I remember the first time I heard the phrase, “virtue signaling.” I was listening to a radio talk show in 2014 and the host was describing the actions of Hollywood actors and the First Lady in connection with a group of 200 young women abducted by a Boko Haram in Nigeria. Ms. Obama had posted a picture on Twitter, and it was a paradigm of what virtue signaling was and would become.
The picture had all the great qualities that a great virtue signal should have. Hashtag to trend on Twitter, emotional slogan to tug at the heart strings of everyone, Michelle’s sad face, everything.
Most important, it was a useless and hypocritical gesture. You see, while Michelle was out there with her pouty sad face, her husband was conducting drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other countries. Human Rights Watch charged that these strikes killed 82 people, 57 of them civilians. People created a counter hashtag in reference to that, #wecantbringbackourdead and showed somber photographs of men and women holding their signs. Not that they did anything to stop the strikes, but at least the people involved in the second hashtag virtue signal were directly impacted by the actions they protested. ( Statistics from Washington Post, Terrence McCoy, May 15, 2014.)
The “official” definition of the phrase virtue signaling is, ” the sharing of one’s point of view on a social or political issue, often on social media, in order to garner praise of acknowledgement of one’s righteousness from others who share that point of view or to passively rebuke those who do not.” ( Dictionary.com)
Of course, virtue signaling as a term was just coined in 2015, but the practice did exist before that. In his 2019 article, “Societal Delusion and Historic Virtue Signaling,” an author who calls himself “Reactionary Edward,” cites how Charles Dickens used a character in his novel “BLEAK HOUSE,” Mrs. Jellyby, as an example of what he called, “telescopic philanthropy.” Mrs. Jellyby is so consumed by her desire to send assistance to a remote African tribe that she neglects her husband, her family, and the poverty stricken people of the London ( her city) slums who beg for food.
Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
Recently, as virtue signaling has become routine on social media with people posting hashtags and profile pictures referencing all kinds of “vicitms” with which they want to show their empathy, they often point their emotional appeals to causes that exist so far away from them that the signal is useless to do anything more than assuage their self imposed guilt and help them sleep at night. All sound and no substance.
They sleep better. The subjects of their signaling get nothing.
For example, look at these recent “virtue signals” regarding Ukraine:
Congress was ALL IN on the Ukranian virtue signaling at the State of the Union.
Not just in D.C. but…
And then there’s this:
Wow. I’ll bet the Ukrainians running for their lives really appreciate all the support. Especially that cool greeting from Pelosi. Nyet!
But, let’s face it. Those ribbons were in the trash the next day. Shoot, McCarthy’s flag, which was probably placed in his pocket as an afterthought, never made it past a trash can that night. The lovely blue and yellow suits? You won’t see that color combination ever again. And Nancy’s appeal? She forgot all about it the next day. But she did have a hangover.
How about Hogan? He decided to distance himself from all Russian companies and investments by the state. At least for now. However, how will we ever know if that really happened? We won’t. Maybe he can shift that money to his wife’s home country of South Korea for more test kits, or something. (By the way, do you remember the vigil he held for all of the businesses he killed with the unnecessary Covid lockdown? Me either.)
The bottom line is that NONE of this does anything for the Ukranians. It also ignores the Russian people who are just as victimized, if not physically, economically. I’ve heard people say, “Well, if we push them hard enough and they are brave they would remove Putin.” Heck, Lindsay Graham wants them to assassinate the man. Do these people understand the meaning of the word, “dictatorship?” I think not. Do they really think it would be easy to remove Putin? Please. And, is it really an answer we should promote?
Remember, these are the same people who want to deny Americans and Canadians the right to protest peacefully against tyranny by their governments. Unless they wear pink pussy hats, burn and loot buildings, and oppose Donald Trump of course.
But, the allure of virtue signaling is that it doesn’t cost the people doing it ANYTHING. They don’t take any brave actions. They don’t risk their homes, their money, their lives, etc. Like my neighbor, they can virtue signal for one group one month, and then ditch that group for another next month. And while they feel self satisfied, they do nothing for any of those groups.
Not only that, but they often selectively choose who they will virtue signal for. We just had an Olympic games in China where ethnic cleansing of the Uyghurs and the imprisonment and torture of millions is carried out DAILY by the CCP. Did you see one lapel ribbon? Speech? Outfit? Flag in a lapel? No? Me either. Did any major corporation withdraw from sponsorship of a Games tainted with blood? No. I wonder why the victims in China don’t get the same gestures. I guess no one wants to insult their sugar daddies.
