HOW NOT TO BE WRONG – The Art of Changing Your Mind by James O’Brien

How Not To Be Wrong – The Art of Changing Your Mind by James O’Brien is the author’s follow up to 2018’s How To Be Right. O’Brien is a journalist and broadcaster who has written for the TLS and the Daily Mirror and who has a daily current affairs programme on LBC. He is an interesting character, in that he was privately educated and enjoyed a privileged upbringing, and yet has a rather left-wing political stance. His radio show is very engaging and his Twitter presence is both divisive and, almost always, bang on point.

I haven’t read How To Be Right so it’s impossible for me to compare the two books, but this one felt up to date and relevant, taking in the impact of Covid and the disastrous handling of the pandemic by both Boris Johnson and Donald Trump’s governments. O’Brien is famously anti-Brexit, and it’s difficult to argue that he’s wrong as, so far, there is little evidence to counter his argument, and it’s here where the crux of the book is: if your opinions don’t match O’Brien’s you’ll likely not enjoy reading this book; in fact it will probably infuriate you. On the other hand if your personal political opinion is matched with a shared viewpoint, there is much here for you to enjoy.

The chapters deal with his thoughts on bullying and punishment in private schools (It Never Did Me Any Harm), the impact of therapy (Stiff Upper Lips), white privilege and the dangers of solely surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals (Stop and Search and Echo Chambers), tackling the right-wing criticism of Black Lives Matter (White Privilege, Black Lives), his own admittedly irrational biases (Tattoos, Private Schools and Marriage), social bullying and the narrow-minded viewpoints directing contempt towards others (Fatty Fatty Fat Fats), the complicated subject of trans rights (Trans), and a summary about the lessons learned in accepting that one will benefit greatly by being open-minded enough to allow a change of opinion in the weight of opposing evidence (Confessions of a Corpse-Munching Psychopath). Each chapter contains excerpts from O’Brien’s broadcasting career, in which he illustrate points – sometimes to his own detriment – in which he has encountered members of the public whose experiences have made him reconsider his position and, as such, given him a deeper understanding of the situation under discussion. These act as a nice counterpoint. He is often self-deprecating, but there seems to be an earnest heart there. One gets the impression that he realises that his overtly vocal opinion has in the past cost him jobs (a high-profile role with the BBC is touched on) but that he genuinely cares about those less fortunate than himself, and his left-leaning stance isn’t merely a calculated viewpoint with the intention of self-promotion.

This book is an interesting read, and one that isn’t too bogged down in jargon or complicated political points (although the section on trans viewpoints rightly illustrates what a complex subject this is) and it’s one that certainly invites interest in his other books. I enjoyed it greatly.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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