Radley Balko offers his thoughts on blogging and traditional media at Fox News:

Blogging's comparative advantage is that it's cheap and it's easy to take up. A good blog also doesn't need the readership a magazine or newspaper needs to survive. The result is a significant expansion of the scope, breadth and depth of public discourse. Good blogs will rise to the top. That means new voices, new perspectives and new reporting. These are things to be celebrated in a free society.

But let's not fetishize blogging, either. There's no reason to think that these new voices will be inherently more or less flawed than the mainstream media voices we've been hearing for generations. There will be good and bad bloggers just as there are good and bad reporters, magazines, newspapers and opinion journals.

He also provided some links to hilarious responses to this piece. (It's funny, I would think that out of all the articels he's written for Fox, this one would raise the least amount of partisan ire.)

Also, Jane Galt jumps in the Chait vs. Wilkinson debate with a fisking of Canned Platypus' rebuttal. She says something interesting though, which is related to Radley's assessment of blogs:

I'm not generally a fan of the "fisking" format, but the rebuttal isn't wrong in one easy-to-categorise way; it's wrong in lot's of small ways.

I'm interested in others' opinion of fisking in general. It can be overdone, of course, but I think it is a comparative advantage of blogs that such a thing can be done at all. It allows the author to pick apart someone's argument piece by piece (which often needs to be done with certain types of arguments) and keeps said author from taking a paragraph out of context. This is something that mainstream media can't do because of length and style reasons. But I think it is much more educational and intellectually honest. Thoughts?

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Fisking is especially useful

Fisking is especially useful in taking down arguments based on emotional appeal, because it breaks up the narrative structure that such arguments rely on. By the same token, it can be (and often is) used to break up the logical coherence of more complicated arguments that the fisker doesn't actually have a good response to (or may not even understand). And then are the uses of it which remind one of this smiley:

My intuitive response is

My intuitive response is that Pierce has it backwards. Logical arguments (i.e., ones with both assumptions and contentions that are distinct) are able to be discussed point-by-point. Emotional arguments (i.e., arguments whose sole contention, I think, is "doesn't this just *feel* right?) don't have points that one can separate and discuss. The lack of contentions is why the writer presents them in flowing narrative. Because the argument is ultimately an appeal to the "feeling o' rightness", each sentence is just a new attempt by the author to pluck another of the reader's heartstrings.

In other words, I suspect that emotional arguments, precisely because they lack "points" built on stated assumptions and that build to coherent conclusions, will leave an attempted fisker:


while logical arguments, though individual assumptions and contentions may be flawed, wrong, or poorly argued, allow for fisking.

[Having argued thus, I now recognize that, should anyone else decide to fisk this sucker for fun and find it incoherent, they may, by my own conclusion, declare it a lousy emotional appeal. Dammit.]

First, I have to say that is

First, I have to say that is an amazingly large collection of smilies I have ever seen on a blog.

As for the fisking format, I don't mind it, but I try to use it only when necessary. If an argument can be dissescted effectively without it I try to go that route. Other times you just can't so the "fisking format" is handy.

Fisking seems to be a

Fisking seems to be a holdover from Usenet and other message-board cultures of argumentation.

On BBSes, USEnet, and internet message boards, long elaborate threads between two parties of a debate would often end up debating several things simultaneously- since neither side is willing to give up anything, everything is contested and no point is left alone. So each post gets more and more interwoven with many different points and the best way to keep track is to go para-by-para, point-by-point.

I think this tendency flowed over into the early blogosphere and was used to great effect on the idiocy of Fisk (hence the name). The problem is that its not quite so good when you're dealing with an essay that's developing one point or one argument (or just a handful). The reason we (thankfully) don't see so much fisking, aside from people getting tired of the name, is that it just isn't very useful to go para-by-para on most people's posts. It is more useful to do selective quotation and address a point or two in greater detail than attempting to parse the post and rip it apart on a molecular level. I suppose you could call that "modified fisking" but after a fashion it simply becomes a response or counter-argument...

Steve- All your smilies are


All your smilies are belong to us.

I fisk--I didn't know there

I fisk--I didn't know there was a term for it until today--because I want to be sure to address every point of an argument when responding. To me, there is a courtesy in this.

I'm very much anti-fisking.

I'm very much anti-fisking. I'd rather convince somebody than win a rhetorical battle with him.