Signal Disturbances

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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5 Responses

  1. Mike Dwyer says:

    This made me think of a recent post from McSweeney’s:

    1. All Are Welcome Here…
    As Long As You Can Afford to Buy a House In Our Historic, Single-Family Neighborhood
    2. Black Lives Matter…
    I Just Don’t Know Any Black People
    3. Families Belong Together…
    Children Belong in Boarding School
    4. Love Wins!
    Except In Politics!
    5. No Human is Illegal…
    But Selling Lemonade Without a Permit Sure Is!
    6. I Support Refugees!
    And the Foreign Policies That Create Them!
    7. I Really Do Care…
    I’m Just Not Willing to Sacrifice Anything for Change, Are U?
    8. Fight for $15!
    It’s Not Enough to Afford the Rent Here But it Makes Me Feel Better
    9. I’m a Humanitarian…
    I Just Don’t Like Humans Who Are Young, Make Noise, or Live In Affordable Housing
    10. Racism is Wrong…
    Unless It’s Against Asians Applying to College


  2. Damon says:

    I remain fascinated by people who think others don’t see through their virtue signaling bullshit….Report

  3. That’s a really good article, and I’d recommend reading the whole thing. I, too, succumb to the temptation to criticize others for their virtue signalling without grappling with what I take to be McCloy’s point that it’s impossible not to always in some way be signalling something. At the same time, of course, I virtue signal as well.

    As we know from the excerpt Will provides, McCloy compares virtue signalling with hypocrisy. I’ll take the comparison in a slightly different direction from what she does and add this: A legitimate charge of virtue signalling, like a legitimate charge of hypocrisy, should prompt the virtue signaller to reconsider what they’re doing or how they’re doing it, just like it should prompt the hypocrite to reconsider their own actions and professions. That “should” doesn’t, to my mind, by itself invalidate the virtue being signalled any more than a hypocrite’s hypocrisy invalidates what the hypocrite professes, but it does (ahem) signal that something isn’t quite right.

    My word “legitimate”–buried in the preceding paragraph–does a lot of work, I know. It’s even circular reasoning. We can say that McCloy’s article and most of the bickering about accusations of virtue signalling (or even hypocrisy) center precisely around whether those accusations are “legitimate” or not. So as a working, preliminary standard, maybe I’ll settle on saying that *any* accusation of virtue signalling or hypocrisy, even if not “legitimate,” should be a prompt for the accusee to look at themselves and determine in what ways the accusation might be right. At the same time, I should avoid making such an accusation myself unless I can meet some sort of strict-ish scrutiny standard for the accusation’s legitimacy.Report