Agent Povocateur

As a lawyer, it is not a complete mischaracterization to say that I write for a living. I write to persuade the courts, to educate my clients, and, on occasion, to strike fear in the heart of an adversary. Like any other professional writer, I pay close attention to voice and take careful account of my audience.

Those who know me only outside the context of the law might be surprised to learn that I am capable of awesome diplomacy and discretion. Consider this: the fate of my clients is largely in the hands of judges, many of whom are quite brilliant, most of whom are utter fools. (How tempting to name-names!) Even I am occasionally astonished to see the degree of deference I show in court. Why do I do it? It is how the game is played.

Blogging is a completely different game. Though it is public writing, the only thing at stake is the vigorous exchange of ideas. This gives considerably more latitude in judgments about voice, which will in turn determine the audience to which the writing may appeal.

I choose a provocative voice.

Though my blog is only a couple weeks old, I have already received lots of good feedback on my postings. The most passionate, naturally, comes from my mother. She loves the basic essays — just as she instinctively supports everything I do in that lovely maternal way of hers. But when it comes to the voice, it makes her crazy. She went nuts when I described a notorious Dick Cheney reprimand of Colin Powell as a “bitch-slap” in my essay on Powell’s disgraceful term as Secretary of State. “You have such good ideas,” she cajoled, “but using language like that will turn people off. You could be so persuasive if you weren’t so provocative.”  (This from the woman who taught me to swear like a sailor!)

I love my mom dearly, but I must say, “tough shit.”

I persuade for a living; I blog for fun. And provocation is way more fun than persuasion any day.


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