K overviews- Do's and Dont's

A good K overview should be like a good movie trailer- it should give me as the judge some idea of what is coming but still leave enough to keep me interested. Bad movie trailers either tell too much (and reveal all the funny lines in the movie) or give you no idea what is going on in the movie- and K overviews usually do one of those 2 things as well. Formulating a good overview is like having a good haircut- it frames the rest of the things you are going to do and establishes expectations. Its a place where you don’t need to be bound by having evidence or even rational thought- you are free to express yourself artistically and tell your own story. Sounds easy right?

So why do most K overviews fail miserably? Well the most common reason is they try to do everything in the overview. You can’t talk about the link and the impact and the alternative and your favorite band/movie/episode of the simpsons all in the overview it just doesn’t work. So your overview needs to be specialized, and since you can write them in advance it should be efficient and well thought out. As I see it there are basically a few purposes of a good K overview

-Explanation via analogy- this type of overview takes a complicated idea and explains it with a witty (preferably humorous) analogy so that everyone will understand it simply. This is trickier then it sounds- you can just pick a random even and try to relate it to what you are talking about- you have to identify a similarity at the level of structure or theme. So for example, while it may be an apt analogy to point out that your K of reality is like the Matrix because in the Matrix movie there are questions about reality an analogy like that is too on the nose. It’s an explicit part of the movie that reality is constructed- so by pointing that out you aren’t really doing anything insightful. When I say theme you need to think a little deeper about what is going on. So while it may be obvious that the Matrix relates to the critique of reality, it may be less obvious that the movie Toy Story is really about American unilateralism and the limits of hegemony. Interesting and thought provoking analogies will keep your judge entertained and your points high.

-Clarify points from the 1NC- how does your generic gobbledygook evidence refute the specifics of the affirmative? This is a good concept to pull out in the overview because it doesn’t really relate to a specific line by line argument as much as it relates to the theory of your argument. Arguments that can be used to refute specific line by line claims should be used that way.

-to draw large distinctions- for example if you read a critique of security based on marxist international relations theory and the 2AC responds with a slew of evidence about why postmodern approaches to IR are doomed you will at some point need to clearly explain why your K is not postmodern. This is a perfect issue for an overview- explain what your argument is and why it is different from what the aff evidence is indicting and then you don’t have to do it in response to each line by line argument.

So starting with cap, which isn’t that complicated. The goal of this overview was to convey the basic masking link in a hopefully humorous way:

Why do fat people drink diet coke? Because its an easy outlet for an underlying fear- health. Coke embodies all the characteristics of unhealthy western lifestyle- its cheap, readily available, and absolutely terrible for you. So we’re scared- scared of empty calories, high fructose corn syrup, and diabetes. The way capitalism solves the problem of overconsumption is not to consume less but to consume safer- take out the sugar, replace it, and keep guzzling. This makes us feel better but doesn’t address the underlying problem- thus you see people at a movie get a tub of popcorn slathered in artificial butter, a box of milk duds, and a 64 oz drink- but don’t worry, its diet coke. We don’t think about how the artificial sweeteners cause cancer and are physically addictive because we were only focused on the problem of sugar.  It’s the same with renewable energy- our lives are organized around overconsumption and the way we use energy is only a small part of that. Using renewables to cut our carbon footprint or avoid middle eastern oil dependence takes one small problem in isolation and tries to solve it not to make our lives better but to make us feel better. Freed from the green guilt of consuming dirty fossil fuels we are free to continue over consuming all the goods we use the energy to produce. Even if the aff wins their whole case you should reject their flawed method for not addressing the root of the problem and because diet coke tastes like crap.
Moving on to Heidegger. The fundamental premise here is that calculative thought is but one way among many of revealing the world, when we get to caught up in calculative approaches we end up missing things and adopting bad policies. One of the reasons Zizek is so popular as an author is because he takes complex concepts and then uses a pop culture reference to explain them, you can do the same thing.
In the movie Roger Dodger and aging Lothario takes his socially awkward nephew out for a night on the town to teach him to talk to girls. Roger works at an advertising firm and his view on persuasion is simple: in order to get someone to buy something you first have to make them feel terrible about themselves. Convince them that their lives are empty and meaningless and that the only way to fill that hole inside themselves is to buy a pair of cargo pants. He talks to women by using an endless string of glib remarks and snide insults trying to lower their self esteem so that they feel bad enough to go home with him. As the movie progresses we see that Roger’s bravado is a front- it is his life that is totally empty and devoid of meaning. He hooks each potential pick up for a short time but ultimately they are turned off by his act and he ends up alone. Roger has used a flawed form of calculation to formulate his plan, and so he keeps getting poor results.
Ok i’ll skip the part where this gets related to the aff and just outline the arguments made within-
1. Error replication- roger does the same thing over and over again
2. problem solution- his behavior is decided in advance
3. Value to life- he ends up lonely and alone
4. Only one way among many- there are other superior ways to relate to others
Lastly, for the psychoanalytic critique of ethics. This argument is extremely convoluted but basically argues that we are all infinitely powerful, but that we deny our power because of “learned helplessness”- we think we can’t actively change the world and so we turn to others, namely the state, to act and live our lives for us. This becomes problematic when it comes to ethics- instead of helping the homeless person we see in our daily lives, we are more likely to vote for politicians who claim they will help someone. This creates a distance between us and those in need of our help. This “gap” becomes filled in by others, often with negative/violent results.

