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Lazzarone

Answer to 'No Alternative'

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Eh, it won't make a great card.  Especially because the context is between accepting or rejecting a plan that has no noticeable impact on the SQ.  To win no alternative with this, you'd also have to win that the aff doesn't improve the SQ at all, to make the analogy even plausible.  At which point you could just kick the K and win on just about any unique offense even easier than winning on the K.

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Eh, it won't make a great card.  Especially because the context is between accepting or rejecting a plan that has no noticeable impact on the SQ.  To win no alternative with this, you'd also have to win that the aff doesn't improve the SQ at all, to make the analogy even plausible.  At which point you could just kick the K and win on just about any unique offense even easier than winning on the K.

 

If you read threat con it's pretty easy to win that the aff doesn't help the sq...

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Squirrelloid's line of reasoning above resembles what Slavoj Zizek critiques as 'the trap of false gradualism' - as if any improvement to the status quo is automatically worth enacting. This accords with the ruling ideology's "strategy of damage control" which re-channels radical emancipatory sentiments into "acceptable parliamentary-capitalist constraints". It tells us that we're not yet politically "mature" if we expect too much from democracy. To quote Zizek quoting Deleuze, it amounts to being "caught in another's dream". ...But fiat is illusory. And in the verbal vicinity of a skilled kritik team, this kind of policy-talk should be reason enough to vote down the Affirmative.

 

Yes, Zizek uses the on-going Greek crisis as an example, but the basic tenets of his political pedagogy apply generally to most all reformism today. The purpose of solvency is to maintain the status quo - not to make improvements, but to make things sufficiently palatable so that nothing really changes. And the correct attitude to adopt in response is the same as that recently exemplified by the Greeks: "The No of the referendum was undoubtedly a great ethico-political act: against a well-coordinated enemy propaganda spreading fears and falsehood, with no clear prospect of what lies ahead, against all pragmatic and 'realist' odds, the Greek people heroically rejected the brutal pressure..." (bold-emphasis mine). In short: a No to policy-as-usual.

 

The inane search for 'a card that says it' peeves me greatly, to say the least. It's your job to connect the dots, to explain in detail how the affirmative plan demonstrates the kritik at issue. Quote the generally-applicable portions of Zizek's article (or don't!) then write the middle bit yourself.

 


"The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben said in an interview that 'thought is the courage of hopelessness' - an insight that is especially pertinent for our historical moment, when even the most pessimistic diagnosis as a rule finishes with an uplifting hint at some version of the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. The true courage is not to imagine an alternative, but to accept the consequences of the fact that there is no clearly discernible alternative: the dream of an alternative is a sign of theoretical cowardice; it functions as a fetish that prevents us thinking through to the end the deadlock of our predicament."

 

And against 'fiat'-fetishes and 'alt'-fetishes and 'card'-fetishes, there stands the courage to be hopeless - i.e., kritik.



Edited by Lazzarone
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We should note too that Zizek's argument above is also an answer to kritiks which include alternatives, as well as offering the Affirmative ample ground; he writes, "today’s protests and revolts are sustained by the combination (overlapping) of different levels, and this combination accounts for their strength: they fight for (“normal” parliamentary) democracy against authoritarian regimes; against racism and sexism, especially the hatred directed at immigrants and refugees; for welfare state against neoliberalism; against corruption in politics and economy (companies polluting the environment, etc); for new forms of democracy that reach beyond multiparty rituals (participation, etc); and, finally, questioning the global capitalist system as such and trying to keep alive the idea of a non-capitalist society". That means debaters' calls for the USFG to enact immigration reform and hate crime legislation and environmental regulations do not necessarily trade-off with grassroots approaches or adamant anti-capitalism - to the contrary! And I've tried to explain why this is not a contradiction in posts like these: http://www.cross-x.com/topic/44310-zizek-questions-help-file-work/?do=findComment&comment=755659.

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Squirrelloid's line of reasoning above resembles what Slavoj Zizek critiques as 'the trap of false gradualism' - as if any improvement to the status quo is automatically worth enacting. This accords with the ruling ideology's "strategy of damage control" which re-channels radical emancipatory sentiments into "acceptable parliamentary-capitalist constraints". It tells us that we're not yet politically "mature" if we expect too much from democracy. To quote Zizek quoting Deleuze, it amounts to being "caught in another's dream". ... But fiat is illusory. And in the verbal vicinity of a skilled kritik team, this kind of policy-talk should be reason enough to vote down the Affirmative.
 
Fiat is only illusory if you have this ridiculous notion that fiat => roleplaying the government.  It doesn't.  And while fiat is an act of counter-factual imagination, it's also the only way to choose between two (or more) future alternatives, because we can't run the world multiple times and see which is better for sure, then choose the outcome that we liked; we have to run it as a thought experiment to make a decision.  And beyond that, we're choosing for ourselves what we think the government should be doing, not actually implementing the plan.  Debate occupies the same space that disputing a referee call in a sport's game occupies - we make claims about what we think should be done, not pretend that we're actually doing  it.
 
And that blows up your whole 'caught in another's dream' argument, because the affirmative is expressing its "dream".  (Or should be).
 
The strongest interpretation you can get out of this is 'compromise is bad', because it means you're not living your own dream, but have to accept something less in order to accomplish anything, but that's a profoundly anti-democratic position to take.  (Not terribly surprising, given Zizek is a USSR apologist and Totalitarianist thinker.)
 
 
 
"The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben said in an interview that 'thought is the courage of hopelessness' - an insight that is especially pertinent for our historical moment, when even the most pessimistic diagnosis as a rule finishes with an uplifting hint at some version of the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. The true courage is not to imagine an alternative, but to accept the consequences of the fact that there is no clearly discernible alternative: the dream of an alternative is a sign of theoretical cowardice; it functions as a fetish that prevents us thinking through to the end the deadlock of our predicament."

 

 

That last sentence you quote contradicts itself while attempting to obfuscate it's meaning.  If we reduce it to plainer language and strip it to its basic message, it's literally saying 'Proposing a course of action prevents us from proposing a course of action', because what else could "the end the deadlock (sic) of our predicament" possibly mean?  

 

I mean, unless you want to go full-bore nihilist, render 'to the end the deadlock of our predicament' as our death, and argue it as saying we should just accept things as they are and navel-gaze until we die.

 

The whole passage reeks of paternalistic condescension.  Zizek would have you believe that there's no way you could have thought it through and articulated viable and valuable ends - and the very pretension that you have done so is shameful.  You need to think more.  When does the navel-gazing stop?  Presumably when father Zizek agrees with your alternative.  But if he personally doesn't like the available alternatives, shame on you for actually wanting to do something.

 

Now, in the particular case of Greece, Zizek has a point insofar as neither option was a good option.  But his lionizing of paralytic refusal to make choices, even tough choices, is terrible philosophy.  Not making a choice is still a choice, it's just one that condemns us to a world worse than it could have been.

Edited by Squirrelloid
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More like: 'proposing a course of action often prevents deadlock-ending courses of action from developing'. Indeed, that's THE POINT of cosmetic reform. ('My morning cup of Starbucks coffee donates to charity, so I can table addressing my complicity in income inequality; the Dodd-Frank law passed, so I can go back to banking-as-usual; I make the world a little better'.) Noticing this enables Zizek to oppose the shameful paternalism with which the people of Greece are being smeared. To hold their refusal up as an ethical example means they've demonstrated a courage that we all could learn from - not merely specific to their situation, but instructive whenever we're compelled to choose between the lesser of two evils today. Yes, theirs was a choice, but it certainly wasn't a choice to navel-gaze. Anti-utilitarianism can be a heroic course-of-action.

 

As my sneering at card-fetishism implied, I don't think Zizek the Father's personal opinions are all-knowing: it's the principles he's espousing and their relevance for our time, not his credentials as a philosopher, that count. You must've also missed my subsequent post outlining 'Affirmative ground', since Zizek is similarly critical of anti-statists like Simon Critchley and for some of the same reasons you offer. But assuming that pointing out a contradiction isn't 'too philosophical', if doing nothing is still a choice, then it's not really doing nothing, now is it? Fiat is navel-gazing, the fantasy of being a magic wand-waving legislator. And 'thinking more' - for which I'm happy to see you acknowledge the need, however limitedly - is not nothing.

Edited by Lazzarone
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More like: 'proposing a course of action often prevents deadlock-ending courses of action from developing'. Indeed, that's THE POINT of cosmetic reform. ('My morning cup of Starbucks coffee donates to charity, so I can table addressing my complicity in income inequality; the Dodd-Frank law passed, so I can go back to banking-as-usual; I make the world a little better'.) Noticing this enables Zizek to oppose the shameful paternalism with which the people of Greece are being smeared. To hold their refusal up as an ethical example means they've demonstrated a courage that we all could learn from - not merely specific to their situation, but instructive whenever we're compelled to choose between the lesser of two evils today. Yes, theirs was a choice, but it certainly wasn't a choice to navel-gaze. Anti-utilitarianism can be a heroic course-of-action.

