Virtue signaling is an attempt to get into the good graces of an individual or group by taking a political stance that attempts to show moral superiority. It allows someone to cheaply gain social status—and sometimes money—through comments or displays that are easy to make in place of genuine activism or work.
Such politically correct “holier than thou” empty gestures by ordinary individuals are silly but innocuous. By the powerful, though, this can have real impact on pushing agendas. More disheartening is when it happens by politically notable figures, for instance the “I’m not an extremist, unlike this guy a little to my right” routine. What’s quite troubling is how common it is for corporations, celebrities, and the ultra-wealthy to jump on the virtue signalling bandwagon. Many corporations have enthusiastically embraced affirmative action policies, put on gay pride events, ostentatiously celebrate diversity, and so forth—a clear endorsement of these things.
If you’ve looked at the terms of service for any number of social media companies and content providers, there will be verbiage disallowing politically incorrect speech. These are generally written broadly enough to get anyone banned they don’t like, and such bannings are often acts of virtue signalling (i.e. “Their speech is bad and immoral according to our standards”).
At first glance
Virtue-signaling by celebrities tends to resemble groupthink and trendy blather. By corporations, it seems like spineless pandering. It’s easy to see how people insulated from the real world by their limousines and gated communities would behave that way. Still, the picture is more complicated than that. The rabbit hole goes pretty deep.
Sam Francis wrote extensively about virtue-signaling before it had a name. (That covered corporate varieties, though celebrities and politicians are a problem too.) He listed several examples; here are a few:
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, it ought to be obvious that the dominant powers and authorities in the United States and other Western countries are either indifferent to the accelerating racial and cultural dispossession of the historic peoples of America and Europe or are actually in favor of it.
In Grutter v. Bollinger, the 2003 Supreme Court ruling that upheld the University of Michigan law school’s affirmative action policies, 65 corporations filed amicus curiae briefs endorsing the school’s admission policies that discriminate against white applicants.
Large businesses, foundations, and universities are in the forefront of mandatory “sensitivity training,” multiculturalist indoctrination, and efforts to portray white racial and cultural identity as a source of pathology, extremism, repression, and violence, and to instill feelings of guilt for white, European, Christian civilization and achievements.
Now this one is just weird:
Some years ago the Budweiser company sponsored a series of advertisements that helped popularize and legitimize various myths of Afrocentric propaganda, such as the claims that the Semitic Carthaginian general Hannibal, various kings of ancient Egypt, and the last Macedonian queen of Egypt, Cleopatra, were all Negroes—claims known to be preposterously contrary to historical fact.
Why would promoting Afrocentric theory—a screwy academic fad by leftist professors—be in their corporate agenda? Wouldn’t a less goofy marketing campaign, like a celebrity endorsement, do just as well to boost sales to Black customers? A more evocative question is, did they consider whether in-your-face distortion of history might turn off their existing customers?
The article then discusses the nature of power structures; it’s a lot more than just who won an election. Politics is downstream of culture, and Francis argues that those who hold the reigns of opinion-forming institutions are more powerful than elected officials. Then he discusses motivations, of which I have some further observations.
Some of them really believe it
Let’s consider the interesting case of Martine Rothblatt (formerly Martin until transitioning at age 40), CEO of GeoStar and Chairman of the Board of United Therapeutics. According to the Wiki page:
In 2004, Rothblatt launched the Terasem Movement, a transhumanist school of thought focused on promoting joy, diversity, and the prospect of technological immortality via mind uploading and geoethical nanotechnology. Through a charitable foundation, leaders of this school convene publicly accessible symposia, publish explanatory analyses, conduct demonstration projects, issue grants, and encourage public awareness and adherence to Terasem values and goals.
Through her blog Mindfiles, Mindware and Mindclones, she writes about “the coming age of our own cyberconsciousness and techno-immortality“ and started a vlog together with Ulrike Reinhard on the same topic. She also created Lifenaut.com as a place where thousands of people could go to backup their minds.
Rothblatt contributed $258,000 to SpacePAC, a super PAC that supported her son, Gabriel, who was running as a Democrat in Florida’s 8th congressional district but lost. Gabriel is a pastor for the Terasem Movement.
Although one might quibble with this individual’s politics and odd hobbies, clearly Rothblatt means it and has a personal stake in it.
For some other examples, several well-known Hollywood figures have gone far beyond the call of duty. Perhaps the Powers That Be require conformity, condoning politicized Oscars speeches and punishing off-message utterances harshly. while giving a free pass to degenerates.
