[eDebate] Constructive Comments on Topic Selection
Thu Jun 19 19:58:46 CDT 2003
TJ: "1) I don't get why you're posting to a thread about topic selection. Even if you win that I am a jackass for not wanting to take a particular side of a debate, neither of your messages seem to indicate a reason why topic #1 is desirable vis-a-vis other topics. If your sole point is to declare that I am a jackass, but you agree with me that topic #1 is not desirable vis-a-vis the other topics, then I would appreciate you clarifying that, and we can end this discussion almost immediately. In short, I am willing to concede that I am a jackass if you are willing to say that topic #1 in fact sucks."
My point isn't that topic #1 is good. Rather, it is that the content of affirmative ground vis a vis personal politics is a poor reason to reject topic #1. It is a simple truth that people in debate espouse a wide and varying range of political opinions. Therefore, if you reject a resolution based on personal politics, you are inevitably and automatically subverting the political views of others to your own. That is a selfish and immature way to choose next year's debating topic. A better way to choose a topic would be to use alternative criteria such as fair division of ground, quality of literature, salience of the current debate, existence of solvency advocates, etc.
TJ: "2) Even if you win that people's personal politics shouldn't influence the decisions they make in debate rounds, there are a couple of claims in my post that are still unanswered. 1) Personal politics aside, the NATO topic is too narrow and also only one of many core issues that should be explored in a broader Europe topic context. Neither Raja nor Josh has addressed this claim."
Again, I don't know if the NATO resolution is great or if it sucks. However, this line of argument is regressive. A good resolution should necessarily limit the scope of potential affirmatives to encourage a focused topic with quality debates that involve a high degree of clash. Every one of the proposed resolutions leaves out important issues of European affairs.
People should really try to be honest with themselves about what matters most in choosing a resolution, although I know it is politically incorrect. Very few people will go out on the line and admit that winning is an extremely important reason that they debate. This view of the resolution as an educational journey that reveals important issues to the debate community is bullshit. The function of the resolution is to create a level playing field and a predictable target over which to engage in battle over the course of a year. Debaters are not zen monks seeking enlightenment; they are samurai warriors seeking victory.
It's not that I think winning is the only important thing in debate, but I do think it is one of the most important things in debate. The less you care about winning, the less of an educational opportunity debate is. Your competitive fire will drive your learning. It drives research, it drives argument innovation, it is the driving force behind the activity.
I guess you could call that rant my framework for deciding a resolution. I hold it up as an alternative to TJ, and something is consistent with a view of debate as a laboratory game.
TJ: "2) The fact that you don't think personal politics should influence people's decisions doesn't mean that they won't. You can have your NATO resolution, but people will dodge it. If you are a believer in consequentialism, then you need to take responsibility for that likely, unintended consequence of voting for topic #1. Raja responds to this by saying it's inevitable, regardless of the resolution, because debaters on the left are "dodgy bastards." It may be true that it's inevitable for some teams, but not for every team."
This is a totally unverifiable argument either way. I personally don't believe that people choose wacky affirmatives only because of their political views. Maybe it has something to do with it, but the desire to win plays an equal role in choosing an affirmative. That's why so many of these people answer arguments with no link as opposed to impact turn. The whole trick of this approach is to avoid clash by initially being esoteric, then choosing a minute issue to defend based on the 1nc strategy, wriggling your way out of all the negative's arguments by mutating your esoteric 1ac, and then it's no link, no link, no link. Well, forgive me if I think that sucks. In your ideal debate, you took everything out of your 1ac that you thought the negative had a link to, and then you were able to convince the judge that everything they said didn't link. I mean this was notorious. Even when you had standpoint in your 1ac, you tried to argue that the negative's evidence was talking
about a different standpoint of the oppressed. This is emblematic of teams that choose to debate in this fashion.
TJ: "I think the Indian Country topic is an instructive example. Everybody knew that the control K was the best negative generic...so they wrote their affs to avoid it as much as possible. The result was dodgy affs. I'm not referring here to Fort Hays or myself...this statement applies, I think, to every Dartmouth affirmative ever written, and to Northwestern FP and to West Georgia's energy affirmatives, and I bet I can think of a few more."
I don't know about all of these teams, but I assure you that Northwestern FP did not run the renewables case because it avoided the link to the control K. In fact, the control K was the last thing they were thinking about when they decided to run that aff. Point of fact - they chose to run the aff, because it was one of few cases with a decent advantage. Sad as it is - police brutality, child suicides, etc. are insignificant advantages. Advantage ground drove Northwestern's decision to run a marginal affirmative. Now that would have been avoided by a good resolution. People running aff's that aren't topical and supposedly link to nothing - that can't be avoided by the resolution.
TJ: "On the NATO topic, "militarism bad" is the best negative generic, and smart affirmatives will try to dodge it." The result will be affs that are probably not about the topic, or, in the case that an affirmative does not attempt to dodge, the debate will come down to a comparison of the utilitarian value of the military in the short term with the long-term impacts of a militaristic mindset. Even in Raja's technocratic, war-mongering world, perpetual reliance on military means to resolve problems is probably a bad idea, even if some military actions are necessary/justified now."
Only in one world is militarism bad a "best negative generic" - in highschool debate against MBA GQ.
TJ: "This argument should be coupled with my previous claim that people are going to dodge the resolution if you restrict them in a way that they don't like. If you are Josh Hoe, then you now have 2 choices, both of which might suck, but one clearly sucks a lot more (for you). 1) You can build in ways for people to advocate things that are consistent with their views so that you can see them express those views in a predictable manner, or you can 2) Watch people interpret the topic in unpredictable ways (i.e. ICC = great way to judge Operation Bluestar). The K affs are inevitable, it's only a question of whether you accommodate or get surprised."
This is not a question of limiting K aff's out through the resolution. I agree it's impossible, but it's not a question of degree. People run left of center, non-topical affirmatives because it provides them with a strategic advantage. If your affirmative was included logically in the topic, that would be a terrible affirmative for you. People would research against your case in the off-season. There would be a variety of negative strategies that you would have to prepare for. Then you would have to do research. And that just can't happen. So instead, you will choose a marginally topical aff. And you will revel in how you beat everyone on link take outs. And it will be great.
Accomodation is a strategy for the French.
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