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Reply re response to meany
Received the following...my replies included...
>Subj: response to meany
>John, we are more in agreement than disagreement. Also,I value what
>you have brought into debate throughout your career, and I hope
>that your legitimate concerns with the admittedly mindless and
>totalitarian evidence production advocated by SOME will not eventually
>drive you away.
I recognize that we are in _considerable_ agreement, as I will detail in this
No, I am not inclined to abandon debate because of the behavior of others...
>But you continue to foster a conceptual distinction
>between mental and physical labor which delegitimizes the beauty
>and satisfaction of GOOD (albeit hard) work. There is a difference,
>and I don't know if you want to see it.
Matt, I am not fostering that distinction. In fact, my original posting,
which you criticized, made this very claim. My initial criticism was directed
at the contemporary "success" model which _exclusively_ focuses on labor and
derides critical thinking. I argued initially, noted in a half-dozen passages
in my reply to you, and will repeat here again, that _both_ elements are
As I noted to you in my last reply, the acquisition of critical skills
involves a considerable effort, including research. I offered several
examples. You have simply repeated one of them (socialism) back to me in your
>1. Is tireless work always singular, mindless automation?
>It is possible for those who advocate anti-statist or other radical
>arguments to spend as much time cutting evidence as those who
>do nothing but run "clinton cred." In fact, the evidence burden
>incurred by such radical argumentation requires that, for example,
>literature be read and prepared dealing with the way in which the
>particular affirmative problem area is actually a manifestation of
>base-superstructure harms, or how attempting to solve THAT
>SPECIFIC PROBLEM, through a bourgeois reformist model,
>will only make things worse. In running socialism, we have had
>to cut far more evidence than those who run Clinton.
As I noted in my last message, this argument was initiated in debate two
decades ago. At the time, it was an innovative argument. It required
significant research and sophisticated reasoning to strategically apply the
idea to debates. However, as an unconventional approach, it required _less_
research than equally potent, but tried, arguments of its day (the benefit of
critical examination of issues and the desire to "build a better mousetrap").
The argument is no longer an innovative position (which is shameful given the
possible variations of the theme, many of which I have used to counter
socialism arguments for many years). If anything, the continued use of this
argument in its popular form is precisely what Bear referred to as a
problematic history of CEDA, debate as "endlessly recycled backfiles".
Of course it takes more time to research the argument today; there are two
decades of debate history associated with the issue. Its initiation and
historical use was an appropriate example of innovation; its continued use in
a repetitive form is an example of the troubled singular understanding of
"work" foreclosing the possibility of critical analysis and _new_
>But not only that, the evidence cutting has always been accompanied
>by long and informative discussion on exactly how this strategy
>works. I don't understand how reading literature, and discussing
>its advocative implications on affirmative literature, is "mindless"
Again, you are misstating my argument. It is strategic planning and critical
evaluation of issues that I endorsed (my references to the need for a broader
understanding of "work"). My point is that this analysis will almost
invariably lead to strategic decision-making that will _reduce_ the need for
numbing hours of repetitive research. It has been my experience that this
type of critical insight creates the possibilities for _new_ arguments that
require significantly less research to support ideas of considerable tactical
value. (This is true for a number of reasons, including the exclusion of
backfiles from the debate).
In addition, it is through strategic planning and consideration of the text
of the opponent that one might identify the possibilities to efficiently
undermine opponents' advocacy with the use of their evidence.
>There is the physical task of walking through
>the library and cutting and taping and writing and photocopying,
>but all of this is synthesized with the aim of the strategy itself.
There are physical tasks associated with critical methods as well. It is not
just a "head-game". What is visible in a debate, even an idea in brief, is
frequently supported by many hours of painstaking effort...
>I realize there are coaches who do nothing but yell at their debaters
>to cut more cards, and who demand strategic adherence to arguments
>which challenge no one's dominant paradigms, but the Bear didn't teach
>me to debate that way (though he will be the first to admit we had
>our occasional philosophical differences), nor do I practice this on
I noted that there are exceptions to the model. However, I also noted the
increasing number of references to a singular successful model and to
negative, scornful comments toward individuals that do not adhere to that
>So rather than giving my debaters the choice of
>mindless work or quitting debate, I actually encourage the very
>choice you advocate: critical and subversive argumentation. I
>simply add something you explicitly remove: hard work to understand
>and justify the critical subversion.
