If you can expose this to the judge, you’ll leave yourself in a position of credibility.
I’m going to teach you a type of question which can cut right through the act and straight to the meat. I call it asking for the warrant.
You: “You said that there are 30,000 Iraqis in hiding?”
Opponent: “Yes, they are in terrible dan–”
You: “How did you get that number?”
Opponent: “My evidence says 30,000”
You: “They’re in hiding. How did your author somehow find out there are 30,000 in hiding?”
Opponent: “I don’t know but he’s credible [bla bla bla]”
Your opponent never stopped to question his own evidence critically, he just recites stuff he learned online.
When you start questioning it in cross-examination, he doesn’t have enough time to come up with a clever response, so now he’s stuck to rambling on and on about credibility. He’s now in the palm of your hand.
You: “You claimed Iran hasn’t allowed an inspection of their facility for a while?”
Opponent: “Yes they–”
You: “For how long?”
Opponent: “I’m not sure, it’s just been a while.”
You: “How do you know that to be true?”
Opponent: “Well, I’ve been researching the topic.”
You: “But you have no proof to provide us?”
Opponent: “No, it’s just common knowledge.”
You: “I think we can both agree this point is important to the round. Why don’t you have the evidence?”
Opponent: “Because it’s common knowledge.”
In the next speech, your teammate can hammer your point home. Your opponent’s main argument is based on intangible knowledge that he claims is common.
I’d say something like, “[sir/ma’am], if you happened to know that Iran supposedly hasn’t allowed an inspection for several years, then never mind this argument. But I don’t think this is “common knowledge”. This is one of the most important points in the round, and [opponent’s name] can’t even prove the premise of his/her own argument. You may be tempted to let it slide and assume they’re right. But I’ve given solid reasons to believe their information is incorrect, and when I asked “How do you know that to be true”, his/her only answer was “Well, I’ve been researching the topic.”
I wouldn’t waste time doing this for insignificant points unless you have a good reason to. But for a big point that’s unsubstantiated, you’ve not only taken out the argument, but also your opponent’s credibility.
You: “So you’re saying this agency has never broken the law?”
Opponent: “Yes not to my knowledge”
You: “How do you know that’s true?”
Opponent: “Because I haven’t heard about it.”
You: “So you know for sure they haven’t broken the law because you have yet to hear about it?”
Opponent: “Yes, I would know about it if they had.”
Your partner can then follow up on this cross-ex by saying something to the effect of, “Denying something happened because you haven’t heard about it is like saying the great chicago fire didn’t happen because no one has told you about it before. We’re here, telling the affirmative team that the agency they’re using has violated the law, and they’re denying it because it’s the first time they’ve heard it.”
You: “Your position is that once you reform this agency, it will avoid deadlock, correct?”
You: “How do you know that’s correct?”
Opponent: “Well they’ve been having so much deadlock because of corrupt politicians–”
You: “How do you know it’s because of corrupt politicians, and how do you know there won’t be any after this plan?”
Opponent: “Well our evidence said they have corrupt politicians. And we’re reforming the election process.”
You: “Your evidence said they have corrupt politicians. Did it say that’s the cause of deadlock?”
Opponent: “Not specifically”
You: “So I repeat, how do you know your agency will avoid deadlock in the future?”
Opponent: “There’s no other cause for deadlock, it’s because of the corrupt politicians.”
You: “Could you give me some names or a list of these so-called ‘corrupt politicians?'”
Opponent: “Not off the top of my head, no”
You: “Can you do it based on the evidence you have on your table?”
Opponent: “I’ll have to check.”
You: “Great, I’d love to hear a list in your next speech, along with proof that people like that wouldn’t be hired under your plan.”
In the next speech…
“Blaming problems on corrupt politicians is easy. Everyone hates corrupt politicians. You could pretty much blame everything on them and get away with it. The affirmative team needs to give us more reasons than simply “because they’re bad”. Not only can they not tell you what specifically causes deadlock, they also can’t prove their plan will remove all the “corrupt politicians”.
I am willing to bet that if they do provide names in their next speech, it’ll be 2-3, not the tens of corrupt politicians they claim exist.”
Finding a weak point in your opponent’s knowledge and exploiting it is easy. After that cross-examination, the judge will be on your side, wondering who exactly these “corrupt politicians” are.
Don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions.
Don’t take your opponent’s words at face value, challenge them to give a reason for everything they say.
Soon you’ll realize they aren’t really as knowledgeable as they want to seem.
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