Ode to Mr. Devil’s Advocate

As a writer, it is often easy to overlook the fundamental principles of…

Mr. Devil’s Advocate: “Ugh.”

The fundamental principles of…

Mr. DA: Uuuugh.”

Because a writer is basically a…

Mr. DA: UUUuuugh.”

Something eating you, Mr. Devil’s Advocate?

Mr. DA: I don’t want to talk about it.”

You don’t want to talk about something? Well, I suppose there’s a first time for everything. But whatever it is, it can’t be hard to guess. Is it work, again? The big ol’, mean ol’ boss giving you trouble?

Devil Boss Man

Mr. DA: I said I don’t want to talk about it.”

Well, the problem’s not going to solve itself. If you really didn’t want to talk about it, you wouldn’t be here. So instead of doing this big back and forth where you insist you’re not talking and I insist that you have to, why don’t we skip straight to the point?

Mr. DA: *sigh* “Fine. I’m having a problem with the blog.”

You don’t like my blog?

Mr. DA: I don’t like my place in it. I mean, what am I, really? Just your stool pigeon, your whipping boy. All your arguments are all so virtuous compared to what the straw man is saying. I’m nothing more than a caricatured effigy for you to burn.”


You don’t mean that.

Mr. DA: But you do. You set the stage, you cast the lighting, and I always get overruled.”

That’s not true. Don’t you remember all those times you got the better of me?

Mr. DA: So that you could immediately embrace the position you secretly supported all along, and look magnanimous in the process? Yes, I remember all those times.”

You don’t have to take it so personally.

Mr. DA: Well, I have to take something personally. Aside from you, the only thing I’ve got going for me is a job where I literally work for Satan. I don’t have a lot of creative outlets to express my distaste. Working with you may be a nice change of pace, but what am I accomplishing here? Be honest.”

Ah, I think I see where you’re coming from. You really think you’re not contributing enough?

Mr. DA: I’m definitely not contributing anything worthwhile. Can you give me a reason to stick around?”

I think I can scrounge one up.

Opposition in All Things


I think it’s time that we explore all the great things about you, Mr. Devil’s Advocate. Your contributions to this blog have been tremendous, and after today, people are going to know about them.

Aristotle once said that the definition of tragedy was a hero overcome by the excess of his virtues. This is the kind of doom that could have befallen me had you not showed up.

It’s a fundamental law of the universe: everything is opposed and balanced by something else. I disseminate information as best as I can, meaning that I try to disseminate only the best information. But what quality does any information have if it is not challenged?

How thankful I am to have you here, to keep me from being swallowed up by my message until I can’t contribute anything. Without you, this site just becomes another echo chamber.

Mr. DA: But that doesn’t change the fact that I get crucified in every encounter. All you’ve done is confirmed my suspicion that I am only here to make you look good.”

But you’re not here to make me look good. You’re here to make me be good.

How else can I put this?

Burning the Midnight Oil

I couldn’t ask for a better researcher than you.


You think you’re just a straw man? No straw man has a brain like yours.


Apart from the obvious, of course.

Have any of your counterpoints been half-hearted? Don’t you always come up with the best real-world examples that cut against my grain?

Mr. DA: I have my ways. I am a lawyer, after all.”

And even when I overcome your opposition, how many times have I belittled you or thrown my victory in your face?


Really? Have I ever called you an idiot?

Mr. DA: Well, no.”

Do I ever mock you with hurtful names?

Mr. DA: No.”

Don’t I let your arguments appear unaltered in the blog?

Mr. DA: Yes, you do that much.”

Then you are not my stool pigeon. I mean, you’ve read other blogs. You’ve seen the kinds of straw men they put up. And when they light those effigies, they piss on the ashes. I always let you make your point. I never try to distort what you’re saying or leave you without any dignity.

And you work hard to maintain the quality of your objections. Don’t think I haven’t noticed. I wouldn’t exchange you for any other opponent. I mean that.

Mr. DA: And I appreciate the sentiment. But to me, that makes it so much worse. I put a lot of preparation into my arguments, so it hurts that much more when they are torn down.”

Well, I can’t promise that I will agree with you, at any point or on any subject. You are the loyal opposition, after all.

Mr. DA: But surely you can do something to give me a greater foothold here. Why do I never see any vulnerability from you? You could at least show me that my point of view is having an effect on you, no matter how subtle.”

Growth Arc


You are having an effect on me. More than anything, you are the one who stops me. There are so many things I want to say, casting caution to the wind and damning the consequences. I brought you on specifically so you could be the immovable object to my unstoppable force.

Of course I’m vulnerable to you. I had to delay my censorship post for more than a year because you kept me from diving right in to such a sensitive subject. Think of how unprepared I was back when I made my first attempt. You’re honestly going to tell me that you weren’t the driving force behind that article?

Mr. DA: I suppose I did have a say in that. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had here.”

You’ve made things better here. And perhaps I don’t say it enough, but I like everything you’ve done. I hold your opinion higher than almost anyone in the world—more than anyone on the internet, anyway.

That I can’t surrender to your arguments constantly is a sad but necessary part of being a blogger. I can’t have my voice heard if I acquiesce my positions. But I wouldn’t be able to do it without you. I hope you realize that.

Mr. DA: Alright, alright. Stop making everything so weird.”

*shrug* I do it all for you.

Mr. DA: You don’t have to be so corny about it. Still, it’s nice to hear it from the horse’s mouth.”

Are you feeling better?

Mr. DA: Better enough. But I get the feeling that we haven’t even really started fighting yet. The world is full of subjects, and one day we’re bound to come across one so divisive that we can’t walk away from it.”

Yes, but the only way to avoid that would be to disband the blog before it happens. And that takes us to the same place, but leaves us with so many fewer posts written.

Mr. DA: I guess we don’t have any choice then. Same time next week?”




[This week’s tagline: “Where people come…to give thanks.”]