Virtue signalling

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Virtue signalling is the expression or promotion of viewpoints that are especially valued within a social group, especially when this is done primarily to enhance the social standing of the speaker.[1][2][3] For example, expressing a hatred of the right-wing newspaper Daily Mail might be an example of virtue signalling among the British left.[1] The term is chiefly used by conservative commentators to criticize the expression of tribalistic socially progressive views on social media,[2][3] but has also been used to describe analogous behaviour in other groups, such as pro-gun rights grandstanding among the American right,[3] and by signalling theorists to discuss conspicuous piety among the religious faithful.[4]

Reception of the phrase has been mixed: Zoe Williams has described the phrase as the "sequel insult to champagne socialist",[5] while David Shariatmadari says that while the term serves a purpose, its overuse has rendered it a meaningless political buzzword.[2] Some on the left have embraced the term: Helen Lewis, writing for the New Statesman, blamed virtue signalling for Labour Party's surprise defeat in the 2015 general election, suggesting that the desire to be seen as holding virtuous opinions leads political activists to focus on issues such as nuclear disarmament that are lofty and remote to common voters, resulting in an echo chamber effect that led Labour strategists to underestimate support for Conservative policies.[6]

The term was popularized by James Bartholomew of The Spectator in a 2015 column,[7] but has been cited since at least 2004.[4][3]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "The awful rise of 'virtue signalling'". Spectator. Retrieved 2016-04-11. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Virtue-signalling – the putdown that has passed its sell-by date". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-04-11. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Virtue signaling and other inane platitudes". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2016-04-11. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Bulbulia, Joseph; Schjoedt, Uffe (2010). "Religious Culture and Cooperative Prediction under Risk: Perspectives from Social Neuroscience". Religion, Economy, and Cooperation. pp. 37–39. ISBN 3110246333. 
  5. "Forget about Labour's heartland – it doesn't exist". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-04-11. 
  6. Helen Lewis (22 July 2015). "The echo chamber of social media is luring the left into cosy delusion and dangerous insularity". New Statesman. Retrieved 15 April 2016. 
  7. "I invented 'virtue signalling'. Now it's taking over the world". Spectator. Retrieved 2016-04-11.