I have _never_ excluded the idea of hard work. This is a complete
misrepresentation of my original posting and my first reply to you. I noted
initially and in my reply that I am not opposed to serious debate work. I
don't know how I could express it more clearly than I did in my last posting
to you: "I am not opposed to work."
I explained to you that a significant amount of work is involved in textual
deconstruction and critical deliberation of ideas in debate theory and
practice. I noted that you _ignored_ this in my posting and chose instead to
substitute notions such as "tricks" and "traps", as if I had proposed these
approaches, when I did not. That was a "cheap shot"; you are continuing that
In addition, as illustrations, I offered a number of examples of arguments
that I created that were both innovative and required significant research
(socialism, growth, overpopulation, prolif, climate, new social movements,
etc.). The idea that you would ignore these examples and insist that I have
called for the "explicit removal" of hard work is stunning. There is
_nothing_ in my postings that would suggest that one should abandon work.
>2. Is responsive research and the attempt to understand (prior
>to refutation) the advocate's point of view, tantamount to
>giving in to their ideology?
>I truly don't think so. Rather, the more we understand of the
>opposition, the better we can inject our discourse and literature
>into theirs, in the most strategically viable way. Many times
>affirmative case harms are links to disadvantages (especially
>in the case of socialism). While it is true that pointing this
>out requires no "exhausting work," it's rather useless to point
>it out without also refering to the product of our work on the
That is not what you wrote in your original posting. If you had initially
expressed the idea that you now seem to endorse, I might not have had as
strong a disagreement with you. Instead of the text in #2., You wrote: "In
researching our opponents'arguments, we are submitting ourselves to them,
recognizing the validity of their advocacy, in short, CONVERSING with them".
My objection was directed to your claim that one _submits_ to the opponents'
advocacy, that one _recognizes the validity_ of their advocacy. I argued that
this was tantamount to rejection of any critical project, in that complacency
and acquisition to the "knowledge" claims of opponents, is a surrender to the
dominant, frequently tyrannical, producers and users of information. I
continue to believe that....As I noted in my reply, the "conversing" will
occur in either case and is largely irrelevant to the issue of submission to
the validity of an opponent's ideas. (I suppose I have written enough about
this on ceda-l as 'misunderstanding in communication').
>I must point out that YOU used the words
>"without topic preparation" in your model of the superior
>debater. There is a difference between someone who wins
>"without topic preparation" (the cheesy procedurals and
>unreasonable tricks which Bear opposes) and hard work
>geared towards radical reinterpretation of a topic.
Yes, I did use the words "without topic preparation". I used them in a
sentence that included a number of other words. Your exclusion of those other
words is absolutely necessary for you to pull off this sleight-of-hand. That
is because I did not argue that debaters should be unprepared. Rather, I
argued that debaters need to develop "brilliant skills" of critical
deliberation. I explicitly advocated the "hard work geared toward radical
reinterpretation of a topic".
I _never_ advocated "cheesy procedurals" or "unreasonable tricks". I am
unalterably opposed to these practices. As I noted to you, Bear, and now you
(again!), there is _nothing_ in my posting that would support the idea that I
oppose preparation. In fact, rather than advocate "unreasonable tricks", I
limited my example to a circumstance in which a debater can engage in a
textual deconstruction of an opponent's argument, rendering it moot or
turning it against the opponent. I am shocked that you would continue to
dismiss such skills as a "cheap trick". (Quite frankly, the debater who, when
confronted with a new disadvantage, is able to analyze the argument and use
the opponent's evidence to turn the argument is clearly doing a better job of
debating than the student who must first "submit" to the "validity" of the
position, then extensively research the argument, to answer it)...
>3. Would I, as a coach, restrict or forbid the strategy
>of critical or deconstructive discourse?
>See above, but additionally, I invite you to ask any
>member of CEU's debate squad, or
>any judge or worthy opponent who's heard our positions.
Matt, I was only quoting your posting. You wrote: " 'I can win even if I
ignore the core of your work'. Not the model I'd like to teach".
As numerous examples demonstrate (the one I listed in this posting, my
examples of double-turns and uniqueness arguments in my reply that you did
not address, counterplans, critiques, many popular disadvantages) critical
evaluation of opponents' arguments can often produce a variety of arguments
that are clever, relevant, and ignore the core of opponents' work...If you
are now disavowing your earlier commentary, I approve...
As I noted, your initial claim is the kind of subtle labor coercion that
exists at a number of programs that do not have the formal coercion that you
noted at the beginning of your latest reply.