Still, some celebrity antics are difficult to imagine unless personal conviction is involved; method acting only gets you so far. Music industry figures are also well-known for political poses, odd personal choices that ostentatiously display their politics, and the like. In any event, if something goes far beyond perfunctory declarations of solidarity for trendy causes, that’s a good sign they really believe this stuff. When that happens, it’s not merely virtue-signaling, but rather propaganda and—in some cases—social engineering attempts.
How sincere are they, really?
Sam Francis goes on to say:
One of the major differences between the theory of elites [by Mosca and Pareto] and simpleminded conspiracy theories is that the latter almost always postulate hidden groups of conspirators who do not believe in the ideas they use to gull and manipulate the masses. In elite theory, political formulas tend to become ideologies that take on a life of their own and push behavior of their own accord, without conscious or deliberate fraud or calculation of interests by those who accept them.
Although a good number of champagne Socialists and celebrity airheads really believe their claptrap, I wouldn’t so quickly dismiss callous cynicism by many others. The boundless hypocrisy of leftists would make even a televangelist blush. Either way, the practical results for society are the same. For that matter, how much does a celebrity who hasn’t tasted tap water in years, or a billionaire CEO, really feel for the common people or relate to them?
Still, Francis was spot-on about ideologies taking on a life of their own. Cultural Marxism did, in fact, start as a Communist conspiracy by the Frankfurt School to weaken American society. This spread through academia and the media, creating the crazy 1960s counterculture. By the 1990s, cultural Marxism memes permeated society and became politically correct orthodoxy, even though Russia was no longer Communist by then. Now, it’s taken some very strange directions, going well beyond what the Frankfurt School expected to accomplish in wrecking society.
The culture-destroying agenda
Following a discussion about the transition of power from the old American elite to what James Burnham called the managerial class, Francis describes the type of world the globalists want:
The culture the managers seek to build places more value on individual achievement and “merit” (defined largely as the ability to acquire and exercise managerial and technical skills) than on family inheritance, on sexual fulfillment than postponement of gratification and the breeding and rearing of children, on social mobility and advancement rather than identification with family, community, race, and nation.
But in addition to the family, the managerial class simply does not need other traditional institutional structures to maintain its power— not the local community, not religion, not traditional cultural and moral codes, not ethnic and racial identities, and not even the nation-state itself. Indeed, such institutions merely get in the way of managerial power. They represent barriers against which the managerial state, corporations, and other mass organizations are always bumping, and the sooner such barriers are leveled, the more reach and power the organizations, and the managerial elites that run them, will acquire.
So this is why they favor rootless cosmopolitanism and anti-family policies. These are goals that they have in common with cultural Marxism, though for their own reasons. This new version of leftist ideology fits their agenda quite well, and (at least in practice) it’s not too concerned with vast extremes of wealth, quite unlike old-school Socialism. So globalist plutocrats naturally latch onto something that lets them feel good about themselves and what they’re doing.
For some, this may be a strange form of atonement. Those who practice predatory lending, crash economies with funny money stock trading and forex schemes, promote crazy consumerism, and sell products that are unhealthy, overpriced, shoddy, or made with planned obsolescence at least can pat themselves on the back by gestures showing that they care about “social justice”.
After that, Francis details what the globalist agenda involves, a rather chilling picture. Then later:
[T]he new managerial elite rejects and destroys the mechanisms of the old elite that excluded other ethnic, racial, and religious groups, such groups are often able to permeate the managerial power structure and acquire levels of power unavailable to them in pre-managerial society and to advance their own interests and agendas by means of the managerial instruments of power.
Well, we can see where that one is going. It’s remarkably short sighted of them to wreck the society that brought them unprecedented wealth. Those who do so clearly aren’t as smart as they think they are. It didn’t have to be that way. They can have constructive cooperation, or they can have mutually assured destruction. However, they can’t sink the ship they’re on and expect not to go down with it.
What can be done about it
The only reason elites have gotten away with giving the middle finger to the very population that founded the USA is that we lack the solidarity that has been aggressively promoted to others. (That itself is a greater problem.) Thus, not enough of us have spoken up about it or refused to do business with companies like that.
Everyone should be able to express their opinions freely, but in practice, it doesn’t work that way. Conservative business figures and celebrities are expected to remain silent lest they become targets of wrath. (The effort against Chick-Fil-A backfired spectacularly on the SJWs, but they’ve intimidated the owner and others with similar opinions from expressing their views in the future.) Well, two can play that game. If we send the message that virtue signaling hurts profits and ticket sales, then corporations will go back to focusing on selling products, and celebrities will focus on singing and acting.
Read More: How To Wage Economic Warfare