Signalling my virtues loud and fucking clear

Getting me some of that sweet, sweet, feminist pussy…?

Image: Man standing on a hill holding a smoke signal

I’ve been accused of “virtue signalling” in the past.

One time it was in a debate about something to do with how male actors have long careers, but their love interests are always women within a narrow range of young and beautiful. Apparently my stance that Hollywood might have somewhat sexist conventions means I was “virtue signalling” that I am some kind of bleeding heart beta male cuck, licking the boots of feminazis who dictate my ethics to me on Tumblr blogs.

That’s what I took “virtue signalling” to mean. Maybe that’s an exaggeration?

I’m trying to parse what it really means. Clearly, on the surface level, the problem I’m being accused of is that I’m putting my social and political stances out there for all to see, and this is bad behaviour. I’m not just having beliefs, I’m telling everyone, and apparently there’s something nefarious about that.

Far as I can tell, it’s not necessarily the specific ideals themselves that are at issue, in that the term could be levied against potentially any kind of ideology. There’s no reason a racist couldn’t “virtue signal” by openly declaring that they hate other races. But they tend not to do that. People with certain views know they don’t have the support of mainstream society, so what they do instead is called “dog whistling”. That’s where they try to make their views known without saying their ideas clearly, so that it can pass by mainstream criticism but still get the message out to allies. “Dog whistling” involves codifying your terms into paraphrasing that appears to mean one thing while actually saying another.

So is the problem with “virtue signalling” a kind of frustration at the imbalance in what is considered an acceptable viewpoint? Maybe for some people, but I’ve been accused of “virtue signalling” by people I don’t think hold views that couldn’t be expressed as much as mine, so I don’t think that’s the real problem. When I’ve been accused of “virtue signalling”, it’s often from people who think they’re the reasonable ones in a world gone mad because social justice warriors are taking potentially sensible ideas and going way too far to the point where they become absurd.

When I express certain beliefs, when I start “virtue signalling”, then the problem seems to be that I’m going too far somehow. And that’s bad because…? I’m having a hard time really getting at the core of the problem.

Taking the words at face value, where “virtue” basically means “beliefs”, or “ethics”, or “ideals” or that kind of thing, and “signalling” means “communicate”, or “transmit”, or “broadcast.” If those are the relevant synonyms, then yeah, I communicate my ideals happily. I broadcast my beliefs as wide as I possibly can. I transmit my ethics with enthusiasm. Sharing who you are is a fundamental human activity, and I don’t know how scale makes it any worse.

If that’s what virtue signalling is, then, yes, I’m absolutely virtue signalling. Happy to do it. Wanna hear more?

Unless you take a more particular aspect of the word “signalling” where it implies some kind of selected audience. A signal, in some situations, isn’t intended for everyone, just certain people. When I perform comedy, sometimes the person running the show flashes a light from the back to signal that I have a minute of stage time left. That signal is meant for me, and deliberately kept from the audience. It differs from “dog whistling” in that it’s not codified. If other people happen to see the signal, then it’s not really a problem. It’s like, I don’t intend for the audience to see my timing signal, but if they do, then all they’re going to get out of that is learning that the show has some kind of structure, so, fine, whatever.

So is “virtue signalling” an attempt to try and get across a message for some people and not others? That’s kind of hard to buy into when I look at my case because I can’t think of any aspect of what I might say that I’m not happy to tell everyone about. I mean, I perform standup and write blogs, I have no filter. Well, barely any filter. I mean, there’s always room for tact, articulation, and respecting other people’s privacy and so on. But as far as telling you my opinions, theories, ideologies, ethics, failings, values, and virtues, my problem isn’t any kind of caution in whether or not to speak them aloud, it’s how can I express them so that they reach the widest audience.

Nonetheless, pursuing that thread, I think the idea behind the “virtue signalling” accusation is that I’m going around broadcasting certain ideals because I believe them to be popular either among the majority of people, in which case I’m just trying to get validated, or I’m unconcerned about the majority, but I’m hoping a particular minority will pick up on my signal and I’ll get their specific approval.

In other words, while I may be telling this one person in a debate online that I think something along the lines about how I think women aren’t equal in our society or whatever, what I’m really hoping is that everyone in a broader sphere are thinking, “look at that Dave guy, he’s so enlightened! We should all love and adore him and respect his special progressive ideas!” Or maybe, in the hypothetical case that I’m saying something crazy about women being equal, then I’m hoping some feminist women out there are like, “Hey, he’s not evil like all other males, if we’re going to deign to be with a man, we should choose a guy like him! He’s so special!”

