A disadvantage (DA or disad) has the same function as a contention in circuit debate; it is offense for the negative and a reason why the plan is bad: quite literally a disadvantage to the affirmative. It is slightly different from a more traditional contention in that it is a direct consequence of passing the plan, or a policy action, as opposed to a reason why the resolution is independently bad.
A DA has 3-4 parts: uniqueness, link, internal link, and impact.
Uniqueness is a description of what’s going on in the status quo, or world currently. For example, uniqueness might be that a person is standing on the edge of a cliff or that the economy is doing well.
The link is something the affirmative changes about the world. For example, a link might be that the plan pushes a person 10 feet forward on a cliff edge, or that it causes inflation.
The internal link is not a necessary part of a disadvantage (and in fact, the more internal links, the worse the DA tends to be since it becomes more attenuated), but is something the link then causes to happen. It can be thought of as a domino effect: A (the link) causes B (the internal link). An internal link could be something like inflation harms the economy.
The impact is what happens at the end of the disadvantage that matters. An example might be falling off a cliff (death), or economic collapse causing poverty or war.
There are a few ways of responding to a DA, but in general, it helps to break it down piece by piece and attack each part separately. It is a good rule of thumb to try to put at least one argument on each part of the DA at first, and then pick and choose which argument to go for in the 2AR.
Non-unique: this argument would say that the status quo is already bad (e.g. the economy is already doing poorly)
Uniqueness overwhelms the link: this argument says that whatever is going on in the status quo is so important that the difference the plan makes is negligible (e.g. a huge rise in investor confidence means that people will invest and spend in the economy regardless of the link).
Importantly, non-unique and uniqueness overwhelms the link are contradictory (one is saying the status quo is doing badly right now, the other saying the status quo is too great to be changed), so it is important to decide which type of argument is truer or more strategic in the context of the round.
Answering the Link and Internal Link
No link: this argument would say that the plan does not actually cause the effect the DA says it does (e.g. the plan does not hurt the economy).
Link Turns: this argument would say that the plan does the opposite of the link (e.g. the plan helps the economy). This argument must be paired with a non-unique argument to be offensive, otherwise there’s no impact the link turn --- if the economy is doing well already (uniqueness), it doesn’t matter if it gets even better (link turn).
Answering the Impact
Impact Defense: this argument says that the negative’s impact will either not happen or is overhyped (e.g. economic collapse does not cause war).
Impact Turns: impact turns say that the impact to the disadvantage is actually good (e.g. economic collapse is good --- it doesn’t cause war, but it does prevent climate change).
This is extremely important: you can NOT make a link turn and an impact turn in the same speech. This is called a “double turn” because what you end up arguing becomes offense for the neg: If the original DA was: the economy is doing well now (uniqueness) ---> the plan hurts the economy (link) ---> economic collapse is bad (impact)
You end up arguing that: the economy is doing badly now (non-unique) ---> the plan helps the economy (link turn) ---> economic growth is bad (impact turn)
Straight turns are the most strategic response to a DA, but they’re a little tricky. A straight turn consists of reading EITHER (but not both!) a non-unique + link turn or an impact turn on a DA, and no defense. Since link turns (when paired with non-unique claims) and impact turns provide offense on the DA, the negative cannot concede out of the disadvantage and go for a different argument in the 2NR, but instead must answer the straight turn. The most strategic 2N/ARs are ones that prioritize and win one or two arguments and explain why those arguments are the most important arguments in the round. This process of choosing one or two arguments to go for is called “collapsing” (since one is “collapsing” the round down to the most important issues). In order to do this, since most 1NCs contain multiple DAs, the negative will concede defense in the 2NR and just focus on one DA. While this might seem counter-intuitive, it becomes incredibly strategic. To illustrate this, here’s an example:
1AC - Plan: states ought to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. Advantages about miscalculation and cyberattacks.
1NC - Bioweapons DA (bioweapons are not used in the status quo (uniqueness) ---> eliminating nuclear arsenals causes a shift to bioweapons (link) ---> bioweapons cause extinction (impact)), Emerging Tech DA (conventional weapons are not used in the status quo because of nuclear deterrence (uniqueness) ---> eliminating nuclear weapons makes the world safe for conventional warfare (link) ---> countries will use AI and emerging tech (internal link) ---> that causes extinction (impact))
Now, if the 1AR only reads defense, say they read bioweapons won’t cause extinction and AI won’t cause extinction, the 2NR can concede one of them and spend 6 minutes answering the impact defense and weighing it versus case. Though it seems like heresy to concede an opponent’s argument, conceding that bioweapons don’t cause extinction doesn’t put the NEG at a strategic disadvantage because there’s no offensive ways for the affirmative to win from that, but it does give them more time to decisively win the Emerging Tech DA and explain why it’s the most important issue in the round. This is where a straight turn comes in. Instead of reading impact defense, if the 1AR had straight turned both disads, say by reading a non-unique + link turn on both, the 2NR becomes significantly harder. Since the affirmative has garnered offense on both DAs, the 2NR cannot concede out of one of them, and must split the 2NR by going for both disadvantages, forcing them to spend less time on each argument and greatly increasing the possibility of making a mistake, messing up time allocation, or conceding a crucial argument.