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The (Pathetic) Virtue Signaling Of Those Who Whine About Virtue Signaling

The internet and social media are wonderful. They’ve done plenty of good for the world. People have connected like never before. Knowledge, information, and personal connections have never been easier. These are objectively good things for a social species like ours.

I make that disclaimer because I’m about to talk about one of the biggest negatives that the internet has fostered. I also concede there are far worse negatives. The internet and social media have done far greater harm in certain areas, plenty of which make the news. Some of that harm is just genuinely deplorable behavior. Some is outright illegal.

However, I would argue that one of the most infuriating, yet perfectly activities that the internet has enabled is virtue signaling. I’ve bemoaned it before and for good reason. Virtue signaling is a toxic combination of narcissism, groupthink, clickbait, and trolling. Take everything you hate about the worst people on the internet. Much of it is incorporated into virtue signaling.

It’s the selfish, ego-stroking act of loudly proclaiming that you’re so in favor or opposed to something that you demand acknowledgement and affirmation from total strangers. It’s not enough to just have a strong opinion or do something that’s actually virtuous. These people need the whole goddamn world to pat them on the back and assure them they’re a special snowflake.

There are far worse ways to describe this phenomenon. For my own sanity, I’ll leave it at that. I trust my readers to fill in the blanks without breaking their computer screens. All you need to know is that virtue signaling comes in many forms. Some acts are far worse than others. Like most things on the internet, there’s a spectrum to it.

Like any meme or trending hashtag, there’s a certain range of behaviors that constitute virtue signaling. Sometimes, it’s obvious. You need only see videos and articles whining about how video games, movies, and TV shows are ruining the world by empowering the patriarchy. However, I’ve noticed one particular brand of virtue signaling that’s becoming more common.

Specifically, it comes from the people who are usually the first to whine about virtue signaling. It’s every bit as hypocritical as it sounds, and then some. Virtue signaling is bad enough, but adding hypocrisy to the mix only makes it 10 times worse.

I’ve seen more and more of this pernicious virtue signaling in recent weeks, especially as the NBA playoffs wind down and as the NFL season gets going. It shows up in Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, and pretty much any poorly moderated comments section. It usually goes something like this.

“These self-entitled athletes dared to protest social issues! I’m canceling my subscription!”

“Get your damn politics out of sports! Until then, you won’t get a cent of my money!”

“Boycott this league and all the snowflake cucks who work in it!”

“I will never support a league that doesn’t stand proudly for the flag/anthem/whatever political symbol I’ve decided to champion!”

Trust me, it gets worse. It gets much worse.

At the same time, it compounds the cringe. I imagine the people making these comments don’t think they’re virtue signaling. They may see themselves as heroic underdogs resisting some nefarious foe looking to destroy them and everything they care about.

Again, these are sports leagues. They’re a business. They’re main goal is to entertain, make money, and attract the widest possible audience. Sometimes, that audience includes people who aren’t you.

That’s a concept that seems to fly over the heads of everyone who whines and complains about politics in sports, video games, comics, movies, etc. Pick any form of media. Give it any kind of controversial or political undertones, even if it’s indirect. Chances are you’ll get people who call that virtue signaling and some of those people protest by virtue signaling how much they’re against it.

They don’t always see the hypocrisy, but it’s painfully apparent at times. The biggest catalyst, in my opinion, was the very public protest by Colin Kaepernick back in 2016. He stated very clearly that he was protesting police brutality and not disrespecting the American flag or veterans. He belabored and reiterated that countless times.

It didn’t matter. A sizeable chunk of people, who I won’t identify because they make their affiliations all too clear, decided he was this anti-American radical. He didn’t just want to protest injustice. He wanted to ruin America, the NFL, and sports in general. I’ve seen many toxic comment sections and Twitter threads in my time. This was probably the worst.

Again, most of it was just virtue signaling from the other side. Everyone seemed to compete for the right to proclaim they loved America, stood for the National Anthem, and hated Colin Kaepernick with every fiber of their being. They do all of that while calling someone like Kaepernick and other players who protested with him whiny, virtue-signaling America haters.

It’s a cycle of hypocrisy that doesn’t just miss the point. It goes out of its way to avoid the actual substance of what the issue was. Remember, and I wish I didn’t have to reiterate this, the man was protesting police brutality against young black men. That’s a legitimate issue that hurts innocent people. It should be confronted.

Instead, the hypocritical virtue signalers of the internet decide to ignore that issue entirely and make it all about who loves their country and flag more. It’s the digital equivalent of a pissing contest. Everyone wants to yell how much they hate the NFL and NBA. They want everyone to know that they don’t support their league and won’t be watching any games.

First off, I don’t believe them for a second.

I suspect the people who make comments like that will get bored one day, flip through the channels, and settle on a football or basketball game. Nobody will ever call them out on it. Chances are, nobody will ever find out. They may or may not feel a twinge of guilt for the hypocrisy, but they’ll