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How to Be Right summary

James O’Brien

In a World Gone Wrong

4.1 (121 ratings)
19 mins

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How to Be Right by James O'Brien is a guide to communicating effectively in today's polarized world. It provides practical tips on how to argue constructively, avoid common fallacies and recognize the emotional biases that can cloud our judgment.

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    How to Be Right
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    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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    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.

    How to Be Right Review

    How to Be Right (2018) is a thought-provoking book that tackles the art of argumentation and challenges readers to think critically about their beliefs. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It offers clear and logical reasoning that teaches readers how to construct sound arguments and navigate through challenging conversations.
    • By examining common logical fallacies and cognitive biases, the book equips readers with the tools to spot flawed reasoning and avoid falling into persuasive traps.
    • Through engaging anecdotes and real-life examples, the book demonstrates how to persuade others effectively and foster constructive dialogue.

    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

    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.

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    How to Be Right FAQs 

    What is the main message of How to Be Right?

    The main message of How to Be Right is understanding the art of persuasion and effective communication.

    How long does it take to read How to Be Right?

    The reading time for How to Be Right varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is How to Be Right a good book? Is it worth reading?

    How to Be Right is an insightful read for anyone interested in better understanding persuasive arguments. It offers practical advice and useful techniques.

    Who is the author of How to Be Right?

    James O'Brien is the author of How to Be Right.

    What to read after How to Be Right?

    If you're wondering what to read next after How to Be Right, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Read People Like a Book by Patrick King
    • A Handbook for New Stoics by Massimo Pigliucci and Gregory Lopez
    • Hardcore Self Help by Robert Duff
    • Head Strong by Dave Asprey
    • The Six Disciplines of Strategic Thinking by Michael D. Watkins
    • Human Compatible by Stuart Russell
    • A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking