By Hugh Griffin-Banerjee and Melvin Bass the Introvert (who’s an expert on the topic)
To the surprise of no one, some number of our right-of-center Congressmen continue to insist that the approval of a 90-day extension of the FISA warrant to surveil poor Carter Page was “politically motivated”, thus the process as a whole was irretrievably broken.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has approved more than 35,000 FISA warrants since its founding in 1978. It doesn’t matter whether the Carter Page warrant was “warranted” or not; the claim that the process is broken because a single error was made is, from a rhetorical standpoint, exactly like saying:
- Charles Dickens was a hack because he got one bad review; or
- Tom Brady is a second-rate quarterback because a wide receiver dropped one of his 10,600 passes; or
- Honda makes unreliable vehicles because one of the 4.8 million they sold in 2017 had a broken dome light.
We could go on, but you get the picture. All of the above are examples of a rhetorical fallacy called “generalization from the particular.” Simply put: “If one of many is x, then all are x.”
Generalization from the particular is a tool commonly used by politicians of all stripes because it’s invisible to the ears of millions of gullible Americans. If we at The Near-Canada Gazette had our druthers, then at least one of the 3,000 pundits appearing daily on national TV would have used the trumped-up FISA controversy as a teaching moment so that fewer voters would be hoodwinked by this egregiously fallacious device.
To our knowledge, none of them ever have.
1) The discerning reader will have noticed that we mixed a metaphor. That does not mean that we mix all metaphors.