Video transcript
Stop rebutting yourself! – secondary debating – 4. Guy Suttner

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TONY DAVEY: OK. Hey, guy, how's it going?

GUY SUTTNER: Good, thanks.

TONY DAVEY: Excellent. So we're going to watch one of your speeches in a moment, and we'll get you to give some feedback to yourself and rebut yourself. But first of all, tell us a little bit about yourself. What's going on with you and debating nowadays?

GUY SUTTNER: So my name's Guy, Guy Suttner. With debating right now, not much. In the past, I've done a bit of university debating at tournaments called Easters. And also in high school, I did a lot of debating. I won the Hume Barbour Year 12 Premier's Debating Challenge. I also won a number of other competitions, ones like GPS and Eastside. And in year eight, I was the finalist of the year seven and eight State Debating competition.

TONY DAVEY: So true. So true. So today what we're going to do is watch through your third negative speech from that Years 11 and 12 final that you won in 2018. Should be great fun. And the topic for that was that we should stop commemorating wars.

By the way, if anyone wants to go and watch the whole video, it's up online. And we'll add a link in the Details page. So are you ready to first of all watch and then give yourself a little bit of feedback on how you could have improved?

GUY SUTTNER: Absolutely.

TONY DAVEY: Fantastic. All right. Let's go.


GUY SUTTNER: Ladies and gentlemen, education is fantastic. It allows you to think critically about issues and to understand both sides. And that is why we fully intend to teach children about war. The difference between the two sides in this debate is that we can combine that with commemorative-- commemorative events. And what they do is allow you to understand the emotional harm of war.

Because a textbook can show you some statistics or a bit of writing by this person. What it can never do is bring you down to Anzac Day where there is a bunch of veterans who are standing during the minute's silence crying for their fallen friends who died in the war, remembering the harm that came to them. Because when you're in that moment, when you can see those actual real living people who are suffering, then you understand how harmful war can be. Then you understand how it actually harms the individual rather than a paragraph on the page. And the reason that we are able to combine those two, it ensures us that we have the best education about war and ultimately make the best decisions, which is so, so important.

I'm going to prove to you two main things in this speech. First, you will get a better perception of war on our side. And secondly, while we improve the lives of soldiers. First now to the perception of war. Now what we keep telling you here is that we need to have a balance in understanding a war. We don't want to glorify it. We want to understand that it's necessary and that sometimes people need to go to war and do bad things for the good of everyone.

We told you a couple of ways in how this occurs. We told you that commemorative-- commemorative events highlight the human cost of war. There's things lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the minute of silence, the playing of 'The Last Post,' walls in the Australian War Memorial, which list all the people that have died. Those are all things which are very powerful and explain the amount of people that have suffered as a result of war.

We also told you very crucially that there's a distinct-- there's difference between war and the people who fight within it, that we know that Gallipoli was a disaster, but we can recognise the people who fought in it and ran up those beaches were very, very brave. And now what that team tried to tell you here was that, well that encourages a really harmful view of the world because now you think that those people are all really good because they did something that was brave, which is not true.

You can understand that someone did something that was brave and selfless and good but the cause that they fought for was bad or the thing that they did wasn't great. And that is why you can, for example, condemn a policy of going to fight in Vietnam because that was a bad war while at the same time understanding the soldiers who did that by themselves were good people. We gave you the example of how we have commemorated assemblies with Turkey, for example, and how we can join together and agree and fight well-- and commemorate this event well.

And they just said, well, why don't people-- why don't Turkish people come to Australia, which ignores the obvious example that this Gallipoli happened in Turkey, not Australia, so why would they come here? But secondly, more importantly, that this ignores the entire point. Just by saying this one example isn't true doesn't rebut the entire point. We can give you other examples of people going to Germany and French and German people going to the Somme and going to the memorial there and saying that what we fought for was quite bad but the people who died here should be recognised because their sacrifices were important.

