The New Virtue Signaling

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, virtue signaling “is the popular modern habit of indicating that one has virtue merely by expressing disgust or favor for certain political ideas or cultural happenings.”

In 2022, virtue signaling is as strong as ever. While many of us were excited that the most visible sign of virtue signaling would begin to fade away as COVID fears recede, the American Left has plenty of other ways to let the rest of us know just how good, how noble, how moral, and how superior they are compared to the rest of us lowly folks.

For the past year or two, it has been the mask. Excluding the few at-risk people who had real health concerns, the mask was merely a virtue signal. Regardless of whether it did anything beneficial, superior people wore a mask to demonstrate how much they cared about their fellow man/woman/person. We all saw them. They wore masks inside. They wore masks outside. They wore masks in a crowd. They wore masks when alone. They wore masks when required (their mandates). They wore masks when recommended. They wore masks when optional. They put masks on children in all those situations.

They especially wore masks when they thought that someone was watching.

One variety liked to drive alone in their car, windows up, fully masked. Okay, we get it. We know that you think you’re better than we are. We know that you feel that you are the ones following the science. We know that since you listened to official authorities, you are afraid. To be fair to many in this select group, stupidity may play a larger role than arrogance.

Although there were some notable failures, they always tried to have masks on when there were cameras or cell phones nearby. Sometimes, however, if no one was watching and there were no cameras visible, they would take them off. Well, okay, that’s not completely true. Only if there were no lowly people around who needed to see that they were virtuous would they remove the signal from their face. If there were lesser people around, then the superiority signal would usually stay in place.

Of course, wearing the face signal themselves was not enough. They had to mandate—since they clearly know better than the rest of us—that everyone wear a mask (or two). The rest of us are apparently too ignorant, too uninformed, or just plain malevolent to know and do what is best for ourselves and the community. The unmasked were said to be trying to kill other people. So, while it was not as obvious as the mask on the face, one had to support mandates in written or spoken words. To do otherwise was an admission that you were not virtuous, not good, that you were one of those people who didn’t care about others.

Now, the signaling power of the mask is waning. The White House did not want visuals of Congress all masked up for Biden’s State of the Union, so it decided that masks were no longer necessary just before his speech. And since then, much of the signaling power of the mask has weakened. It is now possible to maintain virtue and superiority without a mask as long as other signals are provided.

So, what are the new virtue signals?

One ongoing signal is the opposition to the spread of misinformation. What about standing up for free speech? You must support white privilege, the patriarchy, pollution, oppressing women… to be virtuous, one must promote only the dissemination of correct information.

If Elon Musk promises to turn the free speech platform Twitter into a free speech platform, he must be opposed. He’s probably doing that to push his racist, segregationist, oppressive ideology on defenseless readers. After all, isn’t he from South Africa? He must be evil if he would stop censorship. It has now become virtuous to vigorously oppose free speech.

Another virtue signal that exists is support for transgender people. This one struggles a bit as bio men continue to compete against and beat women in sports and there is some uneasiness about bio men in women’s locker rooms. Still, superior people can merely ignore the details and support transgenderism in principle. And make sure that pesky parents do not get in the way of children being able to determine their own identity.

But back to virtue signaling in general. Why do so many people feel the need to signal that they are good, virtuous people in the first place? Why is there any need for virtue signaling at all?

Perhaps it is because they have abandoned truth and are now looking for popular moral standards. They create their own personal ‘values’ and try to make them popular. If they can slap each other on the back enough and tell each other just how great they are, who needs reality or truth? Any real morality can be ignored and drowned out by popular opinions and a mob mentality. That way, if enough people think that I am a wonderful person, I must be one. I can lie, cheat, and steal, but it doesn’t matter because I wear a mask. I can advocate killing the old, the young, and the sick, but it’s okay because I am for green energy. I can work to make sure that kids are able to change their gender without parental involvement, but that’s all right because I support vaccine mandates. I can work to ‘cancel’ people and eliminate free speech in the U.S., but that’s not a problem because I support people of color. I am not bothered by people threatening judges at their homes, because I support women.

Virtue signaling is not difficult or challenging. One just needs to keep up with current trends and go with the flow. There is no need for self-reflection or serious consideration of alternatives or consequences. It’s easy. It’s popular. And you can merely shut down anyone who dares to challenge you. Let that person know that you are superior because you hold the proper, approved views and you do not need to even speak to people who are so badly misinformed and of low moral character.

In general, individuals do not want to think that they are bad. They want to feel good about themselves and have others also think that they are good. But how can they achieve that? Virtue signaling is one way. So regardless of how shallow and false virtue signaling may be, until people get serious, it meets that goal and is here to stay.

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A.T. Moses

A.T. Moses is a father, an economics professor, and a little league coach in the Washington, DC area.

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