[eDebate] Performance, Debate and the Law

Andrew Culp polarbear
Fri Nov 2 14:13:20 CDT 2007

There is no clear answer to the question of sexual harassment, and I 
don?t there needs to be a clear policy delineated by a tournament or 
?the community.?

What makes a performance that includes a threat of personal violence (I, 
as debater, will attack you) more legally actionable than, let?s say, a 
threat of international violence (I, as USFG, will attack Iran)?

This opens up two lines of conversation that is highly contested:

1) Do we really believe in 100% advocacy of the statement we make in the 
debate (called by some ?switch-side debate?), how clear is the line we 
delineate, and how important is it that that line is clear (?bright 
line?)? (said in another way, how 'accountable' are people for their 

-There have been many reactionary responses to the ?personalization of 
debate? without much productive conversation about that theoretical 
argumentation behind ?performance.?

Performance is meant to disrupt boundaries and force a reflexivity that 
was not currently there. It questions normalizations/naturalizations of 
knowledges and makes seemingly clear-cut decision making calculi inoperable.

e.g.: ?I?m going to fucking beat the shit out of you!? suddenly agitates 
and personalizes a violence that we routinely brush off in the ?extend 
mead 92 and bearden, the economic collapse causes 27,000 nuclear 
warheads to rain upon the earth, overkilling humanity 34 times over?.

Why are personal attacks so much more ?effective? at communicating the 
affective dimension of our statements than a gods-eye-view of some 
hypothetical policy work yet-to-be? ***what makes ?personal? statements 
suddenly jump out of the hypothetical even if they can be easily 
falsified, be part of switch-side debate, and have just as wide-ranging 
consequences (attack iran, vs attack the neg team).?

I have one hypothesis:
A doube-bind.
1) Debate has no impact on policy making yet-to-be, making the activity 
2) Debate does not want to deal with the slippage/affective dimensions 
of how acting like future-policy-makers influences the space of a debate 
happening in the present (stated otherwise, the presence of ?future 
policy-making? that has material consequences currently, justified by 
consequences far in the future)

The cult of framework debating has not yet caught up to this important 
bind. Those unapologetically refusing to question policy debate are 
unwilling to admit two important ?sides? of framework
debate is a radically contextualized, situated practice. Its knowledge 
objects are constructed inter-subjectively, influencing those who are 
involved (which, consequently only influences the policy realm far later 
when debater becomes CSIS fellows or write for journals).
This does not mean that debate is a fantasy, there are very real 
material effects of what you are debating. You do get to argue that the 
USFG should do things. However, you have to recognize your capacity to 
effect this change. Fiat is not wished away, it happens in 20 years when 
you have become a fellow at the Brookings institute and your debate 
training has allowed you to get a policy document on the desk of 
prominent Senators.
As long as framework debates continue the way they have (roleplaying 
good?) the logical extension is this: The K debater gets to argue the 
disadvantages of the material effects of this particular policy 
debate/speech act and the Policy debater gets to weigh why policy 
debating will be important in your life 5, 10, 20 years from now.

If the ?power? of personal politics that we fear is that it is too 
immediate, that implicit assumes that policy debate has no consequence 
or happens much later in time. This obviously brings up a whole slew of 
questions about the educational aspect of something that is ?later? or 
?has no consequence.? (IE: why don?t we just get a 30-pack of PBR or 
play videogames? Are we really that committed to sophistry, or are we 
not being honest about the impact of our practices?)

Sidenote: This is the personalization of debate, but it is the only 
?clear? way to distill what types of education are garnered from a 
debate round. This type of argument will only continue as long as 
education is the response to ground (?framework: you can?t run Ks, it 
hurts my ground.? ?ans: you have bad ground, it?s anti-educational?).

2) What is the role of appeals to authorities interior/exterior to the 
debate itself? (ie: should we ?debate it out? as a debate argument, or 
does the debate stop and we call the cops?)

I don?t really feel like typing much more and this is already far too 
long. But ponder this one: What are the strategic advantages of 
?stopping the debate and calling the authorities? vs. ?having a 
discussion about it?, and what are the educational advantages?

Why do we get to call the cops on an act of personal violence and not on 
an act of international violence? What are convergences, divergences and 
material effects of the models we use for either (IR Realism/anarchy vs. 
Domestic Law) and should they be open for debate?

Formerly UMKC

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