‘The country is hopelessly split,” says the November 2018 Intelligencer headline. According to The Hill, “Analyst says U.S. is most divided since Civil War.” Not quite a year ago, the History Channel reported that “some historians are also raising the alarm over division in the country.”
Naturally, President Donald Trump and everyone who voted for him are being blamed for the bitter breakup. But this is nothing more than the political left projecting on others the exact sort of behavior it’s engaged in.
An angry mixture of Democrats, “progressives,” socialists, and democratic socialists that makes up the political left is driven not by ideas but by its members’ desperate need to establish their social status. They want to be identified with those they consider “cool.” Think of Barack Obama, most high-profile Democratic politicians, celebrities, and media stars.
Yes, it’s a lot like high school.
The pursuit of social status is done through virtue-signaling (which “does not require actually doing anything virtuous … It takes no effort or sacrifice at all,” says the author of the term), and the holding of luxury beliefs. The former, artfully defined in Wikipedia as “the contrivance of a false appearance of virtue or goodness,” is used to confirm the latter, which has been described as ”ideas and opinions that confer status on the rich at very little cost, while taking a toll on the lower class,” as well as “good public relations” that protect “you from being branded a bigot and being expelled from public society.”
Scientific American notes that “moral grandstanding,” which most would admit is indistinguishable from virtue-signaling, “can be defined as ‘the use and abuse of moral talk to seek status, to promote oneself, or to boost your own brand.'” Those who frequently use “public discussion of morality and politics to impress others with their moral qualities … are primarily motivated by the desire to enhance their own status or ranking among their peers.”
A blog post affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania that seems to be trying show that there is genuine virtue in virtue-signaling actually supports our point:
“Virtue-signalers don’t really have any relevant moral opinions or behavioral dispositions. Their only goal is to register their affiliation with a certain socially sanctioned set of attitudes.”
In practice, virtue-signaling works this way: Celebrities tweet or announce on television their hatred of Trump, politicians take every chance they have to show how much they loathe the president, and the media find a way to broadcast their animosity toward him through their “objective” presentations of the news. The subject doesn’t have to be Trump, though. Virtue-signaling can range from taking the side of social justice warriors and rebuking “white privilege,” to bragging about how “green” one is, to loading up a car with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton bumper stickers. Any Democratic Party/media-approved opinion, and any statement which is intended to establish a moral superiority will do. The point is to “other” those who don’t agree.
Of course there is room for political differences in this country. In fact, political contrasts are healthy in a republic. By all means, disagree with Trump. He’s an imperfect man, not a faultless angel.
But the hostility toward Trump, and the inevitable division that it has created, is not based on political differences. It’s based on caricatures of the man, lies that have become accepted truth to many, and, of course, a media whose dishonest reporting drives a false narrative.
One of the more widely used methods of expressing high moral standing is to say over and again that Trump is a racist and white supremacist. There is no evidence to back these charges, though. If he is one or both, why wasn’t this discussed when he was a registered Democrat and gave money to Democratic candidates? If he’s such a racist/white supremacist, why is minority unemployment the lowest it’s ever been and why is Trump highlighting this when he tweets?
The accusations that Trump is a racist/bigot/white supremacist are largely based on what’s been called the “Charlottesville Hoax,” the “fake-news fabrication that he described the neo-Nazis who rallied in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017 as ‘fine people,'” Steve Cortes wrote last year in RealClearPolitics.
“Trump’s ‘fine people on both sides’ observation clearly related to those on both sides of the Confederate monument debate, and specifically excluded the violent supremacists,” says Cortes, a CNN political commentator, who calls the accusations “pernicious and pervasive” lies.
But calling him a racist is easy, socially acceptable if not socially desirable, and is simultaneously a declaration of one’s own sinlessness regarding race. Those who do so believe, and in many cases are correct, that their look-at-me accusations increase their social status.
The other lies that have been debunked but are still important pieces of the virtue-signaling machine include the false claim that it was Trump’s policy to put immigrant kids in cages, and allegations that he conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election.
Calling Trump a liar also causes heads to nod in approval, with both the the accusers and those gleefully concurring forgetting that two of the left’s favorites have both caught in big lies: Bill Clinton was impeached for lying under oath to a federal grand jury and Obama was caught telling the 2013 Politifact lie of the year for swearing to America that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”
Again, Trump is not above being criticized. But resorting to lies and charges without substance to boost one’s social and political status is the act of a socially ambitious juvenile. While much of today’s superficiality is driven by Trump Derangement Syndrome, virtue-signaling and political fatuity preceded his 2016 candidacy and in fact accelerated in 2008, when Obama ran for and won the White House. It was the perfect confluence of shallow voters hungry to demonstrate their righteousness rushing to put into office an equally shallow candidate.
— Written by J. Frank Bullitt
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