It is surprising how many debaters engage in BP debating for years without having looked through the official rules at least once. The analogy would be like trying to play a competitive football (or soccer, for our American readers) match without a comprehensive understanding of the offside rule. So I’ll have to apologize (insincerely) for being very technical with this article and lift an entire section of the WUDC Debating Judging Manual, page 23, section 2.9. (though you should you really be reading the entire manual on your own)
A good Whip speech will note the major disagreements in the debate (points of clash) between the two sides and will make use of the best arguments from each team on their side to make their case that the motion ought to be affirmed or rejected.
A Whip who adds to the debate in their use of arguments that were introduced in the first half should receive credit for doing so, if those arguments are employed successfully.
It is explicitly stated by the rules that a whip can add to the debate in their use of arguments introduced in the first half. However, we would not recommend doing this as a primary strategy in your whip speeches. As mentioned in our previous article on extensions, a closing team’s ranking in the debate is mainly determined on the weight of their extension or contribution to the debate.
Another one of my coaching mantras: “repeat after me, repetition is not contribution, repetition is not contribution, repetition is not contribution.”
Arguments made in the opening half have to be “add[ed] to” and used differently in order to be considered as a form of new contribution. In practice there are various pitfalls to this strategy.
If an argument made by the opening half naturally interacts with the clashes or major disagreements or opposing arguments in the debate. It will be hard for the whip speaker to claim credit for simply pointing out the obvious.
To the extent that you add on to the argument made in the opening half, you should probably explicitly call it a vertical extension where you highlight where the argument of the opening team ends, where your new extension begins and why the vertical extension constitutes greater contribution to the debate.
In practice, judges are sometimes (regrettably) lazy, unaware of the rules and may not give you the credit that you are due.
Even in the best case scenario, where you have a panel of highly competent and intelligent judges who are well-versed with the rules, it is going to be difficult for them to measure how much credit the closing team receives for using the opening team’s arguments differently.
(If all this is giving you a headache, you are only human, as are your judges)
The judge will be strongly tempted to award greater contribution to the opening team for your analysis, putting your team in a disadvantaged position compared to your opening team, though this may be acceptable if they are clearly heads and shoulders above everyone else and you are merely trying to come second.
A whip speaker may, in line with their team’s need to contribute more persuasive material to the debate than their opening, aim to explain why their own team’s contributions are the most persuasive or important on their side, though they should do so without rejecting their opening half’s arguments.
- One of the biggest mistakes novice debaters make in whip is not realizing that explaining why your team’s contributions are the most persuasive and important is one of, if not the most important role of a whip speaker. Hypothetically speaking, a whip speaker can help a team secure a higher ranking (even 1st place) by having no rebuttals and spending the whole 7-mins of speech convincing the judge that their extension was the most important contribution in the debate. If your extension answers the key disagreements in the debate resoundingly, there is technically no need to engage in rebuttal at all because the judge can award you the 1st based solely on the strength of your contribution.
- A useful way to think about the role of the whip speaker. While the primary role of the Member of Gov/Opp is to forward winning arguments and extensions within the debate, one of the primary roles of the Whip speaker is to explain why are the arguments and extensions (which have already been made), win the debate. Very often, a whip speaker may end up sounding like a sports commentator gushing over a few mind-blowing plays by one team and providing analysis as to why one team was far superior to the other. (Asian Parliamentary reply speakers should also be doing a lot of this)
There are 2 ways to win a debate:
a) Make good arguments
b) Explain why your arguments are good
Members of Gov/Opp should focus on a), while whip speeches should focus on b).
- This becomes especially important when your team is running a vertical extension, which builds open the arguments of the opening team.
For example: In a motion about making tax-exempt status of religious institutions contingent on their recognition of gay marriages.
