[eDebate] dirtys' duel -- response to ben
Fri Jun 14 15:47:24 CDT 2002
Thanks a lot for your response Ben (and I'll save the cheap tactics for
those who cheapen discussion by their glib non-responsiveness.)
On page 112 of Anti-Oedipus, good ol' D&G argue that 'schizoanalysis' (their
contrast to psycho-analysis) must be "an openly malevolent activity". That
is, to 'de-oedipalize,' in their view, a schizo-critic must sincerely
subject Oedipal analysts (like our dear Dr. Kuswa), who feign a "benevolent
psuedo neutrality", to "shock treatment". I admit that Kuswa's unwillingness
to actually read the work he profits from aggravates me, and I am sorry that
I've disappointed you. I was disappointed to see that Kuswa did not respond
to my promise to never mention his name again (cuz now I've got to keep
publicly noting his hypocrisy).
I do not, however, admit to 'reinforcing a conception of what debate should
be like' because by refusing what debate is, I try to re-open the question
of what debate can be. I've been attempting to better understand 'why people
actually participate in the activity' and find that Anti-Oedipus as well as
Discipline & Punish help tremendously.
Yes, I do think that every debater-subject enters this community as a
'politicized subject' even if their conscious minds remain indifferent to
politics proper. Every debater, every coach, every participant is always
already 'politically active' - the question is whether folks can inject
critical thinking into unquestioned social practices. This is policy debate,
Ben, and its not outlandish to question how politics (that is, power) is
practiced in this forum, whether its in a round or at an institute.
Continuing on that last example, how camps are organized, how much folks get
paid, whether they threaten or bust folks for certain things ((like
student-staff sexual relationships, for instance)), how lab discussion go
down, how much time is spent preparing for the institute tourney, how time
is scheduled, and on and on and on - all of these are political problems,
which is to say, issues of power.
Now, I've tried to demonstrate that modern forensics implies both a
disciplinary pedagogy and an ideological structure of mono-competition; so
I'm very interested in understanding how people experience this activity and
in revealing the very concrete ways in which discipline functions and
agonivity constructs. Yet your implicit assumptions seem to re-inscribe
those very notions Foucault, Deleuze, and Guattari try to transcend ....
One, discourse does not just 'shape' reality, discourse is a manifestation
of reality - its real. Thought and action are inseparable from the real -
thinking is an activity and every activity relies on a certain mode of
thinking. The fundamental proposition of kritiking - 'fiat is illusory' -
also means that debate-reality is glued to the real lives of its
participants. Debate is a game to be sure, but its never *just* a game.
Two, I agree that debate operates as a (political) technology of the self
(although I prefer the term 'body' as per D&P's first chapter). But
'motivation' is *not* only an individual process; its social and historical.
To get at why people 'do what they do' one must also get at the specific
modes of power that are fabricating them. For instance, Foucault notes in
part 3 of D&P that punishments & awards are concrete ways that
disciplinarians manipulate (student) 'motivation' - which is why I
juxtaposed UTNIF's official wesbite with Foucault's genealogy of military
skools. Its insufficient to say, 'people just like to win' - how are they
made to like it? and an aesthetic 'technology of self' also ask, is it
possible to re-make ourselves differently?
Three, knowledge is not 'provided' in debate so much as a specific way of
relating to (power&)knowledge is created. Increasing education is beneficial
depending on what education means in a specific context. Forensics has a
tendency to co-opt revolutionary criticism by reducing it to formalized
expression - UTNIF's emphasis on 'per(form)ativity' re-legitimates this
anti-critical practice. (Cross-reference Anti-Oedipus' discussion of
American literature on page 132-3.) Often 'carding' does not consist of
listening to what an author has to say - and I don't think so little of
students as to believe that they need to be tricked into critical thinking.
I just think instructors need to stop reducing criticism to some abstract
and hard-to-understand strategic position and nourish the (exciting) process
Four, to say debate encourages 'political activism' is undoubtably correct.
And I write with great admiration of those activists (who happen to be in
debate) who 'take social action outside of the exclusive academic
community'. But debate is *always* politically active, both in its internal
functioning and external effects (which are indivisible). Though I agree its
often 'elitist' and 'exclusive' (though perhaps becoming less so), this is
not to say that its irrelevant to larger social condition(ing)s (or to say
that if it were ever to become thoroughly un-elitist and inclusive that
critics of debate should go away. A UDLer can be disciplined and Oedipulized
the same as any WASP.) Debate *already* plays a complex, interesting, and
important role in cultural reproduction - not merely because many lawyers,
journalists, academics, and politicians go through forensic training, but
more fundamentally, because its a place where skool, agon, and empire meet.
So its quite germane to say that public questions (even from former debaters
& coaches like myself) must be asked and discussed, such as, Is spewing
carded authors at high-speeds to win contests the best way to go about
'education' and 'democratic empowerment'? And is the claim that students
wouldn't join da-bait unless baited in any way ethical or factual?
