[eDebate] Rejecting the cult of fairness

Josh Branson harobran
Wed Nov 14 22:27:16 CST 2007


Ok, I'll attempt a brief reply to a few things and then maybe just leave it at that for the time being. My goal was simply to provoke some thought, hopefully this discussion has done that. 
 
At the top, three conceded arguments: 
1. Ground is inevitable. Nothing makes debate 'impossible.' The real quesiton is whether making it 'harder' on one team or the other qualifies as an impact. 
 
2. The language of fairness conceals the issues that are really at play here; it makes it harder to appreciate and debate what the terminal value of debate is. 
 
3. Substantive arguments can adequately deter most 'abusive' theory practices. There is little functional argumentative difference between the two worlds, but there is a difference in how we think about debate. 
 
If you're flowing, those are nice concessions to start our your 2NR with. 
 
To KO: 
 
While your belief that fairness captures why you do debate is no doubt sincere, I would be extremely uncomfortable deciding what debate should look like based upon an individual debater's gut feeling about what is fun for him or her. To repeat from earlier, the reason that 'fun' as an impact framework is self-defeating is that a certain theory practice is almost always neutral in its impact on 'fun.' If you say conditionality contravenes the reason you do debate because it makes it unenjoyable, and the other side replies with equal vigor that they love conditionality and it's the only reason they do debate, what is a judge to decide? What is 'fun' for various people is completely unverifiable and can't truly serve as a sustainable impact framework to theory arguments. 
 
I think you also conflate, as Steve does, the difference between the motivation for debate and the impact arguments we should make to theory arguments. As I've said before, my theory exalts the role of winning and the fact that debate is a game. When I say assert a model for why debate is productive, that doesn't mean that model has to map onto your actual motivations for participating in the activity. Assert whatever model you think is strategic. My point is simply that the process of thinking about what role debate SHOULD play in our lives (even if our reasons for thinking about it are competitive) is a valuable endeavor, and one that would clarify and refine a lot of otherwise annoying theory arguments. 
 
One final comment. You say that 'productivity' is a language that irritates you and instead you'd like to determine what theoretical practices fit within your ideal vision of debate. Fine, that's a rhetorical disagreement, not a substantive one. You are essentially saying that you think a model of debate as socially productive is a poor one. You may have a strong point there, but it's not really relevant to what i'm saying; all i'm saying is that you should make that assumption explicit and then defend it. I don't think you should just assume that its true and then smuggle it in through the rhetorical trojan horse that is fairness. 
 
To Register: 
 
You make a case for why debate should be insulated from the real world. Fantastic. All I think is that people should defend that and explain why a specific theoretical practice undermines that vision of debate. But that is a far more sophisticated argument than simply 'fairness.' I don't even know what that ultimately has to do with fairness.  
 
My other observation is that you say "This is probably why I'll pull the trigger on "No straight turn option --> Neg usually wins," especially if it's coupled with the actual disad to the counterplan and the Neg just kicks the CP."  
 
In my mind, there is no impact to this statement. For one, I'm not entirely sure if the 'neg usually wins' when there's a conditional CP. Maybe so, maybe not, but it's  certainly something i'd like to see ANY sort of empirical data on before just presuming that to be the case. I'm trying to think of the times I lost on the aff where the conditional nature of the alt played a major role in my loss, and I can think of one time. That was my fault. But even if the neg usually wins when there is a conditional CP, I don't think there's an impact. In my mind, that just means people are stupid on the aff. If the CP is conditional, why are 2AC's investing so much time in trying to straight turn it? If you do that, you deserve to lose. I have no sympathy for people that make bad strategic choices. 
 
Now, maybe the TYPES of debates encouraged by this negative tactic are bad. If so, then again, we're back to my original point. It matters what we're doing in debate, but not whether or not something is labeled 'fair' or not. Maybe there's something intrinsically valuable about a 'straight turn.' I know D-Reg says he 'likes seeing it.' Well me too, but that's not an impact. 
 
To Kuswa: 
 
1. I agree with your 'reciprocal wiggle room' argument. In fact, that's basically the point of this approach. Don't whine about the other side being unfair, but rather take the presumptions contained within their vision of debate (that unstable/shifting advocacies are OK, to use your example) and exploit them to your benefit. 
 
2. 'These paths are all inevitable.' 
 
Maybe in the larger sense that people will inevitably use debate in different ways, then you're correct. I'm not at all saying that by edict we should impose a model of debate upon debate. Rather, I agree that this evolution is constantly occurring and that it's inevitable. But my point is that this process of evolution is largely left implicit and actively concealed by often absurd 'fairness' claims. We should be aware that certain arguments we make are both impacted by and affect what model of debate we're envisioning, and that we should attempt to explicitly engage on these questions. 
 
Obviously there's overlap between the categories I listed. I just listed them like that for brevity's sake. But there are also clearly differences between debate as activism and debate as academia, and these differences should be realized and debated. 
 
3. Performing Palestinian equality by speaking with a muzzle? I've gotta say that sounds even dumber than the worst Aspec debates. But of course I think teams, if they want to do that, should by all means be allowed to do it. If you lose to that, you deserve to lose. 
 
Korcok: 
 
Maybe others will deal with what you said, although this sounds pretty familiar, and I'm pretty sure we've been over your hypotheticals before. I'll get back to your point later, maybe in a backchannel. 
 
JB 
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