“The Opening Opposition team discussed at length how and why there will be significant backlash effects by religious followers who feel that their freedom of religion is under direct threat from the state, but they stopped short of explaining the impacts of this backlash. In closing, we were the team who answered the so what question. My partner was the person who explained to you that religious followers make up a significant voting bloc and are far more likely to be single-issue voters who are highly capable of organizing themselves. Therefore, there will be backlash effects in the form of political backlash why they vote for and lobby conservative parliamentarians who will seek to block further all other forms of progressive legislation which they would perceive to directly threaten their core beliefs since they now have a precedent they can point towards as evidence that the government is likely to impose new restrictions on religious institutions. This additional analysis is key to showing why these backlash effects are significant in harming the end goals of government team in the long run, which the Opening Opposition team was unable to prove.”
It is strongly prohibited for either whip speakers to add new arguments to their team’s cases. New material is officially permitted in Government Whip speeches, but new arguments raised there should be discounted if the delay in raising them gave the Closing Government an unfair advantage in denying or limiting the capacity of their opponents to respond. What counts as a ‘new argument’? Debates are about doing things, or arguing that things are true. Therefore, entirely new reasons to do things, claims that new things will happen, or claims of new moral truths constitute new arguments.
If your team has prepared arguments which are important in the debate, they should be explained and elaborated in the Member’s speech. If the whip speaker comes up with additional ideas during the debate, then the whip speaker should urge the member to deliver those ideas.
If the whip speaker comes up with ideas that did not feature in the member’s speech, it is generally not advisable to try and run those ideas in whip, since they will be ignored. The whip speaker in this case should instead focus on expanding upon and highlighting the impacts of the member’s arguments.
You may ask, what if the member was unable to deliver any real extension at all and your team looks like they are going to take a massive donut? Well, all hope is not lost...
The following things do not count as new arguments in this sense, and are permissible for Whips to engage in:
• new defenses of arguments already made.
• new explanations of previously-made arguments.
Earlier in this article, we advised that you should, in general, not spend most of your time bolstering your opening team’s arguments as a primary strategy. However, if those arguments come under sustained attack from the opposing bench and you are able to come up with new defenses that would dilute the persuasiveness of those attacks, that would still constitute significant contribution.
You can’t make new defenses of arguments that haven’t already been made. This means that it is better for the member to forward some poorly explained arguments rather than to have no arguments at all, because new defenses and explanations in whip can radically increase the persuasiveness of a previously-made argument.
This is where magic happens. In a debate where arguments tend to be diametrically opposed, there is no real difference between a substantive and a rebuttal. A rebuttal can be a substantive forwarded in response to other existing arguments. So if your teammate did not deliver any significant extension, your team can still claim contribution to the debate in the whip speech by forwarding new ideas in response to the opposing bench.
In my whip speech, I will forward 4 main rebuttals, namely, why our opponent’s proposal is not necessary, unfair, ineffective and ultimately counterproductive.
1) Our opponents claim that their policy is necessary because
a) There is a problem with the status quo
This is untrue, the status quo is not problematic because...
(insert possible new arguments in the guise of a rebuttal)
b) The problem causes harms that are difficult to mitigate
This is untrue because there are many existing checks and balances...
(insert possible new matter in the guise of a rebuttal)
c) Alternative solutions do not work
In fact, there are multiple alternatives which are superior policies
(insert multiple new policies that can be compared to your opponent’s policy)
2) Our opponents claim that it is fair that parents have access to their children’s social media accounts because parents need to be given the corresponding power by the state to exercise their responsibilities of parenting. They also claimed that it is fair for children to lose a certain degree of privacy to their legal guardians for their own protection.
I have several responses:
a) Our opponents policy is unfair because
(insert possible new arguments establishing the perimeters of parenthood and the right to privacy of children)
3) Our opponents claim that their policy will be effective because parents will now be able to monitor and hence make appropriate interventions.
