If I’ve learned anything from Joseph, it’s the fact that any and every affirmative case needs to have something called “advocacy”. Having advocacy for your plan means that somebody – hopefully an expert – says that your plan should be passed. The first question I will usually see Joseph ask when confronted with an odd affirmative is “Advocacy, plz?” or “You canz have advocacy?” This question never gets too old. Its existence is the reason Ethos always works to provide affirmative cases with strong advocacy – we don’t want to leave you without a good response to this question.
That being said, I want to emphasize two things:
Firstly, most of you are hopefully looking for an affirmative case right now. If you’re like me, you don’t want to run the most common case out there – you want to pick something a little unique, and hopefully something that will throw negatives off a little. There’s nothing wrong with having a surprise element to your case, and I’ll have you know that there are quite a few of those cases out there, but as you’re looking for one, make sure that you don’t neglect advocacy.
Some debaters, and to be fair I’ll only speak for myself here, can sometimes have an air about themselves which makes them prone to think that their ideas are always right. I want to let you guys in on a secret: “WE’RE NOT EXPERTS!!! …..Yet.” As much as we don’t want to realize it, we’re just high-school students. Some of you are really, really smart – but that doesn’t mean that you can read a few articles, put two-and-two together, make up a case and be an expert on the issue (okay, maybe some of you can, lol). The fact of the matter is that in the real world, the opinion of a teenager in politics doesn’t usually mean much… unless it’s backed up by expert opinion.
That’s why the affirmative cases you will find in most sourcebooks come with a section on advocacy, or at least evidence mixed in the backup that will double for advocacy. You’re going to want to convince the judge that experts recommend your plan, that experts examined/studied the harm in the status quo and recommended your plan to solve for it. Otherwise, your arguments hold no water.
This leads me to my next exhortation:
With a resolution as broad and vague as this one, you’re going to hit squirrelly cases. It’s inevitable. As much as most people hate these little furry devils, some people tend to find them… attractive : You’ll be lucky if you don’t hit any this year.
Knowing this, you need to keep the advocacy question in your back pocket. When you hit a new case, the first question to pop into your head should be: “You canz have advocacy?!” Okay, maybe you don’t need to use that exact wording, but you get my point. Keep in mind as well that this isn’t some last resort question, but one of the best arguments you can bring into a round. At nationals last year, my partner and I hit a case in the third round that had no direct advocacy. The debaters we really smart, and they had a pretty nifty affirmative – but they didn’t have any evidence saying specifically that their plan should be done. Needless to say, we argued the point throughout the whole round, and won largely because of it. As a result, we went 4-2 and were able to break and place 11th overall. Thank goodness for the advocacy question 🙂
Given the fact that this is a really good weapon to keep in your arsenal, I’d like to leave with a little more than an “order”. Some of you may be thinking: “Gee, thanks. You’ve told me to argue advocacy… But how do I do it?” For those of you who would like an outline on how to run a successful advocacy-press, here’s one that Joseph “Sammy” Samelson wrote last year:
A. Interpretation – Need Advocate
The Case needs an advocate
The Affirmative team need’s a plan advocate, or someone saying the plan will work. We’ll explain why in the impacts and voters. For now, just know that the aff needs an advocate.
B. Violation – No Advocate
You saw this one coming
The Affirmative team has provided no advocacy for their plan. They are basing the solvency of their case off of their own assumptions.
C. Impacts and Voters – Not having an Advocate = bad
No one writes articles saying “wow, it would be a really bad idea to do ZYX (the affirmative team’s plan)” because there aren’t any advocates for doing it. There’s no argument in the literature over this subject, which means there’s no way to research it. That kills neg ground and education in the round since we aren’t discussing real policy issues.
The case is entirely unpredictable – doing neg prep becomes pointless if affs can pull ideas out of their heads that have no grounding in the literature.
Demanding advocacy is a literature check. It makes sure that hair-brained cases aren’t just thrown together because it was just some random idea. Advocacy is an experts opinion that gives credence to a case. Without advocacy, we have no idea if it will actually work.
