Inspired by one of my periodic visits to the ethical, verbal and analytical wasteland of the comment section of major web news aggregators and political commentary sites, longtime Ethics Alarms participant and curmudgeonly philospher luckyesteeyoreman was moved to write a digression on what he calls the 5-la culture, a topic my dad was referring to when he said, “My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with facts.”
Confirmation bias is human problem, not a partisan one, but it is disturbing to see that partisan warfare has produced a dominent mindset where confirmation bias is regarded as an asset rather than a weakness. It is a weakness, you know.
Here is luckyesteeyoreman‘s Comment of the Day on the post, In Which We Visit The Daily Caller To See How Civil Discourse Is Proceeding On The Conservative Website…
It seems clear that large parts of public discourse in American society have been largely hijacked by diverse cults of non-thinking – but committed – self-righteously indulgent exhibitionists of what I call a culture of la-la-la-la-la, or “5-la culture.”
All of us reading here are probably very familiar with this – but where it started and how it became so popular, I don’t know. Picture: a person with their mind closed on a matter (usually, presumably), intent on blocking-out the entire world, firmly pressing the palms of his hands against his ears, elbows jutting out to their respective sides, rejecting any and all external input while making “counter-noise,” namely: “LA-LA-LA-LA-LA!!”
That little “5-la” gesture says so much with so little. It is such a convenient crutch for worshiping irrationality and anarchy, and so lazily. Ethically, it perpetrates, proliferates, and perpetuates much harm most insidiously.
How self-soothing it apparently is for so many, to declare so simply their stand on a matter, saying in effect: “My mind is made up; it will never change; I’m all right AND I’m all correct; I neither need, nor want, nor accept any further external input from anybody; I owe no apology to anyone, ever, no matter what I say; all challenges to what I say or think are evil personal attacks, perpetrated either by morons, or control freaks, or some other kind of sociopaths (none of who deserve to live, let alone deserve any respect for anything they say).”
Such is the underlying message in so many of the comments we see in cyberspace.
However, I do believe it is fair to at least suspect that at least some of even the most thoroughly ethical Americans have learned and used the same 5-la response from time to time in recent times, and with nothing but the best intentions, such as desire not to be poisoned by the culture in which they are immersed. As I write here, I think of something Jesse Jackson said when he eulogized Jackie Robinson, referring to a culture of racism and hatreds of earlier times, and of a worthy aim for any person: (paraphrasing) to be immunized from catching the diseases one fights, and to have the capacity to wear glory with grace. Sometimes, it is wise to just block out the noise.
Culturally, the U.S.A. has thus become “Ameri-la-la-la-rica.” I rate it “3-la” since in the country overall there still are vestiges of, and sancutaries for, freedoms of thought, speech, public expression, press, assembly, association and religion, and true respect for the same. But, to a terribly enormous extent, The People, especially on line in the so-called marketplace of ideas, are suffering a Stage 4 cancer of culture that rates a full 5 la’s.
Short of a complete change-out and makeover in the character of the society’s leadership over several consecutive generations, I have no ideas on how the 5-la culture might be killed off, beyond personal exemplification of wiser counter-culture.
The 5-la culture has poisoned me, too. I have even taken to inserting 5 la’s into the names of prominent political figures, when I have written their names in other venues, or spoken them. But I won’t elaborate, because (1) it should not require of a reader of this blog much thinking or imagination, to figure out precisely who I am likely referring to, and (2) despite how much I have soothed myself by inserting la’s into others’ names, I recognize my hypocrisy in having done so.
So I’ll stop here, now intent on re-reading “The Closing of the American Mind” – its “reductio ad Hitlerum” warts (if that’s what they are) and all – and reading a few more recent publications (outside this blog) which critique contemporary American public discourse. My search for reasons to hope never ends.
12 thoughts on “Comment of the Day: “In Which We Visit The Daily Caller To See….””
Damn, I just remembered what a fantastic book that is! Thanks for the reminder. I have a copy, but the binder is of low quality, and it’s missing about a 40-page section of it.
“Short of a complete change-out and makeover in the character of the society’s leadership over several consecutive generations, I have no ideas on how the 5-la culture might be killed off, beyond personal exemplification of wiser counter-culture.”
I’m not a JFK fan, but when was the last time a politician or leader said something like “Don’t ask what your country can do for you, what can you do for the benefit of your country.”*
My theory of the cause of the disease is politicians employing polling and political consultants to make sure they only ever say what they are professionally assured their electorate wants to hear so they, the politicians, absolutely minimize the likelihood of their not getting re-elected. Political dialogue has thus been turned into nothing more than two echo chambers, one for each of the two parties. Listening to generated and distributed talking points, of course people get the idea what they think is right; that is, they get their biases confirmed. Confirming biases is what political discourse is all about these days BY DESIGN.
Until we get some free thinking, self thinking politicians who are willing to do something other than confirm their most likely voters’ biases, the disease Luckiest has identified is only going to grow more virulent.
*Too bad JFK’s speechwriters (most likely intentionally) cloaked so much of the impact of his command in Boston Brahminism or faux poesy or just tortured diction. I think the intent was to water down the impact so no one would really feel obligated to do anything other than keep their hand out.
