To “pilger” has somewhat different connotations, if a similar genesis. Both words derive from the names of prominent journalists.The verb “to fisk” is defined as “To deconstruct an article on a point by point basis in a highly critical manner. Derived from the name of journalist Robert Fisk, a frequent target of such critical articles in the blogosphere.” I actually have considerable respect for Robert Fisk; even if he is not always absolutely correct with his facts or interpretations, he is usually nearer the mark and far more interesting than his critics. I first encountered the term “fisking” on Bruce’s and Arthur’s sites, where you may sometimes see the technique deployed and whose links take you to more information about the practice. It is Arthur’s response to being travestied (definitely not “fisked” in any sense) on another blog that has led me to think about this topic. I love the pic there.
I am old-fashioned enough to hesitate about adopting the term myself when “critique” and “deconstruction” — the latter in its popular rather than Derridean sense — already exist, but I have no objection to the practice so long as it is used for substantial critique and not just to break butterflies on wheels or to score personal points. A danger (drawing here on a reader-response perspective) is that fisking can very easily turn personal, or be seen as personal, and the fisker is always in danger of being seen as (or even being) a superior and somewhat supercilious pedant. It is all a matter of focus and tone, I suppose. Certainly I have seen many worthwhile examples of the practice, and Arthur’s original “fisking” of a rather muddled effusion on gay issues, which led to accusations of “jealousy”, was not a bad example of the art. I said as much at the time. The long-delayed response on Seeking Utopia was itself infantile**; ironic, as that seems to have been the charge against Arthur.
Still, you won’t find me practising the art very often. It isn’t really my style. I did do a sustained “fisking” of Kevin Donnelly’s Why our schools are failing (sic) a couple of years ago: “probably the worst, the most stupid, book on education that I have read.” But I don’t do this sort of thing very often now. Perhaps I have mellowed. (I can thank Mr Rabbit* for that in part.)
On controversial issues I prefer to present, where I can, a positive case, doing my best to stay within the rules of logic and fair presentation, and where what I am saying is more intuitive than intellectual, or more right-brained than left-brained, I hope I am aware of what I am doing and make others aware of it too.
Anyway, I have no qualms at all about variety and even lack of seriousness on my own blog. Why should I? There are no delusions of grandeur here, I hope.
* Mister Rabbit seems to have read the past week or so of this blog soon after this post was published. Just in case he comes back soon, I encourage him to revive his blog. I also hope we might renew some contact one of these days; he was a very good friend.
** Go over the fold for more commentary on Seeking Utopia’s “critique” of Arthur and Daniel’s quite bizarre responses to Arthur and myself. Daniel hasn’t won any arguments and I would suspect few hearts over this. Frankly, it has all been too weird for words.
*** Do read Thomas’s latest post on Deus Lo Vult. Not only might it be relevant, but it greatly simplifies things for all of us.
The unseemly obsessions of Seeking Utopia
I gather (from his childish reaction) that Arthur doesn’t like a taste of his own medicine! Tough! — Daniel on Arthur’s post referred to above.
Response: Except you didn’t give him “his own medicine”, did you? He did a rigorous analysis of what you said in a serious post; you have highlighted a non-serious post (itself a perfectly valid thing to have), cut and pasted it, and then made false extrapolations from that to Arthur’s blog as a whole. Pathetic. And everyone can see through it too. Why bother? Readers may judge for themselves: 1) Arthur’s post of October 27, 2006 which, aside from the unfortunate name-calling at the end, is real argument and 2) the “mature” parody. [Sorry, you can no longer make this comparison. See "Tuesday sequel" below.] NOTE: I recall taxing Arthur over his use of the word “cretin”, apart from name-calling being a strategy that does not advance an argument; when I use the word “infantile”, on the other hand, I am evaluating the post under discussion, which may indeed be seen as “being or befitting or characteristic of an infant”, not its author, nor am I suggesting that other posts by that author are also infantile, as many clearly are not.
I have visited Seeking Utopia several times today for research purposes. Noting on Technorati that he had posted recently I was curious to see if there was a response to what I and others have said today. I did not expect it to take the form of rational discourse and I was not disappointed. What we get instead is one of the works of Hieronymus Bosch (visual cliche #123705?) and a tart little message about old gays. Fortunately I enjoy Hieronymus Bosch, both the artist and the detective, and that psychotic artwork does offer a wonderful glimpse into many an inner landscape, doesn’t it? So there is nothing there for me to respond to rationally.
Sad. Seeking Utopia was once quite a good blog before the Arthur obsession (“unhealthy and compulsive preoccupation with something or someone”) took hold… Lest I suffer from Dystopia obsession I now finally bid him a fond farewell.
Ae fond kiss, and then we sever;
Ae fareweel, alas, for ever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I’ll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and groans I’ll wage thee!
You may trace the whole tale from September to the present here. I began to suspect Daniel’s objectivity (for want of a better word) about Arthur and a number of others fairly early on, and those doubts grew with time, which is why I did not even attempt to join the “secret blog” and wouldn’t have even if I had been invited. This does not change the fact that many of Daniel’s posts have been admirable in the past, but he really should deal with his homophobia and his fairly clear lack of balance (in my view) on a range of matters, and also attain a somewhat more realistic view of the role of his blog on the world scene. Otherwise I suspect his blog will just become more and more secret.
Otherwise I suspect his blog will just become more and more secret. It has; today Daniel has password-protected the “open” version of Seeking Utopia. (This has proved to be an on-off phenomenon. — 12 December 2006.)