Jargon

Plank – Interpretations are composed of one or more planks that prescribe what practices should be allowed. With a bit of practice, you’ll know it when you see it. The interpretation:

The aff must not read a plan

has one plank because it prescribes one thing – namely, that the aff must not read a plan.

On the other hand, the interpretation:

“The aff may only read spikes if for each spike the aff specifies potential violations and whether the argument or debater is dropped if violated.”

or more crudely:

“The aff may read spikes. The aff must specify potential violations for each spike. The aff must specify whether the argument or debater is dropped if the spike is violated.”

prescribes three things – namely, that 1) the aff may read spikes 2) each spike must specify what might violate that spike and 3) that the spike clarifies whether its drop the argument or debater. Thus, there are three planks here.

What’s an OCI?

Following the developing discussion over OCI’s has been interesting. It’s only been going on for a handful of years and it’s one example of LD growing into something different than one-person policy. Consensus on OCI’s have changed throughout the years too.

As a project, arguments for OCI’s are partially reactions to omnipresent theory, especially frivolous theory that’s clearly false but read as a time-suck. To that end, RVI’s just don’t work anymore because every decent theory debater has a massive RVI bad dump that’s difficult to wade through. OCI’s are attempts to bypass this debate while still generating an offensive out on theory.

To make this more concrete, consider the following interpretations:

1) Interpretation – The affirmative must not read a plan.

2) Counter-Interpretation – The affirmative may read a plan.

3) Offensive Counter-Interpretation – The neg must not prohibit the aff from reading a plan.

What does it mean for the interpretation to be offensively worded?

An interpretation is offensively worded if the interpretation prohibits a practice. The first and third interpretations share this feature by claiming their opponent must not do something. The second interpretation is different; it is not offensively worded because it merely says the aff may do something, not that the neg must not do something.

Are offensively worded interpretations always actually offensive?

This cannot be the case. Consider the alternate offensive counter-interpretation:

The aff may read a plan. My opponent must not be Bob.

Or even more bluntly:

Neither debater must murder each other. My opponent must not be Bob.

Assume all the offense in the shell is about the affirmative murdering their opponent being a bad thing. But that the reason my opponent Bob (in fact, Bob is always my opponent!) violates the shell is that he is, in fact, Bob.

This clearly is an incoherent shell. Yes, textually Bob violates the interpretation. But if you parse out the plank Bob ACTUALLY violates and the abuse attached to that plank, Bob has done nothing abusive.

The take-away is this: genuinely offensive interpretations must identify abuse your opponent caused. Superficial word changes are not magical.

I thought we were talking about OCI’s. What’s the deal?

Let’s return to the original interpretation:

The neg must not prohibit the aff from reading a plan.

Suppose the rest of the shell merely argues plans are good. The same issue we outlined above applies here. The plank violated is that the neg read false theory. But the only thing the shell justifies is that plans are good. This interpretation has not identified abuse your opponent caused.

So what’s the OCI missing? It’s missing arguments for why it’s abusive for debaters to read false theory. Perhaps plans are good, but theory is so educational that the neg should indict them anyways. Theory does help debaters think on the fly and feel empowered to push forward their own activity through hard work and deep thought. Perhaps theory helps level the playing field for small-school debaters who can’t cut as many cards.

By no means am I saying that the above claims are true. Rather, my aim is to merely challenge the unwarranted assumption that false theory is abusive: there is a debate to be had. In fact, a lot of this debate overlaps onto the same old RVI debate.

What does this all mean?

Here’s the community consensus as best as I can tell: OCI’s can work. It’s possible to justify the offensive plank and say false theory is abusive, but that’s just an RVI. If so, then OCI’s are trivial because they merely changed the location of an RVI from being underneath a counter-interp to inside it.

I don’t agree with the above paragraph’s pessimism. This article followed the most well-known criticism against OCI’s, but relied on the following assumptions: 1) that most people reading OCI’s won’t actually justify the offensive plank and that 2) any justification for the offensive plank is just an RVI with Groucho glasses. We’ll challenge those assumptions a bit in part two and look at the different arguments put forth on behalf of OCI’s.

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