Or a destructive one. The question is how you tell the difference? Zizek's specific example is a particularly bad one for the obvious reason that a democratic referendum vote tells you nothing about the reasons for the electorate's decision. Did a majority of Greek voters rationally consider the possible consequences of a No vote, conclude that they were likely to be worse off with a No vote, and then voted No anyway? I highly doubt it. But in any case, if that's what your defending, it's not an answer to "no alternative" unless you actually defend that your inaction is preferable to the SQ for some reason. If your argument is, "The K will make things a worse in a utilitarian sense but you should vote Neg anyway because __________," you have to fill in the blank.

 

As my sneering at card-fetishism implied, I don't think Zizek the Father's personal opinions are all-knowing: it's the principles he's espousing and their relevance for our time, not his credentials as a philosopher, that count. You must've also missed my subsequent post outlining 'Affirmative ground', since Zizek is similarly critical of anti-statists like Simon Critchley and for some of the same reasons you offer. But assuming that pointing out a contradiction isn't 'too philosophical', if doing nothing is still a choice, then it's not really doing nothing, now is it? Fiat is navel-gazing, the fantasy of being a magic wand-waving legislator. And 'thinking more' - for which I'm happy to see you acknowledge the need, however limitedly - is not nothing.

Hmm...it's pretty much nothing. But if your form of policymaking is "do nothing, think...and a miracle will happen that solves our problems," you have to defend that. Maybe you've defend Greece's no vote--but you have to defend the probable consequences, including the likely increase in poverty and associated suffering, and the possibility of increased war and oppression. Your Zizek card/argument isn't a free pass to ignore consequences; i.e., case can still outweigh.

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The French Revolution was a bloodbath of petty squabbles, but what it meant for the rest of Europe and ultimately the world at large, as Kant noted at the time, was an end to the days of monarchy, a democratic leap forward. The true character of an event often occurs in its symbolic ripple-effects, not in its internal consistency or supposed authenticity. So to with the Greek referendum, rendering moot your elitist skepticism regarding voters' rationality.

 

I take the concept of 'inaction' at work above as incoherent ('not choosing is still a choice', et cetera). It's also vacuous, since no actual legislative action takes place at the end of a debate round. What you're weighing is reformist discourse versus critical discourse, both of which do next to nothing in terms of improving the status quo outside debate. However, debate's rewarding of certain kinds of rhetoric is an action - or as close to an action as debate gets, anyway. This is Kritik 101: any potential effects of in-round discourse outweigh imaginary solvency of all case harms.

 

This is not to say that pretending to pass laws isn't worth doing, but that, to return Edgehopper's argument in kind, "you actually have to defend that" as preferable. Preferable to pretending to advance ideas. Traditionally, Affirmatives pretend to be policymakers, and Negatives can pretend to be activist intellectuals - both are 'inactive' role-playing fantasies. What Zizek and Agamben are arguing for is precisely the courage to not believe that some "miracle will happen that solves our problems" - via either magic wand reforms from the top-down or grassroot catalysts from the bottom-up. This is Kritik 201: the first step is to censor our dreams.

 

Ta-Nehisi Coates appeared on 'The Daily Show' recently. Stu Leibowitz pointed out that Coates has been criticized as being 'more Malcolm than Martin' because of his disbelief in the notion that 'the arc of history is long but it bends towards justice'. When confronted with abject tragedies, both large and small, "we should not try to make ourselves feel better", said Coates, but should instead "sit with that pain". So, let's take a tragedy: the death of Eric Garner. Enter the policymakers: 'body cameras! improved police training!'. Enter the activists: 'take to the streets! peaceful protests!'. Both of these alternatives are optimistic, they make us feel better by providing us with "an uplifting hint at some version of the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel", to re-quote Zizek. Kritik 201 instead asks us to be brave enough to acknowledge that there may be no such light. 'Yes, but legislating body cameras has been empirically proven to reduce cop brutality', says the policymaker. 'Yes, but endorsing outrage effectuates real-world change in public consciousness', says the activist. 'We must do something!', they declare in unison. To which Coates and Zizek and Agamben reply: 'sit with the pain'. There's no alternative.

Edited by Lazzarone
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'Yes, but legislating body cameras has been empirically proven to reduce cop brutality', says the policymaker. 'Yes, but endorsing outrage effectuates real-world change in public consciousness', says the activist. 'We must do something!', they declare in unison. To which Coates and Zizek and Agamben reply: 'sit with the pain'. There's no alternative.

 

The problem is if we take either bold statement 1 or 2 to be true (or at the least, likely) then we've on face disproven bold statement 3. I think this debate needs a little more Derrida in it. Just because something like body cameras might not solve all aspects of police brutality, or that some cops might circumvent them doesn't mean that they should be rejected. If there is a net beneficial change to the status quo then that change should probably be endorsed. If there are additional failures later then we correct for them.

 

The problem is that arguments like this rely on a fatalistic lens through which change is viewed. Very rarely are reformers sated for long by these 'band aids.' The Civil Rights movement didn't collapse simply because they got a few concessions, and the legalization of gay marriage hasn't actually resulted in the disbandment of LBGT groups. True there may be momentary celebration but this is rarely the end of a movement. 

 

Recent movements like Occupy actually tend to show the opposite; it's the lack of clearly defined goals and alternatives that tend to rob critical advocacy of its potential. When all you can do is shout 'the 1% are mean' without any way to actually affect a material change in wealth re-distribution, your movement is going to falter as people become disillusioned with the lack of progress. 

 

I fail to see what exactly a 'politics of hopelessness' is supposed to accomplish. I realize that the idea of accomplishment is what's in question, but there's not really an alternative that's tenable. If all we are supposed to do is 'sit with the pain' then we fail to actually have any chance of overcoming a system. It seems unlikely that people shutting up and 'taking it' is going to ever result in radical transformation and instead seems more likely to doom people to systems of societal exploitation that legitimate slavery and the like. Why the hell does that sound like a good idea?

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Again, SnarkosaurusRex offers 101 responses in what I wish were a 201 debate world. First, you're not really solving anything, you're pretending to solve something. Fiat. Is. Illusory. So we're weighing two kinds of make-believe - a statist one and an activist one, both of which maintain a vested interest in not admitting that that's what they're doing. You must defend that your form of make-believe is superior; you all can't just keep re-stating that you're pretending to solve stuff.

 

Secondly, even if you are helping along real-world solvency (as kritiks often claim but even reflexively fiated affirmatives have been known to argue from time to time), this can serve to entrench the status quo instead of changing it. This is NOT an argument that mitigates solvency (to which 'don't make the perfect the enemy of the good' is indeed a valid response); rather, it concedes solvency and turns it. Jefferson Davis, the first president of the Confederacy, opposed the corporal punishment of slaves. His proposal, had it been universally adopted, might've made the lives of many slaves better. But it also might've helped to obfuscate the fundamental issue - that owning people is inherently wrong. Yes, post-Davis' law, the lives of slaves get better. Concede that. But this improvement functions to strengthen an abominable system. Both Marx and Foucault make similar critiques in terms of industrial capitalism and disciplinary institutions, respectively. Marx wrote about lightening factory work as an instrument of torture and Foucault wrote about the tactic of calculated leniency in schools, prisons, asylums, and so on. Similarly, surveilling cops (with body cameras) might obfuscate the underlying issue that a surveillance society is inherently wrong. When someone says 'we're taking one step forward and two steps back', it usually isn't very persuasive to reply, 'sure, but we're taking one step forward'.

 

Thirdly, there's something the above respondents just aren't getting about fetishism. Zizek relates the story of a man whose wife of some years suddenly passed away. At the funeral and after, the man appeared completely calm, didn't shed a tear, was even jovial as if nothing had happened. This left his friends and family perplexed: 'did he really love her? is he so cold? is he faking being happy for our benefit?'. Three months later a hamster that he and his wife shared as a pet died. The man subsequently had a nervous breakdown and fell into a long depression requiring hospitalization. The hamster = a fetish. It allowed the husband to disavow the reality of his grief, to act like everything was okay. Once the rodent was out of the picture, the floodgates of emotion he'd been holding back came gushing out...

 

In debate, 'fiat' is a fetish that disavows the reality of politics, 'cards' are fetishes that disavow the reality of opinions, and 'alts' are fetishes too. Alternatives allow us to act like everything's okay, they disavow the reality of abject conditions. But there is no longer any 'arch of history' for Eric Garner. As Coates said, Garner's arch is over. There's no alternative for him. Pretending to pass laws may make us feel good, may make us feel that we're doing something ameliorative, but what we're really doing is avoiding confrontation with brute facts. Adorno said to write poetry after Auschwitz was barbaric. So too to debate body cameras after Sandra Bland.

