On Virtue Signaling

Who remembers the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup hockey riot from a couple of years ago? The Canucks lost in game seven of the finals to the Boston Bruins and then fans in Vancouver promptly rioted and, in the end, nearly 300 people were convicted of crimes during the riot but many more escaped any charges because they couldn’t be identified. Four people were stabbed, hundreds wounded, nine police officers hurt and property damage was over $4 million including widespread looting.

There was a lot of hand wringing after the fact about the identities of these rioters; generally young but university educated, employed and seemingly decent persons in their normal day lives. So the explanations evolved to the whole event being a narrative on what a spoiled, entitled, and moral-less generation millennials have become. But that didn’t explain everything; there was quite a bit of discussion about mob mentality, crowd psychology and how people can be swept up in the spirit of a riot and lose their common sense and moral bearings.

From Gustave Le Bon, who was a leader in the analysis of mob psychology:

“Crowd behavior is heavily influenced by the loss of responsibility of the individual and the impression of universality of behavior, both of which increase with the size of the crowd.”

There is clearly some reciprocity at work; persons looking to relieve themselves of responsibility actually look for crowds to become part of, they embrace crowds. Hence why the “good” kids in Vancouver, when they saw a riot brewing, a crowd with ignoble purpose they didn’t run the other way or try to stop it even, they surrendered to it and fell in. Because it gave them the feeling they were absolved of responsibility.

All of which brings us to “virtue signaling”… You know what virtue signaling is; the changing your Facebook profile pic to the colours of the French or Belgian flag when there’s a terrorist attack, the sending of unsolicited emails to 300 people at a time with links to climate-alarmist videos, the changing of the words of your national anthem because “in all thy son’s command” can’t be interpreted in any generic sense and excludes half the nation, the hashtag campaigns to #bringbackourgirls… in the immortal words of Bill Burr (see around 3:52 in this clip);

She’s sitting there holding up those hashtags, “BringBackOurGirls””

Remember that hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

That blew my mind, like why are you asking me that, I am a stand-up comedian. Like what am I going to do to get back the girls?

Why don’t you look across the dinner table, you see that guy? That is the leader of the free world; tell him to pick up a phone, call some NAVY Seals and solve it….What am I going to do?

Virtue signaling are all those symbolic gestures that in the end amount to nothing. They get nothing accomplished except… make it widely known to all your friends, families and peers that YOU CARE. You are a caring, empathic, wonderful human being. You are good and you are announcing it to the world. But there’s the whole crowd aspect of virtue signaling too that would explain in part why there always seems to be stampede like a herd on Facebook and Twitter and all the other social media sites to immediately proclaim your solidarity with the victims of this tragedy or that tragedy, like the most recent Orlando shootings. Proclaiming your sympathies and solidarity with gay people is the very least you can do, but I believe the great majority rush to do this as quickly as they can because then there is the inference that that’s it, they’re done. Their responsibility in the matter has ended. They have washed away or diluted their responsibility in the crowd they have joined by virtue signaling. It’s intellectually dishonest and morally bankrupt, but that is the society we are living in today. Take the easy road. As Mark Steyn so aptly puts it in this clip, most of society goes on frolicking in the fields, holding hands and singing about our wonderful lives, and the conservatives are the ones left to look at the world as it truly is and be labelled as the mean or racist or bigoted ones.

Conservatives are not innocent of virtue signaling, we certainly do our share of it. But we need to point it out whenever we see it and call people out on it, because only shaming people and pointing out the uselessness of symbolism over substance will provide at least a modicum of resistance to this increasing herd mentality. When you see the left contorting itself so that they can claim the Orlando shooting is an unfortunate result of the marginalization of two communities, gay and Muslim, you know you are seeing overt virtue signaling that will not accomplish anything other than make the situation worse.  We cannot seek out crowds to join that let us shirk responsibility for dealing with the root causes of problems just because it might make us seem harsh or uncaring.

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