COMPETITION DEBATES AND PRE-ELECTION TV DEBATES – DISPOSITIO PROBLEMS IN TWO FORMS OF A DEBATE GENRE
The article aims at the overview of the selected problems of the two genre realizations of the debate: competition debates and pre-election debates characterized by the presence of political leaders. Basic assumptions of the genre have been presented and referred to in the two types of the debate. Th ere has been introduced a division into natural order (ordo naturalis), characteristic for competition debates, and negotiated order (ordo artificialis), present in pre-election debates. The author highlights the influence of the changes in the rhetorical dispositio on the realization of the basic assumptions characteristic for the idea of the debate.
1. THE FOREWORD
One can think about the debates and debating like of manifestations of rhetoric in culture in categories of individualized forms and ideas, deliberate on the subject of the genres of speech, forms of media communication or ways of participating in the social and political life. In the idea of a debate there is the presence of multi-perspectivity, multi-dimensionality, multi-verbality. The pluralism of opinions, which can find place in the public sphere is an important issue, though not the most important one for the nature of the debate. There is something more – another important thing is the engagement of rhetorical subjects in the area of the problem. One of contemporary definitions of rhetoric characterizes it as a problematology, negotiation of a distance between the individuals in the given issue1. Its subject are the questions, the problems dividing and opposing the rivals. The debate, as a form of participation in the problem in as a confrontation of opinions and positions should be put as a rivalisation between the sides of a discussion about the very distance,
The following article describes the debate as a rhetorical genre of speech in two realizations, deliberated in different rhetorical situations: arranged rivalisation, oratorical competition (competition debate) and democratic election of the political parties’ leaders (television pre-election debate). The comparison of the two phenomena has a theoretical justification: it reveals the problem of transformations in the area of a rhetorical genre, but also a practical level: it is a trial of justification of the pre-election debates, which usually is presented in the media by the journalists and political commentators. This critic concerns the problems of the quality of the debates, non-democratical standards of argumentative conducting the battle, lack of the most important elements of the debate in the very debate. One should point out that the expectations of the public towards this genre is formed by the rhetorical parameters of the text: the structure of its composition and argumentation. Stepping out of these parameters arises the unrest in the public2. The genre classification is one of the main factors letting to set the criteria of evaluation of the text3. The genre directs the statements in the television and suggests concrete type of media to the spectator and, what follows, determines his position as a receiver4. Despite the critical voices the organizers of the pre-electoral meetings of the leaders (in Polish conditions they are television stations) and the very participants do not want to resign from the naming the pre-electoral battle “a debate”5.
They don’t want to resign from the obligations towards the genre and they confirm their public in their expectations about the communicate. Reaching to the models of competition debates as a realization od a canonic model6 is the reference point to the critic of the pre-election debates.
2. FROM THE PROBLEMS OF INVENTIO
The basic diversification of the rhetorical communicates goes in three ways, according to three genre fields concerning the public speech. The debate as a indigenous rhetorical genre (both the practice of debating and the public speaking gave the assumption to normative action in this area7) inscribes into the genologic categorization.
The debate in genus demonstrativum concerns the discussion about cultural values, philosophical discussions (Gdańsk cycle of Aeropagus, Tisner’s debates); genus deliberativum concerns the debates of political, parliament, pre-election character; genus iudicale is proper in court discussions- not only in the court room, but also in different public spheres, when it comes to giving the facts and making a verdict.
In competition debates the basic genological diversification is also preserved. In account of the specification of the discussed issue there are: propositions of value concerning the judgment of people, places, things or ideas; propositions of fact, concerning the judgment of truth; propositions of policy concern the propositions of judgment in the sphere of practical behavior8.
The competition realization of the debates concern the broad spectrum of thematic and appear in every kind. In account of the fact that they function as an important subjects in rhetorical and citizen education, the emphasis is on the necessity of obeying the rule of authenticity, fidelity towards the idea of an honest confrontation in different (not only competitive) realizations.
