What's so bad about virtue signaling?

Why do you do this? I expressed myself badly there, it’s true. But you know very well I wasn’t talking about people preferring strawberries over blueberries, and I know you know it. If you really aren’t sure what I did mean, you can ask me to explain without being intentionally obtuse. It’s difficult enough trying to communicate effectively, and it’s even harder when people try to pick holes in everything rather than making a good-faith effort to understand.

For as long as I’ve been doing this work I have felt a constant tension between the moral imperative to demand justice and my innate drive to facilitate peace. It’s like I have two conflicting values: justice and peace.
Add in a desire to be thoughtful and open - minded, and some very real anger, and you have a recipe for moral confusion. I’m always falling short of one or more standards.

So I don’t claim to be perfect at this. But yes, I try to focus on what people do that I don’t like rather than call them names. My approach shifts considerably depending on the company I’m in, which sometimes creates problems on the internet, where you think you are talking to one group but it turns out you’re talking to everybody. Now that Facebook has decided to show Friends your posts on public Group feeds, well that creates a bunch of new issues.

You and I see very differently on some issues, but I don’t think I’m going to be very persuasive by calling you a bigot. I haven’t paid enough attention to even have a stance on whether you are bigoted or not. Unless you were saying something egregious I wouldn’t resort to insults. But I would not hesitate to say, “That opinion is bigoted” or whatever. Because you can’t fight bigotry without calling it out.

So at a certain point people are going to have to hear hard truths about themselves, and they are going to dislike it and call it virtue signaling, no matter how you say it.

There are 7 billion people in the world, I can only care for a small fraction of them. How can I not be selective? There are things that I care about, sometimes because they are things that are important to me and those I know, and sometimes simply because I don’t think that there are enough people who care about it and it seems to be something important.

This assertion of yours here is completely wrong.

Now, there is something to be said that people tend to be friends with people who share similar viewpoints, and there is also something to be said for having friends who may bring something to your attention you otherwise would not have known about.

But I have things that I care about that none of my friends do, and my friends care about many things that I do not.

Or is this just another blanket statement that should not be taken at face value? Maybe your “always” was a typo or accidental hyperbole, and you meant to say “sometimes”?

Yes, favored fruit flavors is an extreme example, but you made a blanket statement, it is up to you to explain the limits that it exists in, not for others to have to guess.

I actually expanded on what you meant, and answered your question as best as possible. Not my fault that you don’t like the answer.

So, since you want me to ask directly: outside of times when one is advocating for discrimination, when are people who disagree called bigots?

I made a good faith effort to understand your blanket statement, specifically limiting it to times when one is advocating for discrimination. I brought up the fruit flavors specifically to say that I didn’t think that that was the sort of thing that you were talking about.

I do not think that blanket statements and generalizations as you made are really a good faith way of making a point, it puts the person that you are in a discussion with to have to defend a hypothetical, possibly non-existent position. Would you like to explain times when a disagreement results in someone being called a bigot outside of times when someone is advocating for discrimination?

When you make assertions as you did, try to limit them in scope, if you want to be considered to be discussing in good faith.

I note that, rather than respond to my point that calling someone who advocates for discrimination a bigot isn’t really out of line, you instead chose to focus on my example of what I didn’t think that you were talking about, and complain about me using it, rather than make an effort to understand what I was saying. Isn’t that exactly the sort of hole picking that you are complaining that you don’t think is done in good faith?

(And nut-picked examples aren’t really that useful here, as I’m sure that someone has been called a bigot before for preferring strawberry to blueberry by someone out there.)

I wanted to add - many people are very angry about what happens abroad. We’ve been talking about China for a long time. I personally donate to Amnesty International because I find human rights abuses appalling.

The difference is there’s nothing I can do to affect global policy. I have representation in the United States. There are people in my own backyard on whom I can have a direct impact. I can talk to people here. I’d be crazy not to focus my energy here.

Those who hate Trump hate him for good reason. His impact on American democracy has been catastrophic. The Republicans are doing everything in their power as we speak to end democracy. And of course he empowered bigots to openly discriminate.

I see someone who claims to be from the UK getting angry weekly about things happening in the USA. Stuff like school board decisions that will never effect their lives.

Some examples of things that get people called bigots: suggesting culture, or broken families could have an effect on outcomes for different groups. Believing there are inborn differences between men and women. Opposing affirmative action. Saying ‘all lives matter’. Voting for Trump for any reason. None of those are advocating for discrimination, yet I’ve seen people called bigots for all of them and much more.

(Thereby disagreeing with the only socially acceptable beliefs: that differences between groups are always due to racism and can be fixed by white people examining their biases, that differences between the sexes must be due to sexism, that affirmative action is good and beneficial, that Trump is the next thing to Hitler… and I’m not even really sure why ‘all lives matter’ is supposed to be so bad, but it isn’t advocating for discrimination.)

I’m not very good at explaining what I think, but I’ll try.

People are always going to disagree with each other about right and wrong, and what’s best for society; even if they have the same goal, they might not agree on how to get there. So you come across a person who disagrees with you: let’s say a Trump voter. Then you have a choice how to think about this person. Either you can start by assuming they are a normal person who generally means well, but has different experiences, beliefs etc that caused them to make that choice. Or you can assume they are some kind of monster who wants to hurt X, Y and Z people. Why would anyone choose to believe the latter? The uncharitable, umempathetic option; the option that’s liable to make you despair about ever improving anything. Why assume that other people actively want to do harm, rather than that they just don’t believe X is important, or think the other party are better on balance (and knowing that everyone ignores evils going on in the world that we probably could do something about if we tried)? I see it more and more every day, and I don’t understand why anyone would choose to adopt this attitude.

