"Virtue Signaling"

I am not certain this belongs in GD. It may be political, GQ, or even MPSIMS, but I’m starting it here…

This phrase has had a lot of mileage in the last couple of years.

What do you take it to mean?

Do you think it’s a case of telling someone to cut their shit?

Is it a racist dog whistle telling a fellow majority to fall in line?

Is it even real?

Do you say it? When?

It’s a shady way to call someone a liar and state they don’t actually believe what they’re saying, but only want to be seen as believing it. It reinforces the claimant (that person ACTUALLY believes the same way I do), attacks the other person (that person is too cowardly to say what they ACTUALLY feel), and dismisses the argument (you don’t believe it, why should anyone else?).

It’s blatant bullshit, and tells me everything I need to know about the person making such a claim.

That person saying it is a conservative. I do not consider it a reliable assessment of the person’s motives; it’s an attempt to discredit what the person is saying/doing regardless of whether it was meant genuinely, via an accusation that it was not meant genuinely. I do not feel the term’s use is restricted to issues of race.

As for whether it’s real or not, I believe there are people who make ineffectual shows of being liberal for reason of optics alone. However I do not believe that anybody who would use the term is a fair judge for the intent of the gestures in question. I don’t use the term myself.

Think Trump wearing a gay pride lapel pin.

You would know he does not give a rat’s ass about gay people and their welfare. He would be doing it for show purposes only.

Most recently, think Trump holding a bible for a photo OP.

Nah, I’m a bleeding heart liberal and I’m starting to find legitimate uses for the phrase. There are certain members of call out culture who like to attack and nitpick other people. They constantly bandy about trendy phrases like cultural appropriation and gaslighting in an indiscriminate and rarely relevant way. Often they aren’t a member of whatever group they are acting offended on behalf of. Sometimes they even have a side business doing “sensitivity consulting”. They rarely post about any actual action they are taking, suggest alternatives, or try to promote or create solutions. They may even think they mean well and not even realize they are attention seeking trolls distracting from real progress.

Virtue Signaling is an action (including making an argument, or adding a statement to one) someone takes ostensibly in favor of some cause, not for the benefit of that cause, but solely for the benefit of being seen to advocate for that clause. It’s usually something someone does during an argument to stoke their own ego, or to attempt to seize an imagined moral high-ground often as the basis of any number of fallacious arguments.

And, like the whole Karens getting outraged at being called Karens, the ones who are usually offended by the term Virtue Signaling are the ones who do it the most, and the reason they are offended is usually the same reason they are doing it in the first place - ego.

Like any term, though, I think it’s fair to point out that it gets misused and abused almost as often as not. It also tends to be used as a buzzword for the right wing.

Generally, it’s shorthand for “I don’t have to pay any attention to the actual merits of your position if I can discredit your motives for adopting it”.
The same tactic operates in a lot of anti-science rhetoric where the accuser can’t refute the science-based argument but can attack the scientist’s motivation.

“Studies showing vaccines don’t cause autism? Yeah, all those ‘researchers’ are in the pocket of Big Pharma.”

“Scientists warning about the dangers of climate change? They’re all liberal environmentalist types trying to stampede us into One World Government.”

“White people denouncing racist behavior? They’re just virtue signalers who want to be seen as ‘woke’.”

I don’t agree, in my experience it’s directed solely at actual social progressives.

Sometimes it’s used this way, but not always. I’ve used the term myself - sometimes it’s a valid criticism.

And I don’t think it’s so much about sincerity as about showing off one’s moral superiority, bragging. And often in a manner that shows that the person is aligned with standard “woke” dogma, and implying that anyone who wants to debate the complexities of a nuanced social issue is simply a regressive on the wrong side of a fully settled black-and-white moral divide.

I think it’s a real thing, despite the fact that it’s also a right-wing buzzphrase that often gets used lazily or dismissively. To give a non-political example, social media posts of the “Share this if you CARE about toenail cancer survivors! I bet only 5% of people will share!” variety are virtue signaling; they are meant to demonstrate the sharer’s status as a PERSON WHO CARES, and do nothing whatsoever to help toenail cancer survivors.