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Again, SnarkosaurusRex offers 101 responses in what I wish were a 201 debate world. First, you're not really solving anything, you're pretending to solve something. Fiat. Is. Illusory. So we're weighing two kinds of make-believe - a statist one and an activist one, both of which maintain a vested interest in not admitting that that's what they're doing. You must defend that your form of make-believe is superior; you all can't just keep re-stating that you're pretending to solve stuff.

 

 

Secondly, even if you are helping along real-world solvency (as kritiks often claim but even reflexively fiated affirmatives have been known to argue from time to time), this can serve to entrench the status quo instead of changing it. This is NOT an argument that mitigates solvency (to which 'don't make the perfect the enemy of the good' is indeed a valid response); rather, it concedes solvency and turns it. Jefferson Davis, the first president of the Confederacy, opposed the corporal punishment of slaves. His proposal, had it been universally adopted, might've made the lives of many slaves better. But it also might've helped to obfuscate the fundamental issue - that owning people is inherently wrong. Yes, post-Davis' law, the lives of slaves get better. Concede that. But this improvement functions to strengthen an abominable system. Both Marx and Foucault make similar critiques in terms of industrial capitalism and disciplinary institutions, respectively. Marx wrote about lightening factory work as an instrument of torture and Foucault wrote about the tactic of calculated leniency in schools, prisons, asylums, and so on. Similarly, surveilling cops (with body cameras) might obfuscate the underlying issue that a surveillance society is inherently wrong. When someone says 'we're taking one step forward and two steps back', it usually isn't very persuasive to reply, 'sure, but we're taking one step forward'.

 

Thirdly, there's something the above respondents just aren't getting about fetishism. Zizek relates the story of a man whose wife of some years suddenly passed away. At the funeral and after, the man appeared completely calm, didn't shed a tear, was even jovial as if nothing had happened. This left his friends and family perplexed: 'did he really love her? is he so cold? is he faking being happy for our benefit?'. Three months later a hamster that he and his wife shared as a pet died. The man subsequently had a nervous breakdown and fell into a long depression requiring hospitalization. The hamster = a fetish. It allowed the husband to disavow the reality of his grief, to act like everything was okay. Once the rodent was out of the picture, the floodgates of emotion he'd been holding back came gushing out...

 

In debate, 'fiat' is a fetish that disavows the reality of politics, 'cards' are fetishes that disavow the reality of opinions, and 'alts' are fetishes too. Alternatives allow us to act like everything's okay, they disavow the reality of abject conditions. But there is no longer any 'arch of history' for Eric Garner. As Coates said, Garner's arch is over. There's no alternative for him. Pretending to pass laws may make us feel good, may make us feel that we're doing something ameliorative, but what we're really doing is avoiding confrontation with brute facts. Adorno said to write poetry after Auschwitz was barbaric. So too to debate body cameras after Sandra Bland.

You know, if you spent a bit less time trying to find ways to articulate your condescension and a bit more time actually reading my response, then you might have realized that I wasn't indicting Zizek's politics from the standpoint of debate, but instead from a 'real world' perspective. You still have failed to advance a counter-example that actually ends up disproving the evidence from movements that I cited in my first post. Let's take a look at the world outside of the empty high theory you cite.

So, the LBGT movement pushed for gay marriage, and if you've been watching the news recently you might have seen that it actually panned out. Funny story though, just because there was one victory in the context of the law, doesn't mean that the movement has disbanded or even that the state has decided to just ignore their campaigns. Case in point is the recent push for the Equality Act in Congress: http://www.coloradoindependent.com/154552/equality-act-would-give-federal-protection-from-discrimination-to-lgbt-people

Or, let's take a look at the Civil Rights movement. If you check out this nice timeline here: http://www.infoplease.com/spot/civilrightstimeline1.html you'll see that even though the movement was able to secure legal victories....it still existed and pushed for more. Momentum didn't just collapse.

The problem with your advocacy is that it only makes sense from the perspective of a white male upper/middle class academic like Zizek. With a nice distance between one's own perspective and the lived experience of people who actually suffer under oppressive laws it would perhaps make sense that people would just 'give up' or 'forget' after a minor concession. The problem is that people actually tend to, you know, still realize that shit is pretty messed up and still tend to fight to better their own lives, as I've cited examples of here.

Edit: And let me pre-empt something by answering your Marx example. So he's writing about that stuff in the mid/late 1800's right? Guess what happened in the 1900's? People still weren't happy, and they pushed for and secured things like OSHA, labor union rights, and the 8 hour work day. And, even though we have all that nice stuff now, some people still aren't happy. Look at the minimum wage debate; people are pushing for $15 bucks an hour. And guess what? New York just adopted it, even in the face of all these pre-existing 'cosmetic reforms.' No revolution, but still got reforms passed in spite of previous concessions.

Edited by SnarkosaurusRex
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Rereading this thread, I think Lazarrone's condescension in later posts is more or less an act, although perhaps a badly done one. His 3rd post is entirely consistent with the position you're now defending, Snarko. So probably, what happened is that Lazarrone felt as though you were dismissing the possibility of a backfiring reform out of hand, and then he went overboard in wanting to make that position look legitimate, and so fell into condescension. Snarkosaurus, if you are willing to acknowledge that sometimes, theoretically, reforms can/do backfire, I think there is actually no substantive disagreement occurring here.

Lazarrone was condescending and hostile in using phrases like "Adorno said to write poetry after Auschwitz was barbaric. So too to debate body cameras after Sandra Bland", but I don't think they really meant it. Just reckless posturing, which is a mistake basically all debaters are inclined to make.

tldr why can't we be friends

also: thanks for the neg rep snarf! I'm pretty sure though that a good moderator would try to discourage unnecessary fighting, and not downvote those who make attempts to stop it. Can you please stop being recklessly mean to me? It's really fucking old. Everyone already understands that you hate me inexplicably, there is no point in you continuing to send out that signal.

Edited by Scarf
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My apologies, I made the mistake of grouping all the above replies as if they were arguing from the same traditional policymaker's paradigm, then replying with some pretty awful debate-speak. Felt like the 90s again. :blush: If I write in an opinionated, somewhat aggressive tone, it's out of the respect I have for those who'd even share an interest in replying to some white male upper-class academic's op-ed on a Sunday afternoon, nothing more.
 
On the nutmeat of hopelessness, entrenchment, and fetishism. To designate a task as Sisyphean does not mean we don't keep pushing the rock up the hill. That's the argument from Derrida: incompleteness is the very (im)possibility of democracy. All well and good. But to do away with fetishes does mean we deny ourselves the illusion that we're making progress in pushing that rock. It means we give up the grand historical arch of pragmatism whereby we see ourselves as incrementally improving our lot. Indeed, taking undue comfort in how un-cruel we are compared to our ancestors can serve to excuse laziness as well as our remaining blind to the invention of new forms of cruelty, as Marx and Foucault both pointed out.

But entrenchment is not simply about satiating the masses so we give up petitioning for further redresses of our grievances. The argument isn't: 'don't support gay marriage because then we'll stop there'. So concede: "[Marx's] writing about that stuff in the mid/late 1800's right? Guess what happened in the 1900's? People still weren't happy, and they pushed for and secured things like OSHA, labor union rights, and the 8 hour work day. And, even though we have all that nice stuff now, some people still aren't happy. Look at the minimum wage debate; people are pushing for $15 bucks an hour. And guess what? New York just adopted it, even in the face of all these pre-existing 'cosmetic reforms.'" And: "The Civil Rights movement didn't collapse simply because they got a few concessions, and the legalization of gay marriage hasn't actually resulted in the disbandment of LBGT groups." And: "So, the LBGT movement pushed for gay marriage, and if you've been watching the news recently you might have seen that it actually panned out. Funny story though, just because there was one victory in the context of the law, doesn't mean that the movement has disbanded or even that the state has decided to just ignore their campaigns. ...Momentum didn't just collapse."

The argument is rather: 'support gay marriage, if we must, but critically, without illusions, without hope or optimism'. Take the burgeoning scholarship on "homonationalism": Tel Aviv is supposedly the most gay-friendly city in the world, but these freedoms bequeathed to alternative sexualities occur in the context of the on-going occupation of Palestine. To radically mis-paraphrase Spivak, we have Israeli heterosexuals protecting Israeli homosexuals from Palestinian human beings. And the message of 'look how enlightened we are, see how our gays are allowed to marry and live openly' underwrites the colonialist narrative of Israel as bringing the light of Western reason to an otherwise backward region.
 
