Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Fisking: Razor, I disagree on this, and I'm at a bit of a loss. Sure, I think "fisking" is often an outlet for bile and smashmouth debate more than "advancing the ball" on a particular debate, if that's what you mean. (It can also be terribly fun for the reader/writer. A lot depends on whose ox is gored.) But, as a lawyer, I'm sure you recognize the inherent benefits of a point-by-point refutation of an argument. I don't mean to seem like I'm fisking your criticism of fisking, but you say:
[Fisking is] just a way of saying, I don't agree with each of your points, and here's why.
But that describes honest debate, too, doesn't it? That describes what you do in litigation; you just do it in front of a referee who (theoretically) keeps the argument free of the gratuitous insult, violation of decorum, etc., that makes a lot of web-based dialogue ugly.

But, more to your point, I think I'd characterize Kusnet's piece as analysis. He's asking what parts of the message are effective, how much of a change there is from Bush's SOTU message. I didn't get the feeling he was only offering disagreement, and that -- to me -- is the difference. Disagreement does nothing to "advance the ball"; disagreement with pointed criticism, refutation, and appeal to logic, evidence, or experience can do so enormously. (This reminds me somewhat of the knock against partisanship. There is in fact a world of difference between empty partisan rhetoric and actual disputation of policy points.) Unless I miss your point entirely, I think you paint this issue with too broad a brush.

Moreover, how does your post directly below advance the ball on gay marriage? That's not to say I don't find your suggestions for amendments very funny (particularly the one involving restrictions on rock stars marrying supermodels -- who should, of course, be forced to marry bloggers). I'm just wondering what, exactly, you're looking for in informal, web-based discourse.

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