Instigator / Pro
14
1491
rating
10
debates
70.0%
won
Topic
#4631

(TRT) Controversial historical monuments and statues that symbolize racism and oppression should be removed.

Status
Finished

The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

Winner & statistics
Better arguments
6
3
Better sources
4
4
Better legibility
2
2
Better conduct
2
2

After 2 votes and with 3 points ahead, the winner is...

jamgiller
Judges
whiteflame's avatar
whiteflame
27 debates / 193 votes
Voted
Lemming's avatar
Lemming
6 debates / 36 votes
Voted
Mps1213's avatar
Mps1213
11 debates / 7 votes
No vote
Parameters
Publication date
Last updated date
Type
Standard
Number of rounds
3
Time for argument
One week
Max argument characters
20,000
Voting period
One week
Point system
Multiple criterions
Voting system
Judges
Contender / Con
11
1511
rating
25
debates
68.0%
won
Description

This is an on-balance debate.

Controversy: a discussion marked especially by the expression of opposing views

Historical: of, relating to, or having the character of history (events of the past)

Monument: a lasting evidence, reminder, or example of someone or something notable or great

Statue: a three-dimensional representation usually of a person, animal, or mythical being that is produced by sculpturing, modeling, or casting

Symbol: an act, sound, or object having cultural significance and the capacity to excite or objectify a response

Racism:
* a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race OR
* behavior or attitudes that reflect and foster this belief
* the systemic oppression of a racial group to the social, economic, and political advantage of another OR
* a political or social system founded on racism and designed to execute its principles

Oppression: unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power

Remove:
* to change the location, position, station, or residence of OR
* to get rid of

Round 1
Pro
#1
Thank you to Slainte for accepting the challenge to this debate, and to the volunteer judges.

Preamble
I will advocate for the removal of controversial historical monuments and statues that symbolize racism and oppression by proposing a plan for their removal. In this round, I will cover the following topics:

  • My interpretation of the resolution
  • Harms occurring in the status quo, considering the current locations of monuments and statues
  • My plan to remove monuments and statues
  • The ways in which my plan solves problems in the status quo

Definitions
Below, I present the relevant definitions of key words in the resolution. Some definitions that I consider redundant and irrelevant can also be viewed on the linked Merriam Webster web pages.

Controversial: of, relating to, or arousing controversy (a discussion marked especially by the expression of opposing views)

  • of, relating to, or having the character of history (events of the past)
  • based on history
  • used in the past and reproduced in historical presentations
  • a lasting evidence, reminder, or example of someone or something notable or great
  • a memorial stone or a building erected in remembrance of a person or event
Statue: a three-dimensional representation usually of a person, animal, or mythical being that is produced by sculpturing, modeling, or casting

  • something that stands for or suggests something else by reason of relationship, association, convention, or accidental resemblance (especially : a visible sign of something invisible)
  • an act, sound, or object having cultural significance and the capacity to excite or objectify a response
  • a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
  • behavior or attitudes that reflect and foster this belief
  • the systemic oppression of a racial group to the social, economic, and political advantage of another
  • a political or social system founded on racism and designed to execute its principles
Oppression: unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power

  • to change the location, position, station, or residence of
  • to get rid of
Interpretation of the resolution
The resolution is nuanced and open to interpretation. I will present and justify my interpretation of the resolution, for which I will later advocate with a relevant plan. My interpretation of the resolution and my plan are based on my understanding of how controversial policy issues are generally resolved in a liberal democracy.

I interpret the resolution as being concerned with monuments and statues erected on public land. In a liberal democracy, people generally have the right, with some exceptions, to express an idea even if it is controversial or offensive. Although the specifics of a case would vary by country, with the US tending to have the strongest protections of expression, there may be objections to a racist monument or statue erected on a person’s privately owned land, but they would nonetheless have the right to keep it there.


My interpretation is supported by Barczac and Thompson’s characterization of monuments in their paper in the Journal of Philosophy of Education (1 pp. 441).

“A monument enjoys a fully or partially official status. That is, a monument is (to some degree) a state-endorsed comment on the other two characteristics described above. Towards holding fully official status, a monument might be state owned, constructed and/or maintained.”
The resolution is not concerned with objects currently located in museums or similar venues in which the objects are contextualized. Because museums have a role in the removal of monuments (2), I consider potentially relevant objects currently located in museums as having already been “removed”.

The resolution requires Pro to develop a plan to identify controversial historical monuments and statues that symbolize racism and oppression, and take suitable actions to remove them. Historical monuments and statues include those that have been completely constructed and are in a fixed location at the time of this debate.

Burden of proof
This is an on-balance debate, so the burden of proof is shared.

Pro should win if I make a convincing argument that my plan solves important problems in the status quo, and is superior to Con’s counterplan. Conversely, Con should win if my opponent makes a convincing argument for their counterplan. My plan can’t allow historical monuments or statues that are identified within it as controversial and symbolizing racism and oppression to remain in place. Similarly, Con’s counterplan can’t involve the removal of a controversial monument or statue that symbolizes racism and oppression.

Harms associated with racist monuments and statues

Internalized oppression (3)
The public display of monuments and statues that symbolize racism and oppression cause people who identify with the racially discriminated and oppressed group to internalize racist ideas. This results in psychological harm and reduces the capacity of the affected people to improve their lives.

