I have no idea what the deal with this picture is… but its awesome.
To keep this under a 5,000 word tirade I am going to stick to two lines of questioning I think are bad and try and explain how you can do it better.
1. “Oh yea, well whats your answer to this?”
This is a colossally bad line of questioning. Even worse than it, is the way some judges seem to think its good. I have heard or read many people who I otherwise respect comment on how they think its a great idea to just ask the other team what their answer to an argument not yet made in the debate is. To be fair, those comments usually occur in the following context
“What about x”
“well if you make that argument in a speech we will answer it”
Judge: Lolz its so stupid you say if they make an argument then you’ll answer it, epic fail
…I’m sorry, why is this not the EXACT appropriate response? First, the aff hasn’t asked a question, they have made an argument. Making arguments is not the purpose of CX, a point I have belabored enough. The defense of thinking this is a bad CX answer usually goes like this “well the aff presented a reasonable, possibly truthful argument that I agree with, the neg looked bad when they didn’t answer it”. Well that’s a really silly thing you just said there. Ignore for a second that all your criteria are pretty much subjective and boil down to you liked it, what exactly is the neg supposed to do? Read their 2NC block? I assume you think that is stupid, so what are they to do then? Pick their best analytic response and try and explain it with the aff constantly cutting them off? Ok assume they do that, what has been accomplished? Does that argument now go away? Does the aff make that argument in the speech, and then we hear the neg repeat their same answer amongst a litany of other answers? If that’s the case then what was accomplished by the CX? This line of questioning violates the fundamental premise of CX which is that you are supposed to be setting up arguments for future speeches. You aren’t setting up an argument, you are randomly making( are you even doing that?) an argument kinda and trying to get a window into what their answer would be. This is silly. All of the following examples prove this
Neg in CX: what are your link turns to politics?
Neg: what is your ontology?
Neg: what is your answer to the death K?
“Good sir, those examples are not a favorable representation of our point!” I can already here people saying. Unfortunately, they are. If at any point you are asking the question ” what is your answer to an argument that we haven’t made yet” then this is what you are doing.
In addition to being silly, this is just lazy. You aren’t formulating a strategy, you aren’t doing something clever. You have run out of things to say and therefore you are filling time. Even if some want to insist this is an “acceptable” cx strategy, can anyone explain why its a GOOD strategy? Why its better than asking other, smarter questions that better set up the points you want to make? I doubt it. Which brings us to
2. CX is something you should prep for and strategize about. I see a lot of teams prepping before rounds, talking to coaches, but rarely are they discussing strategies for cross examination. I see a lot of people take notes after rounds and write blocks, almost never do I see someone have a prepared cross-x. Why is this? For any argument common enough that you need a 2AC block, you should have a prepared CX strategy. Think of it this way
1. Do you look smarter when you improvise on 2 seconds of thinking, or when you think about something for a long time in advance?
2. In CX, do you want to look smart?
Yep, so that’s out of the way. Think about it this way, how many times did you debate the Neolib K this year? For most of you, probably at least 10. So you had 30 minutes of CX in which to try and destroy the neolib K, did you use that time wisely? Odds are you didn’t. There are a lot of components to the K: the link, the alt, the impact, epistemology, discourse, reps, root cause etc. Having a plan of attack against those things you have prepared in advance will let you EFFICIENTLY demolish these things instead of fumbling around trying for traction.
As an example, I saw maybe the most effective cross-x of the last decade in a debate last year about the politics disad. It went something like this
1NC: Political capital disad
1A: What is political capital
1N: its sort of an intangible , metaphory thing that represents a presidents influence
1A: how much PC does Obama have now
1N: Well, its not like units of currency, but he has like, enough
1A: how much is enough
1N: dude I don’t know
1A: who is qualified to assess how much capital the president has
1N: like, political insiders, people in washington
1A: how do we know if the president has spent capital
1N: what do you mean
1A: how do you know if he has spent some capital, what are the signs that his capital has been reduced
1N; Well, he spends capital when he pushes something
1A: How do you know if he’s pushing something
1A: How do you know if he is “pushing” something or just “talking about” something?
1N: well, he says so
Now, at many points in that CX many of you would be tempted to DROP THE HAMMER!!!! Realizing the neg had said something silly you would try to pounce and instead of asking a question you would be tempted to make an argument. RESIST!! Making an argument just gives them free speech time, they have already fallen into the pit you can take your time and spring the trap later. The 2AC in this debate did so with an analytic argument that went something like this
“Political capital is a BS debate concept- its not something that can be measured or tracked, there is no way to know how much Obama has or how much he needs or how much he allegedly spends on the plan. Their evidence doesn’t come from Washington insiders- it comes from random staff writers trying to sell papers by focusing on the spectacle of politics, they throw around terms like political capital but don’t mean it in the sense of the disad. Where do their staff writers get the information on how much capital Obama has or is spending- from the same place Jack got his beanstalk beans? Their CX defense of this disad was laughable and you should assign it zero risk.”
There may have been more, and the My Cousin Vinny reference alone was worth a 30, but this combined with the cross-x is absolutely devastating. By not making the arguments in CX they didn’t give the neg any free speech time to respond or weasel. They let them hurt themselves and then moved on to the next question.
This also brings up another point though, cross-x, like all parts of debate, is about judge adaptation. For me- this CX was brilliant. For many others who are card carrying kool aid drinking members of the “politics is sick bro” club this CX is probably a total waste of time, as was the 2AC analytic. If judges truly want you to make arguments in CX then you should adapt to that. I think you will find that the number of judges who want that is much smaller than you think.