February 7, 2005

Not fisking.

I've updated last Friday's post about "Our Godless Constitution" to deal with Jim Lindgren's complaint about my use of the expression "Separation of Church and State." But I want to write a separate -- yeah, separate -- post about his statement that I "fisked" that Nation article. My attempt to Google to a definition of "fisk" first got me to a baby names site, where I learned that Fisk means "fish" -- it's a Swedish name. I guess that's why you're not really running across "Fisk" as a first name. Who names their baby after a fish? (I mean other than the parents of one of our Chief Justices.) I'm trying to confirm my understanding that to "fisk" something is to go line-by-line, making devastating attacks against one thing after another. I'll take this as a confirmation.

Anyway, what I did to the Nation article was really almost the opposite of fisking. I cherry-picked one egregious distortion and based my entire post on that. This approach to a post is probably much more common than fisking, and it suits blogging really well, because you need to try to keep a blog post short. That post wasn't all that short, but imagine if I had tried to go through point-by-point, examining all the many quotes in the article. I picked the ripest mistake I could see and went to town with it. And I admit that is the sort of ankle-biting blogger behavior that makes MSM fear and loathe us! It may unfairly suggest that if I did that to one of your sentences, I could have done it to all of them: I could have fisked, but I just didn't have the time or space. It's a technique that could easily be abused, but I still think it's a good blogging gambit.

So if it's not fisking, and it is something we bloggers do a lot, how about a word for it? "Fisking" got started -- I think -- after a single instance of someone fisking a Fisk article. So maybe I should suggest "Allening," after Brooke Allen, the author of "Our Godless Constitution," the article I allened.

UPDATE: A reader points out something I noticed, but didn't mention. Lindgren only describes me as "effectively fisking Allen," which could be read as recognizing that my allening was as devasting as a fisking. Why bother to fisk when you can just allen?

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