None of this means 'don't support gay rights'. It means: don't pretend that because we finally got around to it in 2015 that we've made an advance. We've instead conclusively demonstrated how un-advanced we are. And that ray of hope at the end of the tunnel, finally arrived at, might turn out to be the headlight of an oncoming train: has a more fundamental threat to rethinking human sexuality in general been effectively displaced, compartmentalized in stable identities like 'heterosexual' and 'homosexual'? Has normalization won the war on the heels of a victory for inclusion?
 
Speaking of, a train scene from Wes Anderson's 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'. Quite early in the film, "fascist assholes," in the words of concierge Monsieur Gustave H., disbelieving of the transit papers of a young refugee bell hop named Zero Moustafa, are about to arrest and possibly intern, deport and/or murder the lad. Gustave futilely resists on behalf of his colleague and companion. Before they're both hauled off, a whistle blows and Inspector Henckels enters the compartment. He recognizes Gustave as his kindhearted boyhood friend and orders their immediate release. After the authorities leave, Gustave confides to Zero:
 
You see? There are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity. Indeed, that’s what we provide in our own modest, humble, insignificant - (sighs deeply) Oh, fuck it.
 
A lot hangs in the subtext of that 'oh, fuck it'. One of Anderson's classic motifs is one which Richard Rorty would call 'contingency' (see specifically chapter 9 of Contingency, Irony, Solidarity). Despite all the high-minded spin one might apply, which Gustave catches himself rhetorically perfuming up, there was nothing fated about the outcome of their run-in with the cops. Fact is, Gustave and Zero almost ate a shit sandwich and got lucky to get away with only bloody noses. Admitting this interrupts Gustave's professed optimism: his belief that there's the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel ('faint glimmers of civilization in this barbaric slaughterhouse') as well as his belief that he's engaged in ameliorating things in his own local way. To me 'oh, fuck it' means more than simply acknowledging that a hotel manager's contribution to civilization is "insignificant", although that's the word on which he cuts off. It's that, had he not known the inspector, they'd both be arrested or dead by now. Recalling the recent intrusion precludes any lying to himself or his young companion, and from telling himself any soothing fictions. Anderson will revisit that motif of tragic contingency in the waning moments of the film when Zero recounts: "[My wife] and our infant son would be killed two years later by the Prussian grippe. An absurd little disease - today we treat it in a single week, but, in those days many millions died."
 

I watched a moving documentary last night, 'Larry Kramer in Love & Anger'. In part, it tells the story of gay activists embroiled in the AIDS plague from the late 70s on. Hundreds, then thousands became infected and perished while the rest of the country displayed willful homophobic ignorance. It's difficult to contend these activists were trying to make progress; they were just trying to survive. They couldn't watch their friends die and do nothing. They were forced to scream 'Help!' at the top of their lungs. As Zizek riffs on repeatedly: "The will to revolutionary change emerges as an urge, as an 'I cannot do it otherwise', or it is worthless. With regard to Bernard Williams's distinction between Ought and Must, an authentic revolution is by definition performed as a Must - it is not something we 'ought to do' as an ideal we are striving for, but something we cannot but to, since we cannot do it otherwise." Now, we might say, as many do today, 'look how far we've come, look how much better things are for gay people, including those living with AIDS'. But this is precisely the wrong lesson. The point is, we almost didn't make it! So many didn't! How could a disease like AIDS ravage us in the 20th century, in the most advanced country on earth, while supposedly decent people sat on their hands? To self-congratulatory retroactive narrativizations we should say: 'oh, fuck it'. That's in part what 'sitting with the pain' means. That's what the 'courage of hopelessness' entails. It's what reformism absolves too quickly.
 

SnarkosaurusRex: "If there is a net beneficial change to the status quo then that change should probably be endorsed. If there are additional failures later then we correct for them."

 
This encapsulates the linear progressivism which has failed us and with which we must dispense. To make an analogy to notions of scientific progress, this seeming common wisdom is essentially pre-Kuhnian. Firstly, it adopts the state's perspective (cross-apply all the fiat-fetishism stuff above, which is relevant even for real-world discussions, no thanks to competitive debate). Second, it must take entrenchment/tradeoff with other struggles into account (which still means, of course, that naysayers must demonstrate that the change is actually not net beneficial). Thirdly, there really isn't some big cumulative arch. Derrida was THE philosopher for demystifying false totalities: Nietzsche scribbled "I have forgotten my umbrella" in the margins of one of his notebooks, and Derida suggested that we understand that sentence as much as we understand any sentence in Nietzsche. That means we're not getting a better understanding of Nietzsche as time goes on, we're just going through different phases of interpretation. Well, as with hermeneutics, so to with history. I'm glad I'll never die from the "Prussian grippe" but Zero's darling Agatha would never have died from the radioactive fallout of a faulty nuclear reactor, for example, while everyone reading this certainly could.
 
But most importantly for this discussion, in the words of Malcolm X, “You don't stick a knife in a man's back nine inches and then pull it out six inches and say you're making progress." So I vehemently disagree with the reformist dismissal of Occupy Wall Street, the claim that its 'lack of clearly defined goals and alternatives robbed it of its potential' - not only because OWS has been working assiduously across the country to keep people in their homes when faced with foreclosure notices, among other necessary tasks, and not only because such an attitude lets the rest of the country off the hook for its lack of solidarity. But also:

 

There is, in the end, no “realistic alternative,” nor any “utopian project” that can avoid the pervasive regulatory mechanisms that are necessary to organize a complex late-modern economy — and that’s the point. The vast and distributive regulatory framework will neither disappear with deregulation, nor with the withering of a socialist state. What is required is constant vigilance of all the micro and macro rules that permeate our markets, our contracts, our tax codes, our banking regulations, our property laws — in sum, all the ordinary, often mundane, but frequently invisible forms of laws and regulations that are required to organize and maintain a colossal economy in the 21st-century and that constantly distribute wealth and resources.  In the end, if the concept of “political disobedience” accurately captures this new political paradigm, then the resistance movement needs to occupy Zuccotti Park because levels of social inequality and the number of children in poverty are intolerable. Or, to put it another way, the movement needs to resist partisan politics and worn-out ideologies because the outcomes have become simply unacceptable. The Volcker rule, debt relief for working Americans, a tax on the wealthy — those might help, but they represent no more than a few drops in the bucket of regulations that distribute and redistribute wealth and resources in this country every minute of every day. Ultimately, what matters to the politically disobedient is the kind of society we live in, not a handful of policy demands.

 

And:
 

What one should resist at this stage is precisely such a quick translation of the energy of the protest into a set of “concrete” pragmatic demands. Yes, the protests did create a vacuum – a vacuum in the field of hegemonic ideology, and time is needed to fill this vacuum in a proper way, since it is a pregnant vacuum, an opening for the truly New.  The protesters are occupying streets and parks because they have had enough of a world where recycling Coke cans, giving a couple of dollars for charity, or buying a Starbucks cappuccino where 1 percent goes for the Third World troubles is enough to make them feel good. After seeing work and torture outsourced, after matchmaking agencies even started to outsource dating, they realized they had been allowing their political engagement to also be outsourced – and they want it back.  The art of politics is to insist on a particular demand that while thoroughly “realistic” also disturbs the very core of the hegemonic ideology, i.e. which, while definitely feasible and legitimate, is de facto impossible (universal healthcare in the United States was such a case). As the Wall Street protests continue, we should mobilize people around such demands.  At the same time it is important to simultaneously remain subtracted from the pragmatic field of negotiations and “realist” proposals. Everything we say now can be taken (recuperated) from us – everything except our silence. This silence, this rejection of dialogue, of all forms of clinching, is ominous and threatening to the establishment, as it should be.  Wall Street protests are a beginning, and one has to begin like that. A formal gesture of rejection is more important than positive content, because only such a gesture opens up the space for a new content. So we should not be terrorized by the perennial question: “But what do they want?” After all, this is the archetypal question addressed by a male master to a hysterical woman: “You whine and you complain, but do you know at all what you really want?” In the psychoanalytic sense, the protests effectively are a hysterical act, provoking the master, undermining his authority. And the question “But what do you want?” aims precisely to preclude the true answer – its real purpose is: “Tell it in my terms or shut up!"

 

Only utilitarians exhibit the arrogance of assuming they're the only game in town. Notice again this is not an argument for 'inaction'. As already stated, that's incoherent, since we cannot help but act. And Zizek advocates above for strategically well-selected demands. This is instead an argument for a new mode of weighing those demands as worthwhile, while letting go of those fantasies which permit us to view the slow march through institutions as our Manifest Destiny.