Please keep in mind that there are a gazillion more ways to impact the advocacy argument. Joseph put this together specifically to be argued against the “Cut Environmental Foreign Aid” case last year. There are nice impacts in there, but be sure to innovate and create your own : ) Just remember, whether you’re writing an affirmative case, or putting together a quick 1NC against a case you’ve never heard before, be sure to ask the question: “You canz have advocacy?”
Thanks for your time. Peace out 😛
Great article there, Preston. Advocacy presses are quite under-used in our league.
However, I have a couple of comments to make.
1. (most important): Make sure your advocacy press doesn’t sound like an appeal to authority (one of the informal fallacies). No offense to Samelson, but his third impact borders on the claim that only experts should be believed. Not true. Experts are often just as stupid as the rest of us. True we are teenagers, but that doesn’t mean we can’t think for ourselves. Just because nobody’s thought of something before doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad idea–it just means nobody’s thought of it before. Personally, I would leave out the third impact.
2. Although I would suggest running an advocacy press, don’t run it by itself. If you’re claiming their plan is bad because there’s no literature, what’s so bad about it? If you can find a bunch of solvency questions AFF can’t answer, or something else which calls into question the efficacy of the plan, your advocacy press has just been beefed up into something that will easily win the round for you.
3. Never ever ever sound whiny doing this. Judges will think you’re copping out of arguing the case unless you do it really well. This ties into my second point–unanswered questions makes an advocacy press come across as far less whiny. Just find a way to do it.
We ran our case all last year (Cut Ethanol subsidies) without any advocates at all. We had teams, even in finals, play the “no advocacy” card on us. We could have brought up an advocate, but we rarely did–and still we never lost to it. Out answer was always de-impacting advocacy, saying that it was appeal to authority, which = fail.
Just my thoughts. I tend to be of the opinion that too many debaters try to hide behind evidence. An advocate doesn’t make a bad plan magically good–but a bad plan with no advocate is just asking for trouble.
I just wanted to explain that the Appeal to Authority fallacy isn’t always understood correctly. The appeal to authority is a fallacy when the authority isn’t an expert in the field being discussed. The appeal to authority is a fallacy when the expert is biased or paid to support a particular viewpoint. The appeal to authority is a fallacy when the “expert” is wildly off the course of expert opinion in the field (for example, an expert in climate change may be for it or against it as these are both accepted as common expert opinion. The expert who says it is all caused by martians may be a bit off course.).
This website has a good list of questions to ask yourself when wondering about the appeal to authority fallacy (a must have for your files). http://www.fallacyfiles.org/authorit.html
As a judge, parent, and adult, I am very unlikely to buy a case presented by a non-expert in the subject without even a high school degree that doesn’t have expert advocacy.
Allen, you’re totally right! Thanks for the comments, they really helped : )
Mrs Alexander, I see where you’re coming from. I admit that advocacy isn’t the all-powerful argument, nor does is make your affirmative case work.
Nevertheless, I hope that the readers keep their advocacy presses at the ready 😀
A note on Allen’s 3rd point (don’t sound whiny), perhaps a way to reduce the probability that the judge will view your argument as whining is to alter the impact “slugline”. In this case, the impact slugline is “fairness” which just sounds like a little whiny kid shouting “It’s not fair! Wahhh!”. Perhaps “unpredictable” or “unreasonable” would sound a. less whiny, and b. more professional.
When impacting this argument, a safe strategy (I believe) would be to provide an alternative area of impact. The area right now is fairness. However, putting a real policy impact would provide the judge with a whole other reason to vote for your argument. “The only reason you have to believe this plan will work is the opinion of two teenagers” puts a heavy doubt upon the credibility of the Aff plan and puts a lot of credibility on your negative argumentation.
^That’s a great way to impact it.
As a matter of fact, I didn’t actually use Jospeph’s shell at nationals — my partner and I took the idea and added our own impacts (which usually works best 🙂
Having a real-world policy impact certainly makes the argument better 😉