show such essential listening – and has made James a standout social media star – is the careful way he punctures their assumptions and dismantles their arguments live on air, every single morning.In How To Be Right, Jame...

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Title:How To Be Right… in a World Gone Wrong
Author:James O'Brien
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Edition Language:English

How To Be Right… in a World Gone Wrong Reviews

  • Roman Clodia

    O'Brien is such a sane voice in today's increasingly toxic world... refusing to accept the often unthinking inanities of people incensed by Muslims, migrants, Remainers, uppity women, feminists, gay/trans people, Trump-haters, millenials, the young in general and just about anyone else who doesn't fit into some kind of narrow definition of 'us', he subjects - and importantly - forces them on his phone-in show to subject their often rabid and deeply offensive opinions to factual and cool critical

    O'Brien is such a sane voice in today's increasingly toxic world... refusing to accept the often unthinking inanities of people incensed by Muslims, migrants, Remainers, uppity women, feminists, gay/trans people, Trump-haters, millenials, the young in general and just about anyone else who doesn't fit into some kind of narrow definition of 'us', he subjects - and importantly - forces them on his phone-in show to subject their often rabid and deeply offensive opinions to factual and cool critical analysis. That he does this with wit, albeit acidic at times, and humour and a kind of dogged refusal to be side-tracked is wholly admirable, revealing and frequently very funny. Although sometimes in a kind of tragic way.

    O'Brien as a journalist is more generous than I am in blaming not individuals but the right-wing media which feeds, and makes a profit out of, this kind of right-wing scaremongering. He forces people to try to justify their spoon-fed opinions beyond the soundbite that they adopt so easily - some might change their stance, others simply put the phone down when challenged.

    O'Brien also admits to having his own thoughtlessness in relation to gendered behaviour challenged and changed by the women in his life - and you have to love someone open enough to recognise their own privileged and, thus, implicated position in a patriarchy.

    There are serious political, social and cultural issues under discussion here - but O'Brien is funny and honest, acute and, you know, sensible. This could have been a book that is depressing to read as there's just so much hatred and ignorance and ill-nature and anger in the people who call up O'Brien's show - but his passion and generosity, his wit and intelligence in the widest sense make it both entertaining (I laughed out loud!) and compensatory.

    Many thanks to Penguin Random House for an ARC via NetGalley

  • Sid Nuncius

    I thought How To Be Right was excellent. It is readable, thoughtful, intelligent and humane.

    James O’Brien writes very well indeed. Drawing on his experience as a print journalist and then as a long-standing and very successful radio phone-in host, he dissects the prejudices, myths and downright lies which pollute our debates so badly these days. What is so striking, though, is that he tries to believe that people are sincere but have been misled by powerful politicians, media outlets

    I thought How To Be Right was excellent. It is readable, thoughtful, intelligent and humane.

    James O’Brien writes very well indeed. Drawing on his experience as a print journalist and then as a long-standing and very successful radio phone-in host, he dissects the prejudices, myths and downright lies which pollute our debates so badly these days. What is so striking, though, is that he tries to believe that people are sincere but have been misled by powerful politicians, media outlets and the like, so he is less concerned with “winning” the argument than with trying to get people actually to analyse and justify their positions. As he says and illustrates well with transcripts from his shows, the absurd, the vitriolic and the hateful rhetoric which is now so common, almost always crumbles in the face of simple questions like “Why do you think that?” or “Can you give me a concrete example?” or “How is that actually affecting you?” He won’t let go of these and explores the logical conclusions of what people say they want to do. It’s refreshing to hear genuine rationality and reality rather than an exchange of pre-digested, unexamined clichés, and his analysis of where we are and its possible future consequences is very shrewd.

    This is a brief, intellectually stimulating and enjoyable (if often slightly depressing) read. I can heartily recommend it to anyone who values genuine fact and rationality in a world where “alternative facts” and echo-chamber discourse are becoming more and more dominant.

    (My thanks to Penguin/Ebury for an ARC via NetGalley.)

  • Tariq Mahmood

    This is not an easy job, trying to directly argue with ordinary deranged individuals who are living in a climate of fear. They are insecure, they are afraid, they feel as if they are the real victims. James blames Project Fear of brainwashing these individuals but I think some of the anger is a result of too much change being imposed on a society too quickly. But regardless of the why, James quest to face these individuals on national radio is indeed commendable. The example conversations in the

    This is not an easy job, trying to directly argue with ordinary deranged individuals who are living in a climate of fear. They are insecure, they are afraid, they feel as if they are the real victims. James blames Project Fear of brainwashing these individuals but I think some of the anger is a result of too much change being imposed on a society too quickly. But regardless of the why, James quest to face these individuals on national radio is indeed commendable. The example conversations in the book are very interesting which made listening to this wonderful audiobook a very enjoyable experience indeed. I do agree with this approach of tackling these individuals as if not challenged their paranoia will only grow.

