[eDebate] Tying together some T threads

Brent Saindon basaindon
Thu Jun 14 10:43:13 CDT 2007

I really don't want to end up in a prolonged discussion (in fact, I do not anticipate posting again), but perhaps I would like to put a different "spin" (isn't that what all the "policy" kids are calling taking evidence to make mean what you want -- how ironic, don't you think?) on the discussion that has taken place. A friend sent a backchannel suggesting that I got a surprise "Korcok" for my birthday. I would like to return it to the sender now.

"In repeated calls for Andy to not sell out his "friends", two motions masquerade as proto-ethics:  1) a reminder that the cause comes first and 2) the implied threat of expulsion for apostasy.  Two ancient enemies of reason loosed in a philosophy of debate..."

I wish to distance myself from both. Andy and I do not really share a common cause, or would I expel him from our super-secret organization (I'll send you a topic decoder ring with 5 proofs of purchase of "Kashi" cereal products). This part of my post occurred through a "defensive" reading of Andy's post. I got the sense that he was trying to make a deal: let me in your "narrow topic/"policy debate" circle (whatever the hell that all is supposed to mean), and I'll join the "not all that other stuff we don't like" bandwagon. I should have known Andy better. After rereading his original post and a backchannel conversation, I think what I took as horse-trading was actually an implied threat toward Jim ("If you can't get on board with us coming into the fold, then we're really going to mess with you") if no compromise in perspective could even be discussed.

Either way, I didn't ask Andy to vote for anyone. Creative experiments in debate can be downright bad, or some can be personally distasteful to a critic, but I'm not sure that we should be in the business of placing limits on the creativity of the debaters at the outset. I think its both cute and convenient that you take me as either a church leader or even a member. But if you believe that, then I think I can absolve some of your sins for a $1000. Please leave payee line blank (we'll take care of the rest).

Brent, should Andy really have to choose between his "friends" and what he concludes is right?  You don't have an opinion on that matter?  Because you have no opinion about anything except that you hear no answer when you ask the question "why not?"  Its all politics anyway, huh?  Slip Andy a joint or a fiver or a reach-around and he signs the ballot your way.  "But again, as long as you can get away with it..."
 Brent, if you can get away with fabricating evidence?  Brent if you can get away with stealing their 1AC when they aren't looking?  Brent, if you can get away with reminding the judge that the other team is gay or presbyterian or black?  Brent...

As a sociological observation, yes. You may deny it, but it does happen. Judges have publicly proclaimed that they artificially inflate speaker points for "policy" debaters as a protest (this happened a few years ago -- nothing below a 28 just for not reading a "kritik" -- they may have eventually changed this perspective -- I want to say it was Stefan Bauschard, but I cannot remember for sure). You cannot stop this from happening. Do we tar and feather them, take their positions of authority, and then cast him out in shame (sorry, no offense -- just a thought experiment), all because we are so sure that we are right? That's for people that cannot provide a persuasive and rhetorical defense for what they do. Or they cannot build enough support for their position, so they lament about dividing tournaments or the good ol' days, or about how the world has gone crazy.

We have some defenses against blatant racism or payoffs: social pressure, a discussion of ethics, mutual preference judging, and hiring practices set by universities. But most of all, we have oppositional style and a mutual trust in the capacity for good judgment. We can lament about it here (usually in the form of gross reductions that never occurred, or convenient straw-people to beat up on that have no identity or way to defend themselves), or people can take solace in their argument preparation and honed skill.

Will I get mad and storm out of the room if a team tried to pay me off? No. Will I take it? No. Will they have lost credibility (yes, ethos does matter)? Yes. If Andy takes it, will he be judging for much longer? Not likely. Does this stuff actually happen in debate? Unsure...but their are other attachments, like friendship, love, admiration, or personality matches that do influence the outcome of debates. The same applies for juries, political decision, and hiring decisions. Should we put our head in the sand, pretend that we have banished our emotions (of course, because we have made unenforceable rules against it as a community), and exalt our "superior fairness"? Oh wait, we already have that down. By not confronting how persuasion really occurs, by pretending that we somehow can have a "pure" activity of rational deliberation, we do debaters a disservice. I suspect their is a reason that most peoples view of debate influence on the real world is lawyers and judges, not
 community activists, social workers and the like. Those people live in the illusion that they decide without emotion or personal conviction...which to me is a disservice to the broader population.