 

One can be a hopeless case and still act. I prove that everyday. :wavey:

Edited by Lazzarone
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Lazzarone,

 

The problem is that as defined in your last post, none of this is an answer to--and in fact it supports--"perm do both," if we go back to the original argument that this card/idea is an answer to a "No Alt" argument.

 

As you say, "The argument is rather: 'support gay marriage, if we must, but critically, without illusions, without hope or optimism'.". That's a classic perm do both answer to a K--that is, "Adopt Neg's K and do the plan." And I don't see any reason to vote Neg in a round where Neg makes that argument and Aff correctly points out that we're still saying the plan is a good idea; I.e., you've got a lot of theory work to do to convince a judge that "do the plan but think differently about it" justifies a Neg ballot.

 

Now, being the reactionary libertarian that I am, I also think a number of your examples are empirically, factually wrong, but it would be jumping down an unnecessary side-issue to address most of them. But answering some of them does relevantly support my point, so...

 

Take the burgeoning scholarship on "homonationalism": Tel Aviv is supposedly the most gay-friendly city in the world, but these freedoms bequeathed to alternative sexualities occur in the context of the on-going occupation of Palestine. To radically mis-paraphrase Spivak, we have Israeli heterosexuals protecting Israeli homosexuals from Palestinian human beings. And the message of 'look how enlightened we are, see how our gays are allowed to marry and live openly' underwrites the colonialist narrative of Israel as bringing the light of Western reason to an otherwise backward region.

Assuming you consider both "Israeli colonialism" and oppression of gays as evil, though, you have to pick a lesser of two evils (this one's easy for me, because I don't consider Israel a colonialist oppressor). You can in practice oppose both, but the choice as to whether or not to support a given policy option is a yes or no choice. You can support a policy option without supporting the underlying government (and that's really common when talking about Israeli domestic policy). You can refuse to support anything, but as Rush sang, "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." You have to acknowledge reality, and in this case, the reality is that for whatever sins you believe Israel is guilty of, it is undisputed that Palestine harshly oppresses its gay citizens/subjects (and that Iran and Saudi Arabia are even worse) while Israel is about as tolerant as most Western European nations. Supporting Palestinian sovereignty inherently supports oppression of gays. Choose and defend a lesser evil.

 

Now, we might say, as many do today, 'look how far we've come, look how much better things are for gay people, including those living with AIDS'. But this is precisely the wrong lesson. The point is, we almost didn't make it! So many didn't! How could a disease like AIDS ravage us in the 20th century, in the most advanced country on earth, while supposedly decent people sat on their hands? To self-congratulatory retroactive narrativizations we should say: 'fuck it!'. That's in part what 'sitting with the pain' means. That's what the 'courage of hopelessness' entails. It's what reformism absolves too quickly.

Well, it wasn't academics preaching the value of hopelessness or activists yelling in the streets that solved the problem. It was scientists in labs who figured out the combination of medicines that turned HIV from a death sentence to an asymptomatic manageable disease. And HIV wasn't an invention of devious oppressors; it was a virus that mutated naturally into a form particularly deadly to the gay male community of the 70s and 80s. The lesson of AIDS, if anything, is that you solve technical problems by using science and technology, not through political activism. If anything, ideology was a barrier to solving AIDS, because absent a medical cure, the only solution--avoiding promiscuous unprotected sex--was anathema to the sexual revolutionaries of the 70s and 80s. in debate terms, perm do both solved the problem; hopelessness would have exterminated the gay community.

 

What one should resist at this stage is precisely such a quick translation of the energy of the protest into a set of “concrete” pragmatic demands. Yes, the protests did create a vacuum – a vacuum in the field of hegemonic ideology, and time is needed to fill this vacuum in a proper way, since it is a pregnant vacuum, an opening for the truly New. The protesters are occupying streets and parks because they have had enough of a world where recycling Coke cans, giving a couple of dollars for charity, or buying a Starbucks cappuccino where 1 percent goes for the Third World troubles is enough to make them feel good. After seeing work and torture outsourced, after matchmaking agencies even started to outsource dating, they realized they had been allowing their political engagement to also be outsourced – and they want it back. The art of politics is to insist on a particular demand that while thoroughly “realistic” also disturbs the very core of the hegemonic ideology, i.e. which, while definitely feasible and legitimate, is de facto impossible (universal healthcare in the United States was such a case). As the Wall Street protests continue, we should mobilize people around such demands. At the same time it is important to simultaneously remain subtracted from the pragmatic field of negotiations and “realist” proposals. Everything we say now can be taken (recuperated) from us – everything except our silence. This silence, this rejection of dialogue, of all forms of clinching, is ominous and threatening to the establishment, as it should be. Wall Street protests are a beginning, and one has to begin like that. A formal gesture of rejection is more important than positive content, because only such a gesture opens up the space for a new content. So we should not be terrorized by the perennial question: “But what do they want?” After all, this is the archetypal question addressed by a male master to a hysterical woman: “You whine and you complain, but do you know at all what you really want?” In the psychoanalytic sense, the protests effectively are a hysterical act, provoking the master, undermining his authority. And the question “But what do you want?” aims precisely to preclude the true answer – its real purpose is: “Tell it in my terms or shut up!"

It's nice that you think that "This silence, this rejection of dialogue, of all forms of clinching, is ominous and threatening to the establishment, as it should be." As one of the establishment who lived next to OWS and worked on Broadway, I'll tell you flat out--no, it's not ominous and threatening to us at all! It let us dismiss you as a bunch of juvenile idiots who just wanted to go stink up a park for a few months. And it alienated your potential allies; Lower Manhattan may be rich, but it's full of cosmopolitan lefties mimicking the nostrums they learned at Ivy League schools, and when this began, they sympathized with you! 2 months later, they were tired of you, so Bloomberg was able to order in the cops and no one cared any more. You lost because you offered no alternative, no plan, and so you could never make any progress. Because if you don't offer an alternative we can discuss, my only response as the so-called oppressor is to defend myself. The left never seems to understand that when they want to turn politics into war, the right will fight back!

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This thread is still going on?  To be honest, i lost all interest when Lazzarone continued to fail to understand what fiat actually is, and continued to pretend we were roleplaying lawmakers.  No one believes that except K hacks who want to attack fiat.  (And I don't mean K hack as simply 'likes Ks'.)  

 

Scott Harris wrote a ballot that I'm sure everyone has read by this point.  He's rather elegant when describing what's actually going on in a policy-focused round.  I can't be bothered to answer nonsense if people can't be bothered to abandon their strawmen.

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This thread is still going on?  To be honest, i lost all interest when Lazzarone continued to fail to understand what fiat actually is, and continued to pretend we were roleplaying lawmakers.  No one believes that except K hacks who want to attack fiat.  (And I don't mean K hack as simply 'likes Ks'.)  

 

Scott Harris wrote a ballot that I'm sure everyone has read by this point.  He's rather elegant when describing what's actually going on in a policy-focused round.  I can't be bothered to answer nonsense if people can't be bothered to abandon their strawmen.

Eh, it morphed into something a little more interesting on the last post, where the problem is now either confusion as to why "accept the policy but think differently about whether it 'solves'" justifies a Neg rather than Aff ballot, or the more general problem of how leftist critiques suggest a never ending war without compromise until utopia is reached.

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Ah, and we're back to debate-speak...
 
Well, so long as we're being nerdy, I'm a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was thinking specifically of the episode, 'Data's Day', which is the only one the emotion-less android voice-overs. Seems that his friend Keiko Ishikawa was getting cold feet before her upcoming wedding to Chief Miles O'Brien. When Data drops in on her before the rehearsal dinner, she tells him she's unhappy, that calling off the wedding would alleviate this unhappiness, and asks him to break the news to Miles. Under the assumption that making Keiko happy will in turn make her partner happy, Data tells Miles:

Keiko has made a decision designed to increase her happiness. She has cancelled the wedding.

 

Miles storms out of the room furiously, and Data is at a loss as to why. Arguing with policy debaters, I feel for the Chief.
 

On "Perm: Do Both". Once you concede that in-round discourse outweighs imaginary solvency of case harms, what you solve for becomes vastly less important than the implications of your argumentation. That is, if you advocate a good policy for the wrong reasons, you can still lose. Say you propose a ban on the practice of body cavity searches for federal inmates. You've got a card in the 1AC from some prison official that says 'body cavity searches seldom find any contraband anyway'. Sounds innocent enough to a wannabe policymaker. To an adept wannabe Foucauldian, you're a goner. A., you've sourced a prison official as an authority. B., you've repeated their notion of what 'contraband' is. C., you've suggested that if body cavity searches actually worked, this would be a reasonable argument for the practice, which puts our opposition to it on no firmer basis than not finding evidence contradicting your card tomorrow. All of those are independent voting issues, and that's a single card. 'Do Both' would thereby necessitate severing out of the case-as-made in essential respects, bringing theoretical unfairness into play. And that's before we approach the question of whether advocacies should be reducible to capture merely by breathing the word 'perm'. If you're simply saying 'our positions aren't mutually exclusive', fine. But you must defend more than plan-action, you also must defend the way you defend the plan. 'Rethink, then do plan' is among the basest of incoherent stupidities that fiat-fetishism can unleash upon the debate game.

