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Can someone explain virtue signalling to me?

(77 Posts)
Norfolklassie Sun 18-Feb-18 12:04:38

Long time lurker of the feminism threads and peaked some time ago. I don’t contribute as I don’t yet feel confident enough, especially with terminology.

Could anyone explain simply to me what is virtue signalling - I think I understand it, as have looked around some websites but I’m unable to make the distinction between when someone is supporting a cause or virtue signalling.

ChevalierTialys Sun 18-Feb-18 12:05:57

I've wondered this too! Watching responses with interest.

CritEqual Sun 18-Feb-18 12:15:59

Virtue signalling can be a couple of things.

- Talking the talk over an issue whilst being unwilling to commit any time or resources to it beyond talking about it.
- Being seen to be having the 'right' opinion over an issue for the social capital it accrues rather than actually caring or indeed often knowing what you are talking about.

I'd personally like to include certain cognitive dissonances as well. Like I might see someone arguing for an increase in welfare through deficit spending, then another day bang on about important environmental concerns without realising increasing consumption across the board devastates the environment.

You can't conceivably have the "right" moral position in all areas as at some point you have to choose and commit to a position, but it doesn't stop a lot of people from trying.

WhereYouLeftIt Sun 18-Feb-18 12:19:23

I view it as a modern rewording of 'holier than thou'.

You broadcast your stance on an issue, not because it is your heartfelt opinion but because you think it makes you look good. Your actual opinion is quite far from the one that you claim, or would be if you ever deigned to actually think about the issue you're pontificating about.

OvaHere Sun 18-Feb-18 12:21:07

This is a good example. Virtue Signalling is basically when someone with no history of support, no vested interest in something uses a cause for their own ends. Either as a 'gotcha' in another argument or just to be praised for jumping on a bandwagon.

Sometimes these people have a history of actually perpetuating something a cause is raising awareness about. Think men virtue signalling about #metoo whilst hiding their own sexual harassment behaviours.

That's my general take on it.

smithsinarazz Sun 18-Feb-18 12:43:53

I don't really like the term, because it's sometimes used against people who are just supporting a cause they genuinely care about.

But, yes, equivalent to "holier-than-thou". It's been going on since Virtue was invented .

RedToothBrush Sun 18-Feb-18 12:48:46

Virtue signally, when your identity as a progressive socially liberal person is more important than anything else.

Your politics follow the crowd rather than making an effort know the subject, the ideology alone is good enough. No thought is given to the practical implementation and possible unintended consequences.

A lack of self awareness about how you might be part of a problem unintentionally is also common.

wrappedupinmyselflikeaspool Sun 18-Feb-18 12:52:54

What crit equal says but I’d also add that there’s an ethical issue here. It’s not just about a bit of light sneering at those who go to such lengths to communicate their own virtue to the rest of us.

I think one way to live a good life - a life where we contribute, stay healthy, reach our potential and do as little harm as we can - is to do things that make us feel good about ourselves. Doing things that help other people is an excellent way to feel good about yourself. It can be as simple as doing someone a good turn or as complex as learning how to be a surgeon who fixes fistula in women and girls for MSF.

But when we do these things we should keep them to ourselves. If we tell anyone at all that we gave money to charity or helped a person with a visual impairment find their way through the train station it cancels out the good we did, because doing things you are in a position to do is the LEAST we can expect of ourselves and others and because boasting about how wonderful you are obviously cancels out the virtue.

DioneTheDiabolist Sun 18-Feb-18 12:56:40

Thanks for starting this thread OP, I have often wondered what Virtue Signalling was. thanks

WhollyFather Sun 18-Feb-18 13:03:26

Virtue signalling is more public and proactive than simply being 'holier than thou'.

OP might find this helpful.

AuntieStella Sun 18-Feb-18 13:08:24

It's when you do something you believe to be good, and have to let everyone know about it.

So you decide not to send Christmas cards, that's fine. Plastering FB with an announcement that you've done this so you can give to charity is virtue signalling. Giving to a charity, without the song and dance, whether it's routine or because you've made a saving and are passing it on isn't virtue signalling. It's just being nice.

Holier than thou is also a pretty damn good way of putting it.

NotTerfNorCis Sun 18-Feb-18 13:09:22

It does tend to be used by the right wing to attack progressives. As in, you don't really believe that, you're virtue signalling.

CritEqual Sun 18-Feb-18 13:20:51

wrapped I desperately want to agree with you about doing good works humbly and without fanfare. The problem is that leaves an open goal for left to maintain this fiction that they are the only compassionate ones who care.

