Thursday, September 22, 2011

Elements of Debate - Rebuttal Speeches (part 2)

Answering Attacks on Your Case
During your rebuttal speeches you will typically be forced to answer attacks made against your own case.  These attacks will be the same kinds discussed in part 1 of this discussion of rebuttal speeches; attacks against your premises and claims, grounds, and impacts.  When attacked, you will be expected to answer in your next speech. If you fail to answer the attacks it will be perceived you have conceded the points and the judge and your opponents may look unfavorably on your case if you try to answer the attacks in a later speech.  In some cases, you may choose to concede certain points especially if you think you are winning other points which outweigh any arguments of the opponent.

Extending Your Arguments
Generally, you should be prepared to reaffirm all of your points made in the constructive speech and you should continue to do so, during every speech you make except, perhaps, the summary speech.  By reaffirming, speech after speech you extend your arguments from the constructive, all the way to the end of the debate.  Anywhere along the line, if you fail to reaffirm one of your arguments it will be viewed as conceded by the opponents and most likely the judge.  It is considered bad form in debate to drop a point and then try to pick it up again later in the round.

As a general rule, when you initially make your argument in the constructive speech, the opponent will attack it in the first rebuttal and then you will be forced to answer the attack. If the opponent fails to attack the argument, most debaters remind the judge, the opponent dropped the point and so extend the argument by reaffirming the same argument and warrants as originally stated.  Often, a debater will simply ask the judge to "extend the argument" and move on to the next point without further clarification.  Asking the judge to "extend the argument" or saying "I extend such and such argument" is an instruction to the judge to simply draw an arrow on his flow sheet from the argument through the next column on the sheet, thereby, "extending" the same point. To be sure, debaters who claim to extend in this manner save time allowing more time to answer other points and many judges have no problem with it.  Nevertheless, some judges do not like rote argument extension and in a category like Public Forum debate, citizen judges may not always know what is meant by the imperative, "extend the argument".  If possible, and time allows, it is best to extend the arguments explicitly by reaffirming the point in a summary way.  This means you do not have to reread the entire argument complete with evidence and warrants. It means briefly remind the judge why the argument is still valid and quickly move on.

Answering Attacks
When the opponent has challenged some argument of your case, there are many ways to answer, depending on the how the opponent chose to attack.  As noted in part 1, the opponent will challenge the premises and logic or your claims, he will challenge the validity of your grounds, or he will challenge the impacts, claiming they are not meaningful or his impacts are are more important.  Many of the attacks levied against your case should not come as a surprise.  By the time you are in rounds facing opponents, you should have already researched and written affirmative and negative cases for the resolution.  Experienced debaters anticipate the kinds of challenges they are likely to face and are prepared to provide answers to those challenges. Additionally, as you face opponents, through the weeks you will quickly understand where the vulnerabilities of your case exist and either revise the constructive to strengthen the case or research effective answers to likely challenges. 

Counter-claims: Avoid the Rabbit-Hole
Many times the the opponent challenges your arguments with counter-claims. Since a counter-claim is simply a claim. It can be counter-attacked in the same way one attacks any claim:  challenge the premises, logic and grounds. But it is not a good strategy to make, yet another counter-claim as this tends to misdirect the debate away from the initial claims and soon you are running down the "rabbit-hole" of irrelevant arguments.  For example: You claim with full warrants that the U.S. should rely more on coal as an alternative energy. The opponent's rebuttal counters with burning fossil-fuels is bad because it increases global warming. You answer, global warming is mitigated by planting more trees.  Soon the debate spins off down a rabbit hole, debating global warming instead of the original point of alternative energy.  Anytime you answer attacks, try to stay focused on the original claim and bring it back into the debate. Instead of answering, global warming is mitigated by planting trees; direct attention to your claim by showing, with evidence, how coal burning technology is far more carbon friendly than in the past and so the use of coal as alternative energy is increasingly desirable. In this answer, coal as an alternative energy remains in focus and avoids the global warming rabbit-hole.

