There is no doubt that the embarrassing kerfuffle at Emory University over the Trump “chalkening” is truly weapons grade dumbass…maybe even nuclear, DEFCON 1 level – but it is also an example of the tribalism and “virtue signaling” that is all too common in the sophomoric halls of contemporary academia and society at large.
“Virtue signaling” is a term coined to describe things that people do to signal to their tribe that they are members in good standing – but these are actions are not virtuous, they are just symbolic. Things like placing flowers at the site of the Paris or Belgium terrorist attacks, shopping at Whole Foods, protesting oppression at a university where your parents are paying $65K a year in tuition and feigning outrage at chalk lines on a sidewalk are all examples. UK writer James Bartholomew of the Spectator is credited with coining the term. In an October 2015 article, he notes, “One of the crucial aspects of virtue signaling is that it does not require actually doing anything virtuous. It does not involve delivering lunches to elderly neighbors or staying together with a spouse for the sake of the children. It takes no effort or sacrifice at all.”
“No sacrifice at all.” I agree with that as it applies to the person doing the signaling to their tribe – but there is a sacrifice and it is given by those not in that tribe. Such jiggery-pokery guarantees that those outside the tribe pay the price.
This tribe also develops its own language that can only be comprehended by other members of the tribe. This language often consists of little more than unintelligible gibberish interspersed with a few high sounding words. They often invent situations, distort facts and statistics and completely change the true meaning to words to fit their new “reality.” They also often create false situations – elaborate hoaxes – to support and confirm their delusions, giving rise to the idea that something can be “fake but accurate.”
This is nothing new – Ayn Rand wrote about it in Atlas Shrugged. At a party, Dr. Simon Pritchett, the head of the Department of Philosophy at Patrick Henry University is also addressing a group of eager listeners. Pritchett is considered the leading philosopher of the age and believes that man is nothing but a collection of chemicals, reason is a superstition, it is futile to seek meaning in life, and the duty of a philosopher is to show that nothing can be understood.
“It is this insistence of man upon meaning that makes him so difficult,” said Dr. Pritchett. “Once he realizes that he is of no importance whatever in the vast scheme of the universe, that no possible significance can be attached to his activities, that it does not matter whether he lives or dies, he will become much more . . . tractable.”
He shrugged and reached for another canapé, a businessman said uneasily, “What I asked you about, Professor, was what you thought about the Equalization of Opportunity Bill.”
“Oh, that?” said Dr. Pritchett. “But I believe I made it clear that I am in favor of it, because I am in favor of a free economy. A free economy cannot exist without competition. Therefore, men must be forced to compete. Therefore, we must control men in order to force them to be free.”
“But, look . . . isn’t that sort of a contradiction?”
“Not in the higher philosophical sense. You must learn to see beyond the static definitions of old-fashioned thinking. Nothing is static in the universe. Everything is fluid.”
In my humble opinion, these virtue signalers are a lot like children who create imaginary, indivisible friends to help the cope with situations they are not intellectually mature enough to handle. Psychology Today says “…imaginary friends can be a source of comfort when a child is experiencing difficulties. There are many case studies of children inventing imaginary friends to help them cope with traumatic experiences… At a more mundane level, children with imaginary friends sometimes blame them for misbehavior in an attempt to avoid parental displeasure.”
The difference between these virtue signaling tribes and children with imaginary friends is that well-adjusted children eventually grow out of this phase. The virtue signalers adopt unreality as a way of life.