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Making the bulletproof black box model

Model is the chunkiest and neediest part of your setup. This is where you set the stage for the debate and make sure it’s not a messy show.

Model is the chunkiest and neediest part of your setup. This is where you set the stage for the debate and make sure it’s not a messy show. Sometimes, making a model might be tedious, but I’ll tell you how important it is. I have won some motions because of a good model, and in other motions, having a clear model from the get go gives your team extra margins to make wins clearer and losses tighter.

If you can find the bulletproof black box model, judges will be convinced that you’re going to do things the right way and you have a clear path to success. Your arguments will have much stronger defenses and your opponent will have a hard time trying to think of satisfactory responses.

So, how can you assemble your bulletproof black box model?

1. Definition

In some motions where the meaning of certain words might be ambiguous, you’d have to make a definition! You want to interpret that ambiguous meaning before your team does to make the debate advantageous for your team. Some people will separate their definition from their model, but I like to combine it since it pretty much still concerns what the debate looks like.

Here’s an example of a definition in practice.

“Unlike sadness or grief or fear or having so much emotions about losing a debate round, this as it said in the infoslide—actually underlined in the infoslide—sorrow is a deep source of sadness or regret.”

(Dan Lahav, Given the choice as an individual who is a typical, healthy 30-year-old, this house would elect to never again feel the emotion of sorrow* – Gov)

In this debate, Dan uses the definition to explain that this is not a reasonably healthy emotion like sadness, but is something that can do harms like overwhelm you and prevent you from feeling other emotions. This way, Opposition is forced to either challenge the definition or defend this horrible overwhelming emotion!

2. What your world looks like

There are some motions that will require a lot of world-building for your arguments to run smoothly. Usually, these are motions that talk about actions that can result in multiple scenarios that don’t obviously come to mind. Here’s an example of that that made me perk up my ears:

“Recasting can easily be done through three broad ways:

  1. Backstory. Creating a pre-storyline to justify a transition. For instance, a character can have a backstory of growing up in poverty that is subsequently overcame, even though that might not have been part of the original character.
  2. Continuing a storyline of a particular character, where the role of a lead character can be passed on to a minority. For instance, in a very contemporary example, Captain America handing the shield to Falcon, for example. That’s also a form of recasting a character.
  3. Alternate universes or adaptations where conditions of lead characters are re-explored through the lens of a minority character.

So there can be changes to the original story for viewers to compare and contrast. We bring to you multiple examples. The first of which is Spiderman: Into the Spider-verse, where Spiderman is portrayed as an African-American kid in the form of Miles Morales. And also, it was able to integrate minority parts into the story. For example, Miles Morales had an uncle that played Prowler, which represents all the sort of problems that exist with African-American kids growing up in a black neighborhood for example, that’s riven with crime and gang incidents. We bring you another example of Othello, about how Othello can have remake plays where Othello is played as a Caucasian rather than as an African-Italian man, and his wife now becomes the African-Italian wife Desdemona rather than the Caucasian wife.”

(Matthew Tan Tze Yang, In art and popular culture, THBT creating new lead characters for minorities (e.g. Hancock, Black Panther) is better than recasting existing roles already played by other actors/communities (e.g. Ghostbusters, The Little Mermaid) – Opp)

So this is a pretty long setup, but it’s very strategic. When the motion came about in 2019, the intuitive image that we have of the Opposition team is movies like Ghostbusters and The Little Mermaid in the context slide, which got a lot of backlash at that time. What this setup did was explain that those are not the only occurences of recasting and that there have been successful implementations of this.

On top of that, it enabled arguments of recasting with a lot of nuance, which makes the minority actors not confined to the standards of the original characters and able to meaningfully introduce their culture in the remake.

3. How you’d like to implement a motion

Beyond definitions and describing what your world looks like, you can make additional actions you want to do in a motion. Be careful about this one because you need to pay attention to fiat, which is how much assumed political power your side has. So in a motion about increasing immigration, for example, the Gov team can’t say they will guarantee all immigrants a college degree and a job, for example, because it’s way beyond the scope of just increasing immigration. That needs a lot more political power.

The point is, only add in points that sound like the reasonable things a government would come up with if the motion actually passed in real life. Look at how Ashish tries to implement the motion of filial responsibility laws**:

“Our policy is four-fold.

  1. Your obligation to your parent can have both monetary and non-monetary forms.
  2. To the extent it’s monetary, it’ll be based on your capacity to afford it. It won’t be a flat rate for everyone because if a poor person fails to make their living income, it might be quite draconian.
  3. The state will top up whatever is remaining. There will be no starving parents in our side to be sure. If you only pay 5%, that’s enough, the state will pay for the rest.
  4. We’re going to enforce this fairly aggressively in the cases where people are caught violating these laws. Over time a norm will form, then people generally take care of their parents, because getting caught and the need to pay massive fines will be a huge deterrent.”

(Ashish Kumar, This House supports filial responsibility laws** – Gov)

This is great to prevent an Opposition argument about this being unfair to the children if they don’t have enough money, and the last part of the model also shows how Gov will make everyone follow the policy.

A good thing to remember is also that you have the freedom to bring a counter-model if you’re Opposition! You can see Ashish do that in this other article, where the counter-model is absolutely solid and convincing to make Opposition sound like they can achieve Government’s goals better on their side.

4. Preemptive status quo mechanisms

Your opponents can sometimes bring up petty arguments in a debate, that complain about minor problems from the implementation of a motion. You can add new models like Ashish did in point 3 and 4 above, but what you can also do is point to existing mechanisms in the status quo to prevent a harm.

I’m not finding a debate to point to for this one, but a very common use of this is the disclaimer that criminal justice systems exist to prevent extreme reaction from the public to certain motions. This can apply in religion motions to prevent arguments about people losing their morality and committing crimes, in social movement motions to prevent arguments like vigilantism, etc.

There’s also things like the selfish survival nature of humans for individual debates, to explain that people will always think rationally and not be reckless. There’s also things like market mechanisms to prevent profit-oriented actors like companies from being unreasonable with their prices or actors like public figures from being too socially problematic. There are lots of these that you can utilize in your debate.

The way you can think of them is by first preempting what minor problems can arise with a motion, and then think of existing ways to counter that problem.

What this means for you

The conclusion of this article, and the reason why I called it the bulletproof black box model, is because a good model is there not only to make your arguments run more clearly and smoothly, but also to prevent attacks coming from your opponent. That means you have to have this intent during casebuild to be able to make it.

I want to make a fair note that you will rarely need all four of these, though, and in some cases you might not need a model at all. But the next time you see an opportunity to use them, try it out!

Even if you don’t make the perfect model in your first try, that’s okay. Over time, you’ll learn more effective and realistic-sounding models to bring up in your speech. You’ll become more efficient and spend more explanation on the less obvious parts of a motion rather than the obvious ones. Watch debate videos and read news to know how policies look like!

*Info Slide: The word “sorrow” refers to a feeling of deep sadness or regret caused by loss, disappointment or other misfortune (suffered by oneself or others).

**Filial responsibility laws hold that the adult child (or children) of an impoverished parent has the legal obligation to pay for the necessities of the parent who cannot do so for themselves. Basically, children have to pay for the parents’ living costs when the parents cannot, or else they get punished by the state.

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