Only ONE, ONE professional basketball player in the NBA, Enes Kanter, was brave enough to speak publicly about the plight of the Uyghurs. Guess what happened to him? You guessed it. He was “let go” from his team. The NBA loves those Chinese bucks, regardless of the slavery that supports them. No virtue signals from them! Not even Lebron who can’t seem to shut his mouth about ANYTHING.
Some may say that the virtue signaling for the Ukranian people is harmless. Who cares if people want to proclaim their solidarity with a population who is suffering? Who cares if it is shallow and useless? Problem is, it ISN’T harmless.
People need to understand the bigger reality of what is going on in the world. Why has Putin, a man who has stayed quiet for seven years, suddenly decided to go into Ukraine? Why didn’t anyone care when he went into Croatia in 2014? Why has this incursion caused such an emotional response throughout our country and the world while other events in Afghanistan, Africa, in China, in the Middle East, and at our border are virtually ignored? Why aren’t people up in arms over the cartels at our southern border who are bringing in drugs that are killing hundreds of thousands? Why aren’t people seeing pictures of trafficked humans throughout the world? Why aren’t there any virtual signals about that? Why did the World Economic Forum just decide to remove Putin and other Russians from their site? Why do people like Soros, Schwab, Gates, etc. support Ukraine while they say NOTHING about the Uyghurs? Why are they dragging the United States into conflict? Why are the people who protested against other wars suddenly promoting war?
And why are ALL the news outlets, CNN, FOX, CBS, MSNBC, suddenly showing the same war propaganda?
Sounds similar to the whole Covid scam, doesn’t it?
These are questions the virtue signalers don’t even think of, much less answer. If they did, they wouldn’t be able to participate in the sham. Western governments and the mainstream media have done such a great job of promoting the propaganda of war in this case that they have created warmongers among formerly peaceful people.
And we haven’t talked about the biolab issue. If these biolabs in Ukraine were so harmless, why is the U.S. State Department in such an uproar about Putin controlling or destroying them? (search the statement by Victoria Nuland in front of Congress regarding the biolabs. She doesn’t sound like she thinks these are innocent research facilities.)
The virtue signalers will either shut their ears and eyes to this, or they will believe whatever the media and Biden regime tells them. And their cute little memes and social media statements will promote the propaganda the governments and corporations desire. They will be collaborators in spreading the lies and won’t even know it.
Unfortunately, the practice of virtue signaling won’t be going away any time soon. It’s like “cancel culture” and politically “safe” speech. People love being able to “do something” without having to do something. They love mingling at their cocktail parties and competing to see who can signal the most for the politically correct issues. It’s like so much of modern society causes, shallow, meaningless, and a waste of time.
Governments know the usefulness of this practice as well. It looks so organic, so grass roots. And it works. Just check your social media news feeds.
The perfect summary of the situation is this cartoon that I love. This was actually members of Congress on the Capitol steps after the State of the Union altered with the head of a really stupid character from the Simpsons.Not only are they mixing the Ukrainian colors with our flag, which is disrespectful, but they are also supporting a foreign country when most of them don’t support our country by solving the problems here. Remember Mrs. Jellyby? Telescopic philanthropy? They personify that. Except I doubt they will donate any of THEIR money to ANYONE.
I don’t claim to know and understand everything going on in the world. Maybe if I did, I’d virtue signal more. But I doubt it. I don’t like to spend my time on meaningless things. (Although many might say this blog is meaningless in its reach. If nothing else, I spread the word with facts, not posters and ribbons.)
I’ll write about issues. I will pray for all people caught in war zones or are being oppressed. And I will educate myself so that I have some idea of what is going on in the world.
But you virtue signalers out there, get to know the flag and colors of Taiwan. They will be the next set of victims, but of China.
*PS: I support organizations that legitimately take donations to help people in war zones.
PSS: I know many people virtue signal with pure intentions. I know some of them. I hate to see them used.
Here are some excellent resources about Ukraine that give diverse and detailed viewpoints:
Interview with journalist Lara Logan:
Ukraine on Fire:
And, always CD Media:
What about Afghanistan?