I’m somewhat baffled by many of the debates I see lately (as well as with the decisions of other judges when I listen to them) with the strange focus on terminal impacts, both in what percentage of time is spent debating them, and then even after a lot of time is spent arguing defense to them with how large of a “risk” judges assign them. Especially with people who I have had conversations with about how to debate or adjudicate impacts who when they are then in a debate seem to disregard/not employ the views they had previously expressed.
So below the break are some thoughts on what is going wrong in these debates and in the deciding of said debates.
1. 99.9% of impacts are at best, 1 in 4. Mead, Khalilzad, Spicer, etc- none of these cards make an absolute claim “any economic decline = extinction”. This is for obvious reason- to do so would be stupid. Most authors use words like “could” or “may” to indicate that this is one possibility, albeit one they may think is likely. I can’t think of a popular impact card off the top of my head that I would say does not fit in this category. So when I hear a card like this read in a debate, I generally think to myself “1 in 4”. This is not the worst thing that can happen to your impact- in fact, a reasonable discussion of impacts is a lot easier to sound convincing on than a ridiculous one.
2. Treating terminal impacts as automatically 1 in 4 encourages more discussion of the link and internal link. This can be shown mathematically. If you assume a mead card means extinction every time, then reducing the risk of the link to 50% makes the chance of the disad overall 50%. If, however, you assume 1 in 4, than 1/2 the link = 1/8th the risk of the disad. The way debates seem to work now is you must spend a lot of time reading impact defense cards that state the obvious “not every economic decline causes war” in order to reduce the risk of the impact marginally- if you don’t, the fact that the neg has a “conceded extinction impact” means its “try or die for them” so no matter how high a percentage of your case you win, its irrelevant(for consistency I will continue to discuss as if you were aff vs a da but the same thing applies in reverse). Discussing the link and internal link is superior to debating the impact:
A. The link is the portion most related to the topic and the plan- what we are supposed to be learning about
B. Debating hegemony vs the economy divorced from a discussion of the links into those impacts is shallow and generally a waste of time. Usually each team has 1 poorly warranted laundry list impact card, and then 1 defense card that is reasonable and points out “not always” or “rarely”, an argument you don’t really need a piece of evidence for.
3. The disad turns the case is the most overrated argument in debate. I wrote a post a while ago about the difference between the “disad” turns the case and “war” turns the case and said that the disad turning the case was useful, war turns the case is not. I was wrong, they are both basically useless unless dropped. What I mean by that is I cannot remember the last time I judged a debate or heard a judge discuss a round where they decided the disad turned the case despite the aff team not dropping that argument. The reason for this is simple- most of the times its a real stretch. Failure to pass the KORUS-FTA hurts US trade leadership, which undermines the WTO, which prevents IPR protections… instability in Afghanistan. The KORUS-FTA has nothing to do with Afghanistan. Any time you spend arguing it turns the case would be better spent
A. winning your own impact
B. Attacking the case solvency
4. Link defense beats impact offense every time. Over the last year or so I have judged quite a few debates where the neg went for a single disad and some case arguments, and in the process of doing so they read 4-10 impacts to their disad, and the aff read a ton of cards reading impact defense to all of them. If the neg reads 5 add on impacts in the block, you are much more likely to win reading your 4-6 response cards on a single link defense argument and crushing on it than you are trying to keep up with all their impacts. There are at least 3 reasons for this
A. Collapse- the neg can kick any impact you have good defense on at no cost to themselves strategically, wasting your 1AR time
B. Timewise the 1AR cannot keep up tit for tat with every argument from the block- spending a ton of time on impact defense means your other arguments on the line by line will suffer, increasing the overall “risk” of the disad the neg will win. When the neg wins a very large risk of the link and has 10 impacts, no matter how mitigated they are, the impact defense is usually irrelevant unless you win an overwhelming amount of case.
C. Most impact defense is stupid in that it is a 1 sentence card that states something obvious, especially impact defense cards read in the 1AR.
5. Impact defense is the worst way to deal with affirmatives that have a lot of advantages. This should be obvious- its too big of a time investment to win too little. When an aff reads a ridiculous internal link to warming and then 20 warming impacts, just go for no internal link. The further back the chain of events you attack the more impacts you take out- its that simple. This is why you should be going for counterplans more – because counterplans are basically kick ass internal link answers. They force the aff to either zero in on a few things the CP doesn’t solve or lose.
6. Magnitude comparisons are useless unless there is actually a difference in magnitude -i.e. either your card is much better, the other team truly has a regional only conflict (with no escalation /extinction impact), or you read a card like “BW use o/w nuke war” and they only have nuke war impacts. This is because in the average debate I see each team has read 3+ extinction impacts by the final rebuttals. To make magnitude relevant you need to combine it with your impact defense, which is essentially then a probability argument- how likely is something to cause extinction- not “our extinction is bigger”.