Devil’s Advocate – In defense of the clueless but passionate among us

Devil’s Advocate – In defense of the clueless but passionate among us


I’m going to take on the role of devil’s advocate here.

I understand how you would want to deride this young woman for her pretty abysmal ability to communicate what she cares about, but some people just don’t know much. But unlike most…  at least she’s trying. She cares enough about this to stand in front of a city council and argue for something she obviously struggles to wrap her head around. This takes more chutzpah than any blog post or comment any of us has ever written.

Personally, I’d trade a dozen smarty pants types (like most people who blog and/or comment on blogs) for one person willing to put real volunteer time on issues they care about. Its amazing how many people will jump to forward an email, write to a newspaper editor, argue online or even sit in meetings for hours and hours on end… but when you ask them to knock on doors or make phone calls for a few hours on a day off, they find a long and sad list of excuses.

Organizers joke about it all the time, saying things like “I wish those damn bloggers would get off their 1@# @&&3& and do some real work!”

Political campaigns are filled with people like this. People who don’t know much, but they met the candidate and believe in them, or care so much about that issue, and they get out there and do something about it. This young woman is getting out there and doing something about what she believes. No amount of armchair quarterbacking holds a candle to one hour of action.

I participate in blogs because its a fun and stimulating way for me to pass the time that I would probably otherwise be vegetating in front of the TV. However, after years of working at the grassroots level, I’ve seen what makes a real impact. Because of this, I spend more time working on the formation of a local independent grassroots group, educating myself on fundraising, guerrilla marketing and other useful subjects, setting up meetings with potential co-founders and asking people for input on the plan… and studying for the GRE so I can get into a better nonprofit management program.

I understand how its hard for people to get out there and do something that has an impact on things, but if you spend 3, 4+ times more time and energy each year arguing with people online in comparison to time in the trenches… making phone calls, knocking on doors, helping set up meetings, handing out lit at events, working booths or whatever things the local chapter of whatever issue org you support needs help with, then frankly you don’t really care about the issue, you just think you do.

People act on what they really care about, they talk about what they’re annoyed with. Maybe Justin can give a good excuse in that he runs a site that educates tens of thousands of people a month on what is going on in the world, but for the rest of us on here, we need to get out there and do something real and tangible or we’re no better than the stereotypical old guy sitting on his porch bitching about the world… but when you ask him what he did about it in his life, he tells you with pride that he left the politics to the corrupt and wicked… EXACTLY the opposite of what we need people to do.

So I say bravo to the young woman in the video. I’d hope that she gets more confidence (for all we know she’s just so nervous that she just can’t think straight… I’ve known plenty of super smart people that turn to mush in front of more than five people) and learns more about what she cares about, but most of all I hope she keeps on getting out there and acting on her beliefs.

  • Steve

    I agree, it’s frightening explaining yourself or beliefs to strangers, especially when you know there’s an off chance you’ll be on youtube and labeled “Britney Spears Baby” or something equally ignorant. I didn’t understand much of what she was saying, but I can respect that she said it.
    I work in New York and when the “tea parties” were going on I witnessed some of it, and I witnessed some Iraq War protesters, and whether you’re for or against it, at least they’re demonstrating and making themselves heard. It’s jarring to see the laziness of “politicos” sometimes, especially when you see the protests in Iran.

  • Jacob.Donklephant


    Allow me to play devil’s advocate to your devil’s advocate.

    Is there a way to respectfully acknowledge her chutzpah and politely ask her to sit down after 2 minutes?

    She seems to have spoken for quite some time. Despite her good intentions she doesn’t appear to have said anything coherent. How much time did she waste?

    </devils advocate>

    Who knows, though? Maybe she broke up the monotony of a tedious day and brought everybody back to the present, as it were?

    There are elements of this video and subsequent dialogue reminiscent of this.

    We weren’t there. We aren’t seeing an entire conversation or even an entire half of a conversation. We’re seeing what we’re presented. Do we have to buy it?

  • Hanlon

    Actually, I don’t have a lot of respect for that, because as nice as enthusiasm is, recognizing what you know and what you don’t is even more necessary. Be passionate, but don’t think that it overrides the fact that you don’t watch the news or read any books pertinent to the subject you want to get up and talk about.

    It’s like watching the first few weeks of American Idol. Okay, sure, it’s nice that these people have the guts to get up and try, but they’ve obviously never taken a lesson or even listened to their own voice. Channel that passion into EDUCATING yourself a little bit, THEN get back to us.

    The problem is that people get all passionate about something, root down into a viewpoint without ever having done any research and then stay there because they’d rather plod along in a wrong view than concede being wrong.

  • http://sidewaysmencken.blogspot michael reynolds

    Good intentions are irrelevant. Communists had good intentions. Nazis had what they no doubt thought were good intentions. Who cares? What matters is what you do.

    This is like giving everyone a trophy. Up to about age 10, okay, but at some point you have to start holding people accountable for what they do, and for what they say.

    Let me go to a Simpsons example. The episode where Ned Flanders’ house is destroyed and the townsfolk, led by Homer, rebuild the house. Of course they do a lousy job and the result is uninhabitable. Good intentions resulting in a waste of time and no good for the intended beneficiary.

    We can’t stay in 1st Grade forever.

