Gordon Mitchell, University of Pittsburgh, preserved some moments of history-in-the-making by conducting interviews between rounds 6 and 7 at the 2001 Wake Forest Dixie Classic. The ethnographic technique was inexact as he interviewed for about an hour as folks were milling around before Round 7. He talked with people gathered in front of Carswell Hall. The resulting sample of dialogue, as Mitchell indicates, was not representative of what was unfolding at the time, yet the string of banter conveyed an uncanny sense of buildup, expectation and anticipation that was palpable in the venue at the time. (Also includes interviews with Allan Louden and Ross Smith during Rd. 7)
Gordon Mitchell [GM]: Here is Paul Skiermont, two-time top speaker at the NDT and currently a clerk for a federal judge. Where exactly are you clerking now?
Paul Skiermont: In Lincoln, Nebraska, for the eighth Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. Those decisions get appealed to the United States Supreme Court.
GM: Did you have it in your plans to come to this tournament before the Debate-in was formed?
Paul Skiermont: I probably would not have come to Wake Forest if the Debate-in wouldn’t have happened. I went to the Kentucky tournament just because it was my alma mater; I was just there to visit. I didn’t have plans to go to any other tournaments this year.
GM: So what drew you to the tournament for the Debate-in?
Paul Skiermont: My impression of the media coverage and the enormity of the events of September 11 is that this is what people are talking about, whether they are in a structured environment or not. I thought that given the unique things about debate, with structured clash and arguments designed to elicit give and take and not allow people to make unsubstantiated claims, to have them back up their points and defend them in a logical manner, was something that would be unique in the sound-bite culture that we live in.
GM: As one of the most successful individual speakers in competitive intercollegiate policy debate in recent times, would you say that some of the skills you used to achieve that success cross over to the public realm?
Paul Skiermont: I think so. In a way it is problematic because of rapid delivery. What the general public would think as being a cross over, of being able to get up and speak on your feet, is not the immediate benefit that I think debate provides. But I do think it provides confidence to be able to speak in front of other people. Most importantly, it provides a way for you to structure your thoughts to get up and speak on your feet. To be honest, I think one of the most important things is cross-examination, where you have to come up with a reply immediately, on your feet, without having prepared in advance. I think that’s something that really helps public speaking.
GM: I understand there are some unique challenges that you are facing because of your employment status.
Paul Skiermont: I am assistant to a federal judge, helping him write and craft decisions. The judiciary likes to be insulated from political things, or at least have the appearance of insulation from politics. So there is a rule in the Federal Code of Judicial Conduct that judges or their clerks shouldn’t engage in partisan politics while they are working for the court. So with this being a policy issue up for discussion, what should we do et cetera, I could not take a role that had me stand up and argue, for example, that we should intervene in Afghanistan, or even more relevant, that we should repeal the PATRIOT Act of 2001, because there is a real chance that a challenge to the PATRIOT Act of 2001 will be before the judge I am clerking for. And if were giving my public opinion about that, there would be an appearance of bias, impropriety, or pre-formed judgments that would not reflect well on the judge.
GM: So the role you are going to play here is that you will moderate one of these debates. What are you looking forward to in terms of how you will perform that role? How will the moderator’s challenge play out here in what is about to unfold?
Paul Skiermont: I think the moderator’s challenge is to connect the audience to the debate and get the audience engaged and participating. Debaters, and any expert who has done a substantial amount of work on any issue, may find it easy to get wrapped up in the specifics and the detail, and kind of lose the notion that not everyone you are speaking with has the same background knowledge of these issues. When an argument is made or a point is brought up that has a lot of background knowledge or baggage connected with it, that is something that a moderator can flesh out, by bringing in some of that background to help the audience understand. Just as important may be the task of trying to generate feedback from the audience. I think the only way you will get feedback and participation is if the audience members feel like they understand what is going on. If they feel like they are being lectured to, or if they are in a seminar that is over their heads, they will have a tendency to sit there passively and not get much out of it.
