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Devil's Advocate [Paperback]

John Humphrys
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
RRP: £8.99
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Book Description

5 Oct 2000
In Devil's Advocate, John Humphrys uses his experience to set in context the changes that have overtaken Britain during those forty years. He debates the issues that he believes should concern us all. He challenges our changing social and moral values and questions the direction society is taking. We are much better off than we have ever been, but Humphrys senses a deep unease. Instead of a world in which there were many different influences telling us what life was all about, and what living a good life might involve, we now have a single voice that threatens to drown out all the others. That voice is consumer populism. Its strength derives from the increasing commercialisation of our lives and a media, which is itself under greater and greater commercial pressures. Some of the effects include a coarsening of the fabric of daily life and a growing thoughtlessness and even hysteria in public debate. Our children are losing their innocence at an ever-earlier age and, though we worry about it, we seem impotent in the face of it. Humphrys asks whether, if we had been able to choose our destinat

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow; New Ed edition (5 Oct 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099279657
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099279655
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 559,102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Humphrys has reported from all over the world for the BBC and presented its frontline news programmes on both radio and television, in a broadcasting career spanning forty years. He has won a string of national awards and been described as a 'national treasure'. He owned a dairy farm for ten years and has homes in Greece and London.

Product Description

Amazon Review

John Humphrys has been a journalist since he left school at the age of 15. He is now one of the most respected broadcasters of his generation and his interviews on Radio Four's Today programme are regarded by some as compulsive and compulsory listening. In his debut book, Devil's Advocate, he draws on 40 years of experience to look at the changes that have been happening in Britain and possible future scenarios. The first section of the book is devoted to what he calls "the shoulder-shrugging society" and he doesn't paint a very pretty picture. He argues that the British have lost the concept of shame--an excuse is always found if someone does something wrong; children are losing their innocence at an earlier age; people increasingly think of themselves as victims; they are terribly sentimental, confusing genuine caring with wearing a ribbon; and feeling good is the goal of modern life. So what is to blame for this appalling malaise? Humphrys believes it's "consumer populism"--everything being judged according to its commercial value. The situation is exacerbated by the media, which is also under commercial pressure, and becoming increasingly trivial in a bid to chase the ratings. He doesn't offer any quick-fix solutions to the problems, but encourages readers to dissent and keep questioning the accepted wisdom. This book is very strongly argued and there is plenty to agree and disagree with. It achieves exactly what Humphrys is famous for--stimulating debate. --Carina Trimingham


"One of the most brilliant journalists in the country" (Daily Mail)

"Peerless reporting ... sharp and instructive ... wonderfully acidic about people when he thinks they deserve it" (Observer)

"A national institution" (Sunday Times)

"Playing devil's advocate is the function he performs better than anyone else anywhere ... an excellent and amusing read" (New Statesman)

"Written from the battlefield ... Humphrys has written an important book" (Irish Times)

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THIS BOOK MADE ME ANGRY (in a good way) 6 Oct 2007
By Darren Simons TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Having never listened to the Today programme on the radio, or really watched many of his interviews on TV, I've never heard much of what John Humphrys has had to say. Given how highly he's regarded as a a journalist and interviewer I was intrigued to see what he would have to say.

The book is basically a rant... He tells us all that's wrong in the world, why it was all better in the old day and how to improve it. Despite his suggestions of improvement being fairly minimal (and in my view not a highlight of the book), overall this is a great read - he delivers his thoughts on where things are wrong with a perceptive eye, excellent wit and once you start reading this book it is difficult to put down.

