[eDebate] Debating debate

Kevin Sanchez let_the_american_empire_burn
Wed Nov 14 11:24:04 CST 2007

although i lost track during some of ede warner's (overly-abstract?)
discussion of pain (http://www.ndtceda.com/pipermail/edebate/2007-November/073092.html),
this part near the beginning struck me: "those four debaters ... can't
stop the pain of the Middle East by talking about it for a
couple hours in Manchester Hall sitting on the quad, especially not
the worldview of policy debate that I suspect you [david glass]

... thus ede reasons that we must first remove the plank from our own
eyes before we can even attempt to remove the splinter from our
brothers' (to use jesus' phrase). this is similar to the reasons
topicality must come before substantive debate of the affirmative plan
-- before we can debate, we must agree on the terms of debate. debating
these terms is therefore central to the quality of debate, whether we
like it or not; we should remember this as we go through the posts
of paul strait
david glass
and jason jarvis


paul asks me to, "keep in mind, you are talking about specific people; their schools have
been named[.]"

wasn't talking about anyone specific. if the teams in question were,
then perhaps i agree with characterizing some of their speech as
'unnecessarily offensive' or 'rude'. in light of - as you well term it
- "the rhetorical implications of
dehumaniz[ation]", to me an indispensable step in any meta-kritik of
this sort is an ethos of self-critique - that is, honestly recognizing
one's own complicity in what one opposes. (rephrased then they'd ask how unquestioned debate practices have pressured us all to be more machine-like.) this step has been crucial to all
positions i've authored in recent years, and if it was absent from that
round, then it's certainty one aspect of their statement worthy of

more generally, i think this tendency to 'personalize' debate
has been one of the heavier sandbags weighing down innovative new
projects. problem is, those most eager to point this out have usually
been those who're simply rejecting all things new, and they've been
predictably unwilling to admit that 'personalization' already infected
more traditional modes of argument long before 'narratives' arrived or
that calling it fallacious 'ad hom' was insufficient in putting a stop to

{for instance, jason dismissively responds to me by saying
i'm 'standing in an ivory tower' -- my immediate reaction would be one
grounded in a quite logo-centric notion of debate: what matters whose
speaking - or where i'm speaking from - if you can't answer my
arguments? ... now those steeped in post-structural or post-colonial
literature will say to me, is there ever such a thing as a
free-floating 'argument' that isn't always-already historically
grounded? isn't this 'focus on the line-by-line, not on me'-move really
surrendering to the very formalization you've been criticizing? and
doesn't it take wind out of the sails of those who want to assert
cultural heritage - those who experience separating themselves from
their identity as grotesque alienation (
e.g. 'becoming white', 'becoming a man') rather than the liberty which
liberal pluralism promises?

i sympathize with these concerns, it's a tough line of argument for me
to address, but i'd do so in three ways (which i'll state in
tagline-form unless otherwise instructed, since it's not the subject of
this thread) : (1) the more worthy goal should be to move beyond
identity as such - not to define ourselves by it, (2) one can use the
form against itself in order to force people to think, and (3) despite
its necessarily alienating effects, the convention of civility should
remain a high priority, precisely because it can incorporate the most
fractious of debates without fisticuffs.}

...note also how 'personalization' correlates to the strictly
negational model of debate: we're taught to listen to an opponent only
long enough to form a response - what i meant by 'automatic negation'.
ideally this means only kicking arguments you've made when it's
strategically advantageous (or neutral) for your side, not when you've
reconsidered your own reasoning; so, it means never 'coming as close as
possible to a difficult truth' (to use foucault's phrase).

p : "It takes zero talent to agree perfectly with someone."

disagree. =)    ...agreement isn't as simple as 'pull all their
arguments across your flow' - that is, it isn't mere repetition. it's
creating new warrants for identical conclusions and thereby enriching
those conclusions: 'here's another reason that's true...' but also 'and
this adds another dimension that was being missed'.

take the word of someone who is "good at going negative"
<<hi, gordon>> -- it takes much more talent to build
something together.


