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stories along The Way

Monday, June 7, 2010

Analyzing LaBonge: Of ballfields and context

Context-dropping is one of the chief psychological tools of evasion. -Ayn Rand

Selection from: Tom LaBonge, Conan, Leo D. & Me
By Gregory Downer

...On the day in question, I had been working on a computer terminal at the Los Angeles Public Library, Los Feliz Branch. I exited the computer room, and overheard some sort of a meeting session in a type of theater space nearby. In my curiosity, I (went in.)

The speaker addressing the gathered upscale patron type of an audience was none other than Los Angeles City Council Member Tom LaBonge. ...Council Member LaBonge was speaking about his efforts to purchase... the lands immediately surrounding the Hollywood Sign. To paraphrase his policy, he expressed something to the effect of; that private development too close to the Sign itself would damage the Sign's postcard worthiness.

I however, disagree with that position... I raised my hand with a question. Council Member LaBonge pointed to me in recognition of my upstretched hand. I queried, ... "why do you think that the City of Los Angeles should own that land?"

At the immediately following moment, with the decaying echo of my voice still bouncing off of the walls, nearly every, or every audience member turned his or her head away from Tom LaBonge, and depending on their relative geometric relationship to myself, give or take 180 degrees, to look at me.

Council Member LaBonge offered an answer that I frankly in no way recollect due to the fact of my shock at that moment of group attention. I conjecture that it was some form of well worn furtherance similar to a childhood referenced advancement of his. I express to you dear Reader, comments of his, that referenced a prior achieved project of his that was a little league baseball diamond. He attributed the catalyst for his motivation to accomplish same (was) his childhood complaint ... that he had not had more of them to choose from.

I continued, "I am not sure if this is the right place for this or not but... I think that people should be able to build houses up there."

Here is what he said next, and the following is the primary purpose of this article:

"That is the great thing about this country, you can say anything that you want and...Etc."  (I am sure dear Reader, that you have heard many times the conclusion of any such declaration.)...

What he indulged in is ... called context dropping. He dropped the context of the fact that he is an elected official, was functioning in an official capacity, and was addressing a group of (very agreeable save one,) constituents ... Had he and I been 2 anonymous people on the street (an entirely different context of course,) his statement would have been not only true of course but further, a cause for celebration. The first amendment I submit will and should always be considered a cause for celebration...

What his response should have been instead, and within an entirely different context as offered fictionally by me is as follows:

"Thank you Mr. Constituent ... As you yourself represent a cross section of my constituency who for whatever reason, have not made their similarly positioned expressions generally available or addressive towards me... ... I again, thank you very much for your candor and will (sincerely of course,) take it under advisement and use it in consideration as it may apply to any furtherance of this, and any other agenda that I may now or in the future undertake to advance for the general benefit of my constituency."

Unfortunately in this matter, Council Member LaBonge in no way said anything resembling ... an expression without corruption. He instead, dropped context as a means to further his agenda. The ends do not necessarily justify the means, in this or in any case for that matter. Council Member Labonge indulged in using any means necessary.

He additionally pandered to the audience via employing sundry trivial factoids which among others included that he had graduated from John Marshall High School... He said that he had been taught something or other there that I do not recollect. ...

Whenever you tear an idea from its context and treat it as though it were a self-sufficient, independent item, you invalidate the thought process involved. If you omit the context, or even a crucial aspect of it, then no matter what you say it will not be valid . . . .

A context-dropper forgets or evades any wider context. He stares at only one element, and he thinks, “I can change just this one point, and everything else will remain the same.”  

-Leonard Peikoff

Photo credit: Jim Winstead