Archive for the Answers To Category

Impact Hyperbole: A Dilemma of Contemporary Debate Practice

Posted in Answers To with tags on August 26, 2010 by Toni N.

It seems as though debate is stuck in a loop of nuclear wars and no value to life. We have a difficult time of conceiving of a terminal impact that doesn’t end in some ultimate destruction. Without terminal impacts such as nuclear war or the root of all claims, we have a tough time comparing and weighing impacts.

Our arguments for spill over connect even the most improbable of scenario’s. Take for example our Africa war arguments. Given that Africa, as a continent, largely lack nuclear capabilities the chances of a conflict escalating in this area of the world are slim at best, but still debate returns to evidence written by The Rabid Tiger Project. In fact if you google”, you will find the great majority of the hits are debate links. This particular scenario is largely a debate creation and the scholarly world around it seems to have largely dismissed this single article as lacking credibility. Even in a debate context, this particular evidence is difficult to take seriously with a big debate on the line.

Beyond the most terrible of impact evidence though, a world of equally terrifying scenario’s exist. According to the debate community, we face nuclear war because of any of the following: economic collapse in any number of countries across the globe, a lack of US leadership, use of US hard power (pre-emption, imperialist expansion, etc), India-Pakistan conflict, Middle East escalation, Iran nuclearization, capitalism, the lack of capitalism, patriarchy, racism, nuclear terrorism, US response to a terrorist attack, Taiwan independence, Chinese collapse, Russian aggression, Russian collapse, or accidental launch of nuclear weapons. That’s a short list and I am certain it doesn’t contain all the ways a nuclear war could break out as described in debate scenarios. If one listened closely to the debate community, a sense of inevitable doom would most certainly replace any belief in a long life.

As much as it would seem I am poking fun at the policy debate community, kritik debaters caught in the same loop. External impacts to our criticisms are often extinction claims. A great number of K’s end in root of all claims or no value to life claims. In a very similar pattern, our kritiky impacts reflect the same sense of terminal destruction we find in the policy community we often subject to kritik.

Possibly living under the sword of Damocles has had more impact on our psyche than Americans give it credit. Possibly living in the information age has resulted in the ability to read any old nut as great impact evidence without the effective critical thinking skills to discern who or what qualifies as credible. Possibly debate as a community lacks a language by which to communicate the dangers of racism, sexism, homophobia, economic justice, poor foreign relations, or terrorism.

Is this tumble into impact hyperbole a problem? Well, it definitely does not reflect the sort of care a scholar takes in his/her work. It lacks the humility of limited claims backed only with probable warrants. Although there are some scenarios which could escalate into extinction or which do explain important pre-conditions for violence or meaningful living, these scenarios are much more limited than the debate community gives credence. In theory, the repetition of these hyperboles naturalize them or, at least, make them appear natural/normal. Our community convinces itself the impacts we discuss are credible threats. We are a population believing in an exaggerated reality – a hyper real if you will. Before we give ourselves the credit of knowing that our impacts are exaggerated, let us consider those of us who move on to work in think tanks or write law reviews who assess the threats of nuclear wars to the United States. In fact, this honor, think tank writer, is given out at the NDT every year.

Perhaps a better question is, what is the value of our current impact debate? We don’t really help avoid nuclear wars or prevent violence by making every possible interaction into a discussion of the potential for either. If all of these scenarios result in gruesome ending for life on Earth, then the issues become very muddled. The result may be a sort of nihilism which in its conclusion is more Darwinian than Nietzsche.

If we decide there is a impact hyperbole problem, what then is the alternative? Of course, the literature is our guide to a sensible form of impact debate, but we wouldn’t be in this predicament without literature. No debater asserts these impacts; they read cards. Cards = Truth Currency. A solution is a better internal link debate. How do the scenarios unfold? To examine the internals means examining all the many different ways the world would intervene in order to prevent the terminal impact from occurring. Debate judges can only work with what debaters give them, but we too must be willing to tell a team their impacts are overblown when this argument is part of the debate. Giving a debate ballot to the team who finds a 1% risk of extinction is a silly judging paradigm at best. At worst, it reflects a lack of critical thinking on the part of a debate critic. I am most definitely not saying critics should intervene and make impact arguments that are not in the debate, but giving more weight to impact defense is an important start to reign in our impact hyperbole.

What do you think K audience? Is contemporary impact debate a problem? If so, how should we resolve the race to the bottom of the impact barrel?