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Interview with James Hoggan, author of I'm Right,and You're an Idiot

James Hoggan

Today's interview is with James Hoggan, author off I'm Right and You're an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How to Clean it Up, 2nd Edition. James is the president of the Vancouver PR Firm Hoggan and Associates, past chair of the David Suzuki Foundation board, and founder of the influential website, DeSmogBlog.

How do we navigate the misleading and confusing information broadcast to us through a variety of mediums 24 hours a day? IE Are their steps to help us discern fact from fiction?

Here are a few things I learned writing the book.The simpler a public assertion, the more suspicious I am. Big environmental challenges like climate change are complicated. When a complex story is presented as a simple us vs them story that's usually not the real story. It’s more likely someone doesn't have the time to tell you the real story or they are messing with you.

Beware of stories that divide, especially if they involve name calling, demonization or silencing rhetoric. Pay more attention to complicated stories that draw people together.

It is difficult to mislead people who have their values straight, big values are important.

Thich Nhat Hanh spoke to me about the importance of strong community. I think community helps us keep connected with those we can trust.

I’m careful about arguments that suggest everyone is biased, in it for themselves and there isn’t such a thing as real objectivity. That false idea is at the root of today’s social pathology. I think we need to find and support the people and institutions that we can trust.

What are the first steps to begin communicating and reconnecting authentically?

From the heart, what’s usually missing in public conversation is conscious emotional dialogue. Facts are important but awareness of the emotional dialogue is key. Emotional conversations take place in stories so public figures need to become storytellers who share stories of us (see the Marshall Ganz chapter). When we learn to listen deeply it’s easy to tell stories of us.

What was the biggest lesson you took away from those you interviewed?

“Speak the truth but not to punish.” Thich Nhat Hanh.

Winning Giveaway Question

What is the proper response to being called an idiot?

This is an email I received from Bryant Welch, one of the leaders in my book who is a Psychotherapist. This is good advice.

Hi Jim, yes, I remember the conversation quite well. The point I was making is that one of the reasons I think nonviolence (speech included) is so effective is because the lack of response from the victim undercuts the projective devices that adversaries use to justify their aggression. If the victim remains silent rather than responding aggressively it is much harder to sustain the aggression because the perpetrator is left to stew in their own ugliness. We all like to view ourselves in someway as justified and when the perpetrator is denied the justification that their own projections create, they are slowed in their attempts at self-justification.

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