Except if I assume that most of it is tribalism, intended to signal to your own ‘tribe’ that you condemn the right things and hate the right people. And it’s harmful as fuck. I can now go to two different forums and see two different tribes, each bewailing how the other hates democracy and wants to put themselves in charge forever. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so grave.

PS. I don’t think I’ve seen you do this. So at least I have a small hope you won’t just dismiss anything I say.

Whoever can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

– Voltaire

It’s often superfluous to ascribe motive in some of these conversations. When the result is a house fire or a Democracy truly under siege, it’s all hands on deck.

Personally, I see the intersection of tribalism, religion, and politics as a Grand Illusion – a shit-show of nonpareil magnitude performed by some deeply flawed and broken people, and produced-directed by puppeteers with, again, no end of less-than-benevolent motivations, where willing masses – for no end of reasons – line up to be told what to think.

And what to do.

And then they do it.

While I have no problem generalizing about Republican legislators, I don’t think Trump voters can be so easily generalized. Some of them really buy into the cruelty and fascism, some of them for reasons I will never understand do not excuse Trump’s behavior but believe Democrats are worse, and others are too stupid to source their information. It’s not the most flattering characterization, I’ll allow, but it leaves some room for honest disagreement.

I have good friends who are conservative, some of which would never vote for Trump even at great personal cost, others who voted for Trump and spent his entire term roundly condemning his actions. I have respect for both, though I still don’t understand the latter. I’ve also had people vote for Trump and then spend the term excusing everything he’s done, and those are friends I had to cut ties with.

I don’t believe things or not believe things based on how they make me feel. I believe them because they are supported by the evidence. If there is evidence to support the position that any given person acts out of hatred, fear, or bigotry, then that is the conclusion I will draw. If someone actively works to disenfranchise black voters, or to overturn the will of the majority, the only rational conclusion is that they are anti - democracy and probably pretty racist. If someone knows that Republican legislators are doing these things and still vocally supports them, then… what exactly am I supposed to conclude? In the very least, they place their pet issues above democracy, which is contemptible.

But there’s no sense believing that anymore because I’ve explained to you that people hold these beliefs sincerely. It doesn’t excuse the worst of them, and certainly some believe sincerely + want the credit, but there are very few people out there pretending to care about issues for social approval.

Virtue signaling is a right wing term for annoying people of a certain type. Karen is a left wing term for this annoying type.

People are annoying. they think they know better than you. yes you.

If you think Virtue Signaling is isnt part of the same problem as Karens, you are part of the problem

Sure I would. I would have no problem calling a person a bigot for racial discrimination, regardless of what race they are and what race they are discriminating against.

But a lot of people who get called bigots because they are bigots don’t like it and claim they are just arguing against anti-white or anti-male discrimination.

If people don’t like being called deplorable, they should stop being deplorable.

That’s an attempt to make sense of the illogical. T**** was off the charts in how bad he was as a President. The only thing he excelled at is bigotry. So the only way to explain so many people still voting for him in 2020 is that they are so on board with bigotry that they ignore his utter incompetence at everything else.

I disagree. I use virtue signalling for things like when companies have a wellness week that means they put out a bowl of fruit and send a generic email with pointless advice, then expect their employees to respond to 10pm emails and work over Christmas. It’s where the signalling is the point, not the virtue. Virtue, I’m all in favour of.

Disney changing its Twitter icon to a rainbow for Pride month, while cutting any significant queer characters or storylines from their films so it’ll sell in China, is perhaps the apex example of this sort of virtue signaling.

I disagree that you have a very good perspective on this, if those are your “examples”.

To say this means that you really haven’t paid any attention to pretty much anything about race, culture, or community relations, so your opinion on when someone is being unfairly called a bigot is pretty much beyond useless.

Pretty much all Corporate “Pride Month” advertising is “virtue signaling”.

Same for “African American History Month” or any other “month” or “day”

Yet 99% of executive management is white heterosexual christian males.

Spot on. This is one of my many issues with virtue signalling. If you’re going to be an extra-good person or do extra-good things, just do them because they’re a good thing to do (from your perspective, at least) or they’ll help someone who needs the help - not because it’ll also make you look good.

I agree with you in part, but there’s also something to be said for leading by example. If I donate big money and I’m recognized for it, I can bring all my rich friends to also donate money. (hypothetical me.) I can set a social standard for philanthropy.

There’s also the halo effect which makes people feel like they have done something about an issue just for having spoken out about it. It’s actually why I mostly stopped posting political stuff on Facebook. I want to be faced with the reality of what I have or haven’t done on these issues I care about. I have an easy out because I work at a nonprofit so I’m kinda forced to do them in exchange for a modest amount of money. By making it a career I’ve basically forced my lazy ass to do something useful. Now ask me how many times I’ve called my representatives. :confused: I hate phone calls.

Also as I mentioned upthread, there is extraordinary social pressure to speak out. When your black friends are telling you they expect to see anti - racist content on your feed, or having hard conversations with other white people… You do. When people say, “prove you care about X” you try to prove it. People who think “virtue signaling” is about social approval have no idea how much of this comes from empathy and love for others. It often is performative but less for kudos and more for loved ones feeling loved.

I’ve tried to step back from some of it. Not all of it. But when you live that struggle 24/7 it’s exhausting.

That may depend on your social circle, though. Like the people who know me know I just don’t care about a lot of the stuff that matters to them, so they don’t expect me to post about whatever their cause du jour is - and they know that even if I do care about it and agree with them, I’m still not going to post about it just so I can say “Look, I have an approved opinion! Validate me!”

As I pointed out to an acquaintance once: “You don’t give a shit about, or are even actively against the things that matter to me - why should I support your thing, especially if it inconveniences me or makes my life worse in any way?”