Now as I've said previously, I've talked about education, why education is just insufficient, because it doesn't give you the emotional impact of war. And that is so important because you understand why war actually harms people, you're not likely to acknowledge why it's something that needs to be held very, very-- it seems very dangerous and can only be used in the most-- in the worst circumstances. But no, the most important thing under their side, the most important point that they used was this point of patriotism and why this encourages this really patriot outlook in the world.

Now, we have a couple of examples why that just is not true. Firstly, if you incorporated people from Turkey, French and German people can look together. We have a massive trading partner in Japan. We're friends with Germany. It is just that we are able to bridge those boundaries because we see that political leaders did bad things, that a Nazi was a terrible person, that doesn't mean that we should say that all Germans are bad.

Secondly, that we can acknowledge our mistakes. The government, for example, when it apologised to the stolen generations showed that it can do certain things and then realise that they were bad and apologise to them. The US government has apologised for the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam. And there's many instances like this where governments are able to look back and understand their actions. And that is a thing that follows through in these commemorative events.

Lastly, and what they said here, was that while people who speak out against this movement get vilified-- and they gave the example of Yassmin Abdel-Magied. Now what I think this shows is the fact that you're only able to pick out this one example of this one specific person shows that that incident was more likely due to the fact that she was Muslim and got racist abuse like that just the same way that Waleed Aly gets racist abuse, not the fact that she opposed the Anzac Day, because there's tonnes of people who also oppose the Anzac Day and don't get that type of criticism.

And we also think that just because some people criticise her on racial grounds-- there's always going to be some racist in Australia. But the majority supported her, and a majority of people understood her comments. And we think that shows that people can actually use these commemorative events to have a balanced view of the world.

Lastly, and this is really important, we told you a point how when the government didn't make narratives about Gallipoli. You let other people to come in and do that. So for example, in America, a guy like Steve Bannon come in and say that, well, the war in Iraq was a holy war between Christians and Muslims. And that's really bad because it creates this really divisive rhetoric in society which harms certain groups, and we got no response to that under their side.

That is the exact reason why you need governments to step in and say that this is about democracy, it's about freedom, it's about the people who died here, and establish those values as important, which is a point that my second speaker told you to no response. It is also saying that, very, very important, that can be used to, example, fight harmful movements at home. So when a neo-Nazi goes on Sky News, we can say that that is not the type of ideology that we fought against in World War II just so you can come into our news platforms and talk.

So what is quite clear here is that the perception of war on the outside was unlikely to be balanced to understand the human cost of war while also acknowledging that sometimes wars are necessary and that we have to do them, even though they may cause some level of harm. Because the greater harm of not fighting the Nazis is even worse. Now the benefits of this are really, really important. It was A, because you're better able to understand our history rather than let it be forgotten and be co-opted by like Nazis or other racist people? But secondly, what is really, really important was allow us to make better decision-making about war, because the harm of going in-- not going into war when we should have gone into war, because all wars are so bad according to that side, could be disastrous.

In World War II, that could have been Japan invading Australia and enslaving us and forcing us into this totalitarian society. So because of that, it's important that we're able to make the best decisions about war, that we understand the circumstances. And because our side was able to prove that that was likely to happen when you had these commemorative events because they showed both sides, that was so, so important. Very quickly, I want to talk about alliances.

Because they say, well, you're going to have no alliances with countries that you fought against. As my second speaker pointed out, we have alliances with Japan. We have alliances with Germany. That is pretty untrue.

Let's go into the second point in this debate, which is about soldiers. Now, there, what we told you here was that it's important to commemorate these people, not only because their soldiers but because they went into war and they suffered so much, so we ought to remember their struggle. And secondly, because of the families of these people. If you see your son go to war and die and then you have a whole parade that shows just how important that person was and the sacrifice that they made, you actually feel a lot better about the decision that they made.