GM: Thanks Paul. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Paul Skiermont: I am just really excited about this. It is my understanding that competitive intercollegiate debate has never taken time out to engage a public issue like this at a tournament, at least since World War II. To get out of the bubble of competitive debate and make relevant some of the things that all these college students do, in a more immediate sense, is very important and a very exciting time for the activity.
GM: Now I am with Denise Olczak, an undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh. She just got here after driving seven hours from Pittsburgh. What time did you folks wake up this morning?
Denise Olczak: I was awake at 4 a.m. and we left about 4:30.
GM: Was it a smooth drive?
Denise Olczak: Yes it was for the most part. It was really nice.
GM: What was the last intercollegiate policy debate tournament you attended?
Denise Olczak: Oh my goodness. Duquesne University in 1998.
GM: So why are you coming back to another tournament now?
Denise Olczak: I am very interested in the public debate format that they are offering here at Wake Forest. I have been involved with public debate for a couple of years now, and I really believe in it, so I would like the opportunity to bring it to a policy debate tournament, where you normally do not see the public debate format.
GM: What is the topic that you are going to be debating here in a few minutes?
Denise Olczak: The topic I will be debating is: “Should terrorist acts be considered crimes or acts of war?”
GM: Do you think you have some good arguments?
Denise Olczak: I think so. We will see if the audience agrees with me and see how the debate actually pans out. But I feel prepared and I am really excited. I think this will be a great opportunity.
GM: There may be people coming to your debate to learn about the issue, which is a very important one and an interesting one. What are you trying to give them in return for their decision to come and watch?
Denise Olczak: I am trying to offer a couple of points that normally people might not think about. Specifically with my topic, whether terrorism should be considered a crime or act of war, I am upholding the idea that it should be treated as a crime. I want to present the audience with a couple of ideas as to why it should be treated as a crime, as opposed to just the typical discourse of: “We can bomb people and that is all right.” Instead, I want to think about why we are bombing a country, why we are bombing civilians. That is one aspect that I am trying to give to the audience, just to think a little bit more about what is going on in our world and how it actually affects us. It is not just all these politicians deciding to do things. We actually have a say here and we need to talk about this at these kinds of events.
GM: One last question. You are kind of a unique debater in that you have done a lot of competitive policy debating and you have also done a lot of public debating. How was it different when you started going into public debating, after you had finished your intercollegiate policy debating career? How would you compare those experiences?
Denise Olczak: Policy debating and public debating are dramatically different. Public debating requires much more rhetoric and it requires a lot of style and grace in the way you present your arguments. It is not about trying to get in as many points as you can in a certain amount of time. It is about being persuasive to an audience, more so than, for example, attacking each of the eight different points on topicality. For me it was a very nice change, although I treasured my experience as a policy debater because I learned so much about research and how to affect American policy, how one little instance can affect the larger picture. That was very interesting to learn about. In terms of public debate, the difference is that you can be a little more broad and you can be a little bit more persuasive. Overall, it is using better speaking skills to reach the audience more.
GM: Thanks Denise. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Denise Olczak: No that is about all. I just hope everything goes well for everyone.
GM: Now here is an interesting opportunity to get an inside look into what is going on. We have three debaters who are forming a team in one of the public debates, Justin Parmett (University of South Carolina); Brian Lacy (University of South Carolina) and Lisa Heller (University of Pittsburgh). What is the question that you will be debating here in a couple of minutes?
Justin Parmett: Should the United States negotiate with those who commit terrorist acts?
GM: And this team is going to be on the affirmative, correct?
Lisa Heller: Absolutely. We stand resolved.
GM: I understand this team has corresponded in advance via email to coordinate their arguments. Now let’s hear the beginnings of what might be a strategy session, or coordination session, to hear how they are going to develop an overall team approach to defending the affirmative side of that question.
