Don’t forget to check out Part 1 first!
This type of questioning is more difficult because it is more complex. It involves a string of questions proceeding in a logical fashion to show an inconsistency or contradiction in the opposing team’s arguments. The questions have to proceed like a syllogism, in painstakingly tiny steps, so that no one can disagree. When performing such a line of questioning, it is vital that the person you are questioning follows along at each step. Once he figures out where you are heading, he will hurriedly attempt to break out of your trap. If you have done it right, he will only be able to escape the cycle by blatantly contradicting a previous answer. Judges notice that. This can be a powerful tool, because in the next speech, your partner can point out that contradiction and use it to destroy a major argument for the other team. The reason it’s so difficult is because you must map your questions ahead of time and word them exactly right for it to work, you may only have time to write down one word for each question, so you must be able to remember the exact wording of every question from the single word you transcribed.
Consider the following sequence to a fictional immigration resolution:
Q: Your plan essentially denies all refugee claims at our southern border, correct?
A: Yes, it’s a vital national security measure.
Q: And you argued in Justification 2 that it is legal to deny entrance to those seeking refugee status because dangerous gang members are fraudulently gaining entrance that way?
A: Yes, they are essentially turning our cities and suburbs into war zones.
Q: War zones. I believe you read that in your card talking about the most dangerous gang in America. What was it called again?
Q: And where did MS-13 originate?
A: In El Salvador.
Q: Are there many people coming to the U.S. from El Salvador?
A: Tons of them. MS-13 is recruiting kids as young as 12 or 14, loading them up with drugs and sending them across the border.
Q: So MS-13 trains them in their brutal tactics before sending them to America?
A: I imagine so, they are the most violent gang ever.
Q: Does MS-13 use the same tactics everywhere?
A: Pretty much. They recruit kids who don’t know any better and turn them into heartless killing machines.
Q: You mentioned earlier that MS-13 is turning our cities into war zones–
A: And suburbs, too. It’s not just inner cities.
Q: Yes, suburbs, too. If they use the same tactics in El Salvador, does that mean they turn El Salvador’s cities and suburbs into war zones?
A: Perhaps, but that’s El Salvador’s problem, not ours. Our problem is these dangerous gangs like MS-13 running loose in our streets.
Q: And MS-13 is dangerous to Salvadorans just like it is to Americans?
A: Yes, but we’ve got to protect our own citizens first, and let El Salvador protect theirs.
The questioner then moves on to a new topic. In the following speech her partner makes this argument:
- MS-13 has turned El Salvador’s cities and suburbs into a war zone.
- Salvadorans are in danger in their own country.
- People try to avoid danger.
- Tons of people are coming from El Salvador to the U.S.
- Therefore, many people coming to the U.S. from El Salvador are fleeing from war/danger.
- A refugee is defined as someone fleeing from war in their home country.
- Therefore, many people coming to the U.S. from El Salvador can legitimately claim to be refugees.
- The Catch-22: the Affirmative team cannot simultaneously claim that MS-13 is turning American cities into war zones and that all applications for refugee status at the border are fraudulent. They cannot both be true.
That was a long example, but it takes time to keep the person being questioned from figuring out what is going on and fighting their way out of the trap. Note how the answering debater kept trying to hammer home his point without realizing it would be used against him. Also note how much of the resulting argument was based on things he said (parts 1, 2, and 4). Part 3 is just common sense, Part 6 is a standard definition, and parts 5, 7, and 8 logically follow from the rest.
Part 3 is coming soon, so stay tuned!