The differentiating of real and ostensible debates is significant for the reflection over this genre. I think that has a source in the primal diversification of argumentation in Aristotle for the dialectic and ostensible arguments, for eristic and sophistry9. The debate built on the ostensible argumentation gives a feeling of feigned participation in the problem. Aristotle describes the differentiating of both of the ways of argumentation in a following way:
Who would want to persuade somebody to change the opinion in an honest way, he should do it in a dialectic way, and not in eristic – like a geometry lover who should reason in a geometrical way, independently on the truth of the reason;
[…] Because the one who spoils the common work, is a bad partner, this rule can be applied also in the discussion; because here also is only one task, excluding these who want to discuss only to show their strength.
Thinking about the inventio of the debate, one should point out four intellectual component which should be updated in it: (1) development, (2) clash, (3) extension and (4) perspective11. In the real debate the participants show their positions and ideas concerning the issue as the description or explanation. Moreover, every side analyses the arguments of the opponent in the critical way, showing their weaknesses, errors, non-cohesive fragments. They refutate the opinions, which they are not convinced of, formulate counterarguments. Finally the participants are defending their theses, when they are refutated by the opponents. The perspective is for the both sides getting a favor of the public, who judges in the discussion12. In the competition realization the public are the judges, in pre-election the specific groups of voters for whom the politicians deliver their persuasive communicate13.
Both of the genre realizations are understood as functioning in different situational contexts setting the teleology of the discourse. The specific of rhetorical situation, where the speaker present his speech, is constituted by three components: 1) the case of actual importance, exigencies, 2) audience and 3), constraints14. The first of the abovementioned indicators describes the conditions where one waits for the inference of the speaker. The second is the audience, so all of the people who are capable of being influenced by the discourse and who can have an influence to change the situation which gave the start to the discussion. The third indicator which garters the people, places, things, relations, which can influence on the delimiting the actions that can change the critical situation. In the area of delimitations there are also the genre limitations of rhetorical speech.
The diversification in the area of rhetorical situalisation has a great importance for the internal order in the construction of the debate. The situation in the competition debate is autotelical, artificial. The goal of the speakers is not influencing the auditorium, to for example condemn the Polish inference in Ira or assumed that homosexuality is a harmful social phenomenon. The goal is proving one’s worth on the rhetorical art. The idea of debates realizes itself in the area of progymnasmata, the little exercises preparing the real debates in the situations when the actual case (exigence) will be set in the Real Word and the speaker takes the responsibility to inference in the solution of the problem and his voice becomes the authentic reply to the standards of the situation.
The organizators of the debates point out the good merits of such practices: The debates form the ability of critical thinking and dividing the opinions and the facts. Debating teaches discussion, logic thinking, building argumentation and speaking in a way which brings attention to the listeners. It teaches the abilities of working in groups, demanding co-working and ma king compromises, but it also gives a chance of individuality. The necessity of thinking of the arguments of the opponent demands from the participants the ability of active listening15.
The competition debates are realizing the goals of rhetorical education. In the meantime the pre-election debates should, according to the assumptions of democratic institutions, educate and inform the voters16. From the point of view of the participants of the elections the informative function is not the most important one. It gives the way to the persuasive function – or the desire to win the election. The situation of the pre-election debate is set in the context of the whole campaign, so in the macro-situation of the elections. The debate is only one of the forms of strategies used to gain the support of the voters. And, as such, it is an exigency and by its genre structure also a constraint, which conditions the way and the construction of the persuasive communicate.
3. FROM THE PROBLEMS OF DISPOSITIO
The organization of the discussion of the most interesting and most differentiated element of rhetorical theory of the debate. The order of argumentative material, so the rhetorical disposition (dispositio) is „a proper diversification [of presented] things and parts of statements in proper places”17. In case of the solid statement the rhetorical subject plans the argumentation according to the rules he set by himself together with a constitution of the case, when it is an interaction, co-presentation of two media, both of the rhetorical subjects are concerned to have such the order of a speech to let them have a freedom of speaking (elocutio) and pronouncing (pronuntiatio) of formerly prepared argumentation. (confirmatio, refutatio).
