The term Fisking, or to Fisk, is blogosphere slang describing detailed point-by-point criticism that highlights perceived errors, disputes the analysis of presented facts, or highlights other problems in a statement, article, or essay. Eric S. Raymond, in the Jargon File, defined the term as:
A point-by-point refutation of a blog entry or (especially) news story. A really stylish fisking is witty, logical, sarcastic and ruthlessly factual; flaming or handwaving is considered poor form.
The term is named after Robert Fisk, a British journalist.
More broadly, the British newspaper The Observer defined fisking as "savaging an argument and scattering the tattered remnants to the four corners of the internet. The technique also has its critics. Andrew Orlowski in The Register commented that "Many of today's debaters prefer 'Fisking'—line-by-line rebuttals where facts are dropped like radar chaff—to rational debate or building a coherent argument.
"Fisking" in its current meaning was coined by bloggers in December 2001, following a short three-paragraph attack by Andrew Sullivan in response to a The Sunday Independent article written by Fisk earlier that month that recounted Fisk's beating at the hands of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Though the term was not coined by Sullivan at that time, it appeared soon after on Instapundit and Sullivan's weblog.
Irish journalist Eoghan Harris had in 1999 used the term "fisking" with a different meaning; "To fisk is not to face the facts for as long as possible and, when found out, to divert the public from your mistake by spinning shiny stories in the air." However, no one else appears to have used the term in this sense, and Harris later remarked that he had "lost a coinage.
Fisking can be compared to the Usenet style of responding to an argument's specific points by quoting lines prefixed with the ">" character (which contrasts with the style often found in e-mail of top-posting a reply, all in one piece).
Fisking is different from flaming, with which it is sometimes confused. Fisking is not merely verbal abuse, although it may contain a substantial amount of derision, scorn or even profanity.
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