Debate doesn’t really do a whole lot. Sorry, but it doesn’t. A public debate won’t change your interlocutor’s mind: in fact, them publicly stating their own opinion commits them to it, making them more inclined to stick with it. But maybe it’s not really for them, after all–perhaps, stating the facts publicly will make the public change their minds? Er, no. Not that either. Essentially, the whole form is a performance.
Nonetheless, columnists and crashing bores alike maintain a deep emotional attachment to debates, presumably because they’d never get paid gigs if everyone decided they’d had it with their shit. They believe a refusal to a public debate is some kind of suppression of free speech, rather than everyone finding something better to do with their time than spend an hour trapped in a room with a bigot. They believe refusing to provide someone with a space to spout their godawful special snowflake opinions is akin to censorship, which ought to achieve them little more than the public embarrassment of revealing they have no idea what censorship is, but actually seems to get them even more paid gigs.
These people are going to continue wanting money, and there’ll be fewer and fewer student venues that will take them on if they’re just going to be bigots about everything. Because of this, they’re going to need to change it up. I offer a few suggestions to those who continue to hold their emotional attachment to debate, and wish to continue to relive their glory days of Year 10 Debate Club… but make it a little more exciting for the rest of us.
- Each person in the debate takes one side of an unwieldy prop labelled “The Truth”. They wear matching comical outfits. Upon making each point, they begin with “to me, to you.”
- Armed gladiatorial combat. Perfect for debates like this one, featuring Julie Bindel and Milo Yiannopoulos. There can only be one winner, the last person standing.
- Make everyone participating in the debate live in a house together. They must stay in the house until one opinion has been proved to be right. We tell everyone the proceedings from within the house are televised, but they aren’t.
- As above, but on a deserted island, and anybody losing the debate gets eaten.
- Get everyone involved in the debate drunk. Everyone knows people are more truthful when they’re drunk.
- As above, but with LSD.
- Mention how David Cameron fucked a dead pig at least six times during any debate. It’s always pertinent. It cheers people up, remembering it.
- Program two AIs to take each side of the debate. Give them lasers and shit, too. Let them fight it out for all of humanity’s sake. Automate debate.
- Learn that people have fucking boundaries and you’re not entitled to be platformed everywhere, and quit your whining.
- Replace every instance of the term “logical fallacy” with “logically, phallus.”
- Encourage panto-style audience participation. Throw sweets out to all the boys and girls at the end.
- Armed gladiatorial combat, in the style of the 90s TV series Gladiators, except without foam padding or crash mats, because that would make the debate a mollycoddling safer space.
- Set everything up as you would for a normal debate. Dub the debate with fart sounds. The louder the fart, the better the argument being put forward!
- Bring back the gunge tank. Students love 90s nostalgia. They’ll be booking you as a speaker again in no time if you submit to being gunged if they disagree with your assertions.
- Have everyone involved in the debate wear a Donald Trump mask and wig. Do the arguments still sound reasonable when coming out of Trump’s mouth?
- Take a leaf out of the pro wrestling playbook. Take all the leaves out of pro wrestling. God, please, just make it pro wrestling, but with media personalities.
These are just a few suggestions I can think of for improving the form of public debate, and making this form of entertainment more entertaining. Please dump yours in the comments!