In the natural order of the speech (ordo naturalis) there is a sequence of: exordium – narratio – argumentatio – peroratio, which concerns the rules of rhetorical art. The planned exceptions from this sequence in reference to the rule of utility (utilitas) is named “the artistic order” (ordo artificialis)18.
In competition debates the rules are set beforehand and the participants, starting their argumentative battle, accept the order, so-called format of the debate.
In most of the formats of the competition debates the first argumentation is of the side supporting the thesis, which starts and end the debate. The common element are the speeches of the representatives of both sides delivered in turns. In argumentative statements there is a part of constructive character (confirmatio) and the refutating part (refutatio). The constructive statements appear in the debate as first, the replies are after them. Usually the time for the reply is shorter than for the constructive part. The next element of the format is the time given for the speeches of the both parties. It is really important that every participant had the same time for his arguments19. Apart this common features the debates differ by the number of participants and the form of declaring the specific issues.
Below we have two orders of a discussion in different types of competition debates. The first one is taken from the format of parliament debate20. Every side of the conflict is represented by the two people: the Prime Minister and the MP and also the Leader and member of opposition.
The second of presented orders is used in the format American policydebate21. In the debate every side is represented by three people.
On the examples of these two formats one can see the symmetrical order of confirmative and refutating argumentation – the solid element of the natural order of the rhetorical statement. This order lets one to realize the basics of the debate: development in argumentation, the clash, extension of the argumentative field and the solidifying of the media directed to the audience.
In pre-electoral debates the rules of the format are set every time by the candidates (their Staff) in agreement with the media workers who are responsible of the production of the program. The order of the debate is not affirmated, like in the competitions, but it is negotiated, and put in order from the very beginning. We can now introduce the differentiating to the solid formats, based on rhetorical rules of confrontation (ordo naturalis) and the negotiable formats, which are formed in accordance with the agreement of the sides (ordo artificialis).
Rhetorical situation has an influence on the negotiations of the order of the speech, and especially the rhetorical situations of both of the candidates, which are similar only in chosen areas of context. Many factors can diversify this situations, what influences the conditions of setting the rules of the format. Before the candidates give their argumentation to the evaluation to the audience, they set the order of specific parts of the speech.
That’s why the format from the perspective of rhetorical subjects (not from the perspective of the television transmittant) I would see as a problem from the area of rhetorical disposition, as an element of argumentative strategy.
The formats of television pre-electoral debates differ from the formats of the competition debates with the number of the speakers representing the sides of the discussion. In pre-electoral debates there are only the leaders of the parties, in competition realization the argumentation is presented by a team. In case of television debates the teamwork, or the actions taken by the electoral staff concern the preparation of the candidates to their speeches. The very meeting in so-called big debates22 is conducted between the two candidates. The second differencing factor of these two kinds of discussions is the role of moderator. The person conducting the competition meeting has a clear frame function – he cares for the realization of the format. In pre-election debate the moderators, journalists, people asking questions have the influence over the argumentative material. They formulate the specific issues, which the candidates didn’t know before. As the practice of press conference shows, which were conducted on Polish debates in 1995-2010 the moderating journalists introduce themselves into the confrontation with the politicians, what doesn’t contribute to the idea of impartiality of the organizators, media representatives and makes the evaluation of the media harder23.
The most important differentiating element of these two realization of the genre is the audience. The audience of competition debates is situated on the metalevel of the discourse. It gives the judgment concerning the rhetorical ability of the speakers, their sill in argumentation, the ability of creating the ethos, The perlocutio function is being suspended. In the pre-electoral debate this type of the audience is also present. They are the commentators invited by the television producers, journalists and – what’s really important – the very staff preparing the candidates to the debate. Their role is to point out the winner. But it is not a final verdict, rather a projection of expert judgment for the evaluation of the proper audience. The first commentators of the debates put the interpretative filter on the earlier media in the way that the voters, implicated audience of this medium, decoded it according to the set strategy. The time after the debate is a part protected by the individual strategy of the staff, and also media engaged in the campaign24.