  • Matt McQueen

    A short read, but very good. Unfortunately, those who should read this book never will.

    The audiobook is narrated by the author, and I'd recommend it also.

  • Kevin

    James O'Brien is a talk radio host on LBC here in the UK. A person with a Liberal conscious, he hosts this radio program and in a very incisive, clever way takes down most of the common arguments in our media regarding contemporary issues that get our lay population angry over; subjects such as immigration, brexit, feminism and Trump all too often get listeners to ring in and think they know the answers who read our right-wing, populist media (such as what is spurned out from newspapers such as

    James O'Brien is a talk radio host on LBC here in the UK. A person with a Liberal conscious, he hosts this radio program and in a very incisive, clever way takes down most of the common arguments in our media regarding contemporary issues that get our lay population angry over; subjects such as immigration, brexit, feminism and Trump all too often get listeners to ring in and think they know the answers who read our right-wing, populist media (such as what is spurned out from newspapers such as The Sun and Daily Mail which have a a wide readership amongst our general population). Every common assumption, lets take Brexit as an example here - arguing against the most commonly held assumption that 'immigrants' are taking all our jobs away, undercutting the wages in our country (hey that is how Capitalism works, right?) and the the European Unions' Open Borders policy is allowing immigrants and the dastardly 'foreigner' into our country with their different cultures and then end up weighing down our already stressed Welfare State as well as the cost the EU allegedly costs us every year. You know the type of people who espouse these ideas - working people mostly for sure who read this gutter press which leads to, what I call, 'knee jerkism' and believe what they read in our mass popular right-wing media. This book that James O'Brien wrote trys to push a different perspective in the callers into his radio show. The only decent way to combat these views (that I believe led us into this Brexit mess in the first instance) is to challenge these folk who hold these views by using common sense, a healthy amount of knowledge and intelligence without debasing the listeners and callers level of intelligence. He does it cleverly and most arguments (hence I said 'most') he can win over by challenging these populist views, views that are worldwide and allowed Trump to become the President of the US. The mass-media has an right-wing agenda and in this current climate we live is quite scary regarding the hold they have over popular opinion.

    James O'Brien is a healthy dose of fresh air in our current populist world. Only by challenging these well established, 'ignorant' views in a professional, sometimes quite humorous manner then he does make you and the listeners make you think, just 'think' a little bit more about the agenda our media - allied with Capitalism -has in (almost) thought control amongst the majority of the population (again as I stated allowing Trump, of which there is chapter on him in the book, to become POTUS). We undoubtedly live in quite dangerous times, and it is only people such as James O'Brien and his talk show slot on LBC radio that provide an antibiotic to the bigotry people hold, even if it is innocently held. Just by challenging these callers ideas and knee-jerk reactions, again as I stated by using common sense and a degree of intelligence (without becoming too condescending), then maybe, just maybe we can make people see through the lies they are being sold via the common media and right-wing journalism. He makes a difference. He also has a youtube channel as well, which is worth a glance at to see him at the radio office, usually becoming frustrated. I am going to give this 5 stars, because it was a healthy antidote to all the troubles our world faces today.

  • Sam

    I wanted to give this book four stars. I like it. It makes me think and makes me question myself. But in places author felt too patronizing. It nearly took off one of the stars, but then(whilst contemplating over this book) I happened to overhear completely different radio show with three callers in a row whose arguments made me stuck somewhere between incurable facepalm and anger. And you know what, James O'Brien deserves not only four or five, he deserves much more stars. For patience and for

    I wanted to give this book four stars. I like it. It makes me think and makes me question myself. But in places author felt too patronizing. It nearly took off one of the stars, but then(whilst contemplating over this book) I happened to overhear completely different radio show with three callers in a row whose arguments made me stuck somewhere between incurable facepalm and anger. And you know what, James O'Brien deserves not only four or five, he deserves much more stars. For patience and for the will to make conversations with people he will never agree with.

  • el

    super interesting, I have a fair few thoughts

    rtc

  • Simon

    A lot of this could be considered preaching to the choir, and many of the radio show transcripts come across as a bit sneering and condescending. It's actually better when he leaves his radio show behind (in any case all the clips are available on youtube) and just writes from his own perspective. The later chapters on the age gap and millennials are the strongest, as he tackles wider issues and their socio-economic causes and consequences.

