So the new boo-phrase for our whinier opinion hacks seems to be "Virtue Signalling". Particularly in a social media context, this appears to mean that
- Saying that bad things are bad or
- Saying that good things are good
...is really only a way of saying that
- You personally are good.
This terrible behaviour makes you an insufferable prick, although whaddayaknow? It apparently doesn't tell us anything at all about opinion hacks who spend half their lives condemning things and people on social media*.
So this one seems to have originated from a particularly dull bout of blah at the Spectator (again!) and, as tends to happen with such things, it's now been approximated by every right-wing opinion hack with an axe to grind against people who annoy them on Twitter, i.e. quite a lot of them.
Anyway, the emergence of "Virtue Signalling" as terrible, condemnable behaviour has a direct application to the themes that I've been harping on about here for many long years. As applied generally to foreign policy, it now means that:
- If you do say that the idea of hurling troops, guns and bombs into other nations is idiotic and counterproductive, you're a despicable apologist for tyrants;
- If you don't regularly state that what's going on in Godforsaken Warzone (x) is terrible, and that the people responsible for it are terrible, then you are shamefully silent about the suffering of the people of Godforsaken Warzone (x), and
- Now, apparently, if you do regularly state that what's going on in Godforsaken Warzone (x) is terrible, you're an insufferable prick, doing nothing more than signalling your immense and throbbing personal virtue.
That's quite an extensive list of forbidden behaviours, and if it ever catches on with anyone apart from highly belligerent opinion columnists and rubbish politicians, it's likely to leave most of the populace in a state of what I can only call original sin. If we can't approve, disapprove or ignore it, what the hell are we meant to do?
Well, that's a good question in the context of conflicts, because I notice that the only option this would leave us for extirpating our sin would be... Furious demands for lots of wars, followed by fervent prayers for victory.
Here, I think we begin to see why the idea of "Virtue Signalling" as a terrible moral flaw is going great guns with certain opinion hacks**, especially those who have long received former left-wingers' confessions, conversions and epiphanies with loud hosannas, as if they were so many miracles. It's certainly popular with those whose eyes have been sharpest in the search for blasphemy or heresy, and who are most enthusiastic about excommunication.
All of which ecumenical behaviour is quite surprising to behold, when you consider that so many of them (though maybe not all) would probably describe themselves as secularists.
But to return to a theme that I've been arsing on about recently: let's note that all of this is yet another example of what happens when opinion journalism collides with the public in an age of instant global communication - most often, mutual fear and loathing.
And this is understandable to a certain extent, since a good chunk of the public has little to say to the hacks except fuck you and I hope you die in these graphically-described terms, and quite a few of the hacks are only marginally less offensive.
Still though, it's worth noting that most of the hacks manage to retain a sense of proportion about the many things that people say on the internet, even in the face of extreme provocation, not least because maintaining a sense of proportion is one of the basic requirements of professionalism.
*This one does strike me as particularly odd, since it seems especially targeted at people who - for good or ill - are at least trying to do something decent. Quite a lot of people don't even bother with that.
**Also because this applies to e.g. Austerity, or telling refugees to sling their hook. Oooh, look at you, feeling sympathy for suffering human beings, you horrible little arse, you.