In all likelihood, the perm would serve as a new link to the kritik - a strategy of appeasement with which activists of all stripes are all too familiar and Zizek talks about elsewhere at length. The tenets of gradual reformism are likely to be embedded in any first Affirmative working within parameters that Edgehopper or Squirrelloid find acceptable, only to be further exposed as any such round developed, just as in this thread. More specific to 'the courage of hopelessness', one can be forgiven for proposing that something must be done, but we can't forget when one claims to make Progress. The criteria by which a given demand (not a hypothetically-enacted USFG policy, but a demand) is strategically well-selected isn't whether there's any net beneficial improvement to the status quo, but whether the proposed course-of-action helps crack the legitimacy of the established order. That's a horse of a different mode of evaluation. And as I should've clarified between SnarkosaurusRex and Edgehopper/Squirrelloid, when you're pretending to do something (i.e., fiating), there's only the risk of a feel-good tranquilizing substitute for real change.
 
On Occupy Wall Street. The unwashed masses of Zuccotti who had the guts to upend their lives to form part of an Event accomplished something unfathomably more valuable than pretending to be president for a day. Again, standing too close to such Events (see my analogy to the French Revolution and its reactionary critics), one can miss the Forest for the tree-huggers. If OWS only clarified the battle-lines, then that's still something: you can keep your rich liberals and their snobbish, effete dismissiveness; I'll side with the smellies.
 
On AIDS activism. Edgehopper wrote:

Well, it wasn't academics preaching the value of hopelessness or activists yelling in the streets that solved the problem. It was scientists in labs who figured out the combination of medicines that turned HIV from a death sentence to an asymptomatic manageable disease. And HIV wasn't an invention of devious oppressors; it was a virus that mutated naturally into a form particularly deadly to the gay male community of the 70s and 80s. The lesson of AIDS, if anything, is that you solve technical problems by using science and technology, not through political activism. If anything, ideology was a barrier to solving AIDS, because absent a medical cure, the only solution--avoiding promiscuous unprotected sex--was anathema to the sexual revolutionaries of the 70s and 80s. in debate terms, perm do both solved the problem; hopelessness would have exterminated the gay community.

 

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, so wrong, and the doctors who discovered the drugs you're referring to credit organizations like GMHC and ACT UP for literally revolutionizing the medical bureaucracy that dragged its feet while hundreds of thousands became infected and died. In the documentary I mentioned, Anthony Fauci, director at the NIAID in the 80s, said 'there's medicine pre-Larry Kramer and medicine post-Larry Kramer'. Kramer, incidentally, outspokenly advocated abstinence to the gay community before the details of how AIDS was transmitted were ever known. If handing out smallpox blankets was genocidal, then so too was the homophobic reaction of this country to 'the gay cancer'. The lesson of AIDS is we cannot count on decency or compassion from the powers-that-be, strong activists' lungs must exist to instruct them. And there was little hopeful about such activism either: it was a self-sacrificing act of desperation, an I-cannot-do-otherwise (following Bernard Williams' critique of utilitarianism). So for them especially, there was no alternative. Please, please watch.

 
On NDT Finals 2013. While Scott Harris' tangent about "role-playing" sounds gumptiously persuasive, after scrutiny, it amounts to semantics:
 
I do not play being the owner of the Chiefs when I argue with my friends about who they should take with the first pick in this year's NFL draft. ...If I argue with someone about whether or not the government should use torture or drone strikes I can do that and form opinions without ever role playing that I am part of the government.

Of course. But let's say one wanted to make a case for an NFL draft pick that one doesn't believe the Chiefs should take. We would then say, without error: 'Scott is playing devil's advocate'. Well, that's what switch-sides debating is all about. Competitors need not personally believe in their arguments, and even if they happen to, it's still taken as given that their arguments are strategically-motivated to win ballots. Hence, they're switch-siding role-playing argument-gamers.

Furthermore, the concept of 'fiat', traditionally understood, adds another layer of meaning to the term "role-playing", since the concept necessarily implies the following unarticulated constituent (continuing with Harris' analogy): 'If I were the owner of the Chiefs, I would...' (presumably, 'pick player X first, player Y second', et cetera). Obviously you're not pretending to be Scott Harris or Kevin Sanchez in that moment because neither Scott Harris nor Kevin Sanchez (so far as I know) have any NFL draft picks.

Though a useful limit on sports-talk (one doesn't want to waste time discussing draft picks the Chiefs can't possibly make), this places the advocate, devilish or no, in the role of the owner of the Chiefs - or, more generally, of the institution. Yes, one is still only ever a fan. You're a fan engaged in a tiny, harmless imagination game. But, turning back to policy discussions, this tends to imply a state-centric focus. And this can blinker political discourse. In fact, it's because I wholeheartedly agree with Harris' emboldened sentence above that I find the traditional notion of fiat so insidiously disempowering. Why play the role of the federal government when one could play the role of citizens demanding it to act?...

First, it's often worthwhile to advocate policies which the USFG can't immediately enact. Not only is 'immediate passage' usually a non sequitur in street-level political conversation (for instance, when discussing the merits of a specific federal policy, I rarely hear anyone say that the President can't sign it into law right now because it might hurt his political capital to pass something else; the reply would likely be: 'ookay, that doesn't explain why it's a bad law'), but more significantly, it's the job of activists and the public-at-large to apply pressure to decision-makers even in those instances when nothing can practicably be done by them. Perhaps there's not an instantaneous military solution to ISIS, but that doesn't permit military leaders to dismiss our growing concerns about that terrorist organization. Story goes, after FDR's election in 1932, he met with labor leaders and civil rights activists who asked him to implement a radical agenda for its time, to which he replied: 'I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it'. Whatever its veracity, the quote suggests that even in cases in which the political climate seems impossibly hostile, one should still build momentum for the future. See SnarkosaurusRex's posts above regarding the gay rights movement.

Indeed, this interpretation of the affirmative role (there's that pesky word again) is true-in-spirit to the underlying concept of fiat/inherency, because, all things being equal, arguing that a course-of-action won't happen is not a sufficient retort as to whether it should happen. But, again, whether you're pretending to be policymakers or pretending to be activists, in the context of a debate round, you're still pretending (even when 'performing'), and my vision of debate is a home for such make-believe, a simulated argumentative world, a safe place to try out rhetorical moves.
 

So I also agree with Harris that the ballot does not function as 'intellectual endorsement' - though we can surely pretend that it does to settle a debate round, just as we can pretend to pass laws to do likewise. The judge decides who won the debate based on the arguments as they lay and, in this sense, a judge's hands ought to be tied. To vote up a team simply because you agree or disagree with one of their positions is the most vulgar violation of the judge's job. And this foundational principle of so-called 'non-interventionism' holds even in debates about debate, like the one in question, which may potentially effectuate actual change in the way the debate world evolves. Scott Harris' ballot was an admirable example in this regard. Because if the calculus a judge uses to decide a round is ever the same as the one participants use to decide whether to applaud or stand for a team at an award's ceremony, then competitive debate as I appreciated it will be over.

In sum, semantic disagreements aside, my use of the term "role-playing" is meant to convey a similar sentiment to the one movingly expressed in Harris' published ballot: "To me one of the most important lessons that debate teaches is that there is a difference between our arguments and our personhood." To me this difference should be emblazoned on the format itself.