Lisa Heller: Well we have been talking about balancing the emotional appeal with the logical appeal in terms of advocating negotiation. I am the first speaker for the debate, and I structured my opening comments along three lines. We have three basic reasons why we would want to negotiate with terrorists, with the first one being humanitarian.
Justin Parmett: Bombs bad.
Lisa Heller: Right. Bombs bad. The second justification for negotiation is political, making us look less isolationist to the Islamic world and also to the world as a whole. The third justification is philosophical, that an eye for an eye is not necessarily the philosophy that we want to be upholding. That is basically how the first speech is framed. One of the things we might want to talk about here is how to present our points. The Taliban is about to give up their last stronghold, so how can we make this debate more relevant? This might be one of the things we have to think about.
Brian Lacy: I think we should definitely extrapolate to all instances or all possible instances of terrorist acts. There is no reason why it has to be specific to just this instance. Just because what happened on September 11 has brought about us wanting to talk about this does not mean that the debate has to be solely about that. Especially because I think there are a lot of good reasons why if a terrorist said exactly what they were going to do before they actually did it, and said “if you negotiate with us, then we won’t,” that would be a uniquely good reason to negotiate. Not like what happened, where it was a surprise attack.
Justin Parmett: I also think that in terms of recent events, we need to re-evaluate what we consider solvency. If our opponents are going to claim that the bombings were successful because the Taliban is about to fall, our argument should be that the bombings have continually been a failure because people keep dying.
Lisa Heller: I have a little inside scoop on that. Our opponents do not actually want to advocate bombing good. So we might have to re-negotiate our negotiation strategy to accommodate for that. We do not want to appear like we are trying to make them seem like bombers. At the same time I think it is necessary to frame bombing as the necessary counterpart to negotiation.
Brian Lacy: I think we need to make arguments about why even if that is not what they want, bombing is going to be a side effect of not negotiating with terrorists. That is just what happens. It is like a disadvantage.
Lisa Heller: I think we really need to make that link very strong. Just the attitude of creating an enemy is kind of the philosophical position in the end. We can say that when you create this enemy, when you create a person who is evil and incapable of any kind of negotiation, then by a natural course of events, we bomb them.
Justin Parmett: We have to talk about the way they create the enemy too. I think that is really important because the arguments they use for the justifications of evil and irrationality would probably all apply back to us. That is important to recognize because either then we are just as evil and irrational, and two negatives can negotiate, or they are rational and not as evil, then that would justify our ability to negotiate.
GM: I’ve heard a lot of strategizing in terms of trying to react to the opposition arguments. If I could just jump in with one last question: What is the purpose of your presentation?
Lisa Heller: For myself, I think this is an opportunity for personal advocacy about something that I strongly believe in. What is going on in the world today is an opportunity to take debate and make it something that really matters. We have seen in the media today that while there has been a treatment of the issues, there has not really been a two-sided treatment of the issues. Many of the issues are presented merely from a government stance, saying that it is a good thing that the government is doing this and here are the evil things that have happened. Whereas the kind of historical perspective that is necessary to understand why the bombing took place is never investigated. I think that is an important counterpoint. This is an opportunity for me personally to be able to introduce that into public discourse.
Brian Lacy: I also think that what the negative is going to be defending in this debate is the status quo, what the United States government is doing right now with the way we treat terrorists. So our advocacy of denying that is a way that we take a stand against what is going on right now in the world, not just in an affirmative/negative dichotomy.
Justin Parmett: I would say the purpose is to get people to believe that we should negotiate with those who commit terrorist acts.
Lisa Heller: Straightforward.
GM: Well good luck and thanks for your time.
GM: Now we have a discussion going on here that is focusing on another one of the debates coming up: “The Fusion of debate and Hip-hop: Music, argument, social change and terrorism.” I am sitting down here with the moderator of the debate as well as someone who has talked to the participants and has some pre-debate banter to share. So could you introduce yourselves?
Judd Renken: I am Judd Renken, the moderator.
Chris Milan: I am Chris Milan, a debater at Depaul University under Judd Renken. I have debated frequently and spoken with the Louisville debaters and spoken on occasion with the Long Beach team.
