Virtue signaling is discussed frequently in the news and pop culture, but what is it exactly? It’s taking a morally superior position on a seemingly well-meaning cause, then telling everyone how special and wonderful you are for taking a stand. It allows one to proclaim, or signal, their virtue to the world without actually doing anything meaningful. An empty gesture.
Virtue signaling, while more common among liberals, is by no means exclusive to the left as many on the right do the same, only with different issues. There is often a bit of hypocrisy that goes along with virtue signaling since those proclaiming their superiority usually live their own lives differently compared to their professed high-mindedness. Much also revolves around political correctness. Let’s look at some examples.
Climate warriors lecture us on the evils of carbon-based fuels and conspicuous consumption while flying around the world in their high-carbon-footprint private jets to collect awards and hobnob in extravagant energy guzzling luxury with other like-minded elites. Al Gore comes to mind.
Electric cars, which still consume fossil fuels (where does the electricity come from?), provide another opportunity to virtue signal to others how much you care for the environment, looking down with disdain on those who drive a car with a traditional gasoline engine.
The #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and predation is another example. Many men proclaim themselves “champions of women” and lead the attack against Republicans, who are all considered thugs and pigs, and are then discovered to be predators themselves. Examples are Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey and more recently Tom Brokow and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The latter proclaimed a “superhero” for protecting women while at the same time he was beating and abusing them.
Wearing ribbons to raise awareness for the latest cause allows you to proclaim how much you care. Despite most people being well aware of the cause and the fact that wearing a ribbon accomplishes nothing except allowing the wearer to feel better for wearing it, signaling their virtue.
Renaming sports teams and removing 200-year-old Confederate statues shows sensitivity to the feelings of some group that was oppressed centuries ago, while actually accomplishing nothing. How will changing the name of the Washington Redskins improve anyone’s life? Same with removing a statue that didn’t seem to bother anyone until Trump became president.
Republicans are also guilty of virtue signaling, particularly the #NeverTrump crowd. So-called conservatives rail against President Trump because they don’t like his tone or manners, despite the fact that he is implementing the most conservative agenda since Reagan. They signal their moral superiority to fellow travelers in the Beltway and the media by constantly criticizing Trump, contradicting their core political beliefs. The same people would be delighted with a President Jeb or Kasich doing everything Trump is doing.
So why do this? It begins with guilt, but not of those doing the signaling, but instead of their targets. How better to influence the masses than through guilt? Make people feel guilty for their skin color, gender, car they drive, running their air conditioner at home, using a paper bag from the grocery store, supporting a sports team with an “offensive” name, or who they voted for.
No one wants to feel guilty and will succumb to the wishes of the virtue signalers to assuage their guilt. It’s simply another means of political persuasion. Notice how political correctness and left-wing causes go hand in hand with virtue signaling. I don’t see gun owners wearing ribbons for the Second Amendment. They just live their lives with little fanfare, except when attacked by elites, those who want the hoi polloi to give up their guns while they keep armed security guards protecting themselves and their families.
It’s important to recognize virtue signaling for what it is and not succumb to the knee-jerk reaction of guilt and shame when told how to think and behave by those who take pleasure in looking down their noses at those who don’t share their beliefs.
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