If you don't know what to run, shed a tear and run whatever argument that is closest to the tear.
What is a Disadvantage?
Y'all are smart kids. I understand that there's a lot of debate lingo and it's hard to take it all in. It'll be such a relief to know that disadvantages are exactly what they sound like. A disadvantage (abbreviated as "disad" or "DA") is a reason why the plan is a bad idea.
Structure of a Disadvantage
There are three main parts to a disadvantage: 1. Uniqueness -- This is evidence claims that an aspect in the status quo is good now. 2. Link -- This is evidence telling why the plan specifically will ruin what is good in the status quo. 3. Impact -- This is evidence that states what the overall outcome will be if the link is true.
For example, pretend the affirmative presents the following plan, "We should give a Netflix account to Victoria." 1. Uniqueness -- Victoria religiously does her homework in the status quo. 2. Link -- Victoria will sacrifice her homework time to watch Netflix. 3. Impact -- Victoria will neglect all of her homework, fail her classes, not be able to get into college, become homeless from a lack of education and worst of all, disappoint her mom. (#AsianParenting)
For a more debate-specific example, pretend the affirmative's plan costs a substantial amount of money. 1. Uniqueness -- The economy is stable now. 2. Link -- The plan spends too much money, which disrupts the economy. 3. Impact -- A bad economy increases the risk of global war. (And you could also include that global war can cause extinction.)
How to Answer a Disadvantage
Rare photo of me studying for AP Biology
Let's go through how to answer each part of the disadvantage:
1. Answer Uniqueness.
Make a non-unique argument. This is done by saying that the status quo is actually bad (Victoria actually doesn't do her homework, or the economy is declining now) or that something exists in the status quo that will cause the problem whether the plan happens or not (Victoria plans to download Instagram tomorrow which will make her neglect her homework, or the government plans to spend money for war with another country already). Making this argument will prove that the plan isn't uniquely a bad idea. 2. Answer the Link.
- Make a no link argument. This basically says that the plan will not cause the disadvantage to happen. "Netflix doesn't cause Victoria to stop doing homework because she's responsible (HAHAH)," or "the plan doesn't spend that much money."
- Point it out if they don't specify a brink (how close we are from the disadvantage from happening) and a threshold (how much of an action is necessary to cause the disadvantage). Let's say that your plan is to put up a factory, and the negative team has a disadvantage regarding global warming saying that the factory will increase emission of air pollutants. If global warming is going to take a long time to happen and emissions need to double before we start seeing effects like sea level rise and migration, it's unlikely that some tiny factory will cause global warming to the point that mass extinction occurs.
- Make a link turn. This argues that your plan actually solves their disadvantage. Maybe watching Netflix will inspire Victoria to do even more homework, because she watches TV shows about incredibly smart people and she wants to be like them. Maybe this factory works entirely off of solar panels and provides a model for other factories to follow to combat climate change, or the factory develops technology that is key to solving global warming.
3. Answer the Impact.
- Claim that their impact won't happen. If they say that Asia war will happen, read something that says Asia war won't happen.
- Do some impact calculus. This means to compare your advantages to theirs using one or two of the following: timeframe (how soon an impact is going to happen), probability (how likely an impact is going to happen) and magnitude (how big the impact is). Let's say the impact that the affirmative solves is global nuclear war, and the disadvantage is global warming:
The affirmative can argue that nuclear war outweighs on timeframe, because there's substantial evidence that tensions between certain countries are high and rising, while global warming has been happening for hundreds of years. The judge should evaluate impacts using timeframe over everything else because we need to solve problems that will occur sooner, and there's a great chance that there's more time to solve their impact. The negative can argue that global warming outweighs on probability, because there's substantial evidence that global warming is happening now, while there has never been a global nuclear war between countries and that countries are unlikely to go to nuclear war as a means to protect their citizens. The judge should evaluate impacts using probability, because we shouldn't waste time preparing for impacts that will never happen.
- Make an impact turn. This is an argument saying that the impact is actually good. For example, you can say global warming is good, because it will introduce warmer climates that encourage the growth of new plants that will help increase our food supply or help us develop better medicine to combat disease.
WARNING: Do not make a link turn AND an impact turn. You can only choose one. For example, if your plan includes a factory that prevents global warming from happening, but global warming is good to help our food supply, that means that means that your plan prevents a good thing from happening, which means the affirmative's plan is not a good idea.
Click here to access a scanned copy of some notes I took at the Stanford National Forensics Institute during a lecture on disadvantages.