4. TELEVISION PRE-ELECTORAL DEBATE – FEW POSTULATES OF THE RESEARCHERS
According to Benoit the presidential debates should obey few import ant rules. The first one is – their goal is to inform the voters. The citizen decide in the voting who will be the future president, so they have to have an efficient knowledge about the proposition of managing the country, which are presented by the politicians. The second one – the debates should concern the issues important for the voters and not these that the very politicians or the conductors of the debate assume as worthy to speak about. Third – the debates should show the differences between the candidates to simplify the voters making of the decision. Fourth: the format of the debate should make possible to the politician to clash in the area of the political and image issues25 Jeffrey Auer, one of the critics of the first presidential television debates named them “ostensible debates”. The posted a postulate of normative regulations in the area of definition. According to him, the debate should be:
(1)a confrontation (2) happening in equal and sufficient time(3) of well chosen opponents (4) over a set issue (5) having a goal that is the decision of the public. Every of these elements is important, if we want to speak about the real debate26.
Auer’s advices, though they are a history of research on debates, are hardy appropriate in case of realization of pre-electoral battles organized, co-organized or just broadcasted by the media. Most of the trouble in the organization of the debate we have with the second and the fourth of this definition. The equality of time is usually being kept. Sometimes the spectator can have a feeling that is not only a frame, but also a key problem in the area of the discourse controlled by the organizer, and expressed by the panelists or the moderator („Your time has ended”, „You don’t have any more time”, “You don’t have the voice”, “You’ve used all of your time”)27. Equal time is then in the dispositio off the debate, it’s designed into her format. It connects, obviously, with the situational delimitations on the side of the transmittant. Hence the 60-90 minutes for showing the discussion between the politicians or more or less the very time of a football game is considered an optimum28.
The sufficient amount of time has to replace in debates the feeling of time which in rhetoricy is called kairos or the best time, determined by the situation. As Reboul called it “a good moment, occasion which should be caught in eternal flow of things, something we call a spirit of “a propos” or a replica and what is a very soul of rhetoric”29. The fourth of the Auer’s postulates is not being kept in pre-electoral debates as well.
In television realizations it is present in debates in demonstrative kind, in the discussions of the intellectuals, politicians, when the subject is one of important issues (for example “The God Delusion” – the debate on the atheism in Poland”). In pre-electoral debates this condition of unambiguity of the issue in being consequently ignored. Many researchers stood in defense of the quality of the pre-electoral debate, so in defense of the democratic procedures. The problem of the format is still one of the main categories of research on the debates, thou there are also opinions, that it is not the deciding issue in case of the quality of the television clash of the politicians30. In my opinion, which is being said from the position of the rhetorical reflection over the persuasive discourse, the format, or the dispositional planning of the media, caring for its proper order is a factor equally important as the elements from the area of inventio.
Benoit postulate that in presidential debates the format was created according to six rules: the first – the meeting should have only one subject. When the politicians agree to deliver their arguments in the unambiguous area, they can prepare better for this specific issues and give the knowledge to the public. The second one – they should agree on a subject who will be pointed out by the voters, and not by journalists or by themselves. It has to be an issue of utmost importance form their point of view. The third – the format should give the occasion to clash between the candidates to show the difference between their outlooks31. The fourth – the questions which are asked to the politicians should be asked by the audience, not by the journalists. The role of the journalists is to give the information and not to create them.
This postulate refers to the former one – which the discussed issues were import ant to the voters, not to the organizators of the discussion. The fifth one: the candidates should ask questions to each other. It should simplify the clash. The sixth one – in the debate there should be a limited number of candidates. Bigger number of candidates makes the evaluation harder, especially during the clash in the discussion32.