"There are no rules in debate" does not just mean that we are thus free to do anything "your opponents and judges will let you get way with".  "There are no rules in debate" also means the opposite:  we are responsible for our own actions, to choose and fashion our own conduct under cross-pressures, to find our goodness even when it hurts our chances to win.

No argument here. But we should also not be afraid of our freedom, that we should never innovate, develop, look at our language in a new light...in short, we should still evolve. Debate is evolving, and it will continue to do so, whether you or Hanson like it or not. Some mutations will not make it in the realm of persuasion, others may make the activity much better or challenging. You can steer the evolution in a "good" direction, and we can have great discussions on good and bad innovation, but we can't go back to the good ol' days, or just say that our future in debate is not worth our tournament money, or discussion. For Rorty, as I understand it, to say that "truth is whatever your colleagues will let you get away with" is just an innovative way of saying that  the ethics we create don't come from anywhere in particular, so they are only as good as the people you have around to challenge you. Unless you keep really shitty company, to get away with it means that they
 cannot fathom a reply...but it will come in time...and the conversation will continue. I believe in the power of oppositional advocacy and argument as a cooperative enterprise, not just a competitive one.

But ... Brent got one thing right... this discussion is largely about how much we should let those who don't seem to have internal constraints against forcing the one-way conversation on others to be able to get away with.

Ah, this is true, but it seems to me, the conversation goes both ways. Some people want to force a one-way conversation, suggesting that the community spoke, that the debate over debate is resolved, and it's my way or the highway. Not only are they so presumptuous that they will assume that everyone is happy with the process (even though it is specifically designed to produce a dissatisfied minority in its very structure), but they also believe that the community decided on a collective interpretation of the topic. I don't remember the decoder ring coming with the word list. To me, a majority of people agreed to some markings on a page -- that's the place we begin. And they probably did it which a diverse set of motivations, desires, goals, and interpretations of what it means to affirm, what those markings signify, and the ground available to the parties involved. To get upset because people don't see your side is sad, but tough. You got to persuade them that your right.
 The internal constraint ought to be "good argument", not that all my peers want me to fall in line. What do you coach again, Korcok?

Those that are being accused of forcing the "one-way conversation" have known this for a long time. They've had to fight an uphill battle to get people on board with their (diverse) ways of thinking about debate and the topic. They've had to fight against a number of predispositions and structural constraints. They deserve a little respect, instead of being pigeon-holed by a bunch of small minded people as being cheaters or maniacs. That sounds like the lamentations of those that have not equipped themselves with the proper tools of persuasion to fight back. Joe  Z. has got it right (even though we're on opposite sides of so much), this is just another challenge that makes debaters better. I personally would never suggest that an affirmative should be non-topical (they should defend an interpretation). But if the debaters cannot learn anything from defending that their ought be a topic, and they cannot succeed in doing so, then perhaps debating is not for you. If you cannot
 offer a persuasive (not true) statement of value, then I don't feel sorry for you.

To the other conversations: what prevents violence on the street, not just debate? Trust in one another, a belief that the strategy will not reap rewards in the long run, and the cultivation of good judgment in the people around you. That's all you have. That's all the security you will likely ever have. 

I'm done with this conversation now. I suspect that at the heart of the matter, we do not have as many differences as we would like to draw out. But then again, that's just me projecting on all of you.

I'm ready to enter the next "spin" zone (just as an aside: what differentiates "spin" from out-of-context evidence? It seems like an open admission that you are using a piece of writing in a way that was not intended...)

Brent Saindon

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