[eDebate] Distance

Andy Ellis andy.edebate
Fri Nov 16 16:32:35 CST 2007

One of the most troubling aspects of this conversation seems to rest
on the question of distance. Before we ever get to the questions of
whether distance and insularity are good we should look to make sure
that the way we access that distance is the same way that the theory
we justify it on constructs it.

The argument goes switch side debate is good because it forces us to
test our ideas but also to confront and inhabit the ideas of the
other. In this we can challenge ideologies, but come to appreciate
what makes good political argument.

However several technologies of insularity have short circuited this
exchange in extensive and meaningful ways.

1) Stem and Branch topics.
In this world one never has to AFFIRM congressional action on racial
nor does one Have to AFFIRM lifting sanctions on CUBA
Nor does one have to AFFIRM Kyoto
Nor does one have to AFFIRM the supreme court overturning qurin
Nor does one have to AFFIRM engagement with iran

This means that the specific terrains on which the debates take place
do not by any necessity submit decision making to the benefits of a
switch side debate pedagogy. Only in the 20 per cent of neg debates
where you debate your own aff. Otherwise affs get to choose one
section and negs can strategically make what ever arguments they like
, distance themselves from the decision and by no means situate
themselves on the other side...This is exactly the danger switch side
debate pedagogy is supposed to overcome..for example an aff that runs
Afghanistan and debates a Palestine aff can very easily without having
to challenge themselves to understand the others arguments take a
consistently and aggressively pro Israel stance. Now for the purpose
of this post i wont take a stance on whether a pro Israel or a pro
Palestine stance is more preferable, simply  only having to wrap your
head around one while not around the other(unless you choose too) is
the way argument becomes ideology and the main pedagogical danger of a
non switch side paradigm.

Yet topic specific knowledge, implicitly or explicitly motivated by
the values of the switch side debate paradigm is something that many
debaters cling to like it was still true.

Question what is the value of topic specific knowledge in a world in
which the negative is probably not engaging in switch side debate on
the specifics of the topic? IE if the neg you are debating against
does not demine afghanistan and you are aff and you do then you are
not engaging in switch side debate. So what does that mean?

Now, before you get to the easy answer

The aff does have to affirm constructive engagement (though can
further isolate switch siding by giving foreign assistance or security
or overturning a supreme court decision and so on

but what constitute legitimate switch siding on this question (macro
level discussions about grand strategy) is functionally a big k or
ideology debate. Thats cool, those are good debates to have, but if
big non specific debates is the only place where side switching is
necessitated, then lets write resolutions that way to actually force
people to subject their ideas consistently and with purpose to the
benefits of the system we have constructed.

Finally in the most desperate attempt to grasp on to some sense of
control those who defend the contemporary switch side framework
say...advocate the government do something, any thing....then we can
one of our generics...ok again a reasonable enough plea but a cop out
on what the educational value of the game should be.

2) Aff switching

while at first glance the aff that switches its plan text before the
round and takes out its terrorism advantage and puts in place its
poverty advantage seems to be adapting, situating themselves on the
terrain of the other in an act of hospitality. But what it really is
is a way to not have to defend your views against criticism, to
insulate the team that might in one round say terrorist exist and we
need to fight them from having to defend that. Again the practice of
switch side debating is circumvented, if you think i am wrong why do
people do it? is it genuinely to accommodate the other or is it to
strip the other of a link to their business...its not the sides that
are switched its the codes and that too is one of the practices switch
side debate pedagogy is supposed to intervene against. Judges should
be willing to hold teams responsible for what amounts to out and out
pandering and hiding your scholarship from criticism, as an unethical
act of debating and scholarship. This doesn't mean there should be
static interpretation of what teams do, but at the very least that a
team that takes its terrorism advantage out of a given debate should
have to explain why, and that previous rounds should be able to be
used to prove a specific shift for certain debates....bottom line, if
you think distanced switch side debate is good, and you like to say
things you think k/liberationist/revolutionary teams would object to,
say it and defend saying it, otherwise you deny the pedagogy you often
claim to rely on.


I think this relatively obvious ill go into more detail if i need to.