“Internalized oppression is triggered when images and monuments and names represent generations of community hurt and pain.” – Jalaya Liles-Dunn, director of Learning for Justice at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Civic harms (1 pp. 445-446)
Barczac and Thompson identify three categories of civic harms:

  1. “Direct social and political impacts to the persons identified as inferior within the civic context”. Monuments that symbolize racism and oppression have direct negative social and political effects on people who identify with the oppressed group by, for example, making them feel unwelcome in public spaces (3) or legitimizing a racist politics such as white supremacy (4). 
  2. “The maleducative effects experienced by persons about the due status of persons within a civic context.” This harm arises due to the perceived state endorsement of the racist ideas symbolized by some public monuments. The authors also note that public spaces often “fail to provide the proper pedagogical context for civic education” about what is memorialized by monuments erected there.
  3. “Degradations to the quality of interaction and exchange within the civic community itself.” Beyond the negative effects of monuments and statues that symbolize racism and oppression on the relationships between different groups, the internalized oppression caused by these monuments “can create division in a minority community also, decreasing collective power and action. This is so, for example, when a light-skinned African-American looks down on darker-skinned Black people.” (3)
Plan to remove monuments
I propose that controversial monuments and statues that symbolize racism and oppression can be identified within a community through the operation of a representative commission with the resources to investigate and evaluate monuments. Members of the public could comment on monuments in open meetings of the commission, or via written submissions, and the commission could also take into account the expert opinions of historians, political and social scientists, etc. A monument identified by such a commission would satisfy the definition of “controversial”, since Collins’ Dictionary states:

“If you describe something or someone as controversial, you mean that they are the subject of intense public argument, disagreement, or disapproval.”
and the commission would facilitate “intense public argument”. Whether something is considered racist or not is socially determined. Operating a commission as described above is a valid way to socially determine the status of a monument or statue as symbolizing racism and oppression in a liberal democracy.

Any monument identified by a commission in a certain community as being controversial and symbolizing racism and oppression would be scheduled for removal according to the resources available to the community. It may not be possible to immediately remove the monument, but the resolution does not specify a timeline for removal. The eventual removal must consist of relocating the monument to a museum or similar venue, transferring conservancy to a private entity and relocating it to private land, or disposing of the monument, etc.

Solution of harms
The removal of controversial monuments and statues that symbolize racism and oppression according to the plan described above would eliminate the monuments and statues as causes of internalized oppression, and the causes of the civic harms identified by Barczac and Thompson. The maintenance of the monuments on public land would perpetuate at least some of these harms. For example, although it may be possible to ameliorate maleducative effects by adding notices to a monument, the monument would nonetheless retain its “celebratory or honorific” tone and implied state endorsement, which contribute to the other harms (1).


Con
#2
Thank you jamgiller for this first TRT debate for me.

As this is the first round, I will not be referring to Pro's arguments.

On the outset, I accepted this debate based on the definitions set in the description.  Any modification or variance that is set-forth from those definitions by either Myself or Pro would be a Kritik, and need to be adjudged accordingly.

A resolution is put forward for theoretical adoption.  Changing the definition of the words, or the intent on how it may be adopted does not negate the potential for unexpected applications of that resolution.  In short, if the resolution was adopted, it would be law.  Is that a good law or not?

Start:

I am going to open with a literal analysis of the resolution, inclusive of the very specific definitions articulated.  This will show the resolutions true meaning, and then show why said resolution cannot be supported. My main argument is that resolutions, or statements like the one purported, while in appearance may be helpful to advance a particular goal, or objective, often have unintended consequences, which can be far more destructive.  This resolution is one of those examples. And BTW, yes I use too many commas.

Linguistics of the Resolution:

My first issue is the word “Controversial”.  While that word is not defined in the description, the word controversy is.  Taking that description definition into consideration, we have the “opposing views”.   This word is either ambiguous or an absurd interpretation of an opposing view.  

  • A). If the word is viewed as ambiguous, we already have a problem
  • B) If the word is viewed as any opposing view, we have a problem

Either way there is a problem.

The second issue is the word "symbolize."  We have a similar issue to the word controversial.  The word symbolize is not defined, yet symbol is. Symbol is defined as having the “capacity to excite or objectify a response”. Let’s look at that word capacity. Capacity in the context being used, is very subjective, and ambiguous.   We have the exact same problem with capacity that we do with controversial. Capacity is the ability to contain something. Who determines capacity?  The unambiguous and subjective nature of capacity creates a problem.
  • A). If the word capacity is viewed as ambiguous, we have a problem
  • B) If the word capacity is viewed as any individual subjective interpretation, we have a problem.

Another, either way there is another problem.

The third word is the conjunction “and”.  The resolution requires that both racism and oppression need to elements of offence to qualify for removal.  This may have been intended, however I would argue that the word and is ambiguous.  Most people would read the resolution as two independent thoughts.  They mentally would substitute the word and with or.

  • A) If the resolution was intended to be and, then while it certainly refines the overall objective, the way it is written is ambiguous and would cause literal confusion.
  • B) If the resolution was intended to be or, then we have a problem in the construction, and that will lead to literal confusion.

The fourth issue is the word “oppression”.  It is defined and includes “unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power”.  Who determines what unjust is, or what cruel is?  We run into an issue with both of those words, much like those above.  They are ambiguous, and subjective.

  • A). The term unjust from a jurisprudence perspective is subjective by its nature, and philosophical
  1. Is unjust based on a comparison to the current  laws? 
  2. Is unjust the application of the laws?
  3. What if the laws themselves are unjust, how does this get reconciled?

