There can be little doubt that political discourse has become decidedly ascerbic in recent years, especially online. Conversations that once would have epitomised reasoned and reasonable debate are now much more likely to deteriorate into insults and even threats in today’s semi-anonymous , social media environment. This derailing of debate through near-constant personal attack is bad enough but that’s not the worst of it. Far from merely derailing debate, the creative and often irrational use of insult has actually come to be seen by many as the means of debate itself.
Those who object to the dehumanisation and alienation of their fellow human beings are discredited as ‘snowflakes’;
Those who prefer compassion to vindictive scapegoating become ‘Libtards’;
Those who prefer to help desperate refugees are ‘Cucks’ and those who try to encourage any sort of kindness or humanitarian intervention are accused of ‘virtue-signalling’, as if that’s a bad thing. This is the accusation levelled at Kellogg’s for the ‘crime’ of refusing to spend money advertising with Breitbart – the alt-right fake news channel that churns out hatred and prejudice on a daily basis.
But is virtue-signalling really so bad?
Whenever those of us on the left suggest helping refugees; whenever we object to the victimisation of minorities we quickly face the ‘virtue-signalling’ dismissal. But why? What’s so bad about being virtuous? What’s so bad about showing compassion?
In the real world virtues like charity, kindness and compassion are commendable character traits. Only in the perverse, paranoid, callous and ethnocentric fantasy world of the far right is virtue seen as a flaw. And there’s a reason for that. Virtue is the antidote to the hatred and victimisation that has become the new right’s stock-in-trade.
Groups like the English Defence League, Britain First and latterly even the government of the United States of America are desperate to claim that they represent the majority view. That’s why President Trump recently had 6 journalists arrested. He disliked what they had to say. That’s why Britain First blocks all dissenting voices from their social media echo chamber and that’s why far-right commentators across all media platforms like to dismiss the virtuous. It’s so that they can go on signalling their dis-virtue unopposed. Let’s face it – there’s precious little virtue to signal in the racist rants of the alt-right.
I say to Hell with all that!
What’s wrong with virtue-signalling? What’s wrong with the safety pin campaign that the above graphic tries so hard to ridicule? Why shouldn’t people try to help their fellow citizens feel safe? Why shouldn’t the compassionate majority stand up and be counted? Why shouldn’t we advertise the fact that the far-right really doesn’t have the majority they like to pretend?
I’m a proud leftie;
I’m a proud humanitarian;
And I’m proud to signal those virtues!
I’ll keep on signalling those virtues because that’s an effective way to oppose and debunk the callous dis-virtue signalling of the xenophobic far right. Not because my ego requires it but because the future of my society demands it. Let’s stop pandering to the skewed morality of those who think compassion is a character flaw. Let’s reclaim with pride the virtues that we live by. Let’s help others to have the courage to stand up by standing up proudly ourselves for the morals, the ethics, the virtues and the behaviours that we know to be right.
Virtue-signalling is not a sign of weakness . Virtue-signalling is evidence of strength, compassion and a respect for human dignity that the likes of Trump, Golding, Robinson, Griffin and Buckby can never hope to understand.