david, no one has (yet) argued that
debaters shouldn't debate the topic at hand, but that the debate about
debate is internal to debate itself and has a proper place in actual
rounds. moreover, these debaters were attempting - in however modest a
way - to "engage the problems of the day" and at least discuss "real

reading you after jason is funny -- jason says the ballot
doesn't change anything whereas you appear to say the ballot is key
to preventing 'cheney and his friends' from pushing through illiberal
agendas. that's why i think, whatever might be said of those who
'refuse to offer real alternatives' (a charge which doesn't stick to
the debaters at issue), your 'alternative' isn't realistic at all. one
less instance of a judge deciding a winner and loser in an academic
debate round "clears the field" for ring-wingers? i can't even imagine
a sensible argument for what you've claimed, if only for the purposes
of discussion. if that's your "simple point", i'm sorry, but it's sheer
and utter nonsense.

also, ede asks a good question of jason that you'd do well to
answer too: "Are you saying that students shouldn't debate any rules
like topicality or counterplan theory, or just the ones you disagree
... if i may extend this: are debaters who choose to debate procedural
abuse, the role of the resolutional framers, ethics/evidence
challenges, or underlying assumptions also 'refusing to engage the
problems of the day'? do you similarly have 'no respect' for the
outcomes of their debates? 

{more generally, and a bit off-topic, to me the problem with
both the right and the left has been the unwillingness to fundamentally
redefine the politics game. i don't think the left 'lost its way' exactly, but rather lost its grip on certain electoral demographics which it
held after world war two. you can find one succinct account of this in
ernesto laclau's 'on populist reason' - starting on page 133 (to page
138). one leftist whom i nevertheless admire - whose death anyone
concerned with the richness of public dialogue should mourn as a
irretrievable loss for us all - claimed that a fairer distribution of
wealth should be the overriding concern for those on the left (see
richard rorty's 'achieving our country'). and isn't that exactly what
these debaters were on about with "financial disparty"? ...something to
think about.}

david concludes, "This is without even starting on the implications for how such a distortion
of the debate process
destroys the activity..."

go ahead and start because your first argument folded like gore and
kerry... how exactly do non-decisional rounds 'destroy the activity'?


my previous post was only an examination of your faulty reasoning, not
an exposition of 'practical solutions', so i fail to see how my
inability to solve the world's problems means that what you've argued
makes sense. you don't get to say that non-decisional rounds trivialize
debate internationally until you address previous refutations;
otherwise, you're just using what may be a legitimate grievance to lash
out at debaters who aren't uniquely guilty. it's fine to be frustrated.
and it's fine to accuse me of ivory tower-lovin' (despite the fact that
i've never been to college and you're the one who seems to believe that
defending his statements from my criticism is beneath him). it's not
fine to tar debaters who are trying to spark discussion on the subject
of resource inequality with 'being unaware of their privilege' when
what they're actively looking for and calling for are ways to share
those privileges as widely as possible. what you continually ignore is
it's *because* of the tremendous educational benefits of debate - and
the tremendous privileges debaters have here - that make possible and
urgent the need for reform, that is, the extension of those benefits to
the greatest possible number of students and the opening of the format
to 'the greatest flexibility of utterance' (to use lyotard's phrase).
what projects like these refuse to do isn't debate, but mirror debate's
standard negativity; their criticism is too positive to prioritize
being strictly oppositional. so they're to be admired for not aping the
simplistic rejectionism amply displayed in the posts of you and david.

repeats "a double loss wont change resource
inequality or much else (imho)," but he drops this: "isn't
there still value in expressing our disapproval of inegalitarian
structures *within those structures*? these debaters (and judge) didn't
'refuse to debate' in the sense of quitting the activity. they refused to assign a winner and a loser and thus reinforce the notion
that winners deserve to win and losers deserve to lose. they chose to
put a scrutinizing spotlight on (in-round, argument-based)
marginalization and (out-of-round, institution-based) inequality.
theft, corruption and cheating-to-get-ahead are also 'facts of life
everywhere', and in this regard, debate is also 'a microcosm of the
rest of life': but how we respond to such ills *says something about
who we are*, regardless of whether we're in a position to snap our
fingers and accomplish total change."

i'd like to know what the practical criteria are by which you
purport to judge the success/failure of projects intended to highlight
the necessity of change. i'd also like to know why debaters should be
disrespected for examining discursive and institutional practices in
actual rounds. this matters to me because i've assisted many debaters
in doing precisely that.


ede writes: "How does it change?  I'm not sure I know the answer."

that seems to me the most reasonable response to that question, and it argues for experimentation, not rejection.

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