I found myself nodding in agreement with much of the book (especially his views on the developing victim culture) and definitely recommend this as an excellent read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I'm not 'deeply conservative' nor 'middle aged' - in fact I'm a 22-year-old left-liberal - but I really enjoyed this book. I think those who claim it's just a reactionary rant are missing the point; John Humphrys is not arguing for a return to the past (as he claims very explicitly) but simply for an alternative future. In this vision of the future we're not sheep following the hype of large corporations nor passive subjects giving in to the blandishments of over-spun politicians - we're proactive 'dissident citizens' who make our own choices and seize our own future. I agree that he asks more questions than he answers, sometimes slipping into pseudo-profundity, and also agree that his constant quips about the attractiveness of the women he mentions can sound quite antediluvian, but he undoubtedly succeeds in putting a rocket up the backsides of those who seek to dumb down the media and destroy our individuality.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
John Humphrys is a person who has the courage to stake an alternative opinion in the face of fical public opinion. He is therefore a person I am able to admire. The issues that he raises and the opinions he proclaims are easily identifiable to a person of middle age with teenage children. His views on consumerism and advertising are nothing new and yet Western society always accepts the bait hook line and sinker. The way he links the Aberfan, Hillsborough and Dunblane disasters to make an observation of how changes have occurred in our society is particularly poignant. I particularly like the way he gives an explanation by relating an issue to his childhood experiences, and the chapter on "Children" is brilliant. I disagree with a previous review that intimates that the book falls short for not offering outright conclusions. John Humpreys has given the reader the opportunity to argue the issues for his or herself. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A REALITY CHECK 24 Dec 2000
Have you ever had the feeling that life is a gameshow spinning out of control, getting tackier and more degenerate as the stakes get higher. John Humphrys does, and makes the reader aware of the darker forces that are affecting society and the world today. Consumer populism is the driving force of 'modernism' and it is not a force for good. Dumbing down in an effort to chase the ratings is made painfully clear and he argues that if left to run unchecked, consumer populism will rob us of the values that hold any vestige of our society together. THis book serves as a reality check to people that are oblivious to the forces for harm in our increasingly consumption driven world. We must assert our responsibilities as citizens and not enter the meat market as consumers.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
John Humphry's writes a challenging critique of the confused social and political landscape of Britain today. In Section One, Humphry's examines the increasing tendency of people today to blame others for their supposed 'misfortune', leading to an increase in compensation claims for 'personal injury', which he refers to as the 'victim culture'. Alongside this he also looks at how society has become so fearful of taking risks and preoccupied with safety, that many schools have started abandoning field trips for fear of being sued should accident and injury occur. There are also some poignant personal references to the Aberfan disaster in 1966. Humphrys descibes not only the dreadful scenes he witnessed as a reporter, but how the financial generosity shown by the public, who raised £1.75 million for the victims families, was turned against the villagers by the Wilson government and National Coal Board (NCB) who said that the money should be used to clean up the landslide, when it was clearly the NCB's fault. Further excellent analyses looks at how trust has broken down in society. He makes a reference to the chilling and repulsive child abuse 'suspicions' raised against former news colleague Julia Somerville, when a film developer at Boots became 'suspicious' at the number of naked bath time photographs taken of her baby. There are many amusing analogies in this book to things which irritate the author which had me in stitches of laughter. However the subsequent sections of the book go on to criticise the 'consumer culture' which Humphrys sees as all pervading. This preoccupation with 'consumer culture' in my opinion, is one of the weaker points of the book. Humphrys argues that the expansion of 'consumerism' is largely responsible for contemporary social atomisation and political disillusionment. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Synopsis from rear cover
During a lifetime of journalism, John Humphries has observed the changes overtaking Britain. Now he uses that experience to set them all in context, challenging our changing social... Read more
Published on 29 Aug 2010 by Mary_10
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant book that really makes you think.
I was lent a signed copy of this book by a friend and could not put it down, so I am going to buy it and tell all my friends. Read more
Published on 8 July 2010 by SallyC
5.0 out of 5 stars Sceptical journalism in the 1990s
This book, written by veteran BBC journalist John Humphrys, presents a series of chapters reflecting on late twentieth century British society. Read more
Published on 15 Jun 2010 by Mr. J. C. Clubb
4.0 out of 5 stars More than just a rant
Indeed it is more than just a rant although it is clear that Mr Humphrys must be a bit annoyed by what he sees in the way things are going. Read more
Published on 14 July 2009 by Mr X
3.0 out of 5 stars Big on opinions, shorter on evidence
I enjoyed much of this book's description of the modern state of the UK. However, too often I found myself irritated by Humphrys' more subjective outbursts. Read more
Published on 13 Dec 2001 by S. Bowden
2.0 out of 5 stars A big disappointment
What a let down. John Humphrys may be a brilliant political broadcaster but his book is just one long, tiresome whinge about the country's ills. Read more
Published on 8 Dec 2001 by David Mercer
5.0 out of 5 stars Political Correctness takes a hit
...As per his column in the Sunday Times, not afraid to speak his mind and wage a contrarian view against the rampant political correctness the seems so prevalent in society today. Read more
Published on 30 Nov 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty attack on corrupting commercialism
John Humphrys, the presenter of the Today programme and one of Britain's best interviewers, has written a most engaging book. Read more
Published on 5 Aug 2001 by William Podmore
5.0 out of 5 stars Newsreader Turns Ranter
Once known merely as a newsreader John Humphrys has with this book decided to take upon himself a new mantle: the eponymous "man in the pub". Read more
Published on 6 Feb 2001
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