We Could Do With More Dimwit Debaters

Posted on March 5, 2010


We need more congenitally stupid people in competitive university debates; they are a much-undervalued commodity. Clever people? Yep, we have those — Obama for a start, and see where does that get the American people – their forehead stuck on the table. Mediocre people — loads of them, people with just enough technicalities and knowledge to score the average speaker point but a sad amount of flair only to tranquilize the adjudicators at the end.

But stupid ones? People who feel intimidated during the first round of WUPID and who believe Boston Legal is a documentary? People who tie up their shoelaces before they put on their underwear? Very few, sadly.

And I am extremely proud to say, that I am one of those people.

The following article is a re-post of the strategies of debating fun and excitement I had with Shafiq at the Gombak Open Debate (GOD) last year.


When you stop and think about it, there’s no real point to competitive university debating. Or any of the few remaining ‘cool’ debaters. Or indeed the All-Asians Intervarsity Debating Championship – wait a minute, that’s already gone. Because when it comes to debating nowadays, fun and the want to put up a kick arse show are somehow dead.

Most debaters think that you ought to be serious to win a championship. Sure, but winning are for losers. What’s more important is putting up a show that would blow people’s minds. No one likes to waste their time pretending they understand, and watch a boot-faced crow with dirt in his mouth vomiting argument with sophistication which equivalents what comes out of his bottom. Sooner or later, all debates will look what its like in a real parliament in which you will be able to hear people argue everything from fox hunting to the budget. The men will be scarlet, the arguments will be complex and there won’t be debates, as we know them. They’ll be people with PhDs. They’ll be horrid. They’ll be American. I shall never set foot in one. I shall simply hone my debating from the blogosphere. And that’s sad too.

And so what I thought I’d do today is provide a handy cut-out’n’keep guide based on the maneuvers that had brought me and Shafiq (UTMARA) all the way to the finals of the inaugural GOD (Gombak Open Debate) last weekend:

(1) At every debate, don’t focus on winning. Focus on not getting last. This will remove the pressure and anxiety, which is the biggest prick to a good speech;

(2) Define creatively. It may sound like it’s bordering a squirrel but it all boils down to how you link your definition(s) to the motion;

(3) If you’re the opening opposition and against a strong opening government with a surprised definition that you have zero knowledge, do not challenge. Suck the debate with another surprising counter-proposal. This would either result in you getting first because now everyone is debating on your platform, or third because the closing opposition was too shell-shocked by how you responded and panicked;

(4) Get the second speaker to repeat what the first speaker has said. The more they hear of the idea, the more convincing it becomes. Besides, a good point is worth repeating;

(5) You’re not an expert and university debating is not an intellectual forum of brainy people. Keep your cause and arguments simple – simple is genius;

(6) Spend your 15 minutes prep time imagining your great speech. Do you see Usain Bolt running up and down the track or in the gym carrying thing way too heavy minutes before the sprint?;

(7) This should be your structure: Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them and tell them what you told them; and

(8) For an effective last minute preparation, watch 10 episodes of Boston Legal back-to-back the day prior to the debate and stop reading the newspapers. Whatever story is in there is only worth its price – RM1.20.

Disclaimer: The effectiveness of this guide ONLY applies on people that find humor in laughing at themselves.