[eDebate] Performance, Debate and the Law

road runner db8coach
Sun Nov 4 12:59:26 CST 2007

Andrew said:

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.?

And I think there IS a pretty clear policy in most of the real world. For example, my fire department fired a person several years ago for bringing some porn pictures, that he downloaded off the internet at home, to work. He showed them to several people. Not one of those people complained. However, on their behalf, the supervisor was required to take action.

I feel failry confident that had he fought it, he could have kept his job. This was his first offense.

The point remains, however, that materials deemed to be pornographic cannot be brought into the workplace. If I voluntarily choose to go to an art exhibit where I know pornographic materials will be displayed, then that is different. I do not believe that a debate tournament would meet that criterian.

I think the law gets even MORE clear when you remember that while our debaters are mostly in college (there have been some high schoolers debating for college teams) not all of them are 18. I have had many 17 year olds debating for me in the past and have one debating for me right now. I think program directors have a legal obligation to act in loco parentis, and a responsibility to the minors (and their parents) that extends far beyond the law. 

Some discussion has taken place here about how debate was shut off when the team walked out of the room, but I really think that LEGALLY it was better that they did. I honestly think that legal problems were averted by the exit. 

Then Andrew writes:

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)?

Yup, this is the truely the question. It is the reason I have fought so hard against the personalization of debate. We have allowed debate to leave the realm of a make believe GAME where people compete against one another, and we have conflated and confused it with the real world. We have taken what was once a fun, uncomplicated (well, some of the theory was somewhat complicated) competition and degraded it to the point where Andrew's question is actually germane. And make no mistake about it, this question should be laughable.

We should be able to say, "Dude, it's just a game. I don't think the US should attack Iran anymore than I believe that we should "wipeout" all humans. They are just fun arguments intended to win a competition". But we can't say that anymore. Sad.

Andrew continues:

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)

I say your double bind is a false dilemma.

Debate can have a HUGE impact on policy making yet to be. It can be very educational. We learn about the process, the act of  weighing costs, how to defend policies, and a slew of other things. But just because we play the policy making game with "nuke Iran" as our "gametime" policy doesn't mean that we will do that as policy makers in the future. We can learn a LOT from debate about the real world of policy making without a false assumption that the policies we advocate in the game are the same ones we would advocate in the real world. In fact, I think that a "nuke Iran" policy in debate would make it much more likely that we WOULDN'T do something silly later on. Your double bind assumes debaters are stupid and can't tell that what we are doing in a debate round is a competitive game and what we would do as policy makers later in life would have a different impact. I think debaters are smarter than that.

Finally, Andrew says:

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?)

It depends on the circumstance. If I take a baseball bat to you in debate round (and I call it my performance), I would hope that you would stop the "debate" and call the cops. If I force your 17 year old female debater debater to watch/view pornographic materials after she, her partner, and you, her coach,  have said repeatedly that you don't want that, then I would hope you would stop the "debate" and exit the room (telling the "authorities" would certainly be an option).

If I, as a game player, argue "wipeout" as an argument intended to garner a competitive ballot (as we did for MANY years without dire consequences), then I would hope you would debate it out.

If we can't tell the difference, then I fear we have crossed the line from itelligent college students and professors to fucking dumbasses.......

But then again, maybe I am just too old and have too much common sense.

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