3.26.2013

Contemplating "The Devil's Advocate Derail"

A commenter on here once said, "Writing is living" and no truer sentiment could've been written.

I'll be honest; I don't like "Devil's Advocates".  The recent guest post by Neo-Prodigy had me deleting comments by the droves on a daily basis for about week.  And one reason I deleted so many comments was the Devil's Advocate factor.

A Devil's Advocate argues the counterpoint of a given topic...for the sake of argument.  Which implies the dialogue at hand is some sort of exercise or conversation just for the sake of conversation.

One of the main reasons non-marginalized people get the side-eye when they enter the conversations of marginalized people is that they're often "fascinated" by the struggle; they see debating and analyzing social justice issues as some sort of hobby or special interest, like swimming or stamp collecting. Thus, non-marginalized people (NMP) often take the very privileged role of Devil's Advocate, giving counter arguments "just for the sake of argument."

Blogs like this one don't crop up for the sake of "fun" or out of boredom; they crop up to serve a purpose.  So when Neo is talking about his experiences is a black homosexual male, for example, there is neither need nor desire for a Devil's Advocate.  There is no "argument".  This is not a debate.

Which is precisely why I see Devil's Advocacy as just another derailing tactic.  It allows someone to speak from a comfortable place of privilege, babbling on about their pet theories or worthless opinions.  They get to talk about how they find the struggles of others to be "interesting" and "fascinating".  They get to agree with the marginalized speaker/writer...and then end their sentences with "but".  Meanwhile, those who endure the actual struggle, however, are most assuredly not fascinated by the discrimination, hostility, or familial rejection they face every day.

Yes, I get it; we live in America where speech is free.  Of course it's free.  Talk is cheap; ask any politician.  In fact, talk is free.  That's why it doesn't cost anything to start a blog or a journal, but hiring a therapist can break the bank.

15 comments:

  1. "...babbling on about their pet theories or worthless opinions."
    I almost spat out my orange juice all over my keyboard because of you. *sputters.

    Yea. House manners, people. The host shouldn't have to write this kind of stuff at all. People come around wanting, that's called like soliciting and it's pretty low of you. Respect her guests and she'll respect you, ykno?

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    1. I almost spat out my orange juice all over my keyboard because of you.

      Sorry about that.

      Delete
  2. I made this same exact point to someone on another blog. These blogs are not here to entertain, but to inform. There is no cause for argument especially if it wasn't asked or called for.

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    1. Most importantly, blogs by marginalized people get together on the blogosphere to talk to one another. They're not remotely interested in hearing the opinions of someone with privilege.

      Delete
  3. The whole devil's advocate thing was responsible for me pulling almost completely away emotionally from my older brother. Our family had these over dinner discussions, and a lot of what I believed in passionately, even at that young age - 14 or 15 years old I think it was - was up for discussion a lot of the time. My brother who is only a year and half older than I was, well before my realization of what he was doing all this time, we were very close, like a team. Our two younger brothers were there own team too, both being close in age too, but the age gap between our two "sets" being wider.

    I noticed, more often than not, that my older brother would take the opposing side to nearly all of my discussions. I was huge into saving the whales, animal and nature conservation, anti-war etc whatever, and he would always be arguing the opposite point of view. When I finally asked what his deal was, when I'd gotten fed up with it - he simply said he was being the devil's advocate. That whether or not he agreed with anything I had to say or not wasn't the point, he was just basically playing around with me. Because the things I would be talking about were near and dear to my heart. And here he was just heartlessly yanking my chain and when I understood that - I just pulled away - pretty much forever.

    I didn't understand what type of person that could be, and I also remember not really wanting to understand that type of person. And being horrified that my supposed team mate was that kind of person. Yes, we were both young, yes I might have been all naive and rose colored glasses hippy-fied about things, but I don't think that was the point. I had thought all those years that he really felt as I did, but simply that he was on the other side. That was ok for me. But to find out that he wasn't arguing from a place of passion, but simply, and coldly providing an opposing view point for the hell of it, or for argument's sake or whatever - well that was too much.

    Since then, I've had no more time for people who do that sort of thing. And now, decades later we find that crap going on in blog commentary all over the place. And especially in POC places. Like we are some sort of interesting subject matter. Like we are less than nothing, and just empty air "arguments" to be fiddled with by providing opposing views just because.

    I find those types as heartless and cruel as I found my brother to be. And to this day we are still not close.

    Also, I've boiled down racism and sexism to one thing. Lack of empathy. Think about it.
    I think this whole devil's advocate thing is just another facet of that.

