Virtue Signaling

A quick note for my UU friends. This article in the New York Times discusses a vigorous campaign by a religious professional against the release of a film. According to the article, the film was not actually anti-Islam at all, but a prominent cleric in Pakistan decided it was anti-Islam, and without ever having seen the film.

The filmmaker’s career has been badly damaged.

The difference between this incident and the attacks on Todd Eklof’s book The Gadfly Papers by prominent people within the Unitarian Universalist Association is a difference of degree, not of substance. Aside from the intensity of the attack, the two incidents are very similar. In both cases, religious professionals chose to attack a work that they had not personally read or seen, because they had decided without evidence that it was an attack on their religion.

This is called virtue signaling. If you’re a zealot, you have to show your righteousness by attacking someone or something. If you don’t attack anyone, your credentials as a True Believer are in danger. You’ll be perceived as weak.

If no target that actually qualifies should present itself, no problem! Just choose a convenient target, make up some lies about it, and proceed with your attack.

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2 Responses to Virtue Signaling

  1. mfidelman says:

    Of late, as I pass more and more “Black Lives Matter” signs, in lily white neighborhoods, I become convinced this has nothing to do with supporting any meaningful change in society – it’s all about virtue signalling to one’s equally white, privileged, neighbors – illustrating one’s feeling of entitlement to venture empty opinions, and provoke their neighbors into posting “Blue Lives Matter” signs – rather than effect any meaningful change. (Back in the day, we called them “Limousine Liberals.”)

    • midiguru says:

      I see those signs too, and I daresay you’re probably right in many or most cases. There are also a lot of American flags flying on houses in my neighborhood — probably more flags than the more progressive forms of signage. One of the things we humans do is, we signal what group we belong to. There’s nothing wrong with that, in and of itself, but sometimes the signaling is done _instead_ of taking meaningful action.

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