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How To Be Right

Cover of How To Be Right by James O'Brien

All the books I read in 2019

9. How To Be Right by James O'Brien

Did I finish it or abandon it? I FINISHED IT

Would I recommend it? YES

LBC talk radio host James O'Brien is a rare beast in 2019. He's a demagogue on the left of the political spectrum. He has liberal views and seems to genuinely care about people who are not like himself. I don't listen to LBC radio. James came to my attention through interview clips shared on social media. (Mainly twitter, I'll do a post soon about my relationship with social media). I saw this book whilst walking up to the Foyles cafe to write and, as it was just after payday, I picked it up, along with Ian Williams' The Lady Doctor.

The books is split into chapters which concern the big political issues that people feel strongly about in 2019. Examples include; political correctness, feminism, immigration and the nanny state. In each chapter James sets about summarising what he hears on his shows and sets out his points.

I liked this book because it advocates getting deeper into people's opinions. Asking not only WHAT people believe, but WHY they believe it - and actually listening to what they say. I think that if more of us did this, then Britain would be a better place. James illustrates his points on each topic with transcripts from his radio show.

A lot of this book resonated with me. We seem to live in a time where nobody is expected to explain or back up their opinion. Because of this, the falsehood that "all opinions are equally valid," is becoming more and more the received wisdom. Just to give an example from my own life, I watched an interview about immigration on the news with some people in Newark. One of the men said "The trouble with immigration is that these days, I can walk past ten or fifteen people in town and not hear one of them speaking English." I mean, come on. This is obviously a total lie (I've been to Newark), but this was left totally unchallenged by the presenter, who just moved on to the next person, giving the impression that the man had made a valid point.

Reading this book, I got the impression that the thing that upsets James the most is received dogma is based on lies. For example, in my life I've heard more than one person say that "You're not even allowed to call Christmas "Christmas" anymore. In Birmingham, they tried to change the name to 'Winterval.'" This is just not true, it never has been true and, as James points out, ten seconds spent on Google will reveal what actually happened.

This book is very, very easy to read and made me think about things in a new away. In these times, anything that encourages people to actually think and not just spout hot air has to be a good thing.

p.s. Here's the Winterval leaflet that Birmingham Council produced. It makes you wonder what all the fuss was about.

The Winterval leaflet


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