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What Is Fisking?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2014
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Fisking is a process by which an argument is disassembled and contradicted one line or point at a time, rather than addressed in its entirety. This particular term usually refers to this process being performed on the Internet, typically through a blog or on an Internet forum or bulletin board. When done online, there is usually a great deal of sarcasm, vitriol, and profanity included in the process of deconstructing and countering the argument. Fisking can be seen as a poor form of argument by some, though many find it to be an effective means of conveying both derision and disagreement.

The term “fisking” comes from a popular, award-winning British journalist by the name of Robert Fisk, whose articles were often targeted by these types of rebuttals. While these initial forms of arguments were typically made by American conservatives, who disagreed with the points and ideas of Fisk, it has since expanded well beyond its initial political formation. Fisking can be used by anyone to argue against any type of opinion or argument made, though it is usually done on the Internet, which presents an ideal format for line-by-line rebuttal. This type of rebuttal seeks to destroy the individual points made in an argument, which acts to counter the entirety of the argument without having to ever address the overall message of it.

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One of the primary aspects of fisking is the use of deconstruction in taking an argument apart and making a counterargument or rebuttal for each point. This can be done on a line-by-line basis, though it is often done for each paragraph or individual point made by a person in his or her initial statement. The Internet provides a perfect environment for this type of argument, since it allows a person to quote and repost the original statement, divided into sections, and then add commentary or rebuttal after each section. While this process is similar to certain methods used in organized debate, fisking is also marked by an open and pronounced level of hostility.

Fisking usually involves personal attacks on the author or speaker of a statement, and the use of profanity and name-calling are both often accepted as legitimate counterpoints in this process. This has led to a fair amount of criticism of the process by many individuals who feel that ultimately it is a juvenile or lesser form of argument for its crass approach to debate. Those who defend fisking however, suggest that it is equal parts debate and catharsis, allowing a person to vent his or her frustrations with both the speaker and the argument he or she has made.

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Soulfox
Post 2

@Logicfest -- but if treated correctly, this can be an effective form of argument. There's one proviso here -- it is essential for the person knocking one point down after another to come up with a conclusion that can be supported rather than simply destroying an argument point by point and leaving it at that.

In other words, offer a conclusion instead of just complaining and you should be fine using this method.

Logicfest
Post 1

Fisking is criticized as a juvenile and lesser form of argument because, well, it is a juvenile and lesser form of argument. It is also misleading as it doesn't always address the entire argument. If, for example, a conclusion is based on several points in an argument in such a way that the sum outweighs the parts that make it up, it is easy to take points out of context and ignore the fact that each point contributes to the argument as a whole and relies on either previous or subsequent points. Thrown in a few personal attacks and you've got a prime vehicle through which the bulk of an argument can be obscured or done away with completely.

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