David Prycejones

The dangers of Fisking

David Pryce-Jones accuses the Independent journalist Robert Fisk of hysteria and distortion in his reporting on the Middle East

In the www arena where the world speaks invisibly to itself, a new word has appeared: ‘fisking’, meaning 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.

The preconceptions and prejudices that are immortalising Fisk in the English language express an unqualified contempt for America. For him, most Americans are ignorant and arrogant, and their leaders mendacious and cynical power maniacs leading everyone to perdition. Everything wrong with the Middle East is particularly their fault. About a dozen times over the past year Fisk has written that in 1983 Donald Rumsfeld met Saddam Hussein, and this is enough to make the United States responsible for Saddam’s crimes. The corpses in the mass graves of Iraq are the result of ‘American encouragement of Saddam and treachery’. Supporting the military regime in Algeria, in another instance of their perfidy, the Americans must also be responsible for the 100,000 or more murdered there in the civil war.

Most unforgivably, they are also friends of Israel. Fisk has fits at the very idea of that. All administrations in Washington are bad, but, in the first place, President Bush and his men belong to the ‘failed lunatic Right’ and in the second place they have fallen into the hands of the Jews. Advisers such as Kenneth Adelman ‘have not vouchsafed their own religion’, but together with ‘the Perles and the Wolfowitzes and the Cohens’ they are ‘very sinister people hovering around Bush’. The whole lot of them drive what Fisk calls ‘the American–Israeli war’. For fear that their own soldiers will be arrested for what they do in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States shuns the International Criminal Court.

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