4) Theory and evaluation frameworks

The theory framework seems to drive topic construction, notions of
what fairly divides ground and creates a particular interpretation of
fair debate becomes the key question because what we actually debate
is less important than if it makes good competition, this comes from
an ability to use distance as means of fully testing all sides of an
argument. Meanwhile the apocalyptic evaluation framework informs an
understanding of what components each side has in a far debate, how
can the neg outweigh this etc. this is how the game is set up, the
rules we are supposedly supposed to play in. But as challenges to the
debate space have emerged they have been forced most frequently in to
these frameworks. this in part has created the war footing because of
the focus of impacts have shifted from hypothetical situations in the
fiat world to the way we debate. This is a direct result of status
quoist attempts to control the framework of evaluation. Debate as
change  focused teams have had to learn to compete on an impact level
for their criticisms to be listened to and debate as a game teams have
used their framework arguments and the impacts within their game to
create an exceptionalist game key to "understanding the iraq war and
stopping Chen and bush" and "not surrendering to the right" but have
also constructed a vulnerability of "the game" which allows them to
cast all challenges to the status quo as immanent threats to the whole
system of freedom and democracy...No wonder then that a war footing
emerges..but the evaluation framework does more to stop an engaged
switch side framework, it shifts research and knowledge production
patterns away from the specific production of workable solutions and
toward the apocalyptic, an aff that solves really well may not be
tested if it doesn't uniquely link out of the risk of a Russia dis ad,
this covers up the SPECIFIC policy evaluation that advocates of switch
side debate defend, this is what branson is talking about when he says
debate didnt make him a better policy maker...these micropolitical
concerns become especially problematic in a world in which both sides
are not familiar because the resolution allows escapism from the
rigorous process of switch side debate by giving the aff a lot of
choices...specificity becomes instead of a good a way of shutting down
debate...except generic debate...

speed line by line techne etc is a technology of debating in a
rigorous and advanced debate, but it is also a means of not doing so,
recognizing that it can be both at the same time should disable most
kneejerk reactions, and let me focus on the following  argument, a
dominant aesthetic pervades the community, arguments and arguers that
fall outside of that aesthetic are, surveilled and seen as foreign,
many judges are open to the foreign, some even are foreign, but for
the most part regardless of content, challenges to dominant aesthetic
are outsiders even if within the community. It is perhaps no wonder
that most teams that have aimed to challenge the dominant aesthetic
have done so with content that also challenges other aspects of
community politics, it is this aesthetic informed by the blind belief
in the value of insularity that perhaps most isolates debate as a
"niche sport" i mean does cstv really cover any non niche sports? they
have a channel for that its called espn. But back to the point, the
aesthetic is not just speed it is also the wprld spoken into being as
a result of points 1-4 a world of us action, war, death, poverty,
racism, democracy, public space, academic experts, disconnected
liberals, all of this part of the dominant aesthetic,and it is who
makes up the community, in fact what the dartmouth debaters refer to
as the game they like and has been good for them as largely the
dominant aesthetic...its a nother term for fun game, it includes a
multicultural inclusion and interface with difference, it even allows
you to be changed when in the presence of the other, but it can afford
that flexibility because it knows it is the dominant aesthetic and
that incorporating difference (as long as its before quarters) does
not fundamental challenge the dominant hold on the shape of how the
community looks.

And how the community looks and feels is a fundamental barrier to
inclusion and democratization. It just is. To students to
administrators to the public, to UDL students, to HBCU, to community
colleges. For every person you can list that disproves this assertion
i can name 25 whose names you will never know, as my friend spilly
calls them, the ghosts of the debate community. These are people who
wanted to be or where involved in our community, the larger debate
community, and have disappeared, some had to leave, some didnt like
it, but a lot of them left because the community killed their desire
to be a part of it, in many cases its the fault of the dominant
aesthetic and the way it colonizes debate. But who knows what these
people may have wanted or needed from a debate education because if
they don't have the stomach for the fight then well too bad, right?
no! These are the masses aligned against the debate is accessible
argument the ghost armies of debaters looking for answers from a
tortured past so easily ignored.

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