In searching for another topic entirely, I came across the definition of the new term, fisking, which means to take apart someone’s argument point by point.
Any well-educated person will recognize that this technique has been around for many thousands of years longer than the new name for it. It used to be called rhetoric. But perhaps the term Rhetoric has fallen out of favor because it has gotten a bad name; nowadays, I only hear the term used contemptuously, dismissively, meaning that whatever is being labeled “rhetoric” is hollow, meaningless, with no real power of conviction or persuasion. Pretty much the opposite of what it used to mean, in fact.
Intrigued, I pursued a few links and ran aground at one Web site where there was a bit of a flurry over the fact that Robert Fisk himself was quoted as stating that he never used the Internet (“I have to be honest,” he said, “I don’t use the Internet,” it having become “a hate machine for a lot of people”), not even email, he said, and yet, one commenter at that Web site pointed out that in an article that predated that statement by two years, Mr. Fisk had spoken of having received an email. The Web log writer then stated that Mr. Fisk said that email was being forward to him.
My instant question to myself was, How are those emails being forwarded? Are they printed out and delivered as paper mail? Or are they forwarded by email? In any case, who reads that forwarded email? Mr. Fisk himself? Or does someone read them aloud to him? No matter what the answers are, he can’t truthfully say he doesn’t use email. Even if he reads printouts of email, or has someone read them to him, he is still using email.
Maybe in his mind, he has a very precise definition of what email is and isn’t (like Clinton’s definition of sex), and therefore he can with ease say he doesn’t use email since he doesn’t–what? Compose it? Read it on a monitor screen (if he has it printed out for him)? Or maybe he was just speaking carelessly, in which case one hopes he is more careful with his facts otherwise.