Friday, August 23, 2019

Elitism, 21st Century Style

     Somewhere in my vast humor files, I have an old New Yorker cartoon of two obvious Christian clerics walking down a city street. One is speaking to the other; the other is plainly displeased by what he’s hearing. The caption:

     “When will you admit it, Perkins? I am holier than thou.”

     I got a big laugh out of it, back when. Today it’s practically a schematic for the behavior of the luminaries of the Left.

     My Gentle Readers have all encountered the term virtue signaling by now. Its meaning is pretty plain; no need to go into a painfully detailed exposition on it. The subject I have in mind this fine rainy morning is competitive virtue signaling: the new indoor sport by which left-wing politicians and mouthpieces who seek prominence among their admirers – some in the quest for high office, others hoping for a billet at the New York Times — strive to outdo one another.

     Competitive virtue signaling is inherently as lucid as its base phrase: Smith seeks to persuade listeners that he’s “holier” than Jones and Davis. The applications of the tactics available are circumscribed by the issues the left-inclined regard as “America’s sins.” Perennially popular venues include “slavery,” “racism,” “inequality,” “the environment,” and “colonialism.”

     The thinking, if that notion be applicable to such activities, is that he who castigates America and Americans most severely for these things will stand out from the field. He’ll become a “leader” to those who subscribe to the Left’s gospel. His statements will be amplified by his perceived virtue, hopefully to his elevation.

     It’s clear that this sort of competition is zero-sum at best. It’s just as clear that the “issues” constitute a constrained field in which to exercise one’s powers of condemnation and promised redress. People eventually feel they’ve “heard enough” about issue X. Sometimes they begin to wonder whether they’re the targets of Smith’s rhetoric. They want something any rate, something else.

     As always, innovation is driven by imaginative and energetic persons dissatisfied with the status quo.

     For Smith to rise in the Left’s elite requires that he out-virtue-signal others who seek the adulation of the masses. But once the current “conceptual domain” for virtue signaling is saturated, what’s he to do? He can’t rant any more intensely about the existing subjects than his competitors. Neither can he innovate within the domain. What now?

     The answer, of course, is to expand the domain: i.e., to broaden the conceptual arena for virtue-signaling by adding new “issues” about which to rant. Several have been added in recent years:

  • “Environmental racism”
  • “Trans acceptance”
  • “Food justice”
  • “Hate speech”
  • “Triggerings”

     Those are the ones that come to mind as I write. There are others. If Smith manages to introduce a new subject to the virtue-signaling domain, he will naturally be the first to plumb its possibilities. His competitors will race to catch up. When they have done so, it will be time to find a new subject that will support further proclamations of America’s crimes and the Left’s moral superiority.

     If this progression has a hard terminus, beyond which further expansion of the virtue-signaling domain is impossible, I’m unable to find it.

     The competition for elite status on the Left doesn’t have an exact equivalent on the Right. The closest we come at this time is among the “NeverTrumpers:” “conservative” commentators who refuse to accept Donald Trump as the legitimate president despite his having been elected to the post. These compete with one another in finding ever more rarefied ways to criticize President Trump on his style and manner. Their conceptual domain is very difficult to expand, especially as President Trump is compiling a remarkable record of success at the very things the NeverTrumpers have claimed to advocate but have never delivered.

     The NeverTrumpers are steadily being squeezed out of the political space they once dominated: the Right-leaning opinion-editorial press. But what else would we have expected, given that Trump’s successes are multiplying, his popularity is rising among all demographic cohorts, and the nation’s overall metrics of prosperity and security are steadily strengthening? If there’s even a possibility of expanding the NeverTrump conceptual domain, I can’t see it...and apparently neither can the NeverTrumpers.

     Kurt Schlichter has a good column today on the falsity of our “elite.” That falsity is revealed most dramatically by the “elite’s” inability ever to deliver on what it claims it advocates:

     What have they ever solved? Hell, they created most of these problems in the first place. They whine about student loans, but who set up the college cash machine that is American academia? Our medical system is a wreck? Dudes, our medical system is Obamacare, and you’re the ones who stuffed it down our gullets!

     In what way has our garbage elite proven itself capable of doing anything right, much less overseeing our doctors, protecting our newly-disarmed citizenry and controlling the weather? In no way – which is why they hate accountability, and why the elite’s lapdog media is entirely unconcerned with the elite’s constant screw-ups and utterly focused on the invented flaws of those of us who refuse to be serfs of incompetent elitist twerps.

     Shall we have a big “of course?” Anyone who’s paid enough attention these past few decades knows the truth of Schlichter’s observations. A nation whose “elite” has taken it from putting men on the Moon to putting men in women’s lavatories has no substantive claim to its status. But the virtue signaling has continued nonstop...and it will continue onward, as long as there are persons who pay more attention to rhetoric and style than to substance and performance.

     Ignore what the virtue-signalers say. Watch what they do. It’s often good for a laugh, if nothing else.



I'm baaaaack! :)

A thought about "competitive" virtue signaling. Yet more inferential proof that it's a dopamine drug addition. Once someone gets applause for someone MUST out-do them, as you point out. And it's a race to move the edge to continue the pleasurable feelings of self-righteousness and social praise.

Consider: if someone said, three decades ago, they were in favor of gay marriage - WOW, how BRAVE and EDGY. Now? Settled law. Now it's in favor of... whatever. But that edge moves. It has to move. The high from past positions gets old, and one must move ever-outward to continue the feeling.

I've wondered without proof if part of liberalism and The Collective mutual-praise circle jerk is because of biological variations in dopamine sensitivity.

Drew said...

And now the DHS is paying grants to people to expand the domain in entirely new ways.

MrGarabaldi said...

The problem with our "betters" is that they believe by family, education or beliefs that they should rule us dirt people. The middle class is the bulwark against the unfettered beliefs of "our betters". The poor have to do what they are told or they don't get "the goodies". The middle class ain't beholden to "the Cloud People" for survival and that ability and independence is why we are reviled by them.