And the response they told you here was, well, these veterans don't really care. I think that is one, really assertive. I think veterans do care about being commemorated because the reason you go to join the war is because you feel like you want to fight for your country. You want to be proud, and you want to fight for a certain set of ideals. You want to see that reflected back in society when they say thank you. Your sacrifice didn't go unnoticed.

And the second thing they wanted to say here was that, well, money is going to be taken to these events and diverted from PTSD funding. Firstly, these ventures don't cost that much money. But secondly, we know that, yes, it costs some money to have a Anzac parade. But when it helps veterans deal with their loss and deal with their struggle because they know that that was important and is reflected in society, that is really helpful to them.

Also, they say they're going to get less funding for things like PTSD care. I'm going to give you a couple of reasons why that's completely untrue. Actually, under their side they get much less care for veterans. Firstly, because when you tell them-- when they create this narrative that that side wants to perpetuate, which is that, well, all soldiers are bad because they did these crimes, that means society is likely be less sympathetic to these veterans and less likely to help them, which means you're going to get less funding.

Secondly, when people are out in public and having an Anzac parade, we create a new cycle of caring for veterans and making sure that their needs are met, means we're likely to get more funding. And lastly, if we don't have the emotional impact of the commemorative event, then you don't see the actual harm people have suffered through, so you don't actually help them. And you don't actually give them the funding they need.

So within on our side, A, we help these individuals and their families because you get the commemorative assemblies, because you see these people actually having their struggles celebrated. And secondly, you know that when they suffer, when they have PTSD, when they've lost everything, they can get better care under our side. So if that side said soldiers are so important in this debate, I mean, we get better care for them.

So because, A, we get a better perception of war, which translates into better decision-making about war. And because we get better ideas about soldiers it is so, so important that we keep commemorative-- commemorative dates like Anzac Day.


TONY DAVEY: OK. Yeah, pretty fantastic speech there. You can see how you guys ended up winning that one. Else I think-- yeah, I think you've improved your hair over the last couple of years. That's great to see as well. Nice. So if you could give any feedback to yourself, what kinds of stuff would you say if you were the adjudicator?

GUY SUTTNER: So, I would add a couple of points of feedback to that speech, which I've gained with my years of wisdom. The first thing is, in that speech I identify that I'm going to talk about two issues-- firstly, how we commemorate war and secondly, how we improve the lives of soldiers. And when I'm doing that, I'm signalling to the audience that there's two really important issues in the debate.

However, in my speech, I end up spending almost the entirety of it focused on that first issue, which means I neglect that second issue. And so I think if I did the speech again, I would have to be much less repetitive in that first issue and be more concise so I can have more time talking about the harms that accrued to soldiers. And I think soldiers are a particularly important group in this debate because the harms of commemorating war are quite abstract and vague, while the harms to soldiers are very tangible, real, and relatable to all of us. And if I could have spent more time addressing that issue, it would maybe had a more emotional resonance or stronger emotional resonance with the audience.

And then the second piece of feedback is that, as third speaker, you're kind of doing the final touches on your team's case. And so you have a responsibility to identify which parts of your case are the weakest and plug up those holes and make sure that your case is really strong. So I think for my speech, probably the hardest point I had to sell was this idea that soldiers could both be seen as very brave but the causes they fought for were seen as very evil. And I think I had to spend much more time reinforcing this point and essentially making it stronger, for example, saying things are maybe like talking about how the way society perceives soldiers' bravery, perceives their sacrifice, and that it's a very personal attribute, like how they feel on the battlefield rather than bigger political issues like whether that war was justified in the first place.

I think a more positive thing I did in this speech was that there was a lot of examples and a lot of examples from previous wars that Australia has engaged in, like the Iraq War or the Vietnam War. And I think that's very important because it is important to bring out how Australia reacted to, how Australia continues to react to the history of these wars in this debate. And I think the fact that the other team maybe had much less examples meant that they maybe were attacking from a weaker position. I think the last thing, potentially, I could have done is in discussing soldiers, not only discuss the importance of looking after them but perhaps even began to elucidate a bit the importance principally of looking after soldiers as people who had sacrificed beforehand and now we ought to give back to them.

