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I'm Right and You’re an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How to Clean it Up
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I'm Right and You’re an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How to Clean it Up

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  131 ratings  ·  37 reviews
The most pressing environmental problem we face today is not climate change. It is pollution in the public square, where a smog of adversarial rhetoric, propaganda, and polarization stifles discussion and debate, creating resistance to change and thwarting our ability to solve our collective problems.

In I'm Right and You're an Idiot, author and David Suzuki Foundation
Paperback, 272 pages
Published May 24th 2016 by New Society Publishers (first published May 8th 2016)
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Apr 15, 2017 rated it did not like it
When purchasing this book, I took a gamble. I didn't know much about it save the blurb and unfortunately I did not enjoy it.

I'd hoped the book would provide practical examples of how to shape and improve public discourse of a variety of contentious issues that do require debate and change (e.g. tax reform, policies aimed at housing affordability, the challenges of demographic change like an ageing population etc). I was also looking to learn about what causes resistance to debate and compromise.
Despite the rather sassy title, this book is a serious well-researched examination of perhaps the most endemic and puzzling problem underlying all our efforts, which is the inability or unwillingness of people to communicate honestly their feelings and intentions. The title merely refers to the little secret that most people carry.

JH has contacted a raft of experts and devoted a chapter for each to focus on a different aspect of urgency from gaslighting to corporate agendas. I especially
John Johnson
Aug 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
When I bought this book, I thought it would be about the current polarization in political ideologies in the United States right now and the problems that causes in communication. I was mostly wrong. This book is about why some people reject an idea even though the facts show it is correct. The primary example used throughout the book is the climate change debate, and why some people still refuse to believe it is happening, despite the scientific research, and even actual physical evidence that ...more
Hella Comat
Oct 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Although this book was written earlier in 2016, it sounds like the author has been watching the US presidential debates. He explains how inflammatory and argumentative and negative public discussion about issues such as the environment are and what can be done to make this dialog more constructive for decision making.
Liz Davidson
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An excellent discussion about the current state of discourse in the public field. Through the viewpoints of many people gives the reasons why there is so much acrimony about various subjects from vaccinations to the environment and beyond. The contributors also suggest ways of breaking the gridlock. Worthwhile read for leaders, teachers, as well as members of the public.
Jun 24, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: bad-do-not-read
I gave up after reading for the millionth time about "climate change". I thought this book was about public discourse. And some of the facts and figures he quotes have been disproven, repeatedly. I gave it a try but it just wasn't worth it. The author was too focused on "climate change" to make this book of any use to its alleged premise.
Nov 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is amazing. I highly recommend it.
Matt Miller
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book was incredibly frustrating to read. The author gave no effort to flesh out any of the ideas. At the beginning of each chapter i would attempt to be interested & immerse myself in the topic being brought up, however it was produced so poorly and briefly that i'd have to reread most of it's paragraphs & even then I wouldn't be able to fully grasp it. Each topic brought up was like a taste test for an idea, seriously, there would be no information of how to translate an ...more
Hoggan makes some interesting analysis (or at least, his interview subjects do), particularly with regard to cognitive dissonance as it applies to communication theory and the concept of the advocacy trap. However, his suggestions for how to fix the problem seem a little unrealistic, and he relies too much on his sources in each chapter - I get that he's focusing on his interview subjects' opinions, but there are so many long quotes that some of the chapters read almost like straight interview ...more
Aug 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
The title was a little misleading, with the only hint that this book would be focused heavily on the discussion of climate change in the words in red, "Toxic" and "how to clean it up". I wish I had known going into it that it would focus on climate change, rather than using as just one case study with other case studies on controversial issues that address how to clean up public discourse as a whole. The author offers some great insights and delves into what's really going on through interviews ...more
Rob Black
May 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book relies on examples surrounding climate change and Canadian politics, but the lessons are true for any issue facing our society. I'd put this in the top 5 most important reads for me right now mostly because it draws together so many important view points and perspectives to really get at the root of what I've been doing wrong in trying to talk about climate change. Incredible read. Quick, fun, on point.
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Written by an accomplished PR man from Vancouver with experience helping both corporations and NGOs, this book features interviews with two dozen experts on political communication. And if there's one topic that connects them all, it's how to talk about climate change. Overall, Hoggan advises activists to approach communication with compassion, but to demand truth. Only by balancing love with power, as MLK advised, can a political movement succeed.
Aug 20, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Based on the title, you think you will get a helpful discussion of effective public discourse, and that is included. By midpoint, however, it evolves into a discussion of how to convince doubters of the dangers of global warming and other environmental issues. I suggest you read the first half thoroughly and skim the last for the occasional nugget. I won't be buying the hard copy for my library.
Sharon Coyle
Nov 06, 2017 rated it liked it
An important discussion of how we can keep a dialogue going in the face of radically differing perspectives. We need to ask questions and really listen to the other side, not to tear them down, but to understand where they are coming from. Also underscores the importance of stories and our hearts in our attempts to communicate.
Diana Bliss
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. The author has taken the time to address the issue of public discourse from as many angles as possible within a volume. He works from the foundation of environmental protection issues but it's easy to extrapolate the salient points to other problems the world is facing. It's very well done.
Derek Lacoursiere
Sep 28, 2017 rated it liked it
The first sentence in the prologue reads "the environment is not the main subject of this book". While it stands to reason that the author would use what he knows best to illustrate the subject matter of the book, the environment does feature rather heavily. It is an insightful book and I appreciate that he addresses the topic from a number of different directions.
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
interesting and quick to read. loved some of the interviews, but didn't like how upper class or intellectual most of the concepts felt - absolutely worthy of a read, especially for people who talk to other people
Neil Gaudet
Jun 01, 2018 rated it liked it
A thoughtful book arguing for the return of meaningful public discourse. The ideas in the book can be applied to so many issues beyond climate change. It does lose some focus about two thirds of the way through but redeems itself with the last couple of chapters.
Arthur Goldsmith
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A basic guide to public discourse, provided by some of the most knowledgeable people of our time. Before your next encounter with the family/friends, do yourself a favour and give it a close read. We need to detoxify public discourse, and there are many ideas herein for achieving that goal.
Jacqueline Worboys
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
A thoughtfully written book, promoting empathy and honest engagement in meaningful discourse, the authors provide techniques to help people break impasses in discussion.
Lili Trenkova
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'd give 5 stars, but...ableist title.
Really useful book for activists in learning about the importance of *how* we frame (or not frame) the issues we speak about.
Jan 15, 2018 rated it liked it
This was good. It leans farther to the left than I assumed when I was reading the description, but that was ok with me. Gets a little repetitive at times.
Don Bennie
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic and very practical. A little too left leaning in places. Climate change gives focus but forces the reader to figure out how to apply the ideas to arras such as social issues.
Mar 17, 2017 rated it liked it
I gave this only three stars because I thought a lot of the narrative was quite hard to follow. Yes, I understand that we need to stop and reconsider how we relate to others and how to more effectively share our points of view in order to effect real positive change. This came through in the writing but to reach more of the rank and file I think the message could have been a bit clearer. I thought the end summary was fine as far as it went but still not as clear as it could be. Also, I wanted to ...more
Alexander Tas
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: environment, politics
A well written account of our current state of public discourse. Though a lot of the ideas seem like "oh well, that makes sense" and others feel overly touchy feely, I think Hoggan does a very good job attacking the issue at hand. Compiling interviews from numerous experts in various fields of study from environmental science, to communications to the Dalai Lama, the author identifies the problem, and spends the second half of the book discussing strategies to fix it. Unfortunately, for most ...more
Rod Raglin
Nov 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book has changed the way I think, which was exactly as stated in the title.