Five, I dig your thoughts on social organization. Amidsts Marxists screaming
for 'the Revolution', Foucault theorized local resistances that reject
totalizing solutions, hence the GIP which injected prisoners personal
narratives into mainstream French culture. He said that the notion in our
heads of 'the whole of society' is exactly what we must get rid of - its a
trap set up for critical thinkers, exemplified by questions like: 'What
would you do if you were in the place of official decision-makers?' or 'What
if everybody acted like you're acting now?' or 'Can't you just give us more
You write: "There's almost too much of a focus on being efficient, and
hurrying to get the problems 'solved' without recognition that many social
organizations quick fix solutions only function to remedy the symptoms of a
social problem that has been exposed instead of searching for the root of
the social problem." - And I couldn't agree more, but in what ways does
debate contribute to these civilized madnesses? (See my genealogical
analysis of TS's discourse regarding 'research time', for instance.) Also,
is there such a beast as 'the root of the social problem'?
Six, I don't say 'power bad' or 'competition bad' - c'mon now, you're
reading me more closely than that, aren't you, Ben? Every discourse entails
conflict (hence competition in some form) and every relationship entails
power (hence discipline in some form) - that's a given. Over-simplification
(on your part) only serves to over-look how power specifically functions in
debate: the very concrete ways disciplinary skools and
mono-hyper-competitive tournament-contests operate. Past and future posts
will continue to try to brings these things to light. (btw, slight error in
your reading of Foucault: he never says that power operates
'counter-productively'. All power is productive, even when it 'produces'
repressions or idealistic masks for its operations.)
Seven, in truth, critique should never try to 'solve' anything. This is what
D&G mean when they focus on the process above the goal - what one does
should be done because its good to do (production), not because it will one
day lead to something good (expression). There's no one-size-fits-all
quick-fix - so small acts of resistance must be constantly put forward, even
when this haults the established order's assembly-line
Eight, I agree, that debate makes discussions of critical works like these
possible is *fucking awesome* - but if kritiking is to remain true to its
radical roots then it must go even farther and transcend the traditional
fornesic models of game and skool. No one is arguing that debate doesn't do
good things; my question is can it do better? 'Democratic empowerment' and
'education' must not be reduced to a 'linguistic game of chess' - they
aren't just 'voters'; they're values which can re-structure debate itself.
Just as kritiks destroy a mono-policymaker's forum, this new wave of
experimentation in debate will destroy a mono-competitor's forum - and the
wall of in-round performance must be the first one to come crashing down.
(Goes without saying that those benefiting from the status quo, whether they
call themselves 'kritikers' or not, will be the most resistant to change.)
Nine, "In the context of your arguments about competition, it seems like you
just have a chip on your shoulder because you couldn't cut it when it came
down to the W/L's." - Hey, I did alright when I was Justin Freemyn's 'tool'
(as ya'll say). I just really didn't care about winning or losing my senior
year, and quit debate my second semester. And as a coach, I didn't want to
put any competitive pressure upon my students - but we had lots of fun and I
learned a lot too (before getting fired, that is :). There's no chip on me
shoulder - I'm just asking questions here, engaging in genealogy and
schizoanalysis, and I often do so in a very cut-the-bullshit manner to
provoke responses. I also admit to discrediting the kritik vanguard, but a
lot of that is their own fault, first because they often act hypocritically
in defending institutional coercion and game-totalizations, and second,
because they often don't know what in the hell they're talking about. Alfie
Kohn is the guy who rejects 'competition' outright, and he makes a brillant
argument in 'The Case Against Competition' - a paragraph on page 57 even
critiques academic debate specifically (since he's a former participant).
But that's too structuralist for me, I'm a constructivist now - I want to
analyze history and get beyond ideology (even beyond 'cooperation' as some
kind of panacea).
Ten, "Your Debate Institute Arguments are about as bad as your haircut." -
Hey now, I recently cut my hair, and apologize for any harm incurred to
innocent bystanders. (And how could I make them better? I used UTNIF's own
website for goodness sakes!)
Eleven, "WE need more time and more knowledge" - Do *you* need more time, or
do *they* need more time, Ben? Or has your identification with that
institution become so complete and unconscious that you can no longer
re-cognize a difference? - And let me ask you point-blank: if you learned so
much from Jack Stroube, why didn't you speak in his defense when he got
canned? (And if Kuswa or Emerson got fired for something I write, don't you
know that I'd be the first person to make every attempt to get them their
Twelve, "Some people just like to win[.]" - I can't leave it at that, man.
You gotta ask WHY? That's why Foucault and D&G write hundreds of pages upon
hundreds of hard-to-read pages, to precisely lay down why people *desire*
those very things which castrate their creativity.
'Some people just like to watch TV.'
'Some people just like paying shrinks.'
'Some people just like bombing brown people.'
Well with those four statements we can throw out libraries full of critical
theory - good job, Ben :)
And Thirteen, "[A] lot of talk and no walk." - I decided not to attend UT
and so I never got involved in any of their social organizations: but I
trust you for that job. (Can I even participate in your organization as a
I write e-debate posts to talk about activism *in debate*, not activism
generally, or even activisms I'm engaged in personally. I'd enjoy meeting up
with you and chatting about my various projects (Mojo's one night?), but
e-debate isn't the place for that - I'm a subscriber of this list for one
reason only: to critique. Walking is for the streets. Of course, I'd be
happy to work with you to recruit as many drag birds as possible to judge
the UTNIF institute tourney, if the higher ups with give us the go ahead ...
or even if they don't :)
oh oh oh, and as I said before, my next post will be an attack of jack and
the SLF - so stay tuned
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