|The Jolly Contrarian’s Glossary |
The snippy guide to financial services lingo.™
Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men.
- —St. Matthew, 6:ii.
A form of preaching to the choir with auxiliary moralising, to virtue signal is ostentatiously declare something that looks brave, but isn’t. A flamboyant yet safe, inexpensive and at the limit cowardly gesture that will not change anything or help anyone, but — without putting one at any personal risk or expense — is calculated to burnish one’s own, inevitably libtard, credentials.
Social media is an excellent channel for virtue signalling, because it costs nothing, and you can choose & filter your audience (and it can choose and filter you) based on existing proclivities.
The cause célèbre of virtue signalling followed Boko Haram’s kidnapping of 276 girls from a Secondary School in Nigeria in 2014. This was a categorically horrific act, to which most of the networked world responded, on Twitter, with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, often accompanied by a photo of the individual (the most famous was Michelle Obama), moon-faced, holding up the hashtag on a piece of paper. Everyone joined in. Easy, cheap, filling oneself with a sense of lofty righteousness and achieving precisely nothing.
In fairness, that only happened once as everyone recognised it at one for exactly what it was, and more recent social atrocities have been mercifully free of such humble self-aggrandizing behaviour by overpaid entertainers.
You see, James Bond, if you want to support the health service give them some of your money, or get in your van and start helping, but either way shut the hell up about it.
The point isn’t to criticize the sentiment — what kind of monster could do that? — but to ask what practical good it does? Would a worldwide crush of hashtags lead a religious fundamentalist to the error of his ways? Or was that not really the point, but to visibly, righteously, show concern in a costless but bragadocious way?
Since virtue signalling namechecks politically correct issues du jour it a natural bullshit detector bypass — and where it doesn’t bypass the bullshit detector, it certainly mutes it. Calling out bullshit is one thing; calling out a virtue signalling bullshitter risks challenging the signal — which may indeed be bullshit, but that’s not the point, is it?
Prime example: yogababble Adam Newman from WeWork. “At WeWork we don’t discriminate. We are going to build something. We are going to change the world for the better.”
Imagine no virtue signalling
Just occasionally, the bullshit filter clicks in, as it did for Gal Gadot’s excruciating “imagine no coronavirus pandemic” effort of March 2020, which really has to be seen to be believed. Go on, have a look, you know you want to. The result is genuinely, toweringly, breathtakingly, awful.
I challenge you to keep watching to the end.
If you did want to change the world...
Then here are some questions worth asking:
- To what extent does worldwide — well, first-world-instigated anti-money laundering regulation exclude citizens of emerging markets jurisdictions from the financial system?
- To what extent do the Basel Accords (such as capital rules based on netting eligibility) systematically exclude businesses in emerging markets jurisdictions from accessing the global financial markets?
- Why do virtue-signalling multinationals require their janitors and service staff wear uniforms, like colonial servants?
- Well, obviously a member of Boko Haram, of course. But you get the point.
- No, sayeth Wikipedia: “However, with limited action and success after initial protests in 2014, little has been accomplished through social 0/media regarding results. As of January 13, 2017, 195 of the 276 girls were still in captivity, close to three years after the kidnappings.” Nor does it seem to have dissuaded Boko Haram: In February 2018, they kidnapped a further 110 girls. Wikipedia article.