  • Chris

    I agree with MR. Who cares if some nutbag has the courage to stand up in front of a council and ramble on about nothing for 5 minutes.

  • politicalpartypooper

    Yep, I knew what I’d find here. Several people bashing the poor girl anyway. So, I’m going to place myself in front of her, tell you bashers that I am smarter than two of you put together, and take you on. Have at it. This girl has bigger balls than you do; all you are worth is words, and words without actions are USELESS.

    You call her a nutbag. Nice. Which is the bigger nutbag? Is it the girl who had the balls to speak out in public, or you who sit at your keyboards, chuckling at your own stupid one-liners? Here’s a hint for you; there’s no one near to laugh with you. What are you laughing at? If a camera were on you, what would YOU look like? I think you’d look pretty silly.

    Michael Reynolds, you are proof that, indeed, you can stay in first grade forever. Spelling and speaking AND SUCH, are no measure of lessons learned. I got past the gang-up-on-the-weaker attitude in second grade. Good luck to you in your studies. I hope you make it that far. Second Grade rocks!

  • WHQ

    I almost commented on the first post about this woman, but didn’t. It’s just as well, because this post may be the more appropiate for my comment.

    I thought the video was sad. I think this woman has clinical psychological problems, perhaps in addition to a cognitive disability of some sort. She’s not completely disfunctional, since she knows when and where the council meeting is taking place and managed to get there so she could speak. But it seems her grasp of very basic issues is tenuous, as is her ability to gague how others would perceive her. I think she needs help, and I don’t know that she’s getting it.

  • WHQ

    or dysfunctional…

  • WHQ

    or gauge… damn, bad spelling day.

  • Eimajine

    I agree that more people have to get out there, but I think that’s a separate issue from this one. This woman is not doing her cause any good. She is ridiculous and by representing her cause it will also be perceived as ridiculous. As someone who cares about the issues she’s trying to talk about, I am concerned that many who hear this will be turned off. At best, they might feel sorry for her. She should sit down and write a letter if she has something to say – it would do less damage.

  • Chris

    What cause is she supporting or representing?
    Pooper – being crazy takes balls does it? I’m all for helping the crazies and supporting them, but acting like she’s a hero just because she stood in front of a bunch of people and rambled incoherent bulls*it is retarded.

  • John Burke

    I love her!

    Having attended thousands of community planning board, school board, city council and other public meetings and hearings in my lifetime, I’ve listened patiently to countless far less articulate and often gratuitously angry people say every conceivable ridiculous and/or outrageous thing. As for going on too long, this gal is the soul of brevity compared to many enchanted by the sound of their own voices.

    Incoherent? No, she’s certainly into speaking as a stream of consciousness, which is true of most people not specially schooled in rhetoric, but she makes her points. I think we’d understand them better if the video were not edited (and we knew the subject of the hearing) but from what’s there, she’s supporting some sort farmer’s market coop approach to distributing ostensibly good (“organic”) and likely locally grown “stuff.”

    This is what real democracy is all about, folks. Citizens get to petition their government and all that. We usually don’t say that only the more articulate citizens who can make a cogent oral argument can petition their government.

    Anyway, I’d rather listen to her any day than to self-important but seriously uninformed cable TV hosts.

  • http://sidewaysmencken.blogspot michael reynolds

    Anyway, I’d rather listen to her any day than to self-important but seriously uninformed cable TV hosts.

    I grant she’s more coherent than your average Fox host, but isn’t that an awfully low standard to set?

  • John Burke

    I have only four more words to say on this subject: Power to the people!

  • Tully

    What John Burke said, and what Solomon said. Having attended, observed, participated in and chaired hundreds of public meetings (at least) this woman is actually a cut above the usual person speaking without scripted remarks in front of them on either an open public agenda or on a specific issue. Trust me that those sitting on the bench listening to her have heard far, far worse, understood her views in context on the issue, and were grateful that she wasn’t a raving lunatic, like so many they must listen to. BTW, most public meetings have atime limit for floor speeches/public feedback, usually three minutes or less.

    She’s also probably a lot more coherent in one on one discussion. Many many people freeze up and/or ramble when they get up to the mike in public and face the bench, especially if they haven’t got a cheat sheet in front of them. Public speaking is a skill that few are good at, and speaking in public is THE most widespread phobia there is. For most people, standing up there at the mike in an open meeting and speaking their piece is a frightening experience, and takes courage.

    Personally, I’d trade a dozen smarty pants types (like most people who blog and/or comment on blogs) for one person willing to put real volunteer time on issues they care about.

    Hear hear! But I’d set the ratio higher. A good volunteer is priceless.

  • http://sidewaysmencken.blogspot michael reynolds


    You’re no doubt right. Which explains why I spend as little time as possible around people.

  • Solomon Kleinsmith

    Holy cow… looks like I caused a bit of a ruckus :)

    In general my response is that I agree with those that said that this is a pretty typical thing. You can’t hold the general public, especially those afraid of public speaking, to be able to express themselves as well as more seasoned and talented public speakers. She made her opinions heard, and like someone said above… if you’ve attended any public hearings she isn’t anywhere near the worst you might see.

    Back to my original point though… after you’ve read your daily dose of Donklephant goodness, get out there and do some good in the world!

  • Steve

    Awareness of one’s own limitations and note cards can be two very valuable assets.

    Hopefully she has learned from the experience.