Reader Ryan Funkhouser from Washington submitted the following question: Hello! I attended the TX ethos camp this year and one of the things discussed was masking DAs. I understand the principal behind it, but I can’t find any generic evidence supporting it. Is there such evidence?…what does masking DA evidence look like and how do you incorporate that into the rest of your DA framework. Thanks!

As a preview, notice how the following looks more like a “negative case” than a disadvantage. You should be moving your negative strategies in that direction because it provides a medium for depth rather than breadth in argumentation, a key for success. It also helps you avoid contradiction and lends itself to shell and extend.

First, Masking DA Evidence Looks like Alternate Causality

The type of evidence you are looking for is going to show that there is this other problem that exists or that there is this other cause to the problem your opponent is attempting to solve.

Let’s say your opponent is running a case to sanction Russia so they improve their efforts on human trafficking. A basic response from the negative team is a uniqueness argument to the harm: is it your claim that “lack of unilateral sanctions from the U.S.” is what “CAUSES” human trafficking? is your CX line of questioning. Your actual argument is “the AFF team’s burden of proof requires them to show how unilateral U.S. sanctions will solve the human trafficking issue in Russia. They obviously agreed that human trafficking isn’t caused by lack of sanctions [i.e. “harm” is not caused by “absence of AFF plan”], so their only claim can be that sanctions are the unique ingredient necessary to stop HT.” Does this win you debate rounds? No. You need to turn this into offense by entering the alternate cause:

“Our second point is that Human Trafficking in Russia has five primary causes: 1. Prevalence of secularism in Russia. 2. Excessive poverty. 3. Governmental corruption. 4. Lack of government resources. 5. Worldwide demand for trafficked humans”–Now we are getting somewhere. You need to have this research. Continuing on.–“In order to prove that their plan works, my opponents need to properly identify where lack of motive plays a cause in human trafficking, and how big of a factor it is related to these other five. Our research indicates that lack of motive is not a cause at all. Therefore, our first solvency argument is: Sanctions fail to address the fundamental causes of human trafficking. [blah blah, hopefully some evidence here, this isn’t our focus right now.] My second solvency argument is that the plan does not provide the resources necessary to address those causes. This is logically explained easily…”

Now let’s talk about the Masking Disadvantage. You gave five alternate causes to your opponent’s argument. Four of them had to do with Russia and one with the rest of the world. Here are the respective available masking DAs, most of which aren’t very good but one that is:

  1. Symptom, Not the Disease — Addressing just one of the fruits of a secularist culture does not attack the root of the problem. The plan’s focus on human trafficking actually increases the chance that more things LIKE human trafficking will happen, since the root cause is ignored.
  2. Condemns the Future — Adding yet another economic punishment (sanctions) to a problem that is a result of economic harm only increases poverty and the impacts of it. (Insert additional impact evidence to poverty in Russia, since you basically just established the LINK of a DA)
  3. Requires More Corruption — Since fixing corruption seems out of the realm of possibility in Russia, the only way to respond to sanctions is with MORE corruption–like government officials tampering with official trafficking statistics.
  4. I’m out of ideas here, actually
  5. The real Masking DA: Human Trafficking Overall Remains as bad or Worse — Because the one U.S.-policy focused alternate cause (the other four were Russia focused) is not addressed, the U.S. wipes its hands of human trafficking in Russia. But supply and demand are still true! The Western and worldwide demand for human trafficking stays the same, so that supply will be met. Perhaps in other countries than Russia, but probably in Russia too. But we’ll wait 3 years to see if our sanctions worked, blind to the fundamental cause — demand in our own countries. (Great analogy evidence here would be from the U.S. War on Drugs. Masking DA: continuing the illegalization of pot, when there is so much demand we aren’t able to stop, means that drug users are criminals too, gang networks instead of normal companies violently oversee this business, etc etc. Not saying this is true, but this is what a masking DA looks like. It’s conclusions are EITHER: legalize pot OR address the demand for it in your plan)

Either the plan fails to address some root cause, or exacerbates that root cause.

Second, “Policy Moves Slowly” is a Key Internal Link

Many masking DAs will rely on this argument: When Congress has acted on a given issue, it will wait a long time before acting again. This is for several reasons: 1. Congress = lazy. 2. Congress only moves in “crisis” moments. 3. Political capital spent on small issues silence them for some time. 4. After enacting a policy, usually policymakers wait a couple years to measure the results of that change before embarking on another. Conclusion: The policy must be right the FIRST TIME, because if it misses any fundamental causes they will persist in the future for quite some time.

For example, if Congress ever got around to doing something for real about immigration, can you imagine them considering just a few months later ANOTHER proposal? No way. They’d have spent years of capital hammering out a compromise and final policy to address the undocumented migrants here, the flow across our borders, etc etc.

If you can link any of these arguments to a delay in addressing the other impacts that were masked, you can actually outweigh a policy that “does a good thing” by saying that it ensures several “bad things” will happen for at least 4 more years. Hopefully this made sense… it’s a pretty deep argument.

Third, Masking DAs Incorporate All Over

There’s no clean answer to the final question. Sometimes your masking DA is just an additional impact to a DA you already have, sometimes it is the internal link plus impact from an initial link, sometimes it stems from an alternate causality argument, and sometimes it is just a standalone disadvantage.

Photo Courtesy of Ben Fredericson

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