“I’m just playing Devil’s Advocate.”
The origin of this term, taken form the Catholic Church, is nearly literal: a member of the church was given the role of arguing against a candidate for sainthood in order to draw out their flaws and prevent misleading evidence from canonizing the unworthy. In modern times, it is used during debate or discussion to explore an alternative point of view, whether or not it is abhorrent. In a room fill of like-minded people, one plays the role of Devil’s Advocate in an attempt to speak for another.
People need to stop doing this.
We live in a world where it’s quite simple to find a person with an opposing viewpoint. I can hop onto the internet and, in minutes, find a person who will disagree with me on nearly any subject. It isn’t remotely a challenge. I could probably cull a list from people I already know on Facebook. There is no need to argue for someone else when that someone else is an instant message away. If you want to get perspective from someone outside your social circles, it’s quite simple. Twitter has shown us that there are millions of people who want to share their opinions with the world. Want to ask a white supremacist how they feel about a topic? Easy. Want to talk to a transgender person about life before or during transitioning? Simple. Want to find out why people still watch Supernatural way after it has peaked? They’ll probably be in the comment section of this very article, telling me off.
Perhaps you find confrontation unnerving. Not to worry! Long before twitter, there were all sorts of web sites that were devoted to chronicling the lives of individuals. Before web-based news and opinion sites co-opted the term, we called them “blogs.” Sites like LiveJournal and Xanga were the predecessors of Tumblr, and the two former examples aren’t even the earliest examples of the medium. Medium, by the way, is another place you can find all sorts of opinions that might oppose your own.
I don’t make this request simply because the world seems to be trending toward insular. I’m saying it because many people claiming to play Devil’s Advocate are actually advocating for themselves. Sometimes, it’s because they know their opinion is unpopular and don’t want to be disliked. Other times, they are twisting stories or lying outright in order to misrepresent their opposition before they can be afforded an opportunity to speak for themselves. When a pundit appears on television and speaks about their opposition, what they are actually trying to do is trick you into taking their side. They’re betting on you not doing your own research.
When a conservative person tells you how liberals feel, turn off the TV or walk away. When a liberal person does the same about a conservative, have the same reaction. Don’t let a Christian tell you about Muslims, or let a life-long artist tell you about corporate life.
Get your sources first hand. Everything else is misdirection. Oh, and the Devil? If he were a real being — which I’m quite sure he isn’t — he’d be nearly omnipotent. I’m pretty sure he could advocate for himself.