Ten Arguments Your Judge Does *Not* Want To Hear - Part 1

Have you ever spent ninety minutes of your day being repeatedly prodded with hundreds of sharp, pointy objects?

Probably not. But as most judges will tell you, there are some debate rounds where the arguments presented are so utterly awful that they practically feel as if they are being subjected to such a treatment. Now, many times this is simply a result of inexperienced debaters simply trying to get a grasp on the format - something that is both understandable and forgivable. However, other times it is a product of debaters choosing to run arguments that are fundamentally moronic.

Now, there is definitely a scale when it comes to measuring the level of stupidity of certain positions. It’s not a black and white situation where arguments are either really particularly awesome or so horrible that they should be thrown into the street and shot. So this list will start off with some stuff that might be objectionable but aren’t entirely outrageous, and it will end with stuff that is simply wrong in almost every conceivable way.

And of course, this list is in no way all-inclusive - I am sure that I am forgetting some of the more egregious arguments out there that exist (Malthus, anyone?). But let’s dive right in with Part 1 of the list!

10. Theoretically Sketchy Counterplans

There are certain counterplans out there that rely on shady theoretical justifications to garner competition. A sampling of such counterplans might include, but is not limited to, consultation counterplans, delay counterplans, and to a much lesser extent, plan-inclusive counterplans (PICs) that exclude one element of the plan. What these counterplans have in common is that they try to solve all of the affirmative case while using functional barriers to make permutations impossible.

This ranks at number ten on this list because a majority of judges will still be willing to listen to them despite their personal misgivings, and many teams do in fact run them. However, they will be very sympathetic to the affirmative team if they bring up theoretical objections as to why these types of counterplans are bad, so be very prepared for theory debates should you choose to run them on the neg.

9. Specification Arguments

Most judges tend to view specification arguments with a great amount of hesitation, especially when they are underdeveloped in the 1NC. If your pet specification shell generally lacks decent offensive standards and warrants, it becomes fairly obvious to the judge that you are merely trying to skew your opponents’ time.

Does this mean you should never run spec arguments? No. Some judges will be partial to them. But you need to have a well-developed one-minute shell and a clear, substantiated articulation of in-round ground loss - tell the judge what arguments you couldn’t run because they didn’t specify something in the plan text. Just make sure you ask your judge what they think about these arguments before the round begins.

8. Sneaky Independent Voting Issues

Lots of crafty teams like to hide independent voting issues inside of certain shells. These tend to take anywhere from five to ten seconds to read and almost always end with the phrase “it’s an independent voting issue for fairness” with no further warrant or extrapolation.

These arguments aren’t designed to be well-constructed. In fact, if the opponent answers them, they are usually outright conceded. The victims here are the opponents who are distracted and don’t catch it, and therefore fail to answer it. Most judges will do one of two things in this scenario. They might declare the argument a “cheap-shot” and, while they will still give the perpetuators the ballot, they will also knock off a speaker point or two. Alternatively, they may simply ignore it on the merits that it was never warranted enough in the first place to vote on. Neither of these outcomes is particularly desirable. I would advise you to avoid making a habit of using them.

7. “Time-suck” Topicality Arguments

This is tangentially related to number nine above. A number of judges strongly dislike it when the negative team reads multiple topicality arguments, each taking no more than twenty seconds to read. The 1NC shells will include a barely coherent interpretation, a logical if somewhat unexplained violation, two or three extremely blippy standards, and a voting issue subpoint that often consists of fewer than ten words.

While judges will flow these arguments, they will often find them unconvincing due to their brevity and the void that exists where the warranted analysis should have been placed. And yes, strategically, it might make sense to run them to create a imbalance in time allocation, but it won’t directly help you win the round and it won’t boost your credibility.

6. Poorly-run Kritiks

One of the most frequent complaints I hear from judges relate to inexperienced or otherwise less-than-competent students running kritiks. When I say “poorly-run kritik,” I mean that the negative team probably cut the 1NC shell verbatim out of a camp file, is unable to correctly answer even the most basic of cross-examination questions, is unaware of how the kritik functions in the round, and is unable to engage in line-by-line analysis in the negative block and in the rebuttals. These rounds tend to quickly become chaotic and disorderly.

Please, do not run a kritik until you have familiarized yourself with the author, learned how your kritik functions in debate, and figured out what common answers you might expect to see. In other words, unless you are well-read on the K and you are prepared to engage in clash, you should not run it.

Stay tuned for Part 2!