Fisking Michelle Goldberg, or: The Sorry, Sorry Tears of Progressive Doom-Casters

For those youngsters out there who don’t remember the beautiful, carefree internet days of the early 20’oughts, “Fisking” (or, through long use, “fisking”) is a point-by-point refutation and/or analysis of some piece of writing that, in the view of the fisker, is so inaccurate or outrageous that they just can’t let it go. The eponymous Robert Fisk gave us the verb in a rather roundabout way; in 2003 David Pryce-Jones wrote in The Spectator that

‘fisking’, mean[s] the selection of evidence solely in order to bolster preconceptions and prejudices. Just as cardigans or mackintoshes are named after an inventive individual, so fisking derives from the work of Robert Fisk, the Middle East correspondent of the Independent, stationed these many years in Beirut.

Shortly thereafter, though, “fisking” came to mean the line-by-line analysis, criticism and refutation of a piece of “journalism” full of “preconceptions and prejudices” as exemplified by Mr. Fisk. It was often a tool of bloggers on the right as they made their ways and reputations pushing back against the narrative that the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were failing, but really it was an equal opportunity pastime, for those with the gumption to hack through dense terrain.

This all came to mind  when I read Michelle Goldberg’s Fear, Anxiety, and Depression in the Age of Trump. Continue reading

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