How to Be Right Book Summary - How to Be Right Book explained in key points
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How to Be Right summary

James O’Brien

In a World Gone Wrong

4 (107 ratings)
19 mins
7 key ideas
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What is How to Be Right about?

How to Be Right (2018) looks at some of today’s most divisive issues through the unique lens of author James O’Brien. As the liberal host of a radio call-in show, O’Brien has gotten into plenty of arguments with people who’ve tried to convince him of one point or another. Using some particularly memorable conversations as examples, O’Brien shows how many of today’s popular opinions can be dismantled by applying some scrutiny and sticking to the facts.

About the Author

James O’Brien has been the host of his own current affairs radio call-in show on the London-based talk radio station LBC for over 14 years. He’s also had his own daily talk show on ITV and has been a presenter on BBC Two’s Newsnight. As a journalist, he’s contributed to a variety of news outlets, including the Daily Mirror and TLS.

Table of Contents

    How to Be Right
    summarized in 7 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 7

    The treatment of Islam in the press has led people to embrace dangerous ideas that threaten human rights.

    When the author was growing up in Britain in the 1970s and 80s, there were extreme tensions brought on by IRA bombings. At the time, his father was a reporter, and because of the apostrophe in his last name, he received letters accusing him of supporting the Irish militants and “having the blood of murdered children on his hands.”

    Unfortunately, the kind of logic this demonstrates hasn’t diminished over time. Only now, rather than every Irish person being looked at as a potential terrorist, it’s every Muslim. In fact, thanks to online comment boards and social media platforms like Twitter, it would appear that the willingness for broad generalizations has only increased.

    But perhaps even more disconcerting is that news and media outlets like the Sun, the Daily Mirror, Fox News, Breitbart, and even the Daily Telegraph, have used fear-mongering tactics to grab readers’ attention, stoking tensions even further. The Sun, which is the best-selling newspaper in the UK, ran commentary under the headline, “If We Want Peace… We Need Less Islam.”

    As the host of a radio call-in show, the author has spoken with people who’ve clearly been influenced to categorize all Muslims as being somehow guilty of terrorist acts.

    One such caller was Richard, from the town of Marlowe, who felt that Muslim people owed an apology for the attack on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo. After all, those responsible for the attack claimed to be acting in the name of Islam. The author spoke with Richard for some time about how it was far from reasonable to ask someone who had nothing to do with the attack to apologize because a person claiming responsibility invoked the word “Islam.” To make his point, O’Brien raised a scenario where someone committed an act of terrorism in the name of Richards everywhere. Surely, Richard the caller wouldn’t feel the need to apologize, right?

    Unfortunately, in the years that followed, people continued to call with similar views to Richard. One caller by the name of Martin suggested that Muslims as a group need to be better at “weeding out their own bad apples.” Indeed, it seems the fact that even though there are multiple, very distinct and different branches of Islam, such as Sunni and Shia, too many still stick to the popular idea that all Muslims are the same.

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    Best quote from How to Be Right

    Caller: Its against nature. James: Not their nature. Anyway, flying thousands of feet in the air in a giant tin can is against nature, but you dont get your knickers in a twist about that.

    —James O’Brien
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    Who should read How to Be Right

    • Anyone trying to cope with opinionated friends
    • People with Trump-supporting family members
    • Fans of liberal-leaning news programs

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