Answering Common Theory Spikes: Part I

An increasingly popular trend in debate has been the 1AC blitzing of short theory spikes. Strategically speaking, it’s not hard to see why; when dropped these arguments are devastating and potentially round winning. And due to both their brevity and quantity, neg. debaters, more often than not, do end up dropping these arguments. This article will point out generic theoretical spikes most 1ACs employ nowadays and provide answers to each of them.

1. The neg. must defend the converse (or prohibition) of the resolution.

At first glance, this may seem harmless. And in certain cases, it is. There are two situations where this argument becomes abusive:

A) When the resolution provides morally repugnant prohibition ground. This argument is particularly abusive when the resolution is one such as individuals have an obligation to help those in need because a prohibition would argue that individuals are prohibited from helping those in need. Other than positions such as extreme egoism, very few authors would say one has a duty not to help; rather, they would argue aid is superfluous. Be particularly careful what the resolutional dichotomy is when you hear this argument and if it’s one that logically lends itself to permissibility, point it out.

B) When the aff. uses it to claim permissibility ground (not that permissibility triggers presumption, but that permissibility flows aff.) Most of these arguments appeal to a notion of reciprocity, that given permissibility and prohibition, the neg. has a 2:1 advantage. However, if the aff. gets permissibility then it just seems to be 2:1 in favor of the aff. which doesn’t seem to solve anything.

As a parting thought, another way this argument is justified is on the basis of ground, that it is easier to prove permissibility because it doesn’t require proactive justification. The A subpoint answers this argument, but in addition, it’s wrong to assume permissibility arguments don’t require proactive justification. Even skepticism requires that you read arguments why its true, meaning you have to proactively justify it.

2. Aff. skew arguments- any argument that cites side bias as a reason only aff. gets RVIs, drop the argument on theory, etc.

A) The argument fails to account for the magnitude to which each option solves side bias. For instance if negatives win 60% of the time, but giving aff. exclusive RVIs causes a 30% swing, then it’s now a 70-40 skew in favor of the aff. This is also known as the overcompensation argument. The aff. needs solvency as to why their proposal will solve the side bias and not overcompensate for it.

B) The only way they can uniquely justify arguments such as RVI only for the aff. is via time skew. Other standards such as reciprocity apply to both the aff. and the neg. If they only appeal to time skew, see A. But if they appeal to other standards in other parts of their case, you can hedge those against time skew to warrant things such as neg. RVIs.

C) Insert generic arguments about why there is no side bias i.e. aff. gets first and last word, gets to frame the debate, etc. I won’t go into depth on these arguments here because I believe negating is easier and that these arguments aren’t great.

Additional caveat: be extremely careful when you hear arguments such as no neg. RVIs. It’s easy to overlook since the 1AR rarely runs theory. However, the way affs abuse this argument is by exploding with frivolous theory in the 1AR and extending this argument as a drop in the 1AR to ensure the 2NR cannot read an RVI on the frivolous theory shells. If dropped, this argument makes theory a no-risk issue for the aff.

3. The aff. takes a stance on everything in the 1AC so everything the neg. reads is a counter-interpretation.

This one is a doozy and is a gross misunderstanding of theory debate. Theory debate is similar to that of a mathematical combination- order does not matter. The fact that a theoretical argument was read first does not make it an interpretation. An example would be an aff. would read preemptive theory for plans good when they adopted a plan view of the resolution. If the aff. got up and read “the aff debater may read a plan,” it’s hard to see why they are on the offensive side of the theory debate especially since there’s no violation by the neg. Note: some people will read the interpretation as “the neg. debate must allow the aff. debater to read a plan.” See any article about offensive counter interpretations as to why that interpretation is also problematic.

4. All theory arguments must be checked in cross- examination.

This argument seemed reasonable when it was first introduced but has quickly turned abusive. If this argument is true, then it would make abuse a no risk issue. The aff. can put as many tricks and sketchy outs as they please within the 1AC. If they neg. catches it in cross-examination, they can just kick the argument. If the neg. doesn’t, then they can extend it in the 1AR for a strategic advantage. It’s unreasonable to expect the neg. to have to catch 100% of the aff.’s tricks for a fair debate, not to mention the strategy skew from having to use cross- examination to clarify rather than set up arguments. Not to mention, it’s probably good to have a concrete, non- shifting advocacy in the 1AC. 

Editor Note: Spikes #5-10 will be covered in Part II of the article. 

Editor Note: The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Victory Briefs.

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