[eDebate] Skarb - and how is this even a debate??

Tara Tate tara_l_tate
Tue May 12 13:06:45 CDT 2009


One other piece of information that is now public is that Justin Skarb replied to numerous emails as John Marburry in the days prior to the TOC...emails from coaches/students that wanted more information about his qualifications, primary resources that "Marburry" used to write his paper, etc.  The deception continued after the article's publication.  Emails were written to these coaches/students as John Marburry.

 

My primary concern right now is not what happens to Skarb.  I believe that the Damien coaching staff and administration have to make that call internally with the information they have.  My concern is for the Damien debaters.  Although I don't disagree with David's comments about Damien's evidence now being "suspect", I am so saddened by any consequences, intended or unintended, this has on the Damien kiddos.  I have used the Damien kids as a model often times for my own squad about a uniquely determined, hard-working squad who are innovative with their arguments and absolutely love the game...and the work that is put into being successful at that game.  I know that David was not implying that this was not accurate, but these kids uniquely deserve our compassion and understanding at this point.  I hope the fact that uniquely hard working, smart, skillful teen-agers are at the heart of this crisis is not forgotten (again, not implying that David did that...his post just sparked me to dovetail off of him).

 

Tara Tate

GBS Debate
 


From: dgm2109 at columbia.edu
Date: Tue, 12 May 2009 12:52:05 -0400
To: edebate at ndtceda.com
Subject: [eDebate] Skarb - and how is this even a debate??

The problem isn't that coaches write articles. You can read those cards and debaters should be able to make arguments about bias. 

The problem is when coaches purposefully hide the fact that they wrote them. This problem is made worse when it happens right before TOC and when the article includes cards just so happen to be a devastating negative strategy (one that was read by at least one team at TOC with the use of these cards).

Let's be very clear about something: the Marburry character is COMPLETELY FALSE. Marburry is Skarb. The idea that Skarb just "contributed research" is laughably misleading, but it does show that the use of the fake name couldn't have been to protect Skarb's anonymity from non-debate people out to get him. And what's the practical consequence? The card obviously gets cited as Marburry, not Skarb! No debater facing this card would find out that Skarb had anything to do with it until AFTER the debate.

Warming analogy: it'd be like if Skarb was paid $1b by the oil industry and then got plastic surgery to testify before Congress under the fake name Marburry. Him saying "I hired Skarb to contribute to some of the research" and presenting a biography with no other connections to the oil industry is not even close to "I am Skarb and I was paid $1b to testify before you."

Here's a very simple question: which is really more likely?
A. Skarb had to use a pen name because someone was out to get him.
B. Skarb used a pen name to cloak bias.

Here are some facts that can help you resolve this question:
1. Skarb put his name right after putting the fake name (at the bottom of the article).

If it were really a pen name to protect his anonymity, why did he break it? To me, it seems much more likely that he put the name there to REINFORCE the idea that Skarb and Marburry are two separate people! I have no idea why putting his name in the article as a contributing researcher makes it more fair. In my mind, it HELPS the deception by reinforcing the idea that the author was not biased ---- intentional or not.

2. Zero other publications by this Marburry person.

3. Why was a comment posted --- AFTER toc --- by Skarb saying "embarassing" and clarifying that he's the author? Did his need for anonymity suddenly resolve itself? If it did, why would that be "embarrassing"???

4. The article --- which wasn't written for the purpose of debate --- just so happens to have cards that provide brink, link, and internal link and CP solvency all specific to several of the top TOC teams' plans? That's not even getting into the "one week before TOC" isues. 

5. The very first comment on the article --- posted right after publication --- is obviously by a debater. "Disciples of 2A" posted "WTF MARBURRY WRITE SOME SPS GOOD ARTICLES." Now why would a debater be the first person to read and comment on this article, AND know that Marburry would understand what "write some sps good articles" means ---- unless Skarb told debaters about it?

6. What's the deal with the Norman Ornstein card in the comments? Maybe this is a joke like Andy's aliens thing. But it's not very funny. Why? Because it creates a headache when someone who doesn't get the joke actually cuts that card, thinking they found awesome evidence. These are young high school debaters.

7. I don't know if it's true, but on Cross-X.com's forum on this, someone suggested that: "just for the record, this article has been floating around the web since at least february, spammed all over the comments sections of space websites. it seems like it was only recently though that skarb's name became attached to it."

8. According to a Damien debater, "our coaches were responsible for the name Justin Skarb being attached to the article in the first place." 
-This issue was NOT unforeseen. The Damien staff knew that this could be a problem. I fail to see how attaching "research contributor" in any way avoids the bias problem, as I think I've explained above.




If Skarb had posted this in circumstances that were obviously not intended for debate but instead for personal reasons, then I think there's nothing at all wrong. But this is so far away from such a scenario it's almost funny that anyone would try to defend it as such.

This shouldn't be evaluated by the highest standards of ethics challenges in debates, because here we are not limited by the competitive format and time and research constraints of those situations. The purpose of this discussion shouldn't be a witch hunt. It should be a community discussion over what we think is appropriate or not, and fair warning in the future that this kind of behavior is not kosher. Even if Skarb didn't intend all this, he really should've been a lot more careful. My measure of INTENT is not "did he purposefully cheat," because that's not something that can be fixed in a forum. My measure of intent is "did he create evidence knowing that debaters could use it in ways that other debaters would think is very unfair, and fail to take easy remedialsteps?" 

I do have to say that this kind of thing is sad because I won't ever be able to look at Damien cards in the same light. That's not fair their debaters and coaches who put a lot into the activity and don't deserve that taint. 
Lesson: when you KNOW it could be controversial, DISCLOSE.

David

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