|The Washington Canard
Where C-SPAN is the local TV news
Monday, December 08, 2008
THE EARLIEST KNOWN FISKING
The word "fisking" -- originating in the blogosphere ca. 2001 -- has fallen somewhat into disuse in recent years, especially as the 'sphere has expanded to include many who weren't around back in its earliest days.
For the uninitiated, it refers to a line-by-line, or paragraph-by-paragraph, refutation of an odious written work, often with an acidic or sardonic tone. The referent is one Robert Fisk, a British columnist whose absurdly self-abegnating columns from Afghanistan made him a pariah, at least until he was forgotten. Forceful responses from bloggers such as Andrew Sullivan gave rise to the term itself.
But this eponym is worth keeping around, and it's up to armchair cultural anthropologists like yours truly to point out earlier examples of the form where they find them.
Which brings us to the once-popular and still-familiar 1936 book "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. I picked up a copy from Amazon recently, and have been reading it on the Metro to work. In one early chapter, Carnegie explains how persuasion is best accomplished by appealing to your persuadee's self-interest, and as a counter-example reprints a letter from an officious adman and intersperses it with his own commentary. Carnegie introduces the section thus:
This letter was sent to the managers of local radio stations throughout the country. (I have set down, in brackets, my reactions to each paragraph.)And here, for your reading interest, is a partial reproduction:
Mr. John Blank,Zing! Dale Carnegie wasn't warblogger, but he certainly could have fit in with those whippersnappers.
Cross-posted from Blog P.I.