I’ve noticed some folks who identify with the so-called “alt-right” use the phrase “virtue-signalling” quite a lot. It’s supposed to be a put down, which they oppose to “plain speaking” or “telling it like it is”. Being a curious sort, I had to look up “virtue-signalling” on the internet to find out what the hell they’re referring to, but apparently they consider “virtue-signalling” some form of political correctness, and thus bad form, although using the phrase “virtue-signalling” itself is hardly a stellar example of “plain-speaking” itself.
There are some attempts to define this “virtue-signalling” meme (here and here). As best I can deduce, it means nothing more than “wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve” (or a flag patch on one’s arm, for that matter). As far as I can tell, “virtue-signalling” means only self-branding — the “Me Brand” — as wanting to be perceived by others (or by oneself) as good, virtuous, righteous, moral and so on. So, in those terms “virtue-signalling” and “political correctness” are treated as synonymous.
In other words, “to be is to be perceived” and virtue-signalling is assumed to be the practice of those who want and need to be perceived as good, virtuous, and righteous — the “me brand”, in other words — and is therefore assumed to be a pose or a pretense or a mask. This “virtue-signalling” may well be that, or it may be nothing but a put down itself to mask one’s own vice, viciousness, malice, and nihilism.
Quite a bit of “anti-political correctness” sentiment is itself merely a mask for one’s own self-interest or a nihilism which also pretends to be virtuous or “plain-speaking” or “telling it like it is”. That also is the same “virtue-signalling” — “I speak the truth and you don’t”. It’s also a pose and a pretense that resorts to deflection to divert attention from itself and from the fact of its own duplicity. “My opinions are facts, while your facts are merely opinions”.
It’s a stunning ironic reversal that the so-called “Silent Majority” (or “Moral Majority” in those terms but now generally called “the people”) has allied itself with those who hold that morality, or ethics, is merely political correctness or “virtue-signalling”. There is, in that, a slippery slope into barbarism when one can no longer even speak of the good, the true, the beautiful — the classical virtues — without being cynically rebuked as engaging in “virtue-signalling”. In other words, it belongs to the “uprising of Caliban“.
Yes, “virtue-signalling” does belong to the culture of narcissism and does express an inordinate obsession with self-image and the “me brand”. But obsession with self-image is just as prominent on the so-called “alt-right”, and Trump is living proof of that. Although being anti-political correctness can posture as a revolt against authenticity, it’s not more authentic or genuine than that against which it rages. It’s just as much bound up with the phantom self called “self-image” or identity politics and is even more obsessed with identity and self-image than those accused of “virtue-signalling”. Those who identify with the alt-right are just as given to wearing their heart on their sleeve and nurturing their own dogmatic certainties and a reactionary, monological code of “political correctness”.
And yes, it is symptomatic of the disintegration of modern man’s personality structure and consciousness — this loss of integrity — which, as Mumford suggests (and Gebser too) will have to fulfill its momentum and the logic of its unraveling in total disintegration or chaos, havoc, mayhem, or maestrom.
The ears of the wolf called “pro” and “con”. It was for this reason that Nietzsche took his stance “beyond good and evil”, which Rosenstock-Huessy also called “outrunning” the collapse of the Modern Era. Neither defending nor attacking the status quo but transcending it. And it also reminds me of a passage from William Blake, which he puts in the mouth of his “Eternal Prophet” Los,
I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.