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.