  • B) The term cruel is fraught with subjectivity. 
  1. Is cruel for domestic issues, foreign issues?
  2. Is it cruel to have an administration not support abortion, or is it cruel to have an administration support abortion?  
  3. Is cruel determined based on our current mindset, or the mindset of the time?  
  4. Is someone killing someone else cruel?  If so then all war memorials are gone.  
  5. Is someone who was not a vegan, cruel?

Finally I would like to look at the word should.  

The sentence reads, if the following criteria are met, then the result should be this.  It is very boolean.  IF - THEN.  With that binary type approach, we loose all flexibility in discussing the nuances of a particular monument.  Based on the resolution the AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU would be “removed”.  

Let us look at that for the resolution.

  1. Is Auschwitz controversial?  Yes
  2. Is Auschwitz a monument?  Yes
  3. Is Auschwitz a symbol of racism?   Yes
  4. Is Auschwitz a symbol of  “cruel”?   Yes
  5. Is Auschwitz a symbol of “unjust”?  Yes
  6. Should Auschwitz be removed?   
This resolution says Auschwitz should be removed.  And the argument for not removing it is to remind everyone, and teach everyone the horrors that occurred.    Lest we forget.

The resolution is so broad, and so poorly constructed that it is not enforceable in any way.  It drools subjectivity, sweats ambiguity and has the refinement of the nastiest prison toilet wine. It does not take into consideration educational, contextual, cultural, or religious elements.  It paints an entire and subjective brush over everything.  The resolution, if adopted would render ANY differing opinion as creating controversy, and no opportunity to discuss the potential value, EVEN if some of the criteria, which are also very subjective, are met.

We just saw this with Auschwitz.

  • George Washington owned slaves.  Owning a slave is racist, and oppressive.  He is controversial.  Do we take him of Mount Rushmore?
  • Jefferson owned slaves, and his book Notes on the State of Virginia, is very controversial.  Do we take him off Mount Rushmore?
  • Roosevelt was anti Filipino in maintaining the Phillippine-America war, and was controversial for his tactics.  Do we take him off Mount Rushmore?
  • And I think Lincoln didn’t do enough for blacks, and I thought some of his policies were oppressive.  Do we take him off Mount Rushmore?
The resolution says YES to the above, with no opportunity for contextual discussion.  Therefore the resolution cannot be supported, because as a law it is fundamentally flawed for enforcement.  Pro needs to establish that the resolution passes, not their contrived notion of it.


Round 2
Pro
#3
In the first round, Con asserted what it means to support the resolution based on their interpretation of it, and then argued that 1) supporting their interpretation of the resolution would lead to the removal of some monuments that should not be removed because they are valuable, and 2) enforcing the removal of monuments and statues according to their interpretation of the resolution would be otherwise problematic. For this round, I will argue that the harms of retaining controversial monuments and statues that symbolize racism and oppression should be given greater weight than the benefits of retaining them. I will also refute Con’s arguments from the first round.

Interpretation of the resolution
I will respond to Con’s opening statements.

On the outset, I accepted this debate based on the definitions set in the description.  Any modification or variance that is set-forth from those definitions by either Myself or Pro would be a Kritik, and need to be adjudged accordingly.

A resolution is put forward for theoretical adoption.  Changing the definition of the words, or the intent on how it may be adopted does not negate the potential for unexpected applications of that resolution.  In short, if the resolution was adopted, it would be law.  Is that a good law or not?

I would like to clarify that I included the dictionary definitions of some words in the resolution in this debate’s description because it seems like it is expected to cite definitions in debates on this website, and I thought they could be useful for understanding the resolution. A particular dictionary’s definition can contribute to the understanding of a word, but it is limited and does not absolutely shape one’s understanding of a word. I was not establishing a rule that competitors can only rely on definitions provided in this debate’s description to interpret the resolution, though I think they should at least try, as I did, not to contradict such definitions. It should also be clear that I am acting in good faith regarding the dictionary definitions that I listed, as I provided the links to the original entries (to avoid accusations of cherry-picking)  and addressed in the comments an oversight about one definition used in the description, which Con seemed to have no problem with.

I presented and justified my interpretation of the resolution based on my understanding of how controversial policy issues are generally resolved in a liberal democracy. Con interpreted the resolution, word by word, based on the dictionary definitions that I provided in the description, and some definitions they looked up independently. For example, my interpretation of “controversial” included arousing intense public argument, whereas Con interpreted “controversial” as arousing any difference of opinion, regardless of scale or intensity. I supported my interpretation by referencing another source (Collins’ Dictionary), so it would be clear that I was not contriving this interpretation, whereas Con stuck with the definition from Merriam Webster that I included in this debate’s description. There is no basis to prioritize either of our interpretations of “controversy” or the resolution as a whole. Con states that “Pro needs to establish that the resolution passes, not their contrived notion of it.” In making this statement, Con asserts without proof that my interpretation is contrived with the implication that their interpretation, which is based on their “literal analysis of the resolution”, is somehow correct. Con also states that “The resolution says YES to the above, with no opportunity for contextual discussion.” However, my plan does in fact provide opportunity for contextual discussion, and Con does not prove otherwise.

