Mar 23, 2011

LD mailbag: 1AR tactics and analytical warrants

Now that the postseason is winding down, it's time to focus primarily on general LD questions. The first concerns tactics in the first Affirmative rebuttal (1AR). A reader writes:

On the negative, all the reading I've done suggests limiting a case to 1-2 contentions. Some of my opponents, though, have negative cases with 3 contentions, 3-4 subpoints apiece. I understand the idea of prioritizing arguments when I'm aff, but when I don't address all of the subpoints explicitly in the 1AR, flow judges extend the individual subpoints and often vote on these "dropped" arguments. One thing I've tried is grouping subpoints under a main idea (e.g. group his contention 1 subpoints because they all pertain to how PMFs aren't accountable), but this is often too general a response. How can I avoid this dilemma in the 1AR?
There are a few ways to handle this.

1. If you know you have a flow judge who can handle speed, go faster and hit every subpoint, even if only with a blippy argument. This may be better than the phantom "drops."

2. Effective grouping may depend on which way you're addressing your opponent's argument. Are you actually taking down the whole argument at once, logically speaking, or just claiming that you are because you think it's necessary?

For instance, consider an opponent who argues:
C1: Private Military Firms (PMFs) are necessary for military operations
a) Speed
b) Flexibility
c) Staffing
d) Superior Resources
If you group and try to argue that PMFs aren't necessary because we could always institute a draft, in a way you've taken out the whole contention, but you haven't really addressed its logic. A draft defeats warrant (c), but doesn't compete with (a), (b), or (d). So your opponent could legitimately argue that you've dropped 3 out of 4 warrants, and her point still stands.

If you group and try to argue that PMFs are both morally abhorrent and that overstretch is good because it limits US military foreign adventuring, now you have two reasons to dismiss the entirety of the contention without even addressing its warrants--first, that moral considerations trump practical considerations, and secondly, a retort or "turn" that actually provides you with offense.

3. The problem with drops is asymmetric, since you lack the time in the 1AR to dismiss your drops as irrelevant or insignificant (if you're taking the "bigger picture" approach), yet your opponent has time to extend and impact those drops. So, if you're in front of a flow judge, you might try this: at the end of your 1AR, say something to effect of, "In her next speech the Neg is going to point out that I've dropped several inconsequential subpoints. In my closing, I'll crystallize the round and explain exactly why those drops don't matter." In that way, you've prepared the judge for your approach.

It may be risky, but it's better than leaving the drops for the judge to deal with in the absence of any direction from you--and with plenty of prompting by your opponent!

Let's move on to a couple of questions about evidence.
My second question is regarding the justifications behind a source. I've found that judges in my state often respond much better to studies/statistics over analysis from a professor/expert, but I know that expert analysis is definitely valuable. How do I respond to claims that "just because a professor says it, it isn't true"? Do I just need to better understand my evidence, or is there some argument I can make to save my analytical warrants?
Your opponent may be correct about the potential dubiousness of expert opinion--but if a professor's expertise and analysis are dubious, what about the analysis of a high school student? Ad hominem is a nonstarter. Instead, argue that your opponent hasn't actually addressed the logic of the analysis, which stands or falls on its own. (Decry the "ad hominem" attack and call it out as a fallacy if necessary.) And besides, the so's-your-old-man to the statistical card is "Figures lie and liars figure." Evidence battles, unless there are good reasons to doubt the evidence, are pretty boring and obnoxious to most judges.

I have one more question for you after going over some recent flows. One of my opponents spewed a lot of evidence at me in one of my debates, but they didn't actually READ said evidence...they paraphrased in 1-2 sentences and provided a brief citation at the end. Call I call them out on that, or is that allowed?
This is a gray, foggy area. Academics do this all the time--and it's quite likely that the cards being cited by debaters in rounds are actually footnoted paraphrases themselves! But without a direct source, we have to hold it in faith that our opponent isn't cherry-picking, card-stacking, context-ripping, or improperly summarizing. That's quite a leap, and it's fair in cross-ex to ask for a direct citation for any "evidence" that sounds too good to be true. But only for evidence that sounds unreasonable or dubious. Otherwise you'll sound like a nit-picker, which is the cardinal sin of evidence-challenging.

When writing your own case, use direct quotations whenever feasible.

If your opponent is doing something genuinely abusive, and you're sure you can convince the judge on this point, then make it a voting issue.

Debaters are encouraged to submit their examples, tactics, or questions regarding the above scenarios.


Glenn said...

Here is what I tell my debaters to say when their opponent says, "According to the rules of LD debate, silence is concession."
I have my debater hold up the same exact rule sheet the judge has sitting in front of them, and they say, "I would ask my opponent to provide the source for that rule, because I have the rules of Lincoln Doulgas debate right here and that phrase is nowhere in it. But of course, my opponent knows that. Instead the phrase “Silence is Concession” is a petty trick used to intimidate. I have not yet addressed those issues of _____ but I will now."

Same thing when the policy debater does LD and creates "burdens" for their opponent and then claims the win because you didn't address their burden. Point out to the judge that the hallmark of LD debate is parallel burdens, and "my opponent should be more concerned about meeting their own burden."

Turn the tables on the abusive tactics, and they start going away. If the abuser wins, they continue the abusive practices instead of engage in honest debate.

Jim Anderson said...

Indeed, it's all about honest debate.