GM: So what have you heard from the debaters?
Chris Milan: From what I understand, I think Louisville is going to stick with Lightfoot, who is an Indian rapper they use on their affirmative and negative cases. Lightfoot is an interesting case because it is kind of like gasta rap, except that it is specific to reservations. They have great command of it and they have some great evidence on why it is very socially transformative, how it is possible to enact resistance by playing rap music.
GM: How do you think it relates to terrorism?
Chris Milan: Unfortunately I have not spoken to them on that. I guess they were arranging it last night and I have not seen them much since then. But I did speak with Long Beach on that and they have some very interesting things to say.
GM: What have you heard from Long Beach?
Chris Milan: Actually I have heard a great deal about the music they are using in response to Louisville, which is a direct response to their artist, Lightfoot. I believe one of the exact quotations is along the lines of: “Fuck Lightfoot, his story is not mine.”
GM: Now Judd as moderator, you are starting to hear a bit about what shape this debate might take. What is the role of a moderator in a debate where there are musical selections being played by each side to make points?
Judd Renken: To make sure that the audience is along with the debaters in understanding the points of clash between the songs, if there are any, if they are not explicit. And to negotiate the space between the debaters and any audience participants that might get involved.
GM: In hearing some of the snippets about how the debate might transpire, what are your expectations or feelings about where it might go, what kind of insight it might produce about terrorism?
Judd Renken: I think it will probably discuss the call to arms by artists like Lightfoot as calls to terrorism, because they are closely aligned. Or perhaps the debate might give a rationale for why terrorist attacks happen, because the argument is often framed as chickens coming home to roost. The U.S. government has been involved in a lot of violence, a lot of abuse, not only through its foreign policy with other countries, but also within its own borders with the treatment of indigenous peoples that were here before western expansionism. I think that these artists are speaking in a way that is very close to running an airplane into a building that says: “We want our land back. This abuse has happened to us.” It is one of the means they have found to express themselves, just as terrorists found violence to express themselves.
GM: Normally when people think of the debate, the first thing that would come to mind would not be someone standing up and playing rap music to make political arguments about terrorism. This is one of the debates here that is really pushing the envelope in terms of argument form. What is your reaction to that?
Judd Renken: My reaction is that it is great because it allows us to find ideology within music, especially within Hip-hop music, where it is most in-your-face, and where the distinction between art and politics can’t even be torn apart. Then perhaps you can look back on history and view some other acts of music as having ideological infusion. Richard Wagner used by the Nazis is an obvious example of a moment where ideology and politics and music all intertwined to provide a piece of rhetoric or a piece of music that is indicative across a spectrum of domains we usually isolate. That is one of music’s unique abilities: To be able to interfuse and synthesize and break down distinctions and traverse ground between distinctions, and to not lock into specific words. We are all familiar with the sort of trite notion that putting thought into language is always doing violence to the thought. Nietzsche and others have suggested that music is one of those moments where violence isn’t done and thought is more fluidly expressed, and the lines between art and politics; ideology and politics, all fuse together and break down. That is one of the beautiful things about rap music. It is so in-your-face about the fact that those lines don’t exist or they need to be ruptured.
GM: Could you say your name again please?
Sarah Smith: My name is Sarah Smith. I am a media relations officer with the News Service Office at Wake Forest University.
GM: So what has it been like working with the media, in talking about this event?
Sarah Smith: Unfortunately I did not get as much positive reaction as I thought I would. We pitched it to everybody from the WALL STREET JOURNAL to US NEWS, to local media here. The largest outlet we got was the NORTH CAROLINA NEWS NETWORK, which is the statewide radio network. It broadcasts news for dozens of radio stations across the state. I really thought we would get a much more positive reaction because of the number of schools that are involved. It is a great example of higher education’s response.
GM: Given your knowledge of how the media works, how would you explain the fact that there was a gap between your expectation of coverage and the actual response?