Now, of course, that would be getting very close to third speaker substantives. I probably couldn't say that, but I'd probably say then either should I pass to my teammates. Or if not, just brought up as a point of rebuttal in my speech.

TONY DAVEY: Yeah. That's pretty thorough and excellent feedback. I'm sure you would have improved a lot. So are you ready now to go back, pretend you're the, I guess, fourth affirmative-- who, for some reason gets to speak-- and try to help the affirmative get a win by rebutting yourself?

GUY SUTTNER: Absolutely.

TONY DAVEY: All right. Here we go.

GUY SUTTNER: The problem with the negative team's case is that it exists in a romanticised world that ignores the way that real people in real situations respond to the complexity of war. Because in reality, people don't have this nuanced view where they can balance out the leaders versus the citizens, the good and the bad. Rather, they view it hegemonically as one event that they must support with blind fever.

So I am going to be addressing two main issues in this speech-- firstly, how we commemorate war, which would be the bulk of my speech and the most important issue, and secondly, how this affects soldiers. Let's first move on to how, in reality, people during these commemoration days view and understand the complexity of war. The other side says, in reality, you can view war in quite a nuanced way because, for example, we have ceremonies in Gallipoli where we commemorate with Turkish people. And secondly, they say, for example, we have trade with nations like Japan and Germany who historically, we fought against in the past.

A couple of responses. Firstly, it is important to note that those are situations that are quite limited. Not that many people can fly to Gallipoli, and people that do are generally wealthier and more educated. The way that most people really respond to these situations is quite different. Few reasons.

Number one, you have an inherent desire to believe that your country is good because it supports your worldview and supports your existing set of beliefs. It is much harder to take a step back and be self-critical and say, well, no, actually, maybe Australia is a really bad country. Most people want to believe a narrative that Australia is the lucky country, that we are a country that has historically done good things.

Secondly, despite the fact that we do have trade deals with some countries, that does not in any way mean that we have good relations with them. Our biggest trade partner is China. And yet, a huge amount of Australians are enormously xenophobic towards China and both Chinese people.

And note that this also rebuts their point about separating the leaders and the people because they say, well, you can separate General Tojo or Hitler from the people of their respective countries. But people don't do that with countries like China. They are inherently aware that the CCP is an authoritarian party and that Xi Jinping is an authoritarian leader. Yet, they still are racist towards Chinese people and, for example, international students that come into Australia.

The next thing is that war is a situation where people want to valorize the people that participate in it because they themselves want to support notions of bravery and they themselves want to pitch themselves in those positions. And for that reason, it's very hard for ordinary person to look at, say, a heroic warrior and be like, well, I want to be that. I want to aspire to that, and then after that, try and critique that in a nuanced way.

The last reason here is simply that a lot of Australians right now, unfortunately, are people who maybe aren't racist but do have some sort of xenophobic or beliefs that have that type of notions. And for that reason, it's very difficult for people to approach war with foreign countries in a nuanced and perfectly fair way. So for that reason, we think these are not going to be entirely perfect. There is going to be quite a significant level of xenophobia, commemoration of Australian soldiers, and therefore, heroizing or valorizing the notion of war.

The next thing that it becomes about, are we able to separate that the fact that these soldiers did good things from the fact the wars they participated in were really bad? We have a couple of reasons why this is difficult to do. Firstly, know this is a quite complex point that most people aren't going to be making. They're not going to be having philosophical debates in their living room with their family members trying to separate these two things.

Rather, they will support the easy notion that, actually, Australia's a great country and we do great things. And for that reason, we were never wrong. And note that maybe in some other countries, like the USA, there is at least some recognition that the Vietnam War was wrong. But that discourse is much less prevailing in Australia, and we've not ever had that cultural conversation about which wars were bad. Rather, we look at almost every war we engage in as justified. The next thing that they say, so for that reason, we think you are not able to separate the wars from the soldiers.