 

___

 

Addendum. An interview one useless Leftist academic gave during the brutal Communist crackdown of street protests organized by Solidarity in 1982 Poland:

 

Let's take an example that touches us all, that of Poland. If we raise the question of Poland in strictly political terms, it's clear that we quickly reach the point of saying there's nothing we can do. We can't dispatch a team of paratroopers, and we can't send armored cars to liberate Warsaw. I think that, politically, we have to recognize this, but I think we also agree that, for ethical reasons, we have to raise the problem of Poland in the form of a nonacceptance of what is happening there, and a nonacceptance of the passivity of our own governments. I think this attitude is an ethical one, but it is also political; it does not consist in saying merely, "I protest," but in making of that attitude a political phenomenon that is as substantial as possible, and one which those who govern, here or there, will sooner or later be obliged to take into account.
Edited by Lazzarone
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I really want to crystallize the distinction between the two modes of evaluation we're discussing, because naive policy debaters might see a 'distinction without a difference' and skilled policy debaters might deliberately muddy the waters. We're trying to distinguish between endorsement of any net beneficial reform to the status quo versus endorsement of what Zizek refers to as 'strategically well-selected demands' (or, to cite a little Habermas, those proposals which may provoke legitimation crises). Utilitarians are apt to run both together as endorsements of action and then quickly consult the gauges on their 'greater good'-meters. Is the difference only whether one identifies with the USFG or identifies with the so-called people? Well, that's part of it, but watching 'Snowpiercer' recently (I sadly missed the graphic novel) reminded me of a few aphorisms by William S. Burroughs which may help send the point home. Burroughs, "The Limits of Control":

Consider a control situation: ten people in a lifeboat. Two armed self-appointed leaders force the other eight to do the rowing while they dispose of the food and water, keeping most of it for themselves and doling out only enough to keep the other eight rowing. The two leaders now need to exercise control to maintain an advantageous position which they could not hold without it. Here the method of control is force - the possession of guns. Decontrol would be accomplished by overpowering the leaders and taking their guns. This effected, it would be advantageous to kill them at once. So once embarked on a policy of control, the leaders must continue the policy as a matter of self-preservation. Who, then, needs to control others but those who protect by such control a position of relative advantage? Why do they need to exercise control? Because they would soon lose this position and advantage and in many cases their lives as well, if they relinquished control.

Now examine the reasons by which control is exercised in the lifeboat scenario: the two leaders are armed, let's say, with .38 revolvers - twelve shots and eight potential opponents. They can take turns sleeping. However, they must still exercise care not to let the eight rowers know that they intend to kill them when land is sighted. Even in this primitive situation force is supplemented with deception and persuasion. The leaders will disembark at point A, leaving the other sufficient food to reach point B, they explain. They have the compass and they are contributing their navigational skills. In short they will endeavor to convince the others that this is a cooperative enterprise in which they are all working for the same goal. They may also make concessions: increase food and water rations. A concession of course means the retention of control - that is, the disposition of the food and water supplies. By persuasions and by concessions they hope to prevent a concerted attack by the eight rowers.

Actually they intend to poison the drinking water as soon as they leave the boat. If all the rowers knew this they would attack, no matter what the odds. We now see that another essential factor in control is to conceal from the controlled the actual intentions of the controllers. Extending the lifeboat analogy to the Ship of State, few existing governments could withstand a sudden, all-out attack by all their underprivileged citizens, and such an attack might well occur if the intentions of certain existing governments were unequivocally apparent. Suppose the lifeboat leaders had built a barricade and could withstand a concerted attack and kill all eight of the rowers if necessary. They would then have to do the rowing themselves and neither would be safe from the other. Similarly, a modern government armed with heavy weapons and prepared for attack could wipe out ninety-five percent of its citizens. But who would do the work, and who would protect them from the soldiers and technicians needed to make and man the weapons? Successful control means achieving a balance and avoiding a showdown where all-out force would be necessary. This is achieved through various techniques of psychological control, also balanced. The techniques of both force and psychological control are constantly improved and refined, and yet worldwide dissent has never been so widespread or so dangerous to the present controllers.

 

What we rowers need to work on, in short, is a concession that looks innocent enough to potentially pass the controllers' approval but will ultimately give us the upper hand - that is, a strategically well-selected demand. To accept just any beneficial change means accepting concessions that disadvantage us, "the retention of control". It conceives of the situation as "a cooperative enterprise in which [we're] all working for the same goal". That presumption, whether avowed or unconscious, is Ideology - the schoolteacher propaganda in 'Snowpiercer'. This is why Badiou declared that the main enemy today isn't capitalism, but liberalism - the rule-of-law semblance that 'we're all in this together'. This adds concrete to the Deleuzian thesis that we live in 'societies of control'. To act whilst hopeless, therefore, means not giving up even though we may never reach the shoreline. Resistance is a must, not an ought, and doesn't depend on some bright future. Such a shift of perspective exposes the absurdity of being asked the question 'what's your alternative to being forced to row by two guys with .38 revolvers?', or, edited for brevity, 'what's the alternative?'.

 

In any case, beware ideologues bearing 'perms'.

Edited by Lazzarone
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I really want to crystallize the distinction between the two modes of evaluation we're discussing, because naive policy debaters might see a 'distinction without a difference' and skilled policy debaters might deliberately muddy the waters. We're trying to distinguish between endorsement of any net beneficial reform to the status quo versus endorsement of what Zizek refers to as 'strategically well-selected demands' (or, to cite a little Habermas, those proposals which may provoke legitimation crises). Utilitarians are apt to run both together as endorsements of action and then quickly consult the gauges on their 'greater good'-meters. Is the difference only whether one identifies with the USFG or identifies with the so-called people? Well, that's part of it, but watching 'Snowpiercer' recently (I sadly missed the graphic novel) reminded me of a few aphorisms by William S. Burroughs which may help send the point home. Burroughs, "The Limits of Control":

 

 

What we rowers need to work on, in short, is a concession that looks innocent enough to potentially pass the controllers' approval but will ultimately give us the upper hand - that is, a strategically well-selected demand. To accept just any beneficial change means accepting concessions that disadvantage us, "the retention of control". It conceives of the situation as "a cooperative enterprise in which [we're] all working for the same goal". That presumption, whether avowed or unconscious, is Ideology - the schoolteacher propaganda in 'Snowpiercer'. This is why Badiou declared that the main enemy today isn't capitalism, but liberalism - the rule-of-law semblance that 'we're all in this together'. This adds concrete to the Deleuzian thesis that we live in 'societies of control'. To act whilst hopeless, therefore, means not giving up even though we may never reach the shoreline. Resistance is a must, not an ought, and doesn't depend on some bright future. Such a shift of perspective exposes the absurdity of being asked the question 'what's your alternative to being forced to row by two guys with .38 revolvers?', or, edited for brevity, 'what's the alternative?'.

 

In any case, beware ideologues bearing 'perms'.

 

I kind of feel like that approach puts the burden of proof backwards. You would say that unless there is good reason to think that an improvement would be strategic we shouldn't make it, but my perspective is that unless there's good reason to think an improvement would be a strategic misstep it should be made. I am entrenched in liberalism, I suppose. Though you've claimed it repeatedly, I don't think you've actually justified the idea that thoughts of revolution should be our strategic priority when evaluating policies. You've given reasons it matters, but not reasons it matters more than anything else does. You disdainfully say that it's "common sense" that good policies should be enacted, but surely this is more a reason to support the heuristic than condemn it, right? GK Chesterton weeps. I think my stance makes more sense, because very few would-be revolutionaries exist and are on the fence right now, and also to the extent that you have a desperate need for new recruits, your alternative probably wasn't ever going to solve anyways.

 

From your perspective, shouldn't we be trying to make people's problems worse? That would be strategically beneficial, if you're right that generally happiness causes complacency. I don't see much difference between spending effort trying to stop the government from doing good things and spending effort trying to get the government to do bad things.

 

Actually, screw the government, I don't want to use the state lest the state uses me in return. We'll do this directly, and get a group of people together who as a hobby try to make other people unhappy. We could call ourselves unhappy-ists, or something.  We could do terrible things, and then try to get the media to show our actions to as many people as possible, to spread that unhappiness and fear further. "We've ruined your day, now come and join us!" would be our recruiting pitch, it would be very persuasive to the vast majority of people, I am sure. As a side effect, maybe if we're ever lucky enough to achieve something real big, the government would pass a bunch of bad laws intended to stop us, incidentally diverting their time away from passing good laws, which of course would work out great for our original aims as well as the newer ones. How come no one else has thought of this before? This plan sounds perfect and as though there is no possibility whatsoever of it having outside side effects that backfire.

Edited by Scarf
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'The burden of proof', as typically understood, is on the Affirmative, correct? So to automatically vote Affirmative unless successfully negated would seem to have things "backwards" from a traditional policymaking framework - though admittedly I'm no expert.

 

Justifying the idea that revolutionary class-consciousness should be our strategic starting-point takes up entire books, whole traditions even - one reason Zizek's tomes are so fat (without a 'ph-'). Of course we should remain suspicious of anything which passes for 'common sense' in a society with a ruling class, but Burroughs' 'cognitive mapping' of the lifeboat-situation would likely strike many as at least moderately commonsensical - even if the majority of the rowers bought the deceptions of the dudes carrying .38s. The fact that they're in charge colors everything else, even basic needs such as water and food. Likewise, the fact that we're ruled colors even supposedly 'apolitical' concerns, such as human rights (see Zizek's emboldened sentence below). It's certainly no historical accident that there are so few revolutionaries. Moreover, since the initial article posted on this thread says we should have the courage to think and act critically without an alternative, arguing that "your alternative probably wasn't ever going to solve anyways" falls under the heading of 'conceded'. Not that we should therefore make things horribly worse - that was the mistake of some German communists in the 1930s who reasoned: 'let's allow Hitler to come to power, then the people will get a good look at what unrestrained capitalism is and, voilà, revolution!'. Some disastrous falls are simply too high to take. Letting all the rowers get shot is no kind of alternative either.