>4. How are coaches or programs "made wealthy" by
>debate, or specifically the work done by the debaters
>I believe your answer to this question will be unreasonably
>metaphorical, but go ahead and answer it, as I'd like to know
>how to become more wealthy--I do have children to support
>and bills to pay. (Socialists do not eschew material reward
>for work; we demand more of it than workers get now!)
>Coaches are not "owners."
I don't want to undermine your belief-system. As you accept on faith that my
answer to this question will be "unreasonably metaphorical", there is no
point in my answer...
>5. Does debate trade off with social activism?
>First, it is possible to be a social activist while debating. Although
>some might suggest that the competitive nature of debate reifies
>the dominant social paradigm, I disagree. Marxism does not reject
>competition, nor does it demand we all quit our daily activities in
>order to build communes in the woods or throw bricks in the street.
>Instead, the class struggle is waged on all fronts, including in the
>academic world, the workplace, and perhaps in debate rounds.
>For every time a judge agrees to reject an affirmative based on
>that judge's rejection of her role as an agent of the state (one
>of our rather unoriginal but somewhat successful critique strategies),
>she leaves the room having legitimized that idea to herself and to
>Second, debate makes us better at whatever we commit ourselves
>to do when we are not debating. So even if this means it makes
>oppressive people better oppressors, it also makes rebels better
>rebels. My former partner Korry Harvey is a very effective environmental
>activist, and I use my speaking and research skills in the service
>of union and socialist activism at every opportunity. And it's a good
>thing debate taught me to embrace hard, often tedius work, because
>activism often requires it.
All of this presumes the use of critical skills--my point is that these
skills are increasingly derided in debate. I called for more active inclusion
of these skills.
Few pursue other activities while debating. I believe that individuals should
have the choice of pursuing other activities and debating. I have suggested a
way to accomplish that and criticized individuals who deride students who
choose to do more than spend all waking hours on debate research.
>6. What's up with this "Utah" thing, John?
>Yes, I am a socialist living in Utah. I am also a Utahn
>who happens to be a socialist. Utah is no more controlled
>by the dominant discourse of a particular class than any
>other area where class divisions exist. Moreover, there
>is a solid, albeit occasionally hidden, communalist and
>socialist heritage in our state. This post is already too
>long to go into this, but non-Utahns often see only the
>conservative side of Utah's spiritual and ideological history.
>This ignores a great deal of alternative discourse which exists
>everywhere in our state, including inside the Mormon church
>(notwithstanding their public relations).
My point re Utah regarded the importance of critical engagement. I claimed
that the issue should be an obvious one to you given your politics and
I know that Utah is no more controlled by dominant discourse that many other
cites and that, as does every large community, it has a connection to a
socialist heritage. These "Utah facts" are irrelevant to my claim.
My argument, for the sake of repetition, is that it is not possible to submit
to the dominant discourse in Utah, nor is it possible to select as a
prescribed alternative the production of volumes of socialist literature, and
_transform_ the dominant culture. It is necessary to deconstruct,
recontextualize, and relocate dominant themes--critical analysis is necessary
to subvert oppression and produce a dynamic foundation for cultural
alternatives. The inclusion and development of these skills in debate and
elsewhere would assist a liberatory socialist project. My reference to Utah,
and to your political position, was to demonstrate the irony of your
opposition to my posting...
>Any activist in any community must walk a razor's edge between
>embracing and loving the community enough to want to change it,
>and wanting to change it so much that she or he begins to resent
>it. I feel this razor's edge in Utah, and the CEDA community as well.
>I will not leave either community out of frustration,
>as long as I can do any good in them.
>For once I have left, I have forfeited the legitimacy of my criticism.
Who is going anywhere?
>Support hard, AND subversiveand critical, debate work!
>socialismo (?y utah?) o muerte
I believe that has been my point in every posting. I have supported effort,
discipline, and critical courage. I have opposed the exclusion of critical
practice from an 'understanding' of work.
Some of my commentary is a reply to the new monolithic canon re success. Some
of it is an examination of the conditions of the debate work environment,
finding fault with the absence of participatory democracy and
self-fulfillment. Finally, some of it is a consequence of my continued
interpretation of debate as performance art, an evaluation of the craft that
falls far outside the safety and error of the popular paradigms...These are
critical projects that work on me and inform me, as I inform them, well after
any manufactured moment. That condition obtains because I am interested in
the becoming, the thing in being, more than the product to be delivered to an
acquisitive debate community that no longer cares about imaginative
experience and method...
Archive created by Jonathan Stanton (email@example.com)
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