How to be Right catalogues the rise of fear, fake news and prejudice – and offers a way of staying calm in an increasingly angry world.
Journalist James O’Brien has plenty of material to draw on in his compendium of everyday prejudice: much of the book revisits call-ins to his LBC radio show.
Given the nature of talk radio, this involves lots of folk who don’t like foreigners, homosexuals or feminists – but who dress their prejudice as some kind of moral hand-wringing.
One caller says selling gender neutral clothes is deeply troubling. Another claims waitresses pawed and clawed at a charity dinner had it coming.
Mostly, however, they regurgitate fact-free beliefs picked up from fact-free news outlets and social media. O’Brien shows how these fall apart under even the lightest scrutiny:
“James: But how are your values being eroded?How To Be Right
Andy: This isn’t a Christian country anymore.
James: Do you go to church, Andy?
This doesn’t mean the holders of such beliefs hang-up having seen the ‘error of their ways’. In fact, many don’t.
The book’s title suggests a kind of manual, which it may be for some readers. But it’s perhaps more about O’Brien’s personal philosophy – which isn’t about belittling opinions so much as exploring why people think the way they do.
How to be Right is a commentary on modern times, and yet its biggest achievement is countering extremism and hatred with something very like humanist patience.
How To Be Right … in a world gone wrong, by James O’Brien (2018)
Quoted edition published by Virgin Digital, 2018
Other books similar to How to Be Right
- Factfulness, by Hans Rosling (critical thinking skills)
- Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, by Jaron Lanier (the forces shaping our opinions)
- Books and essays by Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky (media manipulation)
Picture credit: Camylla Battani