    I look back at some of the times I was in tears over these arguments/discussions with my brother and never once did he every just come out and say - oh hey I'm sorry, I was just fucking around. He only gave an answer for his behavior when years later I asked him point black WTF.

    These people stomping into our spaces and taking opposing views for shits and giggles and/or just for the sake of it: total lack of empathy. Because if they cared, or could put themselves in our shoes, they couldn't bring themselves to behave in that manner. But. They simply. Do. Not. Care.

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    1. Sorry to hear you have to deal with that. My brother is the same. What I've learned from it all is that playig Devil's Advocate is a form of condescension- because who really argues a point they don't believe in unless they are fishing for your weakpoints in order to use them against you? They don't even hear what you're saying, and you know our response to that- Drop em.

      Or, being a relative, smack him. My brother wonders why I bite so hard, but he needs to know it.

      Delete
    2. These people stomping into our spaces and taking opposing views for shits and giggles and/or just for the sake of it: total lack of empathy.

      Sometimes it's also out of fear or how our writing impacts their self-image. When they realize the world doesn't view them the way they view themselves, it's a serious mindfuck.

      Delete
  4. Lauren Aasen3/27/13, 11:23 AM

    After all this time, I don't think white people are just "playing" Devil's advocate with us.

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    1. This comment is everything.

      Delete
  5. LOVE THIS FRIKKIN POST.

    First and foremost I want to thank Ankhesen and the rest of the bar patrons for the love and support and protection from the vermin when they attempted to infiltrate the bar. I can't tell you how many times I've been in supposed safe spaces run by (white) "allies" only to find myself being sandbagged and ambushed.

    *Hands the Bartender several bottles of Cristal for her trouble*

    Regarding my previous guest post, one of the things that kept being mentioned by the patrons is that for POCs who are allies to feminist, LGBTQ or any other social justice issues, they're REAL allies. But when white allies prop themselves as such, typically (with the exception of an elite few) they're only pretending or paying lip service and doing just enough to look good so they can get the ally credit. To them it's a game, a pastime. Something to play on Tumblr in between writing their shitty slash fics.

    Same goes for the Devil's Advocate issue. This is all recreation to some of them. To others, I don't think they're playing Devil's Advocate, I think they believe the bile their spewing but they throw up that "disclaimer" so they don't have to fear being called out. Having cake and eating it too and all that.

    That's why white folks contort and spew vomit like Linda Blaire in the Exorcist when you point out that there are bigger issues than gay marriage facing LGBTQs or that being an ally involves more than changing a Facebook icon.

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    1. To others, I don't think they're playing Devil's Advocate, I think they believe the bile their spewing but they throw up that "disclaimer" so they don't have to fear being called out.

      Exactly. I accidentally left out this part. They use Devil's Advocacy as a disclaimer so they can argue in favor of the oppressive status quo...with immunity.

      Delete
    2. Denny, you sexy bastard...

      That's why white folks contort and spew vomit like Linda Blaire in the Exorcist when you point out that there are bigger issues than gay marriage facing LGBTQs or that being an ally involves more than changing a Facebook icon.

      People ain't even READY to have this conversation, especially this week.

      And this post is fucking FANTASTIC! There is one person who acts as DA in my life and she's my best friend who I've known since 8th grade, and her rationale was simply to get my over-emotional ass to think logically about certain things. It was definitely not something she did just for the hell of it. Anyone else who tries the DA shit with me gets cut quick, fast and in a hurry. I'm not here for that.

      Delete
  6. I cannot stand the fact that people feel they have a right to have an opinion on lives that they cannot and will never lead.
    And if they cannot disrupt the conversation by making people answer their questions, then they resort to saying how hurt their feelings are.
    I'll go ahead and say it's especially amusing coming from white women b/c they love to cry about their own oppression but want to interrupt discussions about racism with questions and tears.
    I just can't with them.

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  7. Perla Buttons3/28/13, 7:00 PM

    One of my least favourite parts of a logic/argument uni class I took was the notion that lived experience counts for naught - women can't have a fuller perspective than men on reproductive rights and other "women's issues". Ever. I saw it as justification fodder for privileged folks to half-understand something, do no research, avoid listening to marginalised people and have their "thought experiment" (gag) blatherings chalked up as some sort of important public service.

    It also ran counter to how opinions are actually weighted nine times out of ten. Less privileged people are too emotional, too invested, "biased" by the fact that things matter to them on a non-academic level devoid of trite point-scoring .

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    1. THIS!!!!

      Marginalized people are too close to the issue and can't be objective not unlike privileged mofos who are objective and are in no way benefiting from a system and a society that favors them.

      Delete

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