Sarah Smith: A lot of it is arbitrary. But I think a lot of it is that there are a lot of these types of things going on. Not necessarily Debate-ins, because I know this is very unique. But I think that there are a lot of different things that campuses are doing. I did talk to C-SPAN and they were very close to coming. The reason why they did not come was because there were other events that were “better,” according to the person I talked to about the budget money. They didn’t have the budget to come and do this. It just depends on what other stories are at their desk that week, what other similar types of stories they have done.
GM: Now I am with Jeff Parcher, coach of Georgetown University’s debate team. So you are about to go and watch one of these debates?
Jeff Parcher: Yes, I am going to watch the debate in the Annenberg Forum about military intervention, whether or not our current policy is justified. I am interested to see a number of the debaters involved, but especially Alex Berger on one side of the question and Andrew Ryan on the other side. They are a couple of debaters I have enjoyed watching through the years and I think they will put on a good performance.
GM: What do you expect, given that you know these debaters from intercollegiate policy debating circles? Now you are about to go watch them perform in a different setting. What are your expectations?
Jeff Parcher: These are two debaters who have been very good at debating in a flexible, adaptive style, using a broad range of different types of public policy arguments that we have not always depended on historically in debate, so I think they will be particularly adept at this type of forum and should put on a good show.
GM: Now you have worked with your students at Georgetown to prepare them and steer them to participate here also.
Jeff Parcher: Yes I have. I strongly encouraged them to be involved in one of the debates. I gave them complete range of choice about what the topic would be and who they would debate with, but I strongly encouraged them to be involved because I think this is a great intersection for the use of all the skills they gain in debate. By intersection I mean it connects them to what they are going to be doing later in their lives, speaking in forums that are going to require a great deal more of public adaptation and diversity of argument types and argument styles than we have in traditional policy debates. So I think it is a good thing. We talk about it all the time but doing it in action is invaluable.
GM: I have a question about the future regarding the second semester of this year. Do you think other tournaments might follow this example and tweak their formats given the current wartime environment?
Jeff Parcher: I would be in favor of that. I would love to see more experiments in debate. Not necessarily this type of format; perhaps something different. But I’m afraid it might perhaps end here if for no other reason than I see a lot of opposition out there to changing the topic of discussion away from the current debate topic of Indian Country policy. I think there are a lot of people who view switching the topic of discussion as sort of a slight to a group that we have historically slighted by always having something more important to talk about. But if there is debate about experimental formats, I am certainly going to be on the side of having more of them.
GM: How do you respond to the argument that having more debate about, say, terrorism, slights . . .
Jeff Parcher: . . . Well we are having seven debates here. Six of them were on the formal debate topic. 95% of the research and preparation these students did to get ready for these debates was to get ready for the competitive debates. So I hardly think this is a significant distraction away from the issue of Indian Country policy. The students are going to get nearly all the educational benefit they can out of debating that topic anyway. A second answer I have is that this is not just something we should view as temporary. If other issues present themselves as important in the debate community, perhaps during presidential election years, perhaps if there are other events that are important and intruding on the public agenda, we should take time out to talk about them and focus our community on issues that we are all thinking about anyway, whatever they may be. So I do not think it is just this particular year, because we just happen to be debating Indians, and there are some people who are dissatisfied with the topic. I think it is a broader, systemic reform that we need to be experimenting with.
GM: Now I am with Ross Smith, debate coach here at Wake Forest University. It is just a couple of minutes before the debates will be starting. Ross, what is your sense of the scene here?
Ross Smith: Well it is a gorgeous day and I see people going into the buildings. I just saw a woman looking at the program who was having a hard time choosing which debate to go to.
GM: Did you have a conversation with her?
Ross Smith: Just real brief. I asked if I could help her. She asked if all the debates were at the same time, at 3:30 p.m. I said yes, and then she said well it’s hard to choose. But she was kind of looking through the program and reading the descriptions.
GM: In this Round 7 format, do you think we have too many debates?
