Why Aren't People Paying More Attention?

by: EJ on 05/04/2016

"Why aren't people paying more attention?"  David Suzuki posed this question a decade ago to David Suzuki Foundation board member, James Hoggan.  Hoggan, a leading expert in public relations, was stumped for an answer. 


Photo credit: @SarahPeats1

Today while a wildfire devastates the oil sands town of Fort McMurray in northern Alberta, the need for an answer to this question is more pressing than ever.

Frustrated by his inability to accurately answer, Hoggan became interested in the role misinformation and pseudoscience play in resistance to change.  This in turn led him to examine what he calls "one of the most urgent and unexamined human relations problem of our time: pollution in the public square. The public square is a literal and figurative place where we assemble to talk freely and debate honestly, where we seek truth without recrimination, whether on a street corner, in a blog, campus hall, political meeting, bulletin board or actual community square." He proceeded to spend the better part of four years interviewing outstanding thinkers from the Himalaya to the House of Lords, drawing on the wisdom of such notables as Thich Nhat Hanh, Noam Chomsky, and the Dalai Lama. 

The resulting book, I'm Right and You're an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How to Clean it Up is his answer.

From The Prologue
I'm Right and You're an Idiot is divided into two parts.  Part I: The Polluted Public Square explains how we create toxic dialogue and how we might turn down the noise and  open up the space needed for healthy conversations. It looks at barriers to change, what blocks healthy public discourse and some of the main sources of the pollution. We  see how the advocacy that is needed to draw attention to these issues can become a combative, polarized debate that often drives us into gridlock and shoving matches; how a mistaken confidence in the power of facts leads to narrative failure; and how propaganda can destroy public discussion and eradicate understanding.

Part II: Speak the Truth But Not to Punish investigates how we can have more constructive conversations. This section describes how we can change our style of public communication and improve human relations. We learn about the latest techniques of conflict resolution, gain insights into the power of moral narrative and realize how educating the heart can bring about deeper awareness and understanding. This division is a general structure, and readers will note that many experts touch on both challenges and solutions.

David Suzuki‚Äôs question stirred up weighty conversations and sage advice. Read I'm Right and You're an Idiot  and find out what experts from around the world know about the threshold for change, how to create space for higher-quality public debates shaped by passionate opposition and science.

Read I'm Right and You're an Idiot  so that on a day when a tar sands town burns to the ground, you will be able to discuss the issues with kindness and compassion,  think collectively and solve the many dangerous problems that we face.


James Hoggan will be launching his new book in Vancouver on May 25th.


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