Clearing the air – reclaiming public discourse in a polluted public square.
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 chair James Hoggan grapples with this critical issue, conducting interviews with outstanding thinkers from the Himalayas to the House of Lords. Drawing on the wisdom of such notables as Thich Nhat Hanh, Noam Chomsky, and the Dalai Lama, his comprehensive analysis explores:
How trust is undermined and misinformation thrives in today's public dialogue Why facts alone fail – the manipulation of language and the silencing of dissent The importance of reframing our arguments with empathy and values to create compelling narratives and spur action.
About the Author
James Hoggan is president of the Vancouver PR firm Hoggan & Associates and chair of the David Suzuki Foundation board. A tireless advocate for ethics and integrity in public relations, he founded the influential website DeSmogBlog to expose misinformation campaigns that pollute public debate around climate change and the environment. He has advised a wide range of organizations such as the governments of B.C. and Ontario, the Dalai Lama Center, the B.C. Law Society, and the B.C. Treaty Commission. Hoggan has also served as a member of Shell Global's External Review Committee and is the author of Climate Cover-Up and Do the Right Thing.
As a popularizer of science, I had long assumed the more information people have, the better their actions and decisions. But today the public has unprecedented access to information, yet clearly political, economic and social policies are distorted by other factors. Jim Hoggan's monumental study explores a wide range of thought about the babel that passes for public discourse today. Anyone concerned about how civil society can be better informed so decisions can be made for the public's long term interests must read this deeply thoughtful book. - David Suzuki, science broadcaster and environmental activist Everyone, regardless of their politics, can learn something from this book. I'm Right and You're an Idiot steps into the frenzied space of public discourse where hyperbole and polarization rule the day. With sound insights and by pulling from the wisdom of spiritual and intellectual leaders from across disciplines, Hoggan charts a compelling and much needed path forward. I'm Right and You're Wrong should be taught in every major in university...in every country of the world. -- Evangeline Lilly, author and actor In my experience in the world's crisis zones, inflammatory, toxic discourse exacerbates problems, creating conflict rather than resolving it - and probably gets you killed. So if you want to stay alive, read this incisive book. Honest engagement combined with a healthy dose of empathy is a far better route to constructive dialogue- and survival. ---Nigel Fisher, humanitarian, former UN Assistant Secretary General This book should be required reading for every person engaged in the most polarizing issues of our time - whether it be climate change, healthcare, or global conflicts. ---John Ruffolo, CEO, OMERS Ventures James Hoggan's book could not be more timely. At a moment when public discourse has seemingly deteriorated to the point of meaninglessness, the field abandoned to those who can simply yell the loudest, his call to tune down the volume, tone down the rhetoric and re-engage in civil, fact-based dialogue is more than important, it's crucial. Possibly our last hope of salvation. The fact this collection was curated by a public relations specialist is interesting; the depth and breadth of the ideas he challenges us with is impressive and ultimately inspiring. A must-read for anyone who despairs at the pollution in the public square. It doesn't have to be this way, says Hoggan. There is a way out. ----Gillian Findlay, Host, CBC News: The Fifth Estate Hoggan writes superbly about the power of argumentation to strengthen democracy and advance social justice, and how it is so easily manipulated in pursuit of greed, power and politics. This is a must-read for anyone tired of the bullying, the propagandizing, the screaming and the bullsh*t. ---Dr. Samantha Nutt, author, Damned Nations: Greed, Guns, Armies and Aid Conversation is the essence of being human. To converse is to listen, to respect, to love and so to be open to fresh ideas and perspectives. James Hoggan has illuminated a series of amazing conversations with thinkers and doers. His theme is that we all too easily create antagonism and deafness by organizing debates which punish rather than reveal the truth. If the eastern heart and the western mind are fused in honest conversation, the politics of antagonism which dominate almost every dialogue these days, would become the creativity of innovation. This is a text which should be thought, not just read, by all who seek reconciliation. --- Professor Tim O'Riordan OBE DL FBA Learning how to protect the real freedoms we have in our caring society, James Hoggan brings critical insight into how we can have meaningful discourse where we carefully listen and not just hear words. With the political developments in many of our Western democracies, this book is particularly important and relevant. It is an incredibly important read. - Art Verlieb, Q.C., Former President of Law Society of British Columbia As if the world's many forms of social distress and environmental damage were not worrisome enough, we struggle even to communicate civilly with each other about these topics. James Hoggan has interviewed a diverse group of thinkers, from pundits to psychologists, seeking explanations of and alternatives to the all-too-familiar "stubborn adversarial advocacy" that pervades public discourse. This engaging and important book offers a blueprint toward empathy, flexibility, and creativity instead of narrow-minded demagoguery. ---Scott Slovic, coeditor, Numbers and Nerves: Information, Emotion, and Meaning in a World of Data Impressive list of contributors; important topic; inspired insights. --- Brenda Morrison, Ph.D, Director, Centre for Restorative Justice, Simon Fraser University
PROLOGUE SECTION 1 THE POLLUTED PUBLIC SQUARE 1. LIKE SHIPS IN THE NIGHT 2. THE ADVOCACY TRAP 3. MISTAKES WERE MADE (BUT NOT BY ME) 4. MORALITY BINDS & BLINDS 5. WHY WE WANT TO BE MISLED 6. FACTS DON'T CHANGE MINDS 7. MATTERS OF CONCERN 8. THE SELF-REGULATING PSYCHOPATH 9. FOREIGN FUNDED RADICALS 10. ASSAULT ON DEMOCRACY 11. SILENCING THE VOICES OF OTHERS 12. GASLIGHTING BLURS OUR REALITY 13. THE POLLUTED PUBLIC SQUARE SECTION 2 - LEANING INTO THE FUTURE 14. POWER & LOVE 15. NO FISH? NO FISHSTICKS 16. LISTEN DEEPLY SECTION 3 - ETHICAL PERSUASION 17. COLLAPSING WORLD VIEW 18. THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION 19. SOMETIMES DAVID WINS SECTION 4 EDUCATING THE HEART 20. THE GOLDEN RULE 21. SPEAK THE TRUTH, BUT NOT TO PUNISH 22. WE NEED WARMHEARTEDNESS EPILOGUE: THE SKY REALLY IS FALLING