5. CHOSEN FORMATS OF TELEVISION PRE-ELECTORAL DEBATES
For the comparison I’ve put below some schemes of interaction assumed on the formats of three television pre-electoral debates: in USA in 2008, in GB in 2010 and in Poland in 2010.
The negotiated order let the debating politicians to deliver their argumentation in two minutes long statement. The refutation part was realized in the discussion, which had a character of a free conversation. The moderator encouraged the candidates to confrontation by formulating the comparative issues (quaestio comparativa), for example: Why is your plan better than his? When conducting the discussion he also addressed the politicians to negotiate between themselves, addressing directly themselves (not the cameras), and formulated the refutation34.
The rules of the format in the area of the dispositio are based on the natural order (ordo naturalis), and were giving the members the possibility of a statement of confirmation, refutation and also formulating the new specific questions in the discussion. The candidates obeyed the rules. One should also point out that the information on the conditions of conducting the debate were given to the public earlier. The voters could learn about the drama of television clash inscribed into well known and checked scheme of persuasion on a debate based on competition realization.
Dispositio of the two presidential debates did not consist a part devoted to refutation. The speeches were the answers to the questions of the journalists. This format did not allow the debating politicians for the realization of the basic demand of the genre – the confrontation of the outlooks. Free argumentative conversation, which was present whatsoever, was a breaking of the rule, which candidates have agreed to follow.
The journalists evaluating the first debate and also the audience in polls were pointing out the future election of Bronisław Komorowski, who was more active, and broke the rules few times more39. In the second debate both of the candidates were breaking the rules, what resulted in more balanced evaluation40. The questions of journalists, apart from the rules and declarations, were not always the same. Apart from main issues there were some additional ones which differentiated the sides of the discussion. The confrontation tension have transferred to the candidate-candidate relation to the journalist – candidate relation. In effect the positions of journalists gained the meaning of the third side of the discussion.
The comparison of three orders of interaction in the area of three types of formats (single moderator, town hall meeting, press conference) shows the differences in planning the argumentative strategy. Each of these formats realized the ideal of the clash and the extension differently. In the American debate the moderator was watching the time and supervised that the disputed issue was argumentatively distributed in 9 minutes. He was obliged to manage the discourse in a way which did not interfere with the postulates of the genre. Both of the experiences moderators were successful at their task. After the initial argumentation there were an exchange and then a refutation of the argument. In the British variant a natural order was used: confirmatio – refutatio. The role of the moderator was limited to controlling the interaction of specific 10 minutes long segments given to each unit. This was the order and the agreement of all of the sides for obeying it guaranteed the realization of the debate demands.
In the Polish format the debating politicians had only four minutes for each issue without the right of discussion. There was no time for any refutation. The candidates agreed that they will be only answering to the questions of the journalists. The clashes had the character of ad hominem remarks, because there was no place for a discussion in the proposed format41.
6. THE CONCLUSION
In both of the genre realizations of the debate I was interested in a format, especially the rules of the order of argumentation (dispositio). In competition debates the members affirm the set order of the interaction as a guarantee of the honest rivalisation which allows to gain the ideals of the debate. In pre-electoral clashes the politicians (and their staff) negotiate the conditions of the format, including the order of the interaction, adjusting it to their own skills in rhetorical argumentation. As a result of these agreements there are some orders debate between Komorowski and Kaczyński) where we see the lack of the basic ideas and genre obligations (according to Auer, Branham and Benoit) of the debate.
The rhetoric, being a negotiation of a distance between the individuals in the given moment and also an extended system (inventio, dispositio, elocutio) letting to construct the persuasive discourse, makes the negotiations efficient in different spheres of culture. In no regards to the rhetorical situation (real or trained one ) it gives the tools for a skillful argumentative partaking in the problem. The question yet remains – are the subjects of the discussion really want to solve it or it’s just words?
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