Debate Club SF is where San Franciscans go to broaden their perspective, to discuss current and local topics with people who aren’t in their immediate social circles– all in a transit-accessible location that’s friendly, not too loud, and has a great beer selection.
It’s something that I’ve been meaning to organize for a while and still haven’t gotten to, but I hope to put on the first prototype event some time this spring. Stay tuned, or let me know if you are interested, email below.
Problem: All of the places where the public can witness live discussion of timely topics, such as lectures and author events, follow the “star system” model*, where chosen individuals present to a passive audience. Even when there’s a Q-and-A at the end, it’s still one-sided: audience asks, and expert answers.
(*As defined by Richard Sennett in The Fall of Public Man (1974), a “star system” accrues profits through “maximizing the distance between fame and obscurity, such that people lose the desire to see a live performance at all if they cannot see someone famous.” I think the culture industry has been so successful in developing star systems that many people don’t see any other way.)
But can’t non-expert people have views that are worth listening to? Might you be one of them?
And why isn’t there such a thing as a local public intellectual? Couldn’t the national media-intelligentsia complex benefit from some farm teams?
Solution: Debate Club SF hosts live debate and discussion of hot topics, in a cool space.
There’s a strict policy of no photos, no video or audio recording, and no weapons— you sign a contract at the door. If you want to know what happens there, you have to come yourself, or ask someone who did. Sorry.
Debate topics are announced (or changed) as late as 24 hours in advance, in response to what’s happening in the news, or anything else that affects what it’s like to be a human being in the San Francisco area on that day.
Debate Club SF typically runs from 7-10pm, following one of the following three formats, subject to complete overhauling or discontinuation based on first contact with reality:
- Robert’s Rules Debate – moderated debate on topic from 8-9pm, with participants selected by moderator (I’ll start) either invited in advance or chosen from a sign-up sheet put out at 6pm. Unstructured hanging out from 7-8pm and 9-10pm.
- Open Mic – 3 minute open mic based on a sign-up sheet from 8-9pm, with participants subject to removal for irrelevance to topic, unsporting conduct, or running overtime. Unstructured hanging out from 7-8pm and 9-10pm.
- General Discussion – Unstructured hanging out for the duration, 7-10pm, but with a general understanding that people are there to discuss and process the topic of the day. This topic can be timely, niche or enthusiast, or perennial (e.g. local real estate, schools, restaurants, and popular TV dramas– those four would be like shooting fish in a barrel).
As mentioned, this is back-burner for me at the moment– but if you are interested, please email info [at] debateclubsf [dot] com.