Last changed on
Fri April 14, 2023 at 9:35 AM EDT
When debaters walk in the room, they expect the judge to render a fair decision, not to rob them of years of hard work and dedication by substituting their personal biases for the arguments presented. Accordingly, the primary concern of the judge is assuring fairness for the competitors.
A loss of fairness is significant and demands a remedy because it undermines the foundation of what makes debate a competitive activity. When the playing field is level, debaters are able to compete based on their own abilities, talent, and efforts, rather than factors beyond their control. This allows for a true test of skill and merit.
Any other benefits to the activity are derived from fairness. Maintaining an equal prospect of victory drives debaters to improve their arguments, tailor their strategies to their opponents’ position, and devote themselves to their craft with discipline and rigor. In a world without fairness, debaters are left unprepared, unmotivated, and fundamentally disaffected with the activity.
I respect critical teams who acknowledge the critique for what it is: a tool to win ballots by overwhelming the other team with fast, technical debating that exploits 2AC and 1AR concessions. More importantly, I respect critical teams who acknowledge that, if equally debated, their arguments would be unwinnable. If you are not one of these teams, I am not the judge for you.
I find recent argumentative trends in debate deeply concerning. Appeals to ad hominems, bad faith assertions that opponents are racist or engage in anti-social practices---none of these should have any place in our activity because they compromise the fundamental fairness debaters rely on. Instead of assessing the arguments and mutually agreed upon topic, judges become desperate to signal their moral purity or risk getting caught in the crossfire. I genuinely believe a substantial portion of the ballots cast by white judges for race teams are born out of a disturbing racial anxiety and fetish. Debate ought to prioritize rigor and merit, not appeals to oppression. Its forced rejoinder format is designed to test the strength of arguments presented, not the identity or background of the debaters.
This is not to say there isn’t a space for arguments about identity---simply that these arguments must be grounded in debate’s competitive context and respect the fundamental decency of their opponents. When I was a K debater, some of my best friends in the community included rivals and policy debaters, like Aden and Julian from MBA. We viewed each other not only as competitors, but as friends who deserved to be treated with mutual respect and civility. In 2023, debaters attend tournaments knowing that every poorly phrased or awkward interaction in the hallway could end their career.
Similarly, the bar for ethics challenges is incredibly high. I will presume good-faith error by the accused and be incredibly skeptical of objections to evidence that could have been brought up before the debate in order to correct the error. If the accusing team was so concerned about academic integrity, why allow the unethical practice to continue in other debates and only bring it up when the opportunity for a win arises?
Arguments about your opponent's personal character outside the debate are not only inadmissible, they are reverse voting issues. Not only was I not there to observe them, but debate is not a trial. I am not a judge, but if you introduce these arguments, I will be your executioner.
With all that said, here are a few other things to note:
I am extremely strict when assessing new arguments and more than willing to disallow new responses entirely.
I do not share the debate community’s disdain for Process CPs. Every CP has a process.
The ‘other issues’ perm eliminates all generics, an impossible burden against new affs that destroys fairness.
Topicality is about the plan. Nothing more.
Most advantages are easily mitigated by analytics. Disease does not cause extinction.
Extinction must come first. We can always repopulate. The only exception to this is if one side impact turns extinction.
Lastly, here are some things people say in debates that have left me genuinely confused:
“Catching your opponents off guard is not a portable skill.” Debate is not about portable skills.
“Not flashing analytics is cowardice.” The goal of debate is to beat your opponent, not demonstrate your bravery.
“You flipped neg to go for T.” The negative is not saying that going for topicality and winning is unfair. They are saying that if they were not able to go for topicality, then the debate would be unfair.
“Winning topicality requires proving that a solely plan-based model would be better than the status quo mix.” This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of topicality. If topicality is removed from the neg arsenal, there is no longer the ‘status quo mix.’ There is only the aff’s counter-interpretation.
“Conditionality is about the practice, not the number of advocacies.” Is your claim that 7 CPs are no worse than 2?
“What happens when two critical teams debate each other?” Affirmative win percentage skyrockets.
“A ballot can’t remedy fairness.” That is the only thing a ballot can do. It remedies what was unfair to begin with---the other team’s chance of victory.
“They’re just going to go for some process junk.” And you’ll likely be defeated.
“We have links to the plan.” Critiques are not plan-focused arguments. Those are disadvantages.
“Default to truth over tech.” When said by a critical team and conceded by a policy team, this ensures a ballot for the latter.
Finally, socialism is not intuitively preferable to a market economy.