Burden of proof
I would like to highlight that Con’s first round focused on establishing the words in the resolution as ambiguous and subjective, and claiming that the ambiguity causes a vague “problem”, rather than weighing the benefits and harms of either side of the debate or developing a counter-plan. As this is an on-balance debate, the burden of proof is shared, so Con has an obligation to prove that controversial historical monuments that symbolize racism and oppression should not be removed. So far, they have made one argument against removing one specific “monument” (later, I will actually refute Con’s usage of this specific example):

This resolution says Auschwitz should be removed.  And the argument for not removing it is to remind everyone, and teach everyone the horrors that occurred. Lest we forget.

They have also argued that enforcing the removal of monuments and statues according to their interpretation of the resolution would be problematic.

The resolution is so broad, and so poorly constructed that it is not enforceable in any way.

I proposed a plan to remove controversial monuments and statues that symbolize racism and oppression, which would be enforceable. Con must prove that my plan is either unenforceable or should not be enforced, and can’t rely on arguing against their own interpretation of what it means to support the resolution.

Con also merely implies that monuments to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, etc., should not be removed, but doesn’t actually prove why these monuments shouldn’t be removed.

Weighing harms against benefits
In the first round, I established the harms caused by controversial monuments and statues that symbolize racism and oppression. Con implied that at least some monuments confer the benefit of reminding people of an historical ill such that it will not be repeated. For this round, I will argue that the harms I established outweigh this benefit because monuments are generally poor teaching tools. If Con proposes other benefits of monuments in this round, I can build upon this part of my argument in the final round, having established it here.

Monuments are poor teaching tools
Rather than ensuring that the ills of the racism and oppression that they symbolize are never committed again, Confederate monuments are actually positively associated with lynching, according to Henderson et al. (5) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“Specifically, we find that the number of lynching victims in a county is a positive and significant predictor of Confederate memorializations in that county, even after controlling for relevant covariates.”

Therefore, it is not guaranteed that the presence of monuments will prevent historic ills from reoccurring, and their presence can sometimes be associated with a greater prevalence of such ills.

In its National Monument Audit (6), the Monument Lab found that the current monument landscape in the US misrepresents American history, and also writes: “Where inequalities and injustices exist, monuments often perpetuate them.”

In the first round, I also quoted Barczac and Thompson (1) that public spaces often “fail to provide the proper pedagogical context for civic education” about what is memorialized by monuments erected there.

These pieces of evidence dispute the benefit of monuments claimed by Con and reinforce my claims about the harms caused by racist monuments. Therefore, I ask the judges to give greater weight to the harms that I established in the first round.

Auschwitz

Con states the following.

Based on the resolution the AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU would be ‘removed’.  

Let us look at that for the resolution.

Is Auschwitz controversial?  Yes
Is Auschwitz a monument?  Yes
Is Auschwitz a symbol of racism?   Yes
Is Auschwitz a symbol of  “cruel”?   Yes
Is Auschwitz a symbol of “unjust”?  Yes
Should Auschwitz be removed?   

This resolution says Auschwitz should be removed.

Using either my interpretation of the resolution, or taking Con’s approach of “literal analysis”, the Auschwitz concentration camp would not be considered a monument.

First, let’s observe the relevant part of the definition from Merriam Webster that Con holds so dear (emphasis mine): “a memorial stone or a building erected in remembrance of a person or event”. Auschwitz was not erected in remembrance of anything, it was erected to serve as a prison and extermination camp for enemies of the Nazi regime. Therefore, using Con’s own preferred literal interpretation of “monument” according to the definition in Merriam Webster, the Auschwitz concentration camp would directly contradict part of that definition and would therefore not be considered a monument.

I referenced what Barczac and Thompson consider monuments to be in their paper in the Journal of Philosophy of Education, which they summarize as “historically significant, celebratory/honorific, state-endorsed constructions.” (1 pp. 440). The Auschwitz concentration camp is neither celebratory/honorific, nor (currently) state-endorsed as a facility for the imprisonment or extermination of people, and therefore would not be considered a monument.

Con’s claim that “Based on the resolution the AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU would be ‘removed’.“ is not supported. Con fails to prove that my plan would result in the “removal” of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Con
#4
Preamble
In this round, I will be responding to both the First round arguments and the retorts to my first round.

First Round:
Definitions
We agree on the definitions set at the beginning.  I do not agree to the modifications of those definitions later shown by Pro.

Interpretation of the Resolution

Pro admits
“The resolution is nuanced and open to interpretation.”
It is essential that all things being equal, the resolution needs to be read at its face value, and qualifiers or modifications are not introduced.

Pro justifies their interpretation:
“based on my understanding of how controversial policy issues are generally resolved in a liberal democracy.” 

My interpretation is based on what is actually written.  

Pro states: (emphasis added)
“I interpret the resolution as being concerned with monuments and statues erected on public land. “

I contest this interpretation.  Qualifying the resolution to only be that which is on public-land is a significant departure from the resolution. Pro adds more to this resolution manipulation by stating
“The resolution is not concerned with objects currently located in museums or similar venues in which the objects are contextualized”.

Pro is contradicting themselves.  They first state that the resolution only applies to public lands, yet adds an exception to museums.  What about the 35,000 public museums in the US alone?  Pro then justifies museums as being able to “contextualize” the monument.  Pro contradicts themselves, and then adds a qualifier of “contextual”, to their contradiction.

