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on 13 October 2000
It's nice to see such a mixed bag of opinion in the Amazon reviews about this book - I think it accurately sums up the diversity of the book itself. It will appeal to some and not others. Personally I thought it was great. He hits the nail right on the head and quite rightly leaves the reader to form their own conclusions. After all - humans are capable of thinking aren't they? (Although I wonder after some of his examples). A great analysis well worth the read. I look forward to his next book.
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on 14 July 2009
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.

He covers so many subjects in this book it is hard to do them justice here so I will not even try! I think his views are well argued and generally convincing and this book is certainly worth a read. Indeed it can be read in sections so the reader can dip in and out by chapter. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on commercialism and sentimentality!
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on 5 August 2001
John Humphrys, the presenter of the Today programme and one of Britain's best interviewers, has written a most engaging book. He sees consumer populism as causing the follies of our age, devaluing the very idea of public-spirited citizens.
He launches a devastating attack on the commercialism in advertising, sport and the media, and on the privatisation of public services and public space. He lambasts the victim culture and its obverse, the feel good culture: these cause litigiousness, the cult of fame, the rise of 'victim TV', the fetishism of minorities, the simultaneous overprotection and abandonment of children and other evils. He opposes the sentimentality of overseas correspondents who say that 'something must be done', and so lead us into 'humanitarian wars' and human rights imperialism.
Consumer populism turns politics into a competition of images instead of a battle of ideas, an exchange of mind. It enforces a retreat from argument. Here he singles out the vital matter of whether Britain should join the euro, noting that the lobby supporting Britain's early entry into the euro refused to join in an open conference that he chaired this summer. And he observes generally that "Potential Labour voters may have been sending the government a message about the non-debate when so many of them abstained at the 1999 elections to the European Parliament."
Populism's message is that "self-indulgence is fine and self-restraint is, at best, mildly eccentric. It is good to be tolerant; it is bad to be judgemental." "Consumer populism tries to get us to defer to what it tells us we want and ought to think." This new authoritarianism is all human rights and no social duties. Opposing this, Humphrys calls on us all to think for ourselves, to think about the consequences of our actions, to think things through, above all to take responsibility for our own actions and for the ways in which society is changing.
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on 13 December 2001
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. He has a lot to say that is interesting and diverting (if not always wholly stimulating) but when he enters one of his tirades against the latest modern malevolence he becomes almost unreadable. In fact, the incoherent and randomly argued opening pages almost made me give up on it.
I'm glad I didn't. When he gets to his own turf - journalism and TV news in particular - he has a lot more of substance to say; and a lot more evidence for his views.
Humphrys states in his book that teenagers have treated sex as though they are the first ever to discover it since time began. He ought to remind himself that old codgers have bemoaned the state of things for almost as long.
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on 27 September 1999
Humphrys cares about Britain passionately enough to take on the media, the BBC, and trendy liberals in positions of power. There are many who would want to silence him - all the more reason for reading this book. In his radicalism, he is one of the bravest men in the political establishment. This book will challenge you like nothing else published this year.
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on 18 October 1999
I believe that the reviewer from London (14 Sep) read a different book! John Humphrys got it all absolutely right, as usual. Like him, "I'm all in favour of a bit of internal angst". One point though - don't even think of trying to read it all in one sitting.
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on 29 August 2010
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 and moral values and questioning the direction society is taking.
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on 8 December 2001
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. Much of his assertions lack any academic rigour and his remedy, which takes up a fraction of the book, is that we should simply be "dissidents".
Stick to broadcasting, John.
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on 13 September 2015
John and I started in journalism together...but he left me at the starting post. His years of interrogation and dry humour comes through in this well reasoned tome.
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on 14 September 1999
It's hard to know where to start with this book, so I won't. Instead I'll refer back to a Seventies classic - 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' - in which Robert Pirsig talks a lot about quality in relation to writing. Quality, he argues, is something that's immediately obvious, but hard to define. In a negative sense, 'Devil's Advocate' thrusts Pirsig's argument right in your face. It's really poor, dreadful in fact, worst-book-I've-ever-read dreadful. For one things it's poorly argued, in fact there is no coherent thread of argument at all. It's also poorly written, in a truculent style full of cliché and invective, much like his interviews (a style which doesn't work on paper). It rants and whinges about the beef on the bone ban, the lap dancing bar on his street, youth today, David Mellor, the 'victim culture' and 'girls with a decent bust and nice legs' on TV. It reads as what it is - a stream of consciousness whinge by a middle aged Englishman at odds with the modern world. If you're expecting incisive, impartial political comment, forget it. Arguably, a book this partisan, this sexist and this poorly written should never have reached the bookshelves. Unless you're deeply conservative, middle aged and male, filled with directionless anger at 'the way things are going', don't buy this book.
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