What is Heckling?


Heckling is perhaps the most unique aspect of HSPDP debate. In this article, we give a detailed overview of heckling and examples in context.


Heckling is a specific quirk of HSPDP that those coming from other formats might be confused by. By definition, it is a 1-3 word interruption of another speech to bring up a relevant point of information. In practice, it is often weaponized to make speakers nervous. Though many debaters do not employ this strategy consciously, its most aggressive forms are often used against women and people of color. Some judges know both of these facts and have negative opinions of heckles in general. Thus, it is usually a good idea to ask a judge’s preference on heckling before the round. Additionally, it is almost never a good idea to respond to heckles. Their purpose is almost always to distract you, so if you respond, you are giving your opponents a victory.


Examples of Heckling


“Source!”

This is a heckle given when someone does not hear the source of a speaker's evidence. We would not recommend using this at all. It usually just benefits the opposing side because they can either share the source they forgot to say or make up one. Leave this until your speech, in which you can mention they had no source, discrediting their argument.

If someone says you did not have a source, heckels are also a great opportunity to shout it out. This usually shuts down the opposing team quite easily.


“Correlation not Causation” (or other logical fallacies)

This can be an effective way to point out a specific logical fallacy. Make sure it's not too obscure, though, or the judge won’t know what you’re talking about. Further, always make sure to follow up on the fallacy in your speech, if you think it was important.


“Misquote”

This is probably one of the best uses of heckles. It is not rude and is actually quite effective if someone, particularly a third speaker, is trying to misstate what you said.


“Shame!”

This is a fun remnant from British Parliament. There are very few situations in which this would be properly employed. The example most commonly given by coaches is if the other side advocates for genocide or killing all puppies. Some teams do not really understand this convention and will just throw it at you, but most judges find it annoying. We would only recommend this in very extreme cases of racism or sexism by the other team.


“Hear, Hear!”

Again, this is from parliament and is a way of affirming a speech. This is weird. Don’t be that kid.



Strategy


Heckling strategies can vary. It is absolutely possible to employ it in a way that purposefully flusters the other speakers. Doing a degree of this is strategically valuable, but in our personal experience, we have found it important to make sure to keep heckling minimal. We do this mainly because we think it leads to a better, less terrorizing debate environment. Further, as women, we have found that any time we use heckling beyond the bare minimum, it leads to a perception of aggression that judges dislike. Is it frustrating that this is a tactic often used against certain groups, that those same groups can’t meet at the same level? 100%. Still, in the experiences of ourselves and our peers, we have found that heckling is only considered “effective” when used by a white man and is often considered to be rude or aggressive when employed by anyone else. So, make sure that any of your heckles are effectively used.


For more information on the content discussed in this article, please visit our HSPDP Resource page.