Monday, 24 October 2016

The Vacuousness Behind The "Virtue Signalling" Putdown: Are The Far Right Afraid Of Demonstrating Compassion Online?

"Compassion should never be rationed" - Me RE Donald Trump and his Syrian immigration comments, June 2016.

Showing the strength of your convictions on social media platforms can lead to you seriously getting your fingers burned. You can see it when you show solidarity with rape victims who feel their voices are underrepresented by the Crown Prosecution Service (now being called a "radical feminist bastion" by Conservative women who love berating Twitter Feminism the first chance they get), or talk about the holes in Trashy Donald Trump's "Guns for Gays" protectionist tagline (demonstrating that Trump can't help but erase LBTQIA individuals from key policy discussions who matter just as much as homosexuals) or comment on the increasing Child Refugee Crisis where taking in 100 children is now seen as a "massive risk to our own children" because they don't "look young enough". Being openly positive and compassionate is now worthy of a "Virtue Signalling" putdown by Conservatives and Alt-Righters who want to force you into caring for self and nation first for no other reason than to show charade level solidarity with their "Unity" message which I have very little interest in espousing.

The term "Virtue Signalling" has been in use since 2004 but was popularised by James Bartholomew in his April 2015 article for The Spectator. Essentially, when you write a Facebook post or tweet about an issue knowing you are doing so to garner approval from an "echo chamber", this is seen as virtue signalling. David Shariatmadari in his January 2016 article for The Guardian: "Virtue-Signalling- the putdown that has past its sell-by date" says: "It's a form of vanity, all the worse because it's dressed up as selfless conviction". See more of the article, including responses here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/20/virtue-signalling-putdown-passed-sell-by-date.

I'm not saying some who are progressive in ideology do not use social media platforms to improve their profile/image/brand by making statements that connect with current progressive thinking. Some openly do this because they want to gain favour to manufacture a career, very much like those who audition for the X Factor hoping to get into the music industry without much (if any) experience of the reality of having to gig across the UK in working men's clubs and middle of the road pubs, taking unwarranted abuse from trolls and earning less than the National Minimum Wage for the week after they return home weary and in need of respite. Not many Twitter accounts gain notoriety enough to garner mass approval from an army of likeminded followers unless they have gained their celebrity offline. Even alt-right kingpin tweeters such as Paul John Watson have to appear in the real world to build their brand effectively. And yes, even Paul John Watson will virtue-signal, albeit for entirely different reasons. Sharitatmadari offers a philosophy framework which can be adapted and applied here to demonstrate an example of right wing virtue-signalling:
  1. Trump says that America should build a wall to keep Mexicans from illegally entering the USA. (i.e. he was right on building a wall) so Paul John Watson reiterates that and says he was right-on this.
  2. Virtue-signalling is when you say something right-on just to sound good to an audience (usually by agreeing with central proponents of the ideology/ central discussers of the issue)
  3.  Therefore Paul John Watson is virtue-signalling.
Whilst most analysts focus on how the extreme far left use "virtue-signalling" to draw attention to issues such as #GunSense laws in the US (which call for such "ridiculous" things as updating registration systems or making sure guns must be kept secure in houses so toddlers can't gain access to them and put themselves and others accidentally in danger), "virtue-signalling" is also used with reference to right wing Islamophobia- e.g. the idea that it is "right to keep Muslims out of the US" because it is the right thing for an Evangelical Christian to do. What "sounds good" or "right" or "virtuous" to one social group will sound terrible to another, hence the claim of virtue-signalling being used to try and silence someone on an issue. Whether you are left, right, centrist or have no ideological preference leaning it probably isn't a smart idea to be throwing around the term to offend without fully understanding that it can be applied generically to anyone.

Instead, I'd like to see people following CS Lewis's example: in the third section of his book Mere Christianity (1953) called Christian Behaviour, Lewis talks about Christianity's connection with compassion and empathy and how Jesus taught us never to limit these virtues regardless of who we may come in contact with in our lives. Lewis's most important point is that Christianity mandates that one "love your neighbor as yourself." All persons unconditionally love themselves. Even if one does not like oneself, one would still love oneself. Christians, he writes, "must also apply this attitude to others, even if they do not like them." Lewis calls this one of the "great secrets": "when one acts as if he loves others, he will presently come to love them." That's why the Hillary Clinton slogan campaign "Love Trump's Hate" resonates with Lutheran Christians like me. Trump may dehumanise immigrants who are "illegal" as criminals (bad hombres), Muslims who come from the Middle East (bad refugees) and women who dare to look him in the eye and rebuke him for terrible sexual assault behaviours which he must have known were wrong but felt he could undertake because he was "powerful" but it is better to love him unconditionally as a person and think of him as being redeemable than writing him off as a bad sort altogether, as he seems to have done to Hillary with his constant "Hillary for Prison" and NRA gun owners should "take Hillary out to protect the 2nd Amendment (Gun Rights) diatribes.

Christians should believe in the power of redemption and that's why I find those Christians who want to combat redemption measures by believing in absolute death penalties or punishment for some women carrying out abortions or hating those who want to be married to each other but are of the same gender/sexuality weird. I find them to be very weird people. I don't hate them for their weirdness; I hope they will see the error of their logic and redeem themselves. Redemption is bestowed on us by God and is never rationed. Redemption is a form of compassion. If it is "virtue-signalling" to point that out, then so be it. As Jesus said to his disciples :“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing....If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit....You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:5, 7–8, 16). Maybe Trump will remember that even he has some benefit to humanity, albeit it may be quite skewered at the moment and his Alt-Right cult may follow him into demonstrating compassion to others online in the future if they are as "fundamentally Christian" as they purport themselves to be.