Ross Smith: I don’t know what the right number is. It would be a wacky thing to say that we have too many debates. We don’t have enough debates in our society, period.
GM: Do you think the debaters are going to do a good job adapting to the public audience?
Ross Smith: Yes. I really do. I think that whatever audience is in their room they will adapt to it. That’s their thing. They want to look good. They have ego involved, even if there is not a win or a loss.
GM: Thanks for your time. Anything you want to add?
Ross Smith: Gosh, I still don’t know which debate I want to go see. And I’m supposed to tab this tournament and figure out this other stuff. I am going to bring my computer with me. Now I’m going to see if I can get the last ballot out of this guy Harris in the other building here.
GM: Now here is the pre-walking debate organizational gathering, featuring Dan, Matt, Adam, Kevin and Katie. I just heard you folks starting off talking about which debate you will go to first. Is that how the walking debate format starts?
Dan: Definitely a good place to start.
Matt: I’d like to see the Hip-hop debate.
Katie: Yeah that’s what I would like to see too.
Dan: I would too, although I’m almost prone to do that a little later, once it gets going, everyone settles down, kind of gets into the groove.
Adam Lee: We could see Schiros at the beginning.
Kevin Kuswa: Maybe we could discuss some things on our own before we observe some of the other debates.
Matt: Yeah, we could do that too. Air some opinions on the resolutions that have been put out.
Kevin Kuswa: Well there were four starters: Homeland security, what does that entail? Enduring Freedom versus Infinite Justice was another question. Whether or not we needed to change the topic to talk about terrorism. I’ve heard a lot of terrorism discussions already at this tournament. That might give us some feedback when people start asking whether we should do this at other tournaments; should we change this topic for the rest of the year, those kinds of questions. We might want to try and figure out our response to that. The Hip-hop debate sounds really interesting.
Matt: They’ve got some good music. They’ve got some GOOD music. We’ve talked to the teams, just on the outside.
Kevin Kuswa: Yeah, what are they going to play?
Matt: Louisville has the music they’ve been using for their aff case, which I guess is a lot of Hip-hop.
Kevin Kuswa: Lightfoot.
Matt: Lightfoot and Shadoweyes. Then Long Beach actually found Native American Hip-hop that refutes Lightfoot directly! Like in song that talks about Lightfoot and says that is not their representation of Native American life. I think that will work out to be pretty, pretty interesting.
Kevin Kuswa: Do you know how it refutes?
Matt: Within the song, the guy just goes “Fuck Lightfoot, that’s not my life.”
Adam Lee: I was going to bleep you for that!
Matt: You don’t need to bleep me, man. Censorship man, whatever.
Adam: I don’t know, it’s sort of interesting that they’re using Native American stuff, which begs the question, once again, about do we really need to change the topic in order to talk about this stuff.
Matt: I think they are also going to try to take more of a symposium atmosphere to it, and try to give a sort of introduction as to how a piece applies, and then
Kevin Kuswa: That is a question we should ask ourselves: Whether we want to go in and participate in some of these and whether we just want to go in and observe.
Adam Lee: Get like robes, and act very mysterious?
Matt: Wear masks.
Kevin Kuswa: Run in, in unison, then shout . . .
Matt: Run out really quickly . . .
Matt: I think participation is definitely part of it. I think we have to engage, just because we are way traveling as a group mind.
Adam Lee: We are a collective.
Matt: No, no, no, no, no, no. Stop. Don’t take that the wrong way. Not like we’re homogenizing ourselves
Dan: You mean like we could be a schizophrenic mind?
Matt: Well we’re obviously going to come to some conclusions within this group that we might not necessarily come to on our own. Or at least I’m sure I am. There is that transformative power of being with a group of people and traveling from debate to debate. There is obviously something that the group is going to be able to impose upon, not impose in a negative way, but like bring to the debates that is going to be different from just the individual observers . . .
Kevin Kuswa: . . . that are already in there . . .