Pro has added a qualifier that reads like  “on public lands, provided that the context has not been established” to the resolution.  The resolution does not even imply these qualifiers. Pro’s subject justification on why they interpret the resolution in that way is not persuasive.    Pro points out that there is a concept of free speech that needs to be protected, and erroneously states that the US has the “strongest protections of expression”.   US is not even in the top 10.  Pro quotes a paper the refers to  Confederate monuments. Pro seriously misrepresents the article they present, by implying that  the article is about the resolution, or even reasonably related to the resolution.  It is not.  The article is about one specific facet of the resolution, that being one type of controversial monument that  supports racism.  Pro then implies through a quote that a monument is a state-endorsed, again trying to narrow the resolution.  

Pro also states that the resolution requires Pro to develop a plan.    I do not see that requirement anywhere in the resolution or in the description.   As an additional example of the sand shifting techniques used by Pro, they  set a definition for controversial at the beginning of their debate, and then changed that definition later on to require “intense public argument”.  They then don't define what that is or how it is leveraged.

Pro has now twisted the resolution to relate only to state-endorsed monuments on public lands,  excluding museums on public lands,  only those related to Confederate Monuments,  that create an intense public argument, and then we must create a plan to handle it.   That is not the resolution of this debate.  

Pro has stated I have the burden to create a counterplan that can’t involve the removal of a controversial monument or statue that symbolizes racism and oppression.  Why would I have to create a plan that absolutely applies to the resolution as written, yet Pro can create a plan with exceptions?  This is absurd. Even if the resolution implied that a plan needs to be created by both participants, the obligations would be similar for both and not so egregiously onesided.

THAT IS NOT THE RESOLUTION.  A plan cannot be created, when the actual topic is as Pro said:
“nuanced and open to interpretation”,
nor can the burden be so disproportionate that it renders it impossible for one participant.

For this first part my position is clear.  The resolution needs to be argued on its face.  I did not agree to debate a resolution to be determined after the fact.  I did not agree to create a plan for a resolution that is so ambigious, a plan is non-sensible.   Pro is dancing around the ambiguity box of the resolution by remolding it with additional words and concepts of something they like.

WITHOUT LIMITING THE FOREGOING I WILL ADDRESS SOME CONTRADICTIONS IN PRO’S CLAIM.

Pro states

“The public display of monuments”

That would include all forms of display in public, which includes museums, and includes monuments on private lands that can be seen from the public. This negates the museum exception parameter Pro tried to establish above.   It also contradicts the concept of free-expression, which Pro clearly supported.    It would render all qualifying displays as not being accessible to the public.    Those are Pro’s words.

Pro proposes creating a commission, and then changes the already established definition of controversial.  This is a complete modification to the resolution.  It also has problems:
  1. How do you fund this commission?
  2. What is a representative, how are they chosen?
  3. Pro presents a State run initiative. So it is the State that is the arbiter of what is offensive?  Is this not the State putting in a “thought police”.   The “plan” by Pro, does not include any way to ensure that the resulting action is because of what the community wanted, they only state that the community can present their ideas.
  4. Pro states that the offensive monument can be transferred to private ownership, and that is a problem.  Because all the State needs to do is sell the spot of land the monument is on as a private park.  They could even lease the land, and it is now in private control.   Therefore the monument would be on private lands, and based on Pro’s statements above, the State could not execute a removal.
  5. Then the definition of monument.  In Round 2 Pro has twisted the definition of monument to only mean a building erected for the purposes of remembering a person or event.  However per their own definition above a monument also includes a building or structure lasting evidence, reminder, or example of someone or something notable or great.  That includes Stonehenge, Gobekle Tepe, Easter Island statutes, The Pyramids, etc etc etc.   None of those are monuments?
I do not agree with Pro’s modification of the resolution, or the ever changing definitions.  Even if I did, I do not agree with the plan presented because it does not accomplish Pro’s objectives, even as modified.  

My plan is very simple.  Support the system that is already in place.  If people don’t like something, they can petition the Government for a redress of grievances.   It is the First Amendment.   I would argue that most democracies, and flawed democracies (like the US https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Economist_Democracy_Index) have a mechanism for redress.

Pro has obfuscated my true position, and that is the clarity of the resolution at hand. My position is not to make sure that every monument stays up.  Under Pro’s admission the absurdity of the resolution requires interpretation, inflection, addition of supplemental words, and is a turbine engine of creating unintended consequences.  If we look at the resolution, I have set my arguments about the complete ambiguity of it.  Pro does not support the resolution either.  They are just obfuscating their modification to it.  If the resolution was reworded as follows, I could agree with it, and based on Pro’s convoluted arguments, they would agree with it as well.  Which means, neither of us support the resolution as written, ergo Con prevails,

Controversial historical monuments and statues that symbolize racism and oppression should be recommended for removal, and any removal shall be consistent with  constitutional, legislative, and community standards.







Round 3
Pro
#5
Preamble
In this debate, Con has focused on the issue of topicality. For the final round, I will defend my plan in terms of topicality. I will also refute Con’s points from round 2.

Topicality
In a debate, topicality refers to the obligation on Pro to make relevant arguments that support the resolution. Topicality is an issue that appears in multiple competitive debate formats, such as parliamentary debate and policy debate.

From Introducing Parliamentary Debate: A resource for teachers and students (7 pp. 31):

“The issue that establishes the relation of the proposition team’s plan to the language of the topic; the proof that the affirmative argument is a representation of the resolution”

From Policy Debate: An Introduction for Urban Debate League Students and Coaches (8 pp. 59):

“Topicality is the burden of the Affirmative team to advocate a plan that fits within the resolution.”

