“I’m just presenting an alternative point of view.” or “I just want to provide the other side of the equation.”
You’ve probably seen that more than once lately. We’re a pretty divided nation right now, so unless you’re 100% integrated into an echo chamber, I’m sure a FB friend has probably used that line when presenting an “alternative view point”.
Some people like to call it, “Playing the Devil’s Advocate.” On the surface, it’s a rational appeal. Consider other view points, approach a problem from a different perspective. It makes sense, doesn’t it? I know it does to me. I actively pursue those other view points.
So yes it does, but only to a certain degree. Let’s talk math for a minute. “I just want to show the other half of the equation.” says the guy trying to show proof that vaccines are a conspiracy. But what does that really say? 1+1=2. That’s a constant. No matter how you present, “the other side.”, the result is the same. Just because you say it doesn’t equal 2, just because you link to 3 different blogs and a youtube video by a mathematician that says it actually equals 4, the reality is, 1+1=2. That’s it.
Rhetorically, we’re seeing similar things. You see it with Covid-19. Those two physicians from California, the occasional expert from somewhere else. They have “alternative viewpoints”, that for some reason seems to completely disagree with most other experts. And yet, people give those view points extra weight. They make them equal.
Why? The stove is hot. People tell you that you will get burned. It’s not optional, that will be the result. But…. there was that one guy… that one exception. Your alternative view point says you might not. It is possible that you’ll be just fine.
What’s that burning smell?
The thing about being a real Devil’s Advocate is that you’re teaching people to take things to their logical conclusion, to consider the evidence from multiple angles and work through to verifiable results. There’s an element of responsibility to it, a method that belies the madness. 1+1 will never equal 3. That’s not up for debate, it isn’t an alternative fact, and “experts” don’t consistently and routinely return that answer. A Devil’s Advocate will never present that as an “alternative viewpoint” unless their aim is to have you figure out the correct answer for yourself.
So rhetorically, when something seems to go against the facts, when things seem to go against the logical conclusion. When people present “evidence” that they say the main stream doesn’t want you to see? You should probably take a moment to ask yourself why.