A look at James O'Brien's How to Be Right, in which the author questions the beliefs of callers to radio talk shows.

As he writes in his new book, James O'Brien is "a very rare beast." He is a liberal talk-show host in a field teeming with bloviating rightwingers who delight in hearing their own opinions repeated back to them by callers. O'Brien has become the de facto spokesperson for scores of Britons frustrated by the divisiveness and fury of contemporary politics on his phone-in show on LBC, the station that also employs Nigel Farage, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and, until May of last year, Katie Hopkins.

You don't even need to tune in to hear him speak on the major stories of the day, as clips of him delivering wearily heartfelt monologues on topics like the Hillsborough inquiry are available online. The murder of Jo Cox and the sale of the NHS under our noses have become common topics on social media. His conversations with callers, who often end up with the verbal equivalent of a bloody nose in their attempts to educate him on topics like immigration or the iniquities of the EU, are equally compelling. Taken alone, these excerpts may appear to be demolition jobs in which O'Brien exposes their ignorance in front of the nation, a situation that no doubt inspired him to write How to Be Right. The book not only shares his thoughts on the state of the world, but it also provides context for why he does what he does and why others think the way they do.

"I have probably had more opportunities to hear from ordinary people over the last few years than almost anyone else on the planet," he writes, which appears to be an extravagant claim until you consider that O'Brien began his journalistic career as the Daily Express's showbiz editor. spends three hours a day, five days a week, discussing political issues with callers The book is neatly divided into chapters that cover the most frequently discussed topics, such as political correctness, Islam and Islamism, Brexit, Trump, the generation gap, and feminism. O'Brien includes transcriptions of on-air conversations with his callers within these chapters, which he wraps around informed, sharply articulated analysis.

O'Brien has an unrivaled ability to point out the absurdity of certain points of view.

The title is a little misleading because it implies that O'Brien is more concerned with winning the argument than with listening. This is a notion from which he wishes to distance himself, as he has complained on more than one occasion about being accused of condescension. His willingness to engage with opposing viewpoints stems partly from his belief that people should be able to justify their positions, but it also provides a tantalizing opportunity for him to replace fallacy with fact.

So we meet Andy from Nottingham, a Brexit supporter who called to say that Brexit would allow Britain to "control our own laws." When pressed to name specific laws, all he could come up with was a remark about the shape of bananas before admitting that he couldn't think of a single EU directive that had negatively impacted his life. We also meet David, a lay preacher who called in after Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron called homosexual sex a sin. O'Brien wanted David to enlighten him on Jesus' views on homosexuality because he believed the Bible told us everything we needed to know, but David kept quoting Corinthians. "First Corinthians is a letter written by St Paul," O'Brien explained before asking again, "What did Jesus say about homosexuality in the Gospels?" "By the end, he had asked the question 27 times, breaking into song in mock-frustration at one point, but to no avail." This is because Jesus said nothing about it.

O'Brien is an exceptional broadcaster with an unrivaled ability to calmly point out the absurdity of certain points of view, a quality that also pervades this book. Much time is spent explaining how his callers came to hold their beliefs, with the blame largely falling on the rightwing media's scaremongering and toxic propaganda, as well as a political discourse in which xenophobic language and false claims of fake news go unchallenged. Nonetheless, his clarity of thought - his confidence and absolute conviction that he is on the side of goodness and truth - is inspiring. "You need at least a slightly overdeveloped ego to do the job," admits O'Brien. As a result, the most illuminating parts of How to Be Right appear in his rare moments of doubt. In the chapter on feminism, he reveals with startling honesty how one of his callers, a City lawyer named Fiona, assisted him in understanding how men can subtly diminish women with personal remarks. and "how behavior I once thought was completely normal could be perceived as sexually aggressive." According to O'Brien, his path to understanding has been "the most difficult to arrive at." It is still a work in progress. ”

Despite its many strengths, a nagging question remains about who this book is intended for. Andy, for example, is unlikely to read it when he can simply vent his rage to O'Brien over the air. Meanwhile, the broadcaster's many fans can get their daily fix by listening to his show or watching clips on social media. One suspects that O'Brien has a more detailed and scholarly book in him that could delve deeper into where we are politically, if only the news would allow him the time to do so. For the time being, How to Be Right provides a much-needed examination of politicians' and media pundits' blustering rhetoric, as well as some solace to readers that they are not alone in their despair.

James O'Brien's How to Be Right... in a Wrong World is published by Ebury. To order a copy for £11, click here. 43 (RRP £12 99), please visit guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Online orders only, free UK p&p over £10 Phone orders have a minimum p&p of £1. 99

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