Aw, yeah… getting that sweet, sweet feminist pussy.

Let’s take a moment to suppose that’s true, that I broadcast my ideals because I want to be liked for them…

Duh. Of course I am.

It’s like saying, “That guy just plays sports as hard as he can so that he’ll be admired.” “That politician is only proposing popular policies so that they’ll get elected.”

If I could get liked for my ideas, then I’m all in. Show me where the adoring fans are. You’re god damn right that if I knew what to say that I could cultivate a following of women who wanted to have sex with me because of it that I would be doing that.

If “virtue signalling” is bad because I’m trying to get something out of it, then I wish someone could show me how to really leverage that potential. It’s like that meme, “you guys are getting paid for this?” So far, I’m not getting anywhere near enough return to be worth what I’ve put into the effort of expressing myself.

Maybe some people think being too open about what you believe is simply crass or oversharing something, but I couldn’t care less about that viewpoint. So long as someone actually believes what they say, then I don’t care how far and wide they spread their views. What social or other returns they get on it are for them to deal with, for good or bad. If you don’t like what they’re saying, don’t listen. Or propose an alternate idea. Be part of the dialog or don’t, whatever. That they’re choosing to “virtue signal” is only a problem for you if you make it your problem. I personally couldn’t imagine giving a shit about anyone else’s “virtue signalling” in terms of how they’re making their views known.

The only way I can see “virtue signalling ” as a problem is if I didn’t actually believe what I was putting out there, and I was only doing it in order to try and secure social returns. For example, if I actually think women are just sex objects or whatever, but I’m out here saying I like strong powerful women, only because I want women to think of me as a kind of good guy that I’m actually not. Again, it’s the pursuit of feminist pussy that is the real me, and the person accusing me of “virtue signalling” is calling me out on it.

That gets into some interesting territory. Why the suspicion? If you had caught me in an inconsistency, that would be a valid criticism, but that’s not what’s happening when someone makes an accusation of “virtue signalling.” If you had seen me say something that contradicts what I was promoting as my beliefs, then a far more devastating and effective rebuke would be to use that knowledge against me. “Hold up, back there you said this one thing that doesn’t fit with this thing you’re saying now, so you’re just being an opportunistic hypocrite.”

That would be a far more powerful take down of someone’s ideas, so crying “virtue signalling” indicates you don’t have the option to do that.

Which means that if you’re assuming there’s some level of deceit going on in in spite of no contrary output from me, then that’s purely based on your worldview and what you think it’s possible for other people to truly believe. You’re going on no evidence derived from me, so all that’s left is you.

Your cynicism doesn’t define me. It’s crazy, but I’m a whole other person completely unbound by the restrictions of what you think someone else could or couldn’t believe. So, you know… lame. You’re welcome to have your suspicions about me, because you can believe whatever you want to believe, but it amounts to nothing in terms of a legitimate criticism if you can’t back it up with any way of demonstrating how I might be inconsistent.

If I am being inconsistent, I’d honestly like to know the evidence for that. My general stance is that I try not to be racist or sexist or homophobic or whatever, to try and be fair to everyone. But I’m human, I’m far from perfect or anything, so all I can do is try to negotiate with the world’s feedback on my actions. If you can point out where I’m screwing up, I’ll consider that. People have changed my mind before, and I’m sure it’ll happen again.

But not if you accuse me of “virtue signalling.” All I’m hearing you say when you use that term is, “How dare you say what you actually think!” Or, possibly, “I can’t understand how other humans actually say things they believe!” Or even, “I literally have no other way to criticize what you’re saying, so I’m going to try to make it seem as if the act of you actually saying it is in itself a problem!”

In a way, even if I was trying to trick everyone, if I was just going around saying things like how women should be treated equally just so I would be revered for what an enlightened person I am… fine, actually. I would be okay of living in a world where everyone was faking trying to make the world a better place to the point where it was a better place.

Hell, even I was tricking women into sleeping with me by promoting a more fair and equal world, no matter how much I might be lying about it, it couldn’t be worse than all the very real personal emotional baggage that have blown up my relationships in the past.

So, yeah, I’m virtue signalling. Loud and fucking clear. Happy to be doing it. Keep listening to me to receive more signal.