I got three comments to this blog post, although only one was made on this website, and, as it agreed with the points made, I will respond only to those that did not agree. https://petercwhitaker.wordpress.com/2021/07/04/the-sham-of-virtue-signalling/
Reply number one: I think that’s a simplistic analysis. Most people feel powerless and unable to voice or create change. We all need to express ourselves. Debate is good because it clarifies thoughts and affects the people. If you express opinions then you’re going to be challenged if people don’t agree with them.
My Response: I do not agree that it is a simplistic analysis, but if it were, is being simplistic an actual criticism? To quote Albert Einstein; ‘if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough’. As to the other points, I agree with them in general but do not see them as actual criticisms of the post itself. I find it curious that people were able to motivate themselves to affect change within society prior to the advent of the internet and mass social media, but that they seem less able to do so since, which is why virtue signalling appears to have become so popular amongst the majority.
Reply number two: I tend to feel that this analysis is at best presumptuous and at worst assumes that a very large majority suffer from the dunning cruger effect! (sic) Who is the arbitrator here?
My Response: this criticism rests on the inference that the Dunning Kruger effect was the basis of my post. To be clear, the Dunning Kruger effect suggests that some people overestimate their own knowledge or competence in a particular social or intellectual speciality and reveal its limitation in their response accordingly. The inference is incorrect, however. I did say that ‘Virtue signalling requires little thought, no self-discipline, and can mask a serious deficit of knowledge in the subject concerned’, which I accept could be taken as a subtle reference to the Dunning Kruger effect, but only out of context; that is, if you do not read past the first paragraph.
Reference to the Dunning Kruger effect does not answer the other points that my argument makes, such as the behaviours evinced in social media platforms like Facebook. Virtue signalling there is not about overestimating one’s knowledge or experience, it is about belonging or not belonging. In many subjects discussed in social media it is presumed that there is no grey area or alternative interpretations to be considered. People do not seem to want that uncertainty. Either a thing is, or it is not. Either you are for something or you are not. They do not want an in-between because that is not compatible with signalling an opinion that is intended to express their moral standing on an issue. Of course, the presumption is that morality itself is simple, a thing is either good or bad. Another dichotomy.
The real criticism of virtue signalling is that while it makes the individual feel good it actually achieves nothing in the real world whatsoever. It proves that all good deeds are indeed selfish.