Responding to Kritiks

To become an expert debater, it is necessary to learn how to both run and answer kritiks. If a debater is absolutely adamant about exclusively running policy arguments, too bad. Kritiks still need to be learned because these will be encountered at literally every level of competition where lay judging has fallen by the wayside. In fact, even if a debater has no intention of ever using the K, I would still recommend that every debater learn how to run it; just to give an appropriate perspective for when they need to be answer. (This is true even if a debater only runs the K in practice rounds rather than tournament rounds.) This article will assume that debaters are already familiar with the basic components of the kritik and will go a little deeper into exploring some key points to be aware of when responding to the K.

1. Read the literature.

This is more important for debaters who are running the K, but I cannot possibly emphasize enough how helpful it is to actually understand the arguments when responding. The absolute worst thing that can happen is to hit a K one is not familiar with in the middle of a round. Instead of having many hours to digest and analyze it, a debater will have just a few minutes to scan their evidence and try and pull out some halfway-relevant answers that probably are not very responsive. If a debater has actually read the authors that the K in question is derived from, it is much, much easier to answer. Most judges will also be very pleased if a person can take a bad K team that does not understand what they are running and humiliate them with their own evidence.

2. The link story.

Unless it is superbly obvious that whatever they are reading has literally zero relevance to one’s advocacy, it is seldom a good idea to put too many arguments on this section of the flow. In most situations, a debater should grant the link and spend time on the impact and alternative levels of the flow. Are there exceptions? Sure. But the idea is that the neg only needs to win a 1% link to the case to access the K, which is a virtual guarantee. One thing to be aware of is that just because the neg reads a link story does not mean they automatically have access to their impacts. Force them to demonstrate how the link alone is sufficient to trigger the impact, because often times, it is not.

3. Impacts - there are many things to be aware of.

- First, impact turns are always fun. Whatever they say is bad, say the opposite? Capitalism is the world’s greatest evil? Here are five reasons why it is key to stave off extinction. Securitization got you down? Here are five reasons we cannot live without it. Debaters need OFFENSE to win K debates, and because the link story is usually impossible to turn, the impact level is the best place to generate it.

- Watch out for “the K is the root cause of the harms of the aff.” If they win this argument, 90% of the time a debater will lose. The neg will spin it to mean that the impacts of the 1AC are inevitable in a world where the alternative is not implemented. In other words, “1AC solves nothing, vote neg.” The problem is that this is a rather strenuous generalization. Point out that one does not need to solve the root harms to solve the case. Solving one specific instance is enough to weigh against the aff. Also, attack the notion that the alternative really “solves” anything. There may be a dozen other root causes to the impacts that the alt does not touch, and it is a debater’s job to point those out.

- Also beware of the phrase "no value to life." If it is heard, hit them back. They are basically saying that death impacts cannot be weighed because even if the aff saves lives, those lives have already been rendered worthless (as demonstrated by the kritik). The easiest answer to this is that life/death is irreversible while ontology/value to life can be revived. Argue that ethics should come before ontology.

- Other impacts to be aware of: epistemology, methodology, representations, discursive impacts. Understand what all of these are and how to respond to them.

4. Attack the alternative.

Always, always, ALWAYS attack the alternative. Believe it or not, the alternative is virtually always the weakest part of the kritik, yet too often mediocre teams do not devote an appropriate amount of attention to it.

- The permutation is a debater’s best friend. There are many, many permutations available to choose from. Find carded turns against the alt that function as net benefits to the perm. Make analytics like “double-bind:” either the alternative is so strong that it solves back all residual links to the permutation, OR the alternative does not actually solve the original links. I could devote an entire article to this section. Needless to say, please investigate further.

- Do not let them be shifty with the alternative. Nail them down in cross-x to a single coherent explanation of how it functions. Debaters should also argue in the 2AC that the negative should be restricted to advocating the text of the alternative, not the other things that might be in their alternative evidence or additional frontlines they might pull out of the block. If they try to shift the alternative in the block by saying “WHOOPS, THAT IS NOT WHAT WE MEANT,” put a voter on it in the 1AR; it is not reciprocal (YOU would not shift YOUR plan text), it is a moving target which functionally trivializes all 2AC offense, etc.

- Beware of rejection alternatives. Make sure their evidence says what they say it does. Half the time it makes no mention of rejecting policy actions. If they cannot show the warrants in their card that specifically say “reject this/every instance of X,” then argue that the alt does not produce a mindset change necessary to solve. Argue that they are simply tacking on “reject the aff” to artificially induce competition and avoid the permutation debate. That justifies intrinsic permutation. Do the plan and the parts of the alternative that do not reject the aff. Also read theoretical arguments. Either their evidence says nothing about rejection being key to solvency (which means they cannot solve and their impacts are non-unique), or they are shifting the alternative to do something more than just rejection, [insert theory from above].

- Solvency. Surprisingly, many kritik teams are not really prepared to defend their alternative. If a debater actually has carded reasons why the alternative fails, it will put one way ahead in the debate.

- In summary: always read theory, even if never intending on going for it; always make a permutation, and always read alt solvency.

5. Framework.

Honestly, aff framework (the idea that only policy arguments should be evaluated) has sort of fallen out of favor with a large majority of circuit judges. Unless a team is really bad and just flat-out drops it (and if they are bad enough to do that--trust me, they will lose) it is going to be very hard to win without over allocating time to it.

That does not mean framework is totally irrelevant though. Make sure that whatever framework the negative advocates is actually fair to YOU. Make sure that one can still weight impacts. A lot of sneaky teams will read interpretations that functionally say “whoever solves for X better should win the debate.” See how that might be a little unfair? It excludes not just the entire 1AC, but it basically excludes almost all offense against the K as well. They are effectively saying, “We win because we read the 1NC.” At that point, feel free to bring up a theoretical objection and read a counter-interpretation.