FesterAddams Sun 18-Feb-18 13:21:44

Since hearing the term I’ve always associated it with this bit from the new testament (Mathew 6):

“Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Looks like virtue signallers have always been with us. Social media just allows them to broadcast more widely.

UpstartCrow Sun 18-Feb-18 13:41:38

Virtue signalling is like performance parenting. Its a public performance of Doing An Enormous Amount of Good.

Its often incorrectly used as an insult and put down.

Norfolklassie Sun 18-Feb-18 14:10:03

Thanks for the responses - the spectator article is really useful.

smithsinarazz Sun 18-Feb-18 14:44:09

Fester - yes, I knew it cropped up in tje NT somewhere!
CAVEAT: sometimes publicising "good works" can be a good thing if it encourages others to do the same. I mean, I bloody hate Children in Need and that sort of thing but the money's genuine, even if the sentiments aren't.

Melamin Sun 18-Feb-18 15:00:37

What Fester said - performance Christianity - much preached against.

Modern virtue signalling seems to be lots of self advertising of your own public support and flag waving of things that you consider to be 'good' so that you can look good in the reflected glory.

It makes you the type of person who supports x, y, or z and so worthy of approval. It also makes the things you do more worthy of support, because if you support x, y and z, then * must be equally worthy.

wrappedupinmyselflikeaspool Sun 18-Feb-18 15:04:28

Crit equal I don’t follow? How is it an open goal? What I describe is not Patty political but about personal ethics. The left are most notorious at virtue signaling because they think they have the moral high ground ( I used to think this too, but I don’t anymore) but the right also VS and it often covers up personal failings much greater than an eagerness to be accepted or an ill conceived political zeal. Think Jimmy Saville’s charity work, or catholic priest’s child abuse. I do think there is a danger for the left if they continue down this route though, and that is that they risk their own personal and collective moral degeneration. I look at the causes that dominate : pro prostitution as a lifestyle choice (for women and girls) pro trans ideology (mainly affecting women and girls) and the obsession with Israel and Palestine over the many other global crises that are equally Important and I wonder how socialist politics will ever regain its ethical core. It’s all we had.

Kazzyhoward Sun 18-Feb-18 15:13:33

A classic example I saw on Facebook was some guy whingeing about the opening of a Costa Coffee next to a private cafe, who went on about how he would boycott it and had told his daughter's to boycott it too. Sounded good, a principled stance to protect the cafe from unfair competition. A few posts later it was blatantly obvious neither he nor his family had ever been into the private cafe and didn't go to Costa Coffee's either! So he was basically attention seeking about how he wouldn't go into the new costa as a matter of principal when in fact he wouldn't be going in anyway!!

Another one is where people go on about increasing taxation to improve public services and say they'd be willing to pay another percent or two income tax or NIC, only to be caught out when it turns out they don't actually pay any income tax or NIC. So just the usual happy for others to pay more tax in the knowledge they're immune!

wrappedupinmyselflikeaspool Sun 18-Feb-18 15:14:28

I was thinking about this subject the other day. At work we have a choice of lanyards for our ID badges. Either rainbow or a plain colour. I don’t wear a rainbow one. This is not because I don’t support LGBT causes or people but because I don’t virtue signal.

This is a conscious decision I took many years ago and I try my hardest to stick to it. (I’m not perfect) However wearing a plain lanyard when every other member of staff it seems wears a rainbow one, because it’s the cause du jour, we have the gender unicorn on many walls, might make me look to others like I’m a right winger or conservative religious type. I’m not. I’ve had a lesbian relationship, though I’m currently with a man. I have more than ten lesbian and gay friends and I’m moderate on the trans issue (basically I agree gender needs a bit if Queering i just don’t think we should lose sight of the difference between sex and gender and I don’t think any idea is of any use if it ignores the reality of male violence)

StealthPolarBear Sun 18-Feb-18 15:16:58

The gender unicorn???

BertrandRussell Sun 18-Feb-18 15:19:10

Just a way to put down people who care about stuff. A way to make people who can’t be arsed feel better about themselves. See also Do-Gooder and Social Justice Warrior.

Lucked Sun 18-Feb-18 15:27:10

I suspect a lot of heterosexual men are virtue signalling when they say transwomen are women because they would not have a relationship with a women with a penis or indeed with a neovagina but as there are lots of reasons why you might not date someone they never have to admit it.

TellsEveryoneRealFacts Sun 18-Feb-18 15:32:50

Trans women are womenTrans women are womenTrans women are womenTrans women are womenTrans women are womenTrans women are womenTrans women are womenTrans women are women.

Until I need a relationship then of course they aren't. But I am a right on lefty dude not giving a shit about the loss of actual women's rights, you feel me?

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