If you dump a frog into a pot of boiling water it will immediately jump out. If, on the other hand, you put a frog into a pot of cold water and slowly turn up the heat it will sit there as you cook it alive. Humans are not much different really. Were anyone to suddenly find themselves plunged into Auschwitz 1943 the confrontation with the heinous acts of the holocaust would most certainly elicit utter moral revulsion. If, however, people are gradually acclimated to injustices history proves they will tolerate almost anything. The same is true for our system of ethical engagement. We have been conditioned to mediate our individual moral law through the system of governance. We attempt to perfect our liberal democracy by gradually becoming more and more open, more just, more ethical. These gradual attempts to improve our relation to the other vis a vis the state, however, make a true ethical connection impossible. The true ethical encounter comes from suspending our belief in gradualism and demanding an immediacy to our moral law: to postulate ethics not as a sliding scale on a slow and steady incline, but as an all or nothing gamble  where we must continually risk it all. In the Shawshank Redemption Andy Dufresnee tries to reconstruct his life, his real life, inside the walls of the prison. He returns to work as an accountant, he continues to practice geology, he even gets to sleep each night with the likes of Rita Hayworth and Racquel Welch. Eventually he comes to the realization that no matter how closely he reconstructs his outside life within the walls of the prison it still remains a fantasy. It is at this point, in his rejection of gradualism, that hope of escape, of tunneling out of Shawshank becomes possible. His confrontation with the immediacy of his desire for freedom is a metaphor for the way we must reform our ethical conduct. No matter how many times we attempt to legislate morality through liberal democratic institutions, we are still separated from the other, and from a true ethical encounter by a barrier as real as the walls of Dufresne’s prison.

The other thing is you need to explain specific links/how the alternative would solve in relation to the advantage.  Don’t just say “at the top we have three links- they use the state, they ignore the economic system, and they smell bad”. To take an example from this weekend, lets say the aff reads nuclear power with a proliferation advantage and a poverty advantage- that nuclear power allows cheap water from desalination and that solves poverty.
Specific Link- Prolif
Anti proliferation rhetoric perpetuates injustice- it creates a hierarchy of nations- those who can and can’t rationally utilize nuclear weapons. This hierarchy of nations causes structural violence- 3rd world nations are written off as irrational and crazy (probably read a card here)
Specific Link- Utgoff Evidence
Their Utgoff card is a link- it assumes nuclear weapons are only dangerous when used -that they are perfectly acceptable as long as no “shoot outs” occur. This erases the history of violence that accompanies nuclear power and weapons construction- from uranium mining poisoning water supplies to testing on indigenous lands. Utgoff only focuses on “nuclear crises”- the exact mindset our Cuomo evidence is critiquing. (again, helped by a card)
Specific link- solving prolif
The way nuke power solves prolif is boosting US NPT credibility- but the NPT is a violent international regime that uses sanctions as an enforcement mechanism- when the “crises” of korean proliferation arose the international community cut off all trade causing massive famine and turning the entire country into a death camp. Even if the plan is a good idea, the representations they use directly justify the economic weapons that cause structural violence
Now, you should relate the alternative to their advantage
Voting neg solves water better- the reason people can’t get clean water isn’t because water is expensive its because economic equality is rampant due to structural violence. Even if the plan lowers the cost of water that doesn’t change the fact that food, healthcare, and education will all be out of financial reach for most people living in poverty- they don’t alter the fundamental issue of social justice.
We eliminate the need to control proliferation- positive peace ends the reactive cycle of enemy creation and arms racing- the solution to proliferation is not to try and police others from getting weapons, its to scale back our own military to make other nations feel safer and stop prolif on the demand side.

2 thoughts on “K overviews- Do's and Dont's

  1. Ayush

    When explaining how the alternative solves water better, you listed things that the aff doesn't do like food, healthcare, and education. In these type of debates, do you just have to point out that doing the aff is not a good idea (because they don't really address other factors which make their impacts inevitable) or do you have to explain that the alternative can solve those? If so, how does that work–how would you explain that the alternative solves things like healthcare, etc?

  2. Scott Phillips

    Winning the alt causes can reduce aff solvency, but ideally you woul duse them to supercharge alternative solvency. In the example above the negative is arguing a critique that claims the plan increases "structural violence"- mainly poverty. So since the aff increases poverty, if the neg wins poverty is the root cause of the harm then it turns the case. If the alternative resolves structural violence then it would reduce the harm area as well. So its basically just linking the advantage to the broad terminal impact the K is already arguing against. So it's not that the alternative gives people health care, its the alternative reduces economic inequality, which means there is less poverty, which means people can afford healthcare.

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