From The National Debate Project’s Policy Debate Manual (9 pp. 29):

“Topicality exists to LIMIT what the affirmative may talk about so the negative can have a reasonable chance to argue against the case. If the affirmative could talk about anything, how could the negative prepare for the debate? The negative argues that topicality is a VOTING ISSUE. In other words, they argue that the affirmative should lose the debate if the negative can prove that the affirmative plan does not support the resolution.”

I will defend against Con’s argument on the issue of topicality. An argument on the issue of topicality typically consists of four points (8, 9):

  1. Definition/Interpretation
  2. Violation
  3. Standards (Reasons to Prefer the Negative Definition)
  4. Voting Issue

I will organize the remainder of this part of my argument according to these points.

Definition/Interpretation
Sir.Lancelot chose to include the resolution for this debate in The Round Table tournament Entry Stage. Con and I have interpreted the resolution differently, as typically gives rise to an argument on the issue of topicality.

Policy Debate: An Introduction for Urban Debate League Students and Coaches (8 pp. 60) explains this point well (emphasis mine):

“When building a Topicality violation, the Negative first presents their interpretation of the resolution. An interpretation is an opinion about what the resolution requires of the Affirmative team. Though it usually includes a definition, an interpretation is more than just a definition. It must also explain what the resolution would require of the Affirmative if its definition is correct. Usually, the Negative narrows the scope of their interpretation by specifying one or more words or terms in the resolution that they feel the Affirmative fails to meet.

Although debaters choose the interpretation that they wish to defend during a Topicality
debate, the interpretation should generally not be solely their opinion. Rather, debaters
should support their interpretations with the opinion of experts, just as they would with any other argument. Evidence on this point could come either from a dictionary or from an expert in the topic area.

In round 1, Con presented their interpretation of the resolution, which is based on the dictionary definitions that I included in the description, and some other definitions that they sourced independently. Con’s interpretation of the resolution is as follows, where an asterisk (*) indicates that a word can be replaced by the corresponding definition from Merriam Webster included in the debate’s description:

If monuments* and statues* are controversial* and symbolize* racism* and oppression* then they will be removed*.

Con also made the following statements in round 1 about what their interpretation of the resolution would require of Pro:

Based on the resolution the AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU would be ‘removed’.

The resolution, if adopted would render ANY differing opinion as creating controversy, and no opportunity to discuss the potential value, EVEN if some of the criteria, which are also very subjective, are met.


  • George Washington owned slaves.  Owning a slave is racist, and oppressive.  He is controversial.  Do we take him of Mount Rushmore?
  • Jefferson owned slaves, and his book Notes on the State of Virginia, is very controversial.  Do we take him off Mount Rushmore?
  • Roosevelt was anti Filipino in maintaining the Phillippine-America war, and was controversial for his tactics.  Do we take him off Mount Rushmore?
  • And I think Lincoln didn’t do enough for blacks, and I thought some of his policies were oppressive.  Do we take him off Mount Rushmore?
The resolution says YES to the above, with no opportunity for contextual discussion.

Previously, I had presented my interpretation of the resolution, which I supported with evidence from experts in the topic area (Barczac and Thompson’s paper in the Journal of Philosophy of Education (1 pp. 441), and an article on The Role of Museums in the Removal of Monuments from Museum Studies at Tufts University (2)) and evidence from another dictionary (Collin’s Dictionary).

Violation
Con makes the following statements about how my plan does not meet their interpretation of the resolution.

Qualifying the resolution to only be that which is on public-land is a significant departure from the resolution.

Pro has added a qualifier that reads like  “on public lands, provided that the context has not been established” to the resolution.  The resolution does not even imply these qualifiers.

Pro then implies through a quote that a monument is a state-endorsed, again trying to narrow the resolution.

Pro also states that the resolution requires Pro to develop a plan. I do not see that requirement anywhere in the resolution or in the description.

Pro has now twisted the resolution to relate only to state-endorsed monuments on public lands,  excluding museums on public lands,  only those related to Confederate Monuments,  that create an intense public argument, and then we must create a plan to handle it.   That is not the resolution of this debate.

My interpretation of the resolution does conflict with Con’s in some of the ways listed above. However, Con misrepresented my interpretation several times.

I did not propose the qualification “provided that context has not been established”. Con overreaches in accusing me of overly narrowing the resolution. I specifically said (emphasis added):

“The resolution is not concerned with objects currently located in museums or similar venues in which the objects are contextualized. Because museums have a role in the removal of monuments (2), I consider potentially relevant objects currently located in museums as having already been removed’.”

Again, I supported my interpretation with evidence from an article on The Role of Museums in the Removal of Monuments from Museum Studies at Tufts University. 

To confirm that I consider this debate to be concerned with monuments that have been generally contextualized, I specifically referred to adding contextual signage in my argument:

“For example, although it may be possible to ameliorate maleducative effects by adding notices to a monument, the monument would nonetheless retain its “celebratory or honorific” tone and implied state endorsement, which contribute to the other harms (1).”

Con also overreaches by complaining about my decision to base my argument on a plan. Proposing a plan is a valid approach for Pro to advocate for the resolution, and Con has no right to decide that I can’t take that approach. From Policy Debate: An Introduction for Urban Debate League Students and Coaches (8 pp. 31):

“Generally, the Affirmative supports the resolution by proposing and defending a specific example of it, called the Affirmative plan. The plan is a specific proposal for change to the present system.”