The next thing, issue, then becomes about education. Do we actually need education by itself, or do we need to add these commemorative days to the mix? They say the reason you need commemorative days is specifically that you need to be able to view the emotion on the faces of the soldiers, that by seeing the crying soldiers, we'll be able to grasp the true horror of war. We have a couple of responses.

Firstly, note how specifically they define this. You're just need to see soldiers being sad, and there are ways to do that through other means. For example, when I was young, we would have a Holocaust survivor come into our Jewish education classes and tell us about the Holocaust. And there's a lot more veterans than Holocaust survivors, and it'd be quite easy to put them in every school in Australia and to educate students on the difficulties of war.

Secondly, you can have things like documentaries where people are interviewed and that can be an equally visceral reaction people to go through. And note, they try to make this very smart point and say, well, we support education too, just in collaboration with these days. However, what we say is that these days are particularly harmful and that for a lot of students who don't pay attention to history class, don't pay attention to school, these days are a lot bigger determination of what they think because it is a public holiday, because it is a big spectacle. And for that reason, it can override and influence lessons that they learn in class.

And that means that even if in class they learn maybe war's problematic, when they watch the TV and see war celebrated, they're going to follow that opinion. And that's going to overwhelm their beliefs and be extremely detrimental to our society. The last sub issue in this overall point of how we commemorate war is the politics of it.

Because we say this becomes a cultural issue and either you're Australian, you're part of the club and you support the Anzacs. And if you don't, like Yassmin Abdel-Magied did, then you're going to be vilified. And they take this incredible straw man and only respond to the example of Yassmin Abdel-Magied rather than the overall point. And even if we totally dismiss her from the debate, the point still stands.

There is a culture where if you speak out against the Anzacs, if you attack that hegemonic narrative, you are going to be vilified. And that means it becomes incredibly hard for people to resist the majority narrative that the soldiers are heroes and the wars they fought in were just. So at the end of this issue, why is this all so important?

It's important for the exact reasons that they tell us. The public perception of war, the way that people represent their votes, the way they interact with the media, the way they interact with enlisting to war are all very important things that can determine the way that we fight future wars, which are obviously the highest impact in this debate because they have the potential to lead to tonnes of deaths, to huge geographic changes, and cost a huge amount of money. What we say is that what happens under the status quo is that you commemorate war because the way that people realistically respond to these type of situations is to valorize soldiers, is to discuss the triumphs, to celebrate Australia as a nation, and for that reason, support further types of wars.

That means we're more likely in the future to have another Iraq, to go into a foreign incursion that we really should not have gone into. That leads to hundreds of billion dollars spent, tens of thousands of lives lost, massive destabilisation in areas. Those are all enormous harms, and those are the harms that win us this debate.

So very briefly, let's address the issue of soldiers. Their big contention here is that, well, we care for soldiers in war because we raise awareness about them. And for that reason, we're able to get more donations. Firstly, note that the majority of provisions that look after soldiers, like their medical needs and so on, is funded by the government and therefore, is totally independent of people's willingness donate to charity and so on.

Secondly, to the extent that it is about charity, there is tonnes of other ways in which you can raise awareness of these type of things. There's things like, for example, having those documentaries, having that as education in class. And very quickly on the issue about soldiers being commemorated, they can be commemorated in other ways. But often, they don't want to relive these traumatic experiences. It's not important to them. For that reason, in the very marginal issues of soldiers, we win. And overall, we win this debate.

TONY DAVEY: Yeah. Excellent stuff. I thought you were pretty harsh on your former self. Well played.

GUY SUTTNER: I think he deserved it.

TONY DAVEY: Yeah, yeah, yeah. OK. So stay safe, Guy, and we'll see you around hopefully back out there debating soon.

GUY SUTTNER: Yes, hopefully. All right. Bye, Tony.

TONY DAVEY: See you.

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