[eDebate] Marburry redux

Mitchell, Gordon Roger gordonm
Tue May 12 18:26:57 CDT 2009

I'm working my way gradually into the Skarb/Marburry controversy and initially would like to engage some of the spinoff vectors, since they are rich, perhaps even more so than the specific fact pattern regarding the SPS topic, Damien H.S. and the TOC:

Tripe: "is it ok to find cards in another language, put them through a translator, and then read them (in english) during the round?"
Very salient question, one that has been simmering especially in Japan for the past five years or so, where policy debates, modeled on the NDT style, are conducted in the debaters' second tongue, English. There is a bevy of translation that converts Japanese language material to English for use in contest rounds, and the quality of translations (especially in regards to the question of whether the translation is slanted to achieve contest round advantage). I'll try to get some feedback from Japan that can sluice productively into this discussion. 

Sanchez: "(1) is publishing under a pen-name always "academically dishonest"? is lying about one's qualifications the line not to be crossed here, or are we asking for no pseudonyms whatsoever? (should debaters not be able to quote from the anonymous c.i.a. analyst's book, 'imperial hubris: why the west is losing the war on terror' (2004), for example?)"
- Excellent questions. Exhibit B: One of the previous generation's most creative, hard-hitting critique of the military-industrial-complex, Report from Iron Mountain:
Of course, the Iron Mountain example also provides evidence of the near-inevitable collateral damage that can result from deployment of psuedonyms: "Even though Lewin and Navasky admitted the report was a hoax, there still remain some who believe it to be an official government document that was leaked to the public. An ultra-rightwing group known as the Liberty Lobby is one such group. Believing that the report was evidence of a secret government plot, the group printed their own edition of the report. When Lewin found out about this, he sued them for copyright infringement. The case was settled out of court with the Liberty Lobby agreeing to pay Lewin an undisclosed sum."

Garner: "People should indict evidence more, and good debaters who do it well are often rewarded. Yes it's hard, but ... debate. If you can beat a card with two words ("blog comment"), that's a model of efficiency."
Agreed, but Tripe's point about the speed pressure of contest rounds is well taken too. Question: would the dilemma be recast in a world where a presumption of transparency prevailed and all or near all of the sources cited by teams in every contest round were listed online?

Elliott: "It matters because unless you have actually done the work necessary to obtain a Ph.D., or to get published in a peer review journal, you
really don't know what you are talking about when it comes to scholarship"
A fair point, but vulnerable to the naturalistic fallacy (collapsing is/ought). 
Compare with Johnson: "We should not pretend either that our participation in debate invalidates us from producing unique and useful socio-political thought, nor that we may simply say anything that we want to and then use it in a debate round."

Anony mous: "Is it legitimate for a coach to write articles which are clearly relevant to the current debate topic?"
Most definitely, although scrutiny of the process and product should of course still obtain. Since our early 2K work at Pitt has been featured in this discussion, both here and at Cross-X.com, I'm inclined to stir the pot by bringing forth context surrounding production of:
This briefing paper was commissioned by ISIS UK, a British security think-tank with ties to British Parliament and the British Royal Society. When published, the report received attention in the Hansard (roughly equivalent to our Congressional Record) and it was featured in the London Guardian, a leading daily newspaper:
Co-authors Kevin Ayotte, David Cram Helwich and myself drew heavily from our intercollegiate debate research and skill set to write the brief. Knowing that our work would likely be scrutinized by academic referees in hiring, tenure and promotion committees, we also sought to provide ample research support for each key claim featured in the piece. Now consider the key impact card on pp. 8-9 of the brief; would judgments regarding the overall credibility of the briefing paper be affected if it were the case that the cadence, structure, and prose pattern of that paragraph were tailored to resonate with unique sensibilities of interscholastic and intercollegiate debaters?

* * *

Gordon R. Mitchell
Associate Professor of Communication
Director, William Pitt Debating Union
University of Pittsburgh
CL 1117, 4200 Fifth Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
Phone: (412) 624-8531
Fax: (412) 624-1878

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