Finally, Con falsely claims that I tried to limit the debate to only Confederate monuments because the title of Barczac and Thompson’s paper that I cited 1 is Monumental changes: The civic harm argument for the removal of Confederate monuments; however, the content of the article includes the author’s characterization of “what is a monument” in general (pp. 440):

“In what follows, it will be important to have a degree of clarity on the subject of our focus. Explicitly defining ‘monuments’, as explored in this article, might prevent misinterpretations of the core claims to follow. Directly stated, we hold the view that monuments are historically significant, celebratory/honorific, state-endorsed constructions.”

It is extremely rich that Con would then accuse me as follows: “Pro seriously misrepresents the article they present, by implying that  the article is about the resolution, or even reasonably related to the resolution.”, when it is clear that they misrepresent the article.

Standards
As I said in round 2, Con asserts without proof that my interpretation is contrived with the implication that their interpretation, which is based on their “literal analysis of the resolution”, is somehow correct.

From Policy Debate: An Introduction for Urban Debate League Students and Coaches (8 pp. 61):

“Standards are reasons debaters give the judge to prefer one interpretation to another. Standards are where the real meat of a Topicality debate should occur.”

From The National Debate Project’s Policy Debate Manual (9 pp. 30):

Remember:To Win Topicality, the Negative Must Prove
  1. That the Negative Definition(s) are Superior AND
  2. That the Affirmative Plan Does Not Meet Those Definitions”

Con did not prove the superiority of their interpretation. The main reason Con believes that their interpretation should be preferred is that it is the one they wanted to debate, and mistakenly thought I was obligated to accept without being able to interpret the resolution (which Sir.Lancelot originally set) myself, whining that:

I did not agree to debate a resolution to be determined after the fact.  I did not agree to create a plan for a resolution that is so ambigious, a plan is non-sensible.

Con did argue that my interpretation contradicts itself, which could be considered an argument against favoring my interpretation. However, Con mistakes an exception for a contradiction. I consider the resolution to be concerned with monuments on public land with the exception of potentially relevant objects having already been “removed” to a museum. It is perfectly acceptable to define a term with an exception. Any reasonable person would not condemn the definition of vegetarian as “someone who does not eat animal products, with the possible exception of eggs and dairy”, even though eggs and milk are animal products. A museum may be on public land, but I specifically called out museums as exceptions because they have a role in the removal of monuments (2).

In another display of the underhanded tactic of misrepresenting their opponent, Con tries to argue another contradiction by quoting a phrase out of context:

Pro states

‘The public display of monuments’

That would include all forms of display in public, which includes museums, and includes monuments on private lands that can be seen from the public. This negates the museum exception parameter Pro tried to establish above.   It also contradicts the concept of free-expression, which Pro clearly supported.

The phrase “The public display of monuments” did not appear in the part of my argument dedicated to my interpretation of the resolution. It appeared in the part of my argument about the harm of internalized oppression in the full context below.

“The public display of monuments and statues that symbolize racism and oppression cause people who identify with the racially discriminated and oppressed group to internalize racist ideas. This results in psychological harm and reduces the capacity of the affected people to improve their lives.”

Con did not prove the superiority of their interpretation, and since this is the last round, they may not introduce new arguments to attempt to correct this shortcoming. Therefore, Con should not win on the issue of topicality.

Voting Issue
For a complete analysis of the issue of topicality in this debate, and to demonstrate how Con is actually the party attempting to unfairly direct this debate in their favor, I will continue with the point of the voting issue, even though I have already established that Con should not win on the issue of topicality.

The National Debate Project’s Policy Debate Manual (9 pp. 30) defines the voting issue as (emphasis mine):

“Reasons why the affirmative should lose if the negative wins topicality. The two main reasons are Jurisdiction and Debatability. Jurisdiction means the judge can’t vote for the plan if it is not part of the topic. Debatability means that the negative would not have a fair chance to debate if the affirmative did not have to operate within the limits of the resolution.”
I have already shown that Con did not prove that my plan is not part of the topic of the resolution.

In terms of debatability, Con has also failed to prove they would not have a fair chance to debate if I don’t operate within the limits of their interpretation of the resolution. In fact, Con has twice explicitly stated that if the resolution was to be interpreted as they desire, it would be unsupportable.

The resolution is so broad, and so poorly constructed that it is not enforceable in any way.

A plan cannot be created, when the actual topic is as Pro said:
‘nuanced and open to interpretation’, nor can the burden be so disproportionate that it renders it impossible for one participant.
I ironically agree with Con’s very last statement. In their interpretation of the resolution, Con puts considerable effort into emphasizing its ambiguity (“If we look at the resolution, I have set my arguments about the complete ambiguity of it.”) with the purpose of rendering the resolution impossible for Pro to advocate for (enforce or create a plan for). It is egregious that Con would accuse me of trying to steal a victory by unfairly interpreting the resolution when I am the only one who sincerely argued on the merits of the topic and Con is the one who wants the resolution to be interpreted such that Pro has no way to support it.

Rebuttals

As this is the final round, Con can’t introduce any new arguments.

Pro points out that there is a concept of free speech that needs to be protected, and erroneously states that the US has the “strongest protections of expression”.   US is not even in the top 10.

