[eDebate] A Message to the Debate Community

Josh Branson harobran
Mon Apr 7 17:39:32 CDT 2008

from Tristan Morales:
While one could certainly render a handful of complex cultural assessments in attempting to grapple with the alleged reaction to Towson post-CEDA, one explanation seems most prominent in my mind. Revolutions typically do not generate favorable reactions from those targeted by revolutionary ambitions, particularly at the outset. If I'm not mistaken, the central thesis of Towson's affirmative was that the standard operation of debate is driven by a particular type of debater who has come to think of their debate style as both morally neutral and standard practice. The 'revolutionary aesthetic' is designed centrally to upend this silent majority and to 'destroy these (white) ways of looking at the world'. I think it is possible to withhold judgment on this intended aim while safely saying that it by design is intended to ruffle the feathers of the 'silent majority' which purportedly constitutes an overwhelming portion of the debate community and , in particular, of the competitors at the NDT. I don't think it is unnatural or surprising to find resentment in response to the personalization of debate and pursuit of a revolutionary upheaval of, if not the majority of competitors, the style by which a majority of competitors have long associated with their identity in debate. There are certainly many better versed in the history of social movements on this list serve than I. I do, however, feel confident in saying that this perceived 'hostile reaction' is in line with most circumstances in which a community or society's modus operandi has been called fundamentally into question and their practices have become the target of a desired revolutionary upheaval. I would venture to guess that most social historians would consider this resistance, particularly at the outset, a more telling indicator of success than if the desired change were to simply pass silently into the night as many similar efforts do. Obviously, that doesn't mean that hostility particularly of a racial bent that follows these arguments isn't abhorrent. It does, however, provide some contextual explanation for why hostility may persist or even become elevated in the initial period right after a 'revolutionary upheaval' starts to gain momentum. It seems continuous with most historical examples of the same variety. I won't go in depth here but I do think there is unquestionably merit to Josh's argument that relative to the 'Real World' the debate community is still strides ahead in its commitment to, and pursuit of, diversity in people and especially perspectives. If nothing else, I think it's safe to say that it is certainly not less intolerant. The easiest evidence on this point is the fact that Towson did in fact win CEDA nationals. Does it mean everything is A-OK? No, obviously. Are there potentially distant gaps between the rhetorical gesture towards diversity and its actualization? Most likely, yes. But I think one need look no farther than the societal reaction to the comments of Rev. Wright in previous weeks to understand the broad-based resentment that sentiments like those reflected in Towson's affirmative continue to engender. Was the debate community's reaction to instantly condemn universally the sentiment of revolutionary or black aesthetics or to call for the immediate disassociation of the Towson coaches from the arguments of their debaters? No, the result was be the equivalent of the American public deciding to elect Obama the winner precisely because he elevated the sentiments of his pastor. Which he obviously could not and did not come close to doing because of the political suicide it would've amounted to and the death-knell to his campaign it would've provided. The point is simply that the resentment to a revolutionary aesthetic is representative of society, not just debate, and that resentment and hostility particularly in the early stages when their claims start to gain momentum. The difference is in debate someone can win one of the national tournaments on the force of these arguments, and not on the perceived strength of their disassociation of them. As should be clear, the descriptive assessment for why some of these perceived post-CEDA hostilities might have arisen is not in my view a normative assessment of Towson's argument or the reaction to it although I obviously hope hateful hostilities of a racial or any other variety would find little comfort in a space like the NDT. My thoughts are simply an attempt to flush out my view of why resentment may have been perceived in greater amounts in the period following CEDA.  I also think aside from the issue of whether revolutionary strides engender a net greater amount of hostility when they are starting to build momentum, I think it's undeniable that if nothing else more people were talking about Towson than at any other time in the year. That, I would imagine, certainly played some part in the comments seeming more frequent or more present in conversations around the tournament.  Tristan
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