In fact, the converse is true, this policy is likely to be ineffective because
(insert possible new arguments about how children are likely to be able to circumvent monitoring and why parents are likely to intervene in inappropriate ways, which may cause greater harm)
4) Therefore, our opponents arguments are likely to be counterproductive because
(state opponent’s end goals and forward new arguments showing that their policy contradict their end goals)
It should be theoretically possible (though difficult) for closing teams to win through the strength of their rebuttals in the whip speaker. However, do note that adjudicators should only credit the new material as rebuttals which diminish the strength of your opponent’s arguments and not as positive substantive material. In practice, this does mean that your arguments will receive less credit if they appear late in the whip speech as compared to the member’s speech. As the WUDC judging manual later explains, it is difficult to assess the difference between new rebuttal and analysis, and it is definitely possible to take advantage of that uncertainty to forward new material in whip in the guise of rebuttals especially in desperate situations, especially in cases where you are likely to come 3rd or 4th due to a lack of extension material from the member’s speech.
P.S. Some may consider what we are suggesting here to be cheating, or at least an unfair exploitation of uncertainty in the rules. We cannot guarantee that this advice will work with every judge, but desperate situations call for desperate measures.
• new examples to support existing arguments
Examples can be a powerful way of forwarding new ideas or adding nuance to existing ideas. A good example can transform a poorly-explained argument into a very persuasive one by adding context and nuance.
Referring to the above motion about making tax-exempt status of religious institutions contingent on their recognition of gay marriage.
“Allow me to refer to an example:
I’m sure we are all aware that America legalized gay marriage recently, but most people aren’t aware that we were only able to convince a majority of parliamentarians to pass the law legalizing gay marriage only after amendments made to guarantee that religious institutions would not be punished for refusing to recognize or ordain such marriages.
In most democracies where there is a significant population of religious followers, addressing their most basic insecurities and concerns is vital in convincing them to provide support in passing progressive legislation, to break down their resistances such that they no longer view these pieces of regulation as a direct threat to their identities and quality of life.”
Note that a proper elaboration of your example can easily make up for poor elaboration of the extension in the member's speech.
• anything the other side can reasonably be expected to understand that team intended their Member speech.
Ugh. This clause is such a mouthful. It is unclear and entirely subjective what metrics and adjudicators should even use to decide whether something can “reasonably be expected [to be] intended [in the] member’s speech.”
This does mean that there is room for a skilled whip speaker to forward new material while claiming that was the obvious logical consequences of what had already been argued.
“My teammate told you that there will be backlash, our opponents had only feeble responses to our extensions.
(refer above to see how to insert new material in the guise of rebuttal)
As a result of this backlash,
(insert new material while claiming that it is a logical consequence of the extension)
(refer to example given above to forward new ideas)
By using a mix of new rebuttals, new examples and new lines of logic to hide your new matter, a skilled whip speaker may successfully claim additional contribution for the closing team in a debate even if the member failed to provide an actual extension.
At times, it's difficult to assess the difference between new rebuttal and analysis (which is permitted) and new arguments (which are not). Judges should consider whether or not the making of the claim raises a new issue or approach to winning the debate on an existing issue, to which the other side has little if any ability to respond. If a team does make a new argument in the speech, judges should simply ignore it (or attach limited importance to it, if in the Government Whip speech), and not afford it any credit. Adding new arguments shouldn’t be penalized beyond this.”
Most of us are taught early on in our BP debating career that whips should never try to forward new matter, a piece of advice that we later pass on to our juniors and students. Note that the rules explicitly state that you should not be penalized for new matter, judges should simply ignore the new matter. Given that the rules regarding are really murky and subjective, there is actually significant room for whips to forward new ideas in a way that judges are forced to credit due to the clauses stated above. In many close situations, learning how to forward new ideas in whip can gain you that single team point that will propel your team into the breaks or make a difference between 3rd or 2nd which can determine whether you proceed to the next elimination round. Until a time where there is a universal consensus over what whips can or cannot forward as new material, we fully intend to exploit the uncertainty in the rules to try and get away with new matter in whip and we would advise that you do the same.
(P.S. though, to be honest, you could save yourself a lot of trouble by just making sure the material is delivered in the member’s speech, just saying.)