Virtue signaling is obviously real. It’s a bit like publicly reciting a prayer you don’t believe in order to maintain desired social connections. It’s an insidious tool used to undermine free thought by exploiting social conformity.

See, that’s the convenient thing about accusations of “virtue signaling”: they allow the accuser to deflect the dialogue from the actual argument being made to a pointless disagreement about whether the maker of the argument genuinely “believes” it.

That’s a very useful rhetorical tool in situations where the accuser is unable to refute the actual argument itself.

I’m going to pull that one sentence out of there.

We desperately need people who are not members of a particular group to also stand up for that group when it’s unfairly attacked.

I’ll avoid quoting Niemöller and instead ask you to remember “we must all hang together or we will all hang separately”. It’s not only true of people about to test the difference between ‘traitor’ and ‘patriot’. ‘Only x are allowed to complain about something offensive to x’ is a divide-and-conquer tactic. Please don’t fall for it.

Yes, it’s not unheard of for someone outside the group who doesn’t actually understand the issue to put their foot in their mouth about it. But the problem there isn’t that they’re not a member of the group, it’s that they didn’t take the trouble to learn about the issue.

Those descriptions are pretty much how I generally take it.

Yes, people do exist who claim to believe whatever they think will get them the most credit. But unless there’s specific evidence that a person’s not only not fully living up to their talk but is flat out going against it, the accusation’s generally both unprovable and not useful.

Is this a joke? (Really asking)

Virtue signaling is like when a person gets super judgy over people not standing for the national anthem, when they only stand because they don’t want other people to be super judgy about them.

That is correct. Forced patriotism is as bad as other forms of enforced conformity.

If those are your beliefs, you are not a bleeding heart liberal. You’re against everything that term actually means. The whole idea of the bleeding heart is that is that you stand with minorities because you feel bad for them. But here you are saying the things they are concerned about are not real.

You’re using the term “virtue signaling” exactly as it was created to do–to discredit those to the left of you without actually having to deal with their arguments. That should give you pause: why do you need to rely on accusing your opponent of being disingenuous to rebut them?

I associate the term with the right’s attempt to control the narrative. The current usage was created by a conservative to combat any liberal argument that involved morality. Because they couldn’t actually argue that, say, bigotry is okay, they had to start arguing that the left is only saying they’re against bigotry to score points.

By coining a term that does describe at least some people legitimately, they hoped to spread the idea. It’s the same with SJW, politically correct, and other terms. There exist people who are just trying to score points, who act like they care about social justice online but never have it affect their real life, or who actually believe bigoted things but think it’s wrong to say them out loud.

And, yes, I do think it was intentional. They didn’t need a term, otherwise. I’ve been able to argue that people are being disingenuous without using it. I just have to actually show my work. You can’t just say “that’s disingenuous” without explaining why. But that happens all the time when saying someone is “virtue signaling.”

I only support using the word ironically against those who use it (as they are most often projecting), or describing the original definition and why it’s not a bad thing. Or combining the two–because, ironically, using the newly coined “virtue signaling” is actually an example of the older term.

I thought that was slacktivisim.

That still implies insincerity. If you’re “showing off,” then you’re not actually saying it legitimately, but trying to show how awesome you are. You’re being disingenuous if you claim a belief is right but can’t take someone making nuanced arguments against. It means you don’t actually think your beliefs will hold up.

And, what’s more, it’s still unnecessary. There’s no point in saying that person is “virtue signaling.” Just go ahead and make that more nuanced argument.

I don’t accuse you of “virtue signaling” when you dogmatically treat religion as having no value. I try to discuss it in a more nuanced fashion. (Apologies if I’m mixing you up with another Doper. But I think it’s you.)

It’s an attempt, always by conservatives for other conservatives, to discredit the moral stances of liberals by accusing them of hypocrisy.

It’s sneering. Often used by those who can’t fathom someone taking up a cause that does not directly benefit them.