    O'Brien's main point is a good one; that many prej

    A lot of this could be considered preaching to the choir, and many of the radio show transcripts come across as a bit sneering and condescending. It's actually better when he leaves his radio show behind (in any case all the clips are available on youtube) and just writes from his own perspective. The later chapters on the age gap and millennials are the strongest, as he tackles wider issues and their socio-economic causes and consequences.

    O'Brien's main point is a good one; that many prejudices and ill-informed views are never challenged, and when they are they evaporate almost immediately. The title is a little misleading as this isn't a "how to" guide. The main lesson is to do your homework and question everything.

  • Claire (Book Blog Bird)

    This was weird. I totally agree with James o’Brien’s opinions, so I thought I would have liked this book more than I did. As it is, I did enjoy it but I didn’t love it. He came across as slightly patronising - he seems to think hat the only reason people hate immigrants or find LGBT folk unpleasant or voted Brexit is because they’ve been drip-fed a diet of low-level hatred for years and years by the Daily Mail. And while that is certainly a factor, and while I think that the Daily Mail is horrif

    This was weird. I totally agree with James o’Brien’s opinions, so I thought I would have liked this book more than I did. As it is, I did enjoy it but I didn’t love it. He came across as slightly patronising - he seems to think hat the only reason people hate immigrants or find LGBT folk unpleasant or voted Brexit is because they’ve been drip-fed a diet of low-level hatred for years and years by the Daily Mail. And while that is certainly a factor, and while I think that the Daily Mail is horrific beyond measure, the author seems to overlook the fact that THESE PEOPLE ARE CAPABLE OF THINKING FOR THEMSELVES. They have brains in their heads. They don’t have to believe everything they read. Maybe they’re just arseholes? And while I would be very happy to see the Daily Mail banished to the depths of hell for all eternity, maybe we should be encouraging people to, you know, think for themselves.

  • Joe O'Donnell

    Reading “How to be Right” is a curious experience. I agree with just about every agreement and every word uttered by James O’Brien throughout this short polemic about fake news, the normalisation of hate speech and the populist assault on objective truth. In most respects, O’Brien comes across as a pillar of liberal-minded common sense. So, why did I find myself so frequently – but intensely – irritated by it?

    “How to be Right” is, in a way, two different books soldered onto each othe

    Reading “How to be Right” is a curious experience. I agree with just about every agreement and every word uttered by James O’Brien throughout this short polemic about fake news, the normalisation of hate speech and the populist assault on objective truth. In most respects, O’Brien comes across as a pillar of liberal-minded common sense. So, why did I find myself so frequently – but intensely – irritated by it?

    “How to be Right” is, in a way, two different books soldered onto each other, one infinitely more satisfying and convincing than the other. In the most compelling sections of the book, James O’Brien trains his sights on the charlatans, demagogues and shameless hate-peddlers who have done so much to corrupt political debate – whether in the U.S, the U.K. or across Europe – over the last two decades. He is excellent at analysing how a debased media has accelerated this assault on our institutions and values, its modern-day business model predicated on the notion that “comforting lies deliver more clicks, viewers, listeners and profits than uncomfortable truths”. O’Brien is particularly excoriating about British media outlets like The Daily Mail (a publication purposefully “designed to make [their readers] angry and fearful, not peaceable and thoughtful”), and he expertly traces how they have created a media environment dependent on the stoking of people’s worst fears rather than the challenging of their most base prejudices (“it has always been easier and more lucrative to sell tickets for the ghost train than the speak-your-weight machine”).

    As host of a lively political radio phone-in on the talk station LBC, James O’Brien has achieved huge prominence through challenging the racists, islamophobes, hard brexiteers, and homophobes who comprise so many of the typical callers to his show. Several clips of these arguments have ‘gone viral’, and transcripts of those clips make up a large chunk of “How to be Right”.

    And it is here that O’Brien’s book loses its way - and much of the sympathy of the reader. By reproducing transcripts of debates with some of his most vociferously intolerant and blinkered callers, James O’Brien might think he is creating a guide to how racist and bigoted views can be confronted and defeated through the sheer remorselessness of liberal logic. But, reading a verbatim reproduction of O’Brien running rings around some idiot like ‘Jack from Croyden’ – leaving the poor caller dissected like a frog in a biology lesson – undermines the author’s claim that he ultimately has empathy for the deluded saps who phone his show. As a device, it comes across as self-aggrandising and – despite the author’s protestations to the contrary – slightly smug, leaving the reader feeling as browbeaten as O’Brien’s hapless callers.

    When O’Brien focuses his ire on the political and media elites that have poisoned the well of public opinion, there is much in “How to be Right” than is reflective and persuasive. But, this is a book that would have been vastly improved (if significantly shortened) by dispensing with the reproduced radio transcripts and replacing them with links to James O’Brien’s YouTube channel.

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