And it's not just a burden for the debaters; as the NFL Competition Events Guide even instructs, "A judge should base the decision on which debater more effectively resolved the central questions of the
resolution rather than on insignificant dropped arguments."

Anonymous said...

Although I don't think it is in the rules of LD debate,it is generally accepted in my area that a dropped argument is conceded by both lay and experienced judges. Adding new arguments, i.e. addressing the issues of ______ in a 2NR or 2AR, is against the rules of LD debate that are posted on the NFL's official ballot. Viewed in this light, there isn't much the dropper can do about arguments they actually dropped besides outweigh it.

Anonymous said...

One of the more frustrating things at tournaments is that so few of them use the NFL rules. I have attended one using them (out of nine) this year. Burdens in general (both abusive and non-abusive) are used a lot in my area, and the NFL Rules are a great way of getting rid of abusive burdens.

Also, the NFL Rules in general have many other uses. Plans, counterplans, presumption, and many other odd arguments are banned by them.

Jim Anderson said...

First Anonymous, the rules do talk about the duty of clash--that judges should take notice of nonresponsive debaters. Still, exactly how the drops play out is going to vary from judge to judge (and, of course, from debater to debater). The other way to describe this is the "burden of rejoinder."

Anonymous said...

Jim, about the Competition Events Guide... Is it really sponsored by the NFL? I can't find it on their official website anywhere, even though it is floating around the internet a lot.

Jim Anderson said...

It's right here at the very top of the page.

Senior Debater said...

A few pieces of advice...

Instead of calling observations illegitimate (lame argument, since NFL rules do not prohibit them, and they are relatively common practice), say WHY the burden they establish is unfair, say why it doesn't matter in the round (The majority of time they are just time sucks that the oppponent doesn't properly extend), or simply dispute the observation (counter-examples work great).

The same basic logic applies to policy-esque strategies. The NFL rules do not explicitly ban them, though there are specific clauses that seem to discourage them, such as the general rule clause. So instead, just attack the links. The best way to attack a counterplan is to either A. Show that the CP doesn't solve the harm the opponent presents B. Show that the harm is inevitable or even a good thing (impact turn), or C. Show why the impacts in your case outweighs theirs. These strategies may be unorthodox, but they generally don't fit the definition of abusive, and as of now, they are gaining popularity rather than becoming banned.

Oh, and if you drop an argument, unless their argument is blatantly false and the judge knows it, you lose that argument. That's not abusive, that's simply the way a debate round operates. When this scenario inevitably occurs, simply show why that argument doesn't matter in the overall debate, through the use of framework analysis.

Senior Debater
(Two time district champ, national elim qualifier, undefeated season)

Sophomore Debater said...

@Senior Debater,

I agree. Your responses are so well thought out and structured. We should grab dinner sometime.

ZTfromPA said...


The "silence is concession" rule actually exists for a very good reason. If you don't have it, then there's no way for the negative to respond to the responses to their contentions, and the affirmative is left doing so in the 2ar, which is almost as bad because it's supposed to be three minutes of big picture and key issues. If you actually want "honest debate" you shouldn't encourage your debaters to pick up dropped arguments because that, quite frankly, is cheating. You're asking the judge to buy your attack on your opponent's contention without them even getting a chance to refute it. Even if you say something truly brilliant in the second speech, for all we know they had an even more brilliant rebuttal planned.

Also, issue selection is a strategic and educational skill. It forces debaters to actually think about how arguments interact and prioritize, instead of just spending each speech responding to claims.

Further, you need to reconsider your prejudice against "policy" and "burdens." I started out as a "traditional" LDer and slowly began to realize that things like "spreading" and "theory" actually do increase the quality of a debate. They force meta-debate thinking-- thinking about the art of arguing itself and how logical debate really works--, more logical nuance, and simply more information per round. Sure, bad progressive debaters will read unclearly and spew lots of blippy, redundant, and/or unwarranted information, but bad traditional debaters will do this too. Most of the good circuit (ie, progressive) debaters I know either came to this conclusion themselves or simply learned it that way, but the idea of former policy debaters invading LD is quite simply a myth. They're maybe 3-5% of the pool, and I'm sure I've met at least twice as many PFers turned LDers.

Orlando said...

First, on the post itself. Trying to attack every argument in the contention, particularly if those arguments are on the NC, is a terrible idea since you will spread yourself thin and lose time. Instead take one of two options, or both really. First, weigh a single piece of offense against the negative harms and explain why it has the biggest impact in the round under your/their framework. On that note, second that by winning the framework debate and excluding their arguments. This is obviously unfeasible if it is the same framework but is generally a good strategy. Making blippy responses to everything is the easiest way to lose because they will blow the argument up in the next speech and answer back the blip. Silence is concession, but that only matters on the contention level if the offense links back to the standard.
TO GLENN. You are just wrong and don't understand the logical function of speech times and the burden of rejoinder. Anonymous is correct. TO JIM. The NFL rules are the weakest responses to make in ANY debate round on or off the circuit. to appeal to technicality or the lack of a specific argument being mentioned is laziness on the debater's part because it shows an inability to handle even the most basic of arguments by analyzing the links. AND it its absolutely necessary to have either a detailed framework or observations by which you are able to deduce the logical requirements that it takes to prove the resolution true or false. You maximizing a benefit under a conceded side-constraint framework is meaningless.