Virtue Signaling

The politics of fake outrage

  In these days of political passion, many of us have heard the phrase “virtue signaling”. Virtue signaling has been around since the beginnings of political disagreements, and is used as a tactic to falsely define the opposition and then condemn them for what you have mischaracterized them to be in the first place. A good example of this is Hillary Clinton’s famous “Deplorables” speech of 2016, in which she described Trump voters as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it”. She attacked Trump voters for having traits that she concocted and then attributed to them, while at the same time trying to assume a moral high ground for herself. It is noted that the Deplorables speech ultimately backfired on Clinton, as it became clear that she was using a pathetic maneuver to unjustly label and disparage good Americans.

The purpose of virtue signaling is to attempt to capture the moral high ground, and to do it in a conspicuous way. It is nearly always done without any proof or evidence; and it is also done as a means to purposely inflate the character of the “signaler” – essentially communicating the message “I am better then you”. Virtue signaling at its core is feigned righteousness; a fake outrage. Instances of virtue signaling abound, especially coming from the left of the political spectrum. For example, the senior senator for Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, when recently invited to a Fox News Town Hall as an opportunity to make her case for President to millions of viewers, declined the invitation and had this to say – “Fox News is a hate for profit racket that gives a megaphone to racists and conspiritists”. Like Clinton’s Deplorables speech, Warren gave no proof or evidence of her claim. She contemptuously refused Fox’s invitation to explain her rationale for becoming our next President and then condemned the network, and by proxy the viewers as well. This was done in order that she could lay claim to a bogus moral high ground – a classic case of virtue signaling. In reality senator Warren was afraid to make her case to a media outlet that is not an outright cheerleader for her cause. It is noted that other candidates for the Democrat Presidential nomination such as Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar, have all recently appeared at Fox Town Halls, making their appeal to the public for their Presidential aspirations– and garnering excellent ratings.

Many of us have no doubt seen the blue yard signs recently popping up that espouse the notion that “Hate has no home here”. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like a bad idea – a bit odd maybe, but harmless. However, digging into it just a bit, it is apparent that the message in and of itself assumes that at least some percentage of homes must be a “place for hate”. Otherwise, what is the purpose of the signs, and why the slogan? If then, some homes are truly a place of hate; who are these hateful people, and what do they believe that is so terrible? Could these signs really be more about virtue signaling than advocating a noble and loving ideal? Essentially stating the thought “I hate the haters”, and therefore this is a household of high moral character, – unlike those other awful people. I am certain that some households displaying the sign do so out of a simple desire to express an honest opinion. However, it is easy to come to the conclusion that the there is much more communicated by the signs than one might initially suppose.

To summarize – Virtue signaling is part and parcel of our political environment. It is with us to stay; but it is important to understand what it is . It is a false narrative that on one hand misleadingly defines and disparages an opposing idea or group of people, while at the same time inflating the purported moral integrity of the “signaler”.

Quote of the Month – “To be proud with virtue is to poison yourself” Benjamin Franklin, American Statesman

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