Answering by Reaffirmation
In debate, the constructive speeches are the only time your side is allowed to introduce arguments. During rebuttals and summary speeches it is considered abusive to bring up new arguments.  Therefore, your constructive must present every argument you will uphold in support of the case.  It is important to understand there is no prohibition to introducing new evidence in support of the arguments you have already presented. In fact, it is a very good strategy to be prepared to answer challenges to your claims by presenting additional evidence and warrants which reaffirm your arguments.  Debaters should always have multiple sources of evidence in support of their arguments and bring those other sources into the debate in later speeches as a way of continually reaffirming by adding more and more evidence in support of the original claim. This strategy is effective because, while there is a very good chance, an opponent can provide a reasonable attack on an argument in your case, it will be increasingly difficult for the opponent to continue to pile on additional attacks if you are able to continuously reaffirm your position with new warrants.  NOTE: If your argument has been challenged by the opponent it is nearly always worthless to answer by repeating your original warrants.

Answering Disadvantages
Quite commonly, in policy debate, link turns and impact turns are used to refute the claims of the opponent, especially the DA.  These kinds of attacks are not as common in Public Forum or Lincoln-Douglas debate even though the idea of turns is still applicable. Impacts are the claimed results of a certain course or action or state of being and they are important to a case because they provide an answer to the question, "why is this important?" An impact is a claim which must be proven so it is possible to attack it in the same way as any other claim; by attacking the premises, logic or grounds.  Claims identified as impacts are usually consequences arising from some cause. Some cause leads to some effect; some cause leads to some impact. Therefore, it is possible to disturb the cause-effect nature of the impact by proving the cause does not uniquely lead to the effect.  For example: Let's say the affirmative makes a case that the U.S. needs to increase the size of its military.  The negative can argue against this by claiming the increase will have a negative impact since it will increase the federal deficit.  The negative's cause-effect is, increased military has the effect of increased deficit.  Affirmative can turn the link between the cause and effect by challenging the uniqueness of negative's cause-effect relationship.  For example, affirmative can show that if nothing is done, the deficit will still increase. The affirmative may also show that increasing the size of the military does not lead to a bigger deficit but reduces it because the increase in defense spending puts more people to work thus increasing tax revenues. Both of these arguments serve as link turns because they break the uniqueness of the cause-effect relationship. The cause-effect relationship can also be undone, if affirmative can show that the cause does not always result in the DA.  A good way to do this is show an example in history where the action did not result in the claimed disadvantage.  Another way to overcome the negative's claimed disadvantage is to turn the impact.  Basically this means, that if the impact occurs it is actually a good thing rather than a disadvantage. For example, affirmative could claim the increase in deficit is a good thing because such a deficit is justifiable and even desirable to offset a threat from terrorists or other enemies. In this case, the positive benefit outweighs the negative disadvantage.

Answering Turns
As discussed in part one of this topic, a valid negative strategy is to attack the affirmative case by showing how adoption of the affirmative position results in harmful impacts.  Affirmative will attempt to turn these arguments by showing how the claimed harms are actually desirable and they will attempt to control uniqueness by explaining how the disadvantages will still occur in the status-quo or affirmative can prove the disadvantage does not always occur when the affirmative position is adopted.  The best way to defend link turns is to structure them in such a way that affirmative can not turn the link without damaging their case, having a firmly unique causation claim, and relying on the strength of the argument to persuade the judge. Ultimately this means citing impacts which outweigh the advantages claimed by the affirmative. While the affirmative may be able to destroy the link which establishes a formal causation, it is still possible to defend the disadvantage. If the opponent claims the DA will happen in the status-quo, try to argue if the impact happens in the status-quo, it will reduce desire, need or resolve to enact or adopt the opponent's proposal.  If the opponent shows that action does not always result in the disadvantage, argue that the probability is high and the magnitude of the impact is too high to risk adopting the opponent's proposal. Again, if the opponent tries to turn the impact, again look to the impact calculus and stress how bad the risks are of things turning out badly.

Things to Avoid
Do not extend disputed arguments without new evidence or warrants.

Do not neglect mentioning to the judge when the opponent has dropped one of your arguments.

Be careful to not make a common mistake of double-turning an impact. If you link turn an impact do not impact turn as well. Doing both, like a double-negative resulting in a net positive, has the effect of each turn cancelling out the other.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to leave comments relevant to the topics and activity of competitive high school debate. However, this is not a sounding board for your personal ideologies, abusive or racist commentary or excessive inappropriate language. Everyday Debate blog reserves the right to delete any comments it deems inappropriate.