Last week, we were reminded once again that classically liberal arguments don’t pass muster in our debates anymore.
It is advisable to either agree wholeheartedly with delicate positions, or keep quiet. If you dare to express criticism, pray that the virtue-signallers take mercy on you.
Certainly no mercy was shown to former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, whose robust (if provocative) defence of a woman’s right to wear the burka or niqab in the Telegraph faced massive backlash from all sides of the debate.
Not only was his position misrepresented – with many claiming that he called for the garments to be banned, although he was actually arguing the opposite – but even those who understood him clearly still took issue with the descriptions he used, with some even branding him racist.
We can debate whether his descriptions were rude or not (and from his track record, he must have known his wording would cause a stir). But Johnson’s real mistake was thinking that he could intellectually and ethically dissect this topic without being targeted as a criminal.
This is no over-exaggeration. The Metropolitan Police commissioner actually had to issue a statement clarifying that his comments did not “reach the bar” for a criminal offence.
The row got me thinking on two fronts. First, how tragic it is that liberal reasoning is met with such contempt.
Whether it’s Johnson’s comments on the burka, or former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron’s religious convictions, public life is increasingly unable to incorporate those who are simultaneously critical of a behaviour, yet still tolerant of other people’s right to do it.
It’s a sad feature of the current political climate, in which outrage has become a dominant theme.
But there is another angle to this story, a side that is rarely talked about. Virtue-signalling is often seen as a left-wing activity – yet another trait of the “safe space” or “snowflake” generation that puts huge emphasis on expressing their own moral stances, while often trying to shut down (or “no-platform”) the expression of others’ opinions.
But virtue-signalling is not unique to the left. It takes place on the right almost as frequently. We’re just not always so quick to recognise it.
Donald Trump is the ultimate virtue-signaller. He has made a daily habit of overtly expressing his moral stance, which is wrapped up with nationalist and protectionist sentiment. The slogan “Make America Great Again” is itself a catchy form of virtue-signalling, used to target and shame those who aren’t seen to support the US on the President’s economically illiterate terms.
While NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest racism was an expression of their own ethical code (one which I agree with), the President’s call to boycott the NFL was the other side of the same coin. Signalling is met with signalling – and unsurprisingly, it doesn’t lead to the most productive outcomes.
It happens in the UK too. Decisions around immigration in particular often seem designed to signal to migration sceptics that the government is being tough. Look at the arbitrary caps on migration and pledges to reduce numbers to “tens of thousands”.
As the Confederation of British Industry pointed out last Friday, this does not benefit the UK economy in any way. The political obsession with it is all for the sake of perception.
The latest iteration of this involves deliberately inconveniencing travellers at airports. Despite evidence that separate lines for UK and EU citizens in airports after Brexit is likely to slow down the process for Brits getting through border control, the Prime Minister remains insistent that there should be separate queues.
She could focus on reducing queuing times in general for everyone, but that wouldn’t send the same message.
There is an important place in our discourse for signalling our ethics and our virtues, but dramatised outrage to appease certain groups should not be stifling legitimate debate or influencing public policy. On those fronts, both ends of the political spectrum are guilty.
- MPs lash out at Ben & Jerry’s after firm uses Twitter to ‘virtue signal’ to Priti Patel over migrant crisis
- Tory MP tells Gary Lineker to offer his mansion for migrants to use after blasting Match of the Day host for 'virtue signalling' over record Channel crossings
- Avanti West Coast's 'Pride train' sparks fury among LGBT passengers who ask: 'When will pathetic virtue signallers learn we're just like everyone else?'
- 'Sick to my stomach': Indigenous activist Jacinta Price slams 'virtue-signalling' Black Lives Matter protesters and says they 'aren't interested' in Aboriginal deaths - unless they are killed by white men
- National Trust sparks woke row after tweeting about artefacts and buildings linked to slavery and the British Empire - as dozens vow to cancel membership over historical 'virtue signalling'
- Boris Johnson just lost £1trillion, so let's blame the Channel migrants and pick a fight with some ice cream
- Tories revolt over A-levels 'shambles' as Boris Johnson ordered to U-turn
- Brace yourself for Super Saturday: Boris is set to announce green light for meeting up indoors (with no hugging) and end of 2-metre rule to allow pubs, cinemas, museums and staycations to return
- Boris Johnson moves to seize control of schools agenda after exams chaos
- Farmer furious as Boris Johnson parks his teepee in his field during Scottish staycation
- Angela Rayner: 'Boris Johnson needs to get up off his backside and lead'
- Boris Johnson warns parents that children’s ‘life chances’ are under threat if they don’t go back to school
- Williamson's A-level debacle has damaged the Tory brand. But don't expect a resignation
- A-level and GCSE students could get U-turn today as Boris Johnson intervenes from holiday
- Keir Starmer plays long game to label Boris Johnson as incompetent
- No10 deny claims from Dominic Cummings’ father-in-law that Boris Johnson will QUIT as PM in 6 months
- The post office backed off, but the damage is already done
- Federal appeals court sides with student in Virginia transgender bathroom case
- Boris Johnson's holiday snaps revealed: Carrie Symonds, 32, shares photos of PM hiking with Wilfred in a baby sling as she holds their rescue dog Dilyn during three-day Scottish camping trip - as couple return home
- Boris Johnson's plea to parents: Prime Minister warns families that if children are not back in the classroom next week it risks causing permanent damage to their futures
It’s not just about Boris – virtue-signalling from all sides is damaging political discourse have 1067 words, post on www.cityam.com at August 12, 2018. This is cached page on Movie News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.