By Sean Leonard, Rutgers University 2016
Compared to every type of speech you may give in your debate career, the PMR will probably take the most time to master. Opposition has given about 13 minutes of argumentation, and it’s going to be difficult to swing the momentum of the round back into Government territory. However, it can be even more problematic when you’re not sure what to focus on. Perhaps the round was very heavy on impacts, and there really wasn’t much philosophical clash, but rather, a number of practical impacts levied on both sides. When you’re dealing with this situation, and Opp has been able to levy numerous practical impacts right before you stood up, then a two-world PMR can be your saving grace.
What is a ‘two-world’ PMR?
A two world PMR is a rebuttal where the Prime Minister goes up and says, “Look, I know there have been a ton of benefits and harms levied on both sides of the debate. I’m going to illustrate for you what the world under our plan will look like, and what the world under their plan will look like.” Obviously, you don’t have to use those words exactly, but the general idea is that you’re going to use your rhetoric to try and paint a picture for the judge, and present that whole benefit/harm conflict in a new light, from your point of view.
What’s the benefit of this style?
It is always kind of nice when you can narrow an entire debate round into three specific points that neatly summarize your side. However, as we say in these sorts of rounds all the time, we’re not living in a perfect world. For every perfect round you get, there’s probably five or ten when you reach PMR and think to yourself, “There are at least a dozen things that could win or lose me the round.” In these scenarios, it’s great to be able to back up from the nitty gritty practical arguments, and create a sweeping narrative about what the cumulative effect of all those benefits will be for you, and what storm of harms it will create for Opposition.
So how much of my speech should I dedicate to this?
Generally there are two options when incorporating a two-world narrative into your speech. If the round has had some clash over practical impacts, but you think that other arguments could outweigh them, then you can use it as a rhetorical tool instead of a point of crystallization. In this vein, you place the two-world narrative at either the very beginning, or very end of your speech. The benefit of using it at the beginning is that you can immediately start off with a rhetorically strong PMR, and build momentum throughout. The benefit of placing it at the end is that the judge now has the lasting impression that the world will be better off under your plan. However, these are points of personal preference, and don’t make a huge difference at the end of the day.
Let’s say that the round has been primarily about practical impacts, and you’re confident the judge will vote in your favor based on those arguments. If this is true, then you want to make the Two World aspect of your speech significantly more prominent, by making it a point of crystallization in and of itself. Gather whatever responses you have to these impacts in the round, and put them together. Start off the point by listing the aspects of the world that you’re living in under your plan. Ensure that you impact as many benefits you’ve brought up in the round, and compare them to the status quo. Then, switch over to the second half of the point, by listing whatever harms you’ve said would be caused or perpetuated on side opp. At the same time, mention whatever benefits they’ve claimed, and show why they either a) won’t matter or b) are false in comparison. Attempt to be as rhetorical as possible during this segment, as this is where you have the most room to use such tools to sway the judge.
What should I avoid this style?
One of the biggest pitfalls when dealing with the two-world PMR is hyperbole. Debaters that focus on rhetoric over argumentation can become less grounded in the actual debate. Generally speaking, the world is not going to end if your plan doesn’t get passed. Saying that the other side does things that are extreme, or a stretch of logic, can turn you from a rhetorical powerhouse in the judge’s eyes, to a crazy radical. Even if the moderate version of your impact would have otherwise still been convincing, you’ve lost credibility in the round. Other points are adversely affected by your loss of credibility too, even if you tone it down by then.