Again, Con misrepresents a reference. The link they share is about press freedom, and specifically the World Press Freedom Index (WPFI), which, as the opening section explains:

“intends to reflect the degree of freedom that journalists, news organisations, and netizens have in each country, and the efforts made by authorities to respect this freedom.”

Although press freedom is part of the greater freedom of speech, it is not the entirety. I was referring to the strong protections of various kinds of expression, such as erecting monuments in the US, which are due to the First Amendment to the US Constitution. As an example of the relative strength of American protections, flag burning is legal in the US whereas it is illegal to “outrage the French flag” in France.


  1. How do you fund this commission?
  2. What is a representative, how are they chosen?
  3. Pro presents a State run initiative. So it is the State that is the arbiter of what is offensive?  Is this not the State putting in a “thought police”.   The “plan” by Pro, does not include any way to ensure that the resulting action is because of what the community wanted, they only state that the community can present their ideas.
  4. Pro states that the offensive monument can be transferred to private ownership, and that is a problem.  Because all the State needs to do is sell the spot of land the monument is on as a private park.  They could even lease the land, and it is now in private control.   Therefore the monument would be on private lands, and based on Pro’s statements above, the State could not execute a removal.
  5. Then the definition of monument.  In Round 2 Pro has twisted the definition of monument to only mean a building erected for the purposes of remembering a person or event.  However per their own definition above a monument also includes a building or structure lasting evidence, reminder, or example of someone or something notable or great.  That includes Stonehenge, Gobekle Tepe, Easter Island statutes, The Pyramids, etc etc etc.   None of those are monuments?
The commission would be publicly funded.

A representative commission would be filled with commissioners, some of whom could be elected through a vote, others appointed by elected officials in the relevant governmental departments, others being representatives from NGOs and other civil organizations and the chamber of commerce etc.

The state is not the arbiter of what is offensive. In practical terms, the commission is the authority that would make recommendations and the government would be responsible for implementing them, as is normal in a liberal democracy. Members of the community outside government officials can do more than present their ideas. They can be commissioners that directly affect the operation of the commission.

By transferring to private ownership, I meant that the monument would be removed from public land to privately owned land and the ownership of the object would be transferred to a private entity.

I stand by my interpretation of monuments in this debate, and don’t see the need to directly address the specific examples that Con brings up as Con does not actually make an argument on the merits of the resolution regarding these constructions.
Con
#6
PREAMBLE

This last round is about summarizing, and not  introducing new arguments.  To be fair I will keep comments about my last round contained to n to introduce a new argument.  I shall only clarify anything that may be been mis-represented.

However, for the judges I need to be very clear.  My failure to address anything stated in my opponents last response should not be seen as acceptance.  I am being fair.  I need to construct my last argument in a manner that does not give me an unfair advantage.  

SUMMARY OF POSITION

My position is clear.  The resolution is constructed so poorly, that it could not possibly be supported.  It provides subjective and individual interpretation, allowing anyone for any reason to protest about a monument or statute, and then require its removal.  The resolution does not provide any opportunity for context.    I am against the resolution for those reasons, and for all reasons extended from my  previous two rounds.

Pro has tried to reframe the resolution to imply it  allows for museum exemptions. Pro argues that a plan, based on the new resolution resolves the issues.  I would encourage judges to read past the reframing.  

Topicality Challenge.

Pro argues that their interpretation of the resolution is supported by evidence from experts “in the topic”.   Whilst I accept there are many people who open e, or may be deemed “experts” in the controversy of monuments that are controversial, Pro has not established those experts are such based on the resolution at hand.    Pro has re-written the resolution, and based on its new form, Pro declares that experts defend the plan presented by Pro, based on a re-written resolution.  Pro has re-written the resolution because they do not support it.  They support a different version.   Therefore they have constructively conceded by arguing something that is not the issue at hand.

Pro has provided a “plan”, based on a resolution that does not exist.  In other words Pro has twisted the resolution to a position where the plan may be digestible, and even in there it is not.  Pro then protests that I have not provided a plan, which as Pro states is an obligation of the Affirmative in a policy debate.    A plan would be fantastic, if it actually applied to the debate. Even though the plan put forward by Pro does not apply to the resolution, said plan still has some fundamental issues.  If for some reason judges want to accept the reframing of the resolution, then the plan needs to be scrutinized. 

Pro argues that museums contextuilze monuments and statutes, and therefore are exempt from the resolution.   The resolution has no qualifiers.   The resolution adds no exceptions.  Pro argues that a commission based on elected officials would take complaints, and take them to the government to decide what has to happen.  Pro never indicates how this commission would be funded, and how it would take complaints.   The concept of controversial is individual.  Pro has tried to change the definition, yet even with that change, there is immense subjectivity.  

Pro then states that moving monuments to private property solve the problem, for the retention of free speech, there are two problems.   

  1. Pro is arguing that free speech is a private issue, not a public one.  Pro is condoning State sanctioned censorship of speech.
  2. Pro’s plan allows for a technical way to address the issue, without addressing it via land ownership.  Under Pro’s plan, the state could lease the property with the monument of issue, to a private person, and now it is private property. 

  • I have shown how Pro has modified the resolution to something it is not
  • I have shown how Pro’s plan does not even address the concerns.
  • I have shown that as written, the resolution cannot be adopted.
  • I have shown that Pro accept that as written, the resolution cannot be adopted.

I extend all other arguments, and I thank Pro for their exceptional contribution to this topic.