Friday, October 17, 2003
Enthymematic Arguments and the Enthymematic Arguers Who Argue Them
Over at Tapped, Matthew Yglesias has more goods on the botulinum B bacteria vial reported in David Kay's assessment of Iraq's WMD programs. According to the LAT:
The single vial of botulinum B had been stored in an Iraqi scientist's kitchen refrigerator since 1993. It appears to have been produced by a nonprofit Virginia biological resource center, the American Type Culture Collection, which legally exported botulinum and other biological material to Iraq under a Commerce Department license in the late 1980s.
That's not what's important about the Kay report. What should be noted is what was not found: Botulinum A toxin, the stuff that cannot be found in dirt and honey.

Textbook example of the Bush administration's favored method for discourse, enthymematic argumentation. By telling Americans—the vast majority of whom can't spell botulinum, much less identify its properties—that weapons inspectors found a vial of botulinum, the administration is urging Americans to make the sloppy heuristic hop from "some-name-I-can't-pronounce, found" to "weapons for which weapons inspectors were inspecting, found." On this path from point A to point C, crucial point B—that botulinum toxin was never coaxed from botulinum bacteria—is excluded. As someone put it in a comment board, it's screaming for fire-trucks and hoses and firemen without telling the public that there actually isn't a fire. It's called enthymematic argumenation, and for this administration it's a potent way to lie to citizens to get what they want.

I blame Latin.