OUTSTANDING comment of the day!
That comment in its entirety should be in the ranking for comment of the year!
Well said, luckyesteeyoreman!
Thank you, Jack. I feel honored by your judgment of my comment.
I agree very much with Other Bill. The modern practices of the science of political campaigning have resulted in more exploitation of voters’ weaknesses, instead of more enabling and promotion of ethical leaders’ and candidates’ (and voters’) strengths.
The resulting products of those practices, while including obviously successful campaigns in terms of election and re-election wins, have included also some monstrously unethical “movements,” strategies, tactics, maneuvers and rationalizations.
The 5-la culture, and the embracing of the principle of ends being justified by means, seem to be natural consequences of campaign practices – and of each other.
Thanks for the entree and the follow up, LE.
Indeed a praise-worthy comment. I commend you. You had me at:
“It is such a convenient crutch for worshiping irrationality and anarchy, and so lazily. Ethically, it perpetrates, proliferates, and perpetuates much harm most insidiously.”
Well done. I appreciate the alliteration, too.
1 That quote isn’t exact, of course, so I believe that’s a shaky way to argue about command through, or in spite of, diction, or regional nuances of expression.
2 It was almost certainly Ted Sorenson.
3 I agree nonetheless. I think the major point is the “handling”– that is, essentially, tv mass market PACKAGING of candidates. As thought they were tobacco or cholesterol products: bad for everyone, but it’s not the advertiser’s job to prejudge the market, only to serve it. If everyone wants it, we’ll make it sale able. I think the disturbing thing about it in the back of all our minds is: that may be ethical and professional for an advertiser, and it’s sure as hell consonant with our culture, BUT is it genuinely, desirably major criteria (if not THE criteria) for executive leadership? And history suggests, NO. Too many counterfactuals, and the current culture referred to is so obviously derivative of the boob tube. Which is nothing if not recent, in terms of the lifespan of cultural/political systems.
Kennedy was obviously a counterfactual– tough to imagine anyone “handling” him. Ditto T.R., Eisenhower, or many others before Nixon.
Perhaps that’s the core of Trump’s support? Anyone can see he won’t be handled either?
The paraphrase was intentional and spur of the moment. The phrasing as delivered just strikes me in my dotage as bombastic, preposterous, pretentious and tortured, and seems inexplicably to actually obscure the meaning. And I’m a poet. But there is an actual question and demand in there rather than pablum. Which we haven’t seen from politicians and leaders in what, fifty-five or so years?
Did Sorenson also urge JFK to inform the assembled Berliners he was a jelly dough nut?
Seen on a full trash bag on the street here in Amsterdam a while ago: “Ich ben ein Binliner!”
OTOH— (or, the value that we find in LA LA LA LA LA)–>
Playing devil’s advocate: one of the things I learned in school (particularly on the debate team) is that it AIN’T intelligent discourse that’s going to get anywhere or help anyone IF it isn’t orderly. Could be by mutual consent and respect on the part of disagreeing adults, or much more likely, moderated discourse. Robert’s rules, even. When I was on that debate team, I never won any points by failing to shut up.
Ever been at that party, perhaps a roomful of lawyers, where you wind up leaving the room saying to yourself, “Hell, I might’ve gotten something out of that except there was no judge to bang a gavel and order that noise to move from point to point.” Declamation, however learned and researched, is just bloviating if it refuses to conclude.
Personally, I like to let arguments lie and pick ’em up again with more research later, extending a conversation over many months… only as an adult with much less leisure time than our parents had under our “kinder, gentler America” I found I had to leave that behind some 25 years ago. Hmmm. Come to think of it, when you work the kind of hours my wife and I have to, ….. well, I think it’s fair to say we’ve made informed voting more of a challenge than it should be over the course of my lifetime.
I think it’s also fair to say the mass media has entirely lost the handle on it’s journalistic responsibility to moderate. Hell, it’s mostly lost it’s weak grip on the dialectic approach in the past 30 years. Is it any wonder, then, that I might miss something you guys would find worthwhile simply because the sound of today’s journalism ITSELF makes me want to cover my ears and sing LA LA LA LA LA since, that’s essentially all there is to perceive so much of the time anyway?
LA LA LA LA LA is the only judge’s gavel you’ll ever get, at least until your spouse hand you the remote back. It doesn’t move the discourse along, but we gave up on that some time ago, right?
THAT’S the current function of the 5-LA that we rely on and need, and we’re not losing it until we get publishers of Ben Franklin’s insight back AND we start paying attention to THEM, instead of cool movie footage of Tom Cruise surfing the leading edge of an explosion, or Clint Eastwood gunplay.
McCluan and Toffler were both right, for my money.
The instilling of concepts such as microagressions and the need for “safe spaces” has contributed to the 5 la strategy at our nations most prestigious universities. When, I was an undergrad and graduate student, I could actually argue with my profs about some fine point without risking a failing grade. Sometimes I realized that I didn’t understand their reasoning but in most cases there were no hard feelings. After all, the universities were supposed to be about the free exchange of ideas.