Fisking makes a comeback

‘Fisking’ (defined here and here) was an often irritating aspect of the blogging genre, that seems to have fallen out of favour over the last year or so. Probably that was for a very good reason: too often bloggers resorted to ‘fisking’ mostly because they were too lazy or inept to write literate journalistic prose, and substituted juvenile sarcasm for any logical or even original thought content.

Nevertheless, I’ve always thought ‘fisking’ has a legitimate place in the blogger’s armoury, and Al Bundy revives it to telling effect in this post where he dissects a Geraldine Doogue interview with History Warrior Bain Attwood. Go read.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

Thanks, Ken. Like my disclaimer at the top said, I didn’t think it was my finest effort – plus I was fighting Blogger’s godawful HTML editor the whole way, which rather detracted from the subject matter.

I’ve got some ideas slowly coming together for a post on what’s afoot in the ‘History Wars’ but I’m actually researching this one carefully first. (Don’t hold your breath though.)

Robert
2022 years ago

“I don’t give a stuff about justice; there’s no need to worry about “gaps” in the record — of course police recorded full details of every person they killed!”

Sorry, Ken. I agree that there’s a place for fisking in the blogosphere, but I don’t think this was a particularly good one.

mark
2022 years ago

There’s a difference between splitting a person’s article up into its component points and refuting each point, and “fisking”. The former has been around for years — since the dawn of USENET at least, and perhaps even before the Internet for all I know. The latter seems to be mostly taking people’s points, making a smartarse (and often irrelevant: “yeah, well so’s your Mum!”, style of fing) comment, and pretending you’re therefore better than Krugman (or whoever) as a result.

The two get confused fairly often amongst the ‘blogosphere, though, which often seems to be of the impression that they invented the whole concept of refuting an argument. Practically any half-decent “fisk” is actually just a straight-up point-by-point argument.

I think “Al Bundy”‘s post is a *great* “fisking”, in that he is able to put up a much less pathetic example of the genre than most of his fellow RWDBs. But a decent argument? Not a chance.

John Quiggin
John Quiggin
2022 years ago

Like Rob, I’m underwhelmed. Far from showing Attwood morphing into a wild-eyed radical, the exercise shows Bundy starting more or less reasonably and ending with the kind of froth quoted by Rob.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

I think Al goes over the top in places, and I also certainly think the interview shows that Attwood has a marked political agenda. But, of course, everyone has a political viewpoint, and it inevitably informs their writing on subjects that touch on it. It’s no more problematic that Attwood favours a treaty, reparations etc etc to Aborigines than that historians like Connor and Windschuttle presumably have an opposing political view, as long as they make clear their perspective and are careful as far as possible to ensure that it doesn’t cause them to be selective or otherwise distort relevant historical sources of evidence in their scholarly writing.

I think there are some indications that both Ryan and Windschuttle have allowed their political viewpoints to affect their selection and treatment of historical evidence to a greater than desirable extent. However, I don’t think it’s reasonable to label it “fabrication” in either case, and indeed that’s a debate that’s become so tiresome as not to be worth revisiting. What might still be worth exploring is the actual avidence itself in relation to violent deaths of Tasmanian Aborigines. I’m currently trying to devise (along with Cathie Clement) a workable way of doing that on a blog.

Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

Bah, what humbug.

I think Uncle sums up Attwood’s equivocal views on Reynold’s ‘historical truths’ rather well.

JQ, be careful when huffing things like:

…shows Bundy starting more or less reasonably and ending with the kind of froth quoted by Rob.

because, when Rob ‘quoted’ me as saying:

“I don’t give a stuff about justice; there’s no need to worry about “gaps” in the record — of course police recorded full details of every person they killed!”

he was employing techniques from the Ryan/Clement school of ‘investigating gaps’. You see, I never actually said that which he claimed. But it’s okay, because Rob has ‘interpolated’ that quote from the ‘silences’ in my post.

Anyway, you might think the call for a treaty and more welfare dependence is the answer to the problems facing Aborigines today. I reckon it would be a catastrophe. Read this exceptional presentation from Keith Windschuttle, and you’ll understand why.

Robert
2022 years ago

Sorry, I thought it was pretty clear that what I posted wasn’t an actual quotation. If the sarcasm wasn’t clear, I’ll lay it on even thicker next time.

And I referred to an obvious example of why ignoring gaps, trusting written records and rejecting oral evidence out of hand, is unhistorical.