 

I've tried to sketch out a mode of evaluation that leaves room for both affirmative and negative roles, which is why your satire applies more to a thinker like Simon Critchley than it does to Zizek proper: http://cedadebate.org/pipermail/mailman/2009-April/077523.html. That said, as self-admittedly beholden to the fetish of liberalism as you are, Scarf, reasoning like yours wouldn't have gotten us passed the fourth car of the Snowpiercer train. To paraphrase Deleuze, it's up to us all to discover what we're being made to serve, as well as, I would add, what we're being served.

 

_

 

An ideology is thus not necessarily ‘false’: as to its positive content, it can be ‘true’, quite accurate, since what really matters is not the asserted content as such, but the way this content is related to the subjective position implied by its own process of enunciation. We are within ideological space proper the moment this content—‘true’ or ‘false’ (if true, so much the better for the ideological effect)—is functional with regard to some relation of social domination (‘power’, ‘exploitation’) in an inherently non-transparent way: the very logic of legitimizing the relation of domination must remain concealed if it is to be effective. In other words, the starting point of the critique of ideology has to be full acknowledgment of the fact that it is easily possible to lie in the guise of truth. When, for example, some Western power intervenes in a Third World country on account of violations of human rights, it may well be ‘true’ that in this country the most elementary human rights were not respected, and that the Western intervention will effectively improve the human rights record; yet such a legitimization none the less remains ‘ideological’ in so far as it fails to mention the true motives of the intervention (economic interests, etc.).

 

-- "The Spectre of Ideology", The Žižek Reader (1999, page 61).
 

When Alain Badiou claims that democracy is our fetish, this statement is to be taken in the precise Freudian sense, not just to mean that we elevate democracy into an untouchable Absolute. ‘Democracy’ is the last thing we see before confronting the ‘lack’ constitutive of the social field, the trauma of social antagonism. When confronted with the reality of domination and exploitation, of brutal social struggle, we say, ‘Yes, but we have democracy!’ as if that were enough to ensure that we can resolve or at least regulate struggle, preventing it from exploding. An exemplary case of democracy as fetish is provided by such bestsellers and blockbusters as The Pelican Brief or All the President’s Men, in which a couple of ordinary guys uncover a scandal that reaches all the way to the president, eventually forcing him to step down. Corruption is everywhere in these stories, yet their ideological impact lies in their upbeat takeaway message: what a great democratic country this is where a couple of ordinary guys like you and me can bring down the mightiest man on earth!

 

This is why it is so inappropriate to give a radical new political movement a name that combines socialism and democracy: it combines the ultimate fetish of the existing world order with a term that blurs the key distinctions. Everyone can be a socialist today, even Bill Gates: it suffices to profess the need for some kind of harmonious social unity, for a common good and for the care of the poor and downtrodden. As Otto Weininger put it more than a hundred years ago, socialism is Aryan and communism is Jewish.

 

-- "Sinicisation", London Review of Books (16 July 2015).

Edited by Lazzarone
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'The burden of proof', as typically understood, is on the Affirmative, correct? So to automatically vote Affirmative unless successfully negated would seem to have things "backwards" from a traditional policymaking framework - though admittedly I'm no expert.

 

In debate, presumption goes affirmative when you're dealing with counterplans or kritiks, unless the negative can prove there's an opportunity cost that outweighs case, the negative loses. Defaulting to the other possible assumption, that there is an opportunity cost that outweighs, would make it almost impossible to affirm because it's often impossible to definitively prove an absence beyond pointing out a lack of warrants, so the affirmative would have to prove the plan is better than any other possible idea.

 

I was simply speaking in terms of normal evidence and its burdens, however. Normally, people default to not believing claims like "prioritize the revolution!" without hearing a warrant for them. Even when they do believe in ideas like "prioritize the revolution!", they don't then adopt the heuristic that all policies should be assumed to be counterproductive to the revolution until proved otherwise. That's paranoia, not skepticism.

 

Justifying the idea that revolutionary class-consciousness should be our strategic starting-point takes up entire books, whole traditions even - one reason Zizek's tomes are so fat (without a 'ph-'). Of course we should remain suspicious of anything which passes for 'common sense' in a society with a ruling class, but Burroughs' 'cognitive mapping' of the lifeboat-situation would likely strike many as at least moderately commonsensical - even if the majority of the rowers bought the deceptions of the dudes carrying .38s. The fact that they're in charge colors everything else, even basic needs such as water and food. Likewise, the fact that we're ruled colors even supposedly 'apolitical' concerns, such as human rights (see Zizek's emboldened sentence below). It's certainly no historical accident that there are so few revolutionaries.

 

You're confusing two different issues. The fact that strategic political concerns occur frequently in a wide variety of contexts is not a reason that strategic concerns are all important. The size or omnipresence of an issue is not the same as its importance - outer space is very very very big, but that is not a reason for a risk of alien attack to be judged as a d-rule, for example. Similarly, political concerns might exist almost everywhere, but that doesn't mean they're automatically more important than saving lives.

 

It's true that there are negative political-strategic concerns associated with things like human rights, but there are also positive ones associated with the same such policies, and it's not clear whether any generalization about the strategic benefits of the average government policy is justified. Imagine an affirmative team who claims that since most government policies seem pretty good in their opinion, that is a reason we should do the plan. That kind of argument is very very lazy, but it's analogous to the argument you're advancing here that since most government policies seem like they coopt progressivism in your opinion (or in Zizek's opinion), that is a reason we should not do the plan. Such analysis is not rigorous, it is making strong claims without providing even weak warrants. I agree with you that it seems difficult to prove within the space of a debate round that the average policy has good or bad strategic concerns - in my opinion that's a reason such claims shouldn't be presented in debates at all, and rounds should revolve around more specific claims.

 

Moreover, since the initial article posted on this thread says we should have the courage to think and act critically without an alternative, arguing that "your alternative probably wasn't ever going to solve anyways" falls under the heading of 'conceded'.

 

You've confused the concept of a concession with the concept of clash. You don't get to argue that the revolution is all important unless you show that the revolution might actually happen, unless you are using a nonconsequentialist system of ethics or have a weirdly specific utility function. No such system of ethics or utility function has yet been presented, so...

 

Like, I guess you can default to all these assumptions if you really want to, as a judge. But IMO those assumptions are unpredictable and that would be terrible judging.

 

Not that we should therefore make things horribly worse - that was the mistake of some German communists in the 1930s who reasoned: 'let's allow Hitler to come to power, then the people will get a good look at what unrestrained capitalism is and, voilà, revolution!'. Some disastrous falls are simply too high to take. Letting all the rowers get shot is no kind of alternative either.

 

Why not? If making things worse helps the revolution, and the revolution is truly all important, clearly you are indeed obligated to make things worse. You can't just say "no" to this argument without either refuting one of its premises or the way it tries to connect those premises, saying "no" here is like saying "no" to all of argumentation. This looks like turtle logic to me: great for defensively bunkering down on a certain position, but terribly ineffective at using ideas to actually get anywhere: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_the_Tortoise_Said_to_Achilles.

 

 I've tried to sketch out a mode of evaluation that leaves room for both affirmative and negative roles, which is why your satire applies more to a thinker like Simon Critchley than it does to Zizek proper: http://cedadebate.or...ril/077523.html

 

Whether or not Critchley's position is worse than yours is basically irrelevant to the question of whether or not your position is justified. Without an act omission distinction, refusing to do good things is the same as choosing to do bad things. I'm glad that you're willing to do some good things in addition to those other bad things, but lol, that goodness doesn't make you immune to all other criticisms. The fact you allow a role for some specific affirmatives doesn't mean that your position has no terrorist implications. Even if you personally prefer inconsistency to endorsing terrorism, other teams won't.

Edited by Scarf
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In debate, presumption goes affirmative when you're dealing with counterplans or kritiks, unless the negative can prove there's an opportunity cost that outweighs case, the negative loses. Defaulting to the other possible assumption, that there is an opportunity cost that outweighs, would make it almost impossible to affirm because it's often impossible to definitively prove an absence beyond pointing out a lack of warrants, so the affirmative would have to prove the plan is better than any other possible idea..

Nope, presumption stays with the team that commits to the least amount of change, if a plan is textually and functionally competitive (i.e a PIC out of a part of the plan) and the CP solves as much as the CP, then presumption flips negative because they did less. The aff has a burden of proof that a more dramatic reversal from the status quo is desirable. 

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