The premise author James Hoggan advances in "I'm Right and You’re an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How to Clean it Up" is that the most pressing problem society has is not climate change, but the pollution in the public square - where "adversarial rhetoric and polarization is stifling discussion and debate creating resistance to change and thwarting our ability to solve our collective problems."

In a
Jun 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Actually, I did not finished reading this book. I have heard a podcast with the author, it sounded interesting, but the book failed to keep my interest. The book discusses the polarization of the political discourses in the western societies but very much within the constrains of the current ruling ideology. It does not go far enough after the root causes of theproblem which is the growing social inequality . OK, I agree that we should try to get outside our internet information bubble and ...more
Jul 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The sample is excellent. I'm a little concerned about the level of discussion being maintained for a whole book.... The main topic is indeed public discourse. I think some of the reviewers have missed the point: Global warming science is the ongoing example Hoggan uses to illustrate his points about the disastrous state of real discourse in our country today. Had he waited a bit, he could have used the entire presidential campaign of 2044-16 as his ongoing example. Based on the sample alone, I ...more
Jun 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book was thought provoking and the sort of thing that had me continually saying - "I'm reading a book at the moment that speaks to that it says" or simply reading it aloud to my travel companions.
Dec 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is great. Taking one topic and using it to discuss the various chapters led to consistency. I think every moderate should read this book and then start discussing problems in a new way focused on solutions.
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“The most pressing environmental problem we face today is not climate change. Rather it is pollution in the public square, where a smog of adversarial rhetoric, propaganda and polarization stifles discussion and debate, creating resistance to change and thwarting our ability to solve our collective problems.” 0 likes
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