Matt: . . . yes.
GM: Okay folks. Good luck and thanks for your time.
GM: Now I am here with Chris DeVault, Wake Forest undergraduate debater. We are waiting for the debate about whether the U.S. should pull out of Afghanistan to begin. How does the scene compare to say, a deep elimination round at a competitive policy debate tournament?
Chris DeVault: Well, because of the lack of competitive aspect, there is probably less stress in terms of what implication this has for the rest of the competitive activity. Because that element of competition is eliminated from this scene it allows more attention on specific issues that are being resolved and allows those issues to come to the forefront of the discussion, rather than the debaters themselves who are presenting the issues and whether or not their presentations reflect their success in the debate in terms of success later on in the tournament.
GM: How do you think it might change delivery style?
Chris DeVault: Probably the style will be slower, more concise, more detailed, in-depth argumentation as opposed to traditional debate techniques that emphasize speed in trying to get out more arguments, and trying to develop arguments strategically in order to win, as opposed to more fully developing the arguments that you are trying to use to persuade the audience.
GM: What is your assessment of the current quality of public debate on terrorism outside of this debate tournament?
Chris DeVault: I don’t have much exposure to public debate on terrorism outside of this, so I don’t know if I would be qualified to answer that question.
GM: As an audience member, what are your expectations in coming to a public debate of this nature on terrorism?
Chris DeVault: I expect an intellectually engaging debate on very pertinent, topical issues. The debaters in this particular group are incredibly intelligent and persuasive debaters and I think they will do more than an adequate job of engaging the issues of the topic.
GM: Thanks for your time.
* * *
GM: Now we are in the middle of Round 7 and I am with Allan Louden. Al, you just walked by the Hip-hop debate room. What did you see in the room?
Allan Louden: What an eclectic crowd! They were listening to music and they were all moving with it. It was a full room.
GM: So the audience was moving with the music?
Allan Louden: Absolutely. They were there for the music and for the interplay of ideas. It was cool.
GM: What about some of the other debates down here in the basement of Calloway?
Allan Louden: The feminism debate is interesting because there is a small audience but it is a very activist audience who is questioning, and this is just from what I heard passing through, whether we should take the missiles away from men because they will do mad things unless you rein them in, because that is sort of their nature. And it is time we put a stop to the war and let women’s voices be heard.
GM: Wow. Any other notable debates you have seen?
Allan Louden: I was surprised at the crowd in the withdrawal debate. There is a huge crowd in there.
GM: What is that, about 80 would you say?
Allan Louden: Probably more than that.
GM: Okay, when you put it all together collectively, evaluating from the midst of what is happening, what is your sense of what’s going on?
Allan Louden: First of all, if nothing else, you engage the ideas, which is good. You also see yourself as a player. That is what is going on. That is the difference between a passive observer of media and what is going on. You become a player, and you are with friends. It is real people talking about real things, so it is an investment, an ownership, an orientation which changes your worldview about what you can do.
* * *
GM: Ross Smith is here now, who has apparently been walking around during Round 7.
Ross Smith: I have just seen a couple of debates, mostly the one in the Annenberg Forum, because I was working next door, watching the debate and getting drawn in, then I would have to go back to work, and then get drawn in again!
GM: What do you make of the fact that there was no or little applause from the audience in that debate?
Ross Smith: Hmmm. I never even thought about applause. That is interesting though. When should the audience applaud? When the speakers are first introduced? Or when they get up to speak? Or when they finish their speeches? I don’t know. I think it’s captivating for the audience. I think people in the room are really listening. They know the debate is not over. There is nothing to applaud yet.
GM: What are the other debates you have seen?
Ross Smith: Just a little bit of this one, the Wake Forest one, where my team is.
GM: What did you see in there?
Ross Smith: An empty room.
GM: How are the debaters reacting to that?
Ross Smith: Real well. Since they are all being videotaped, I think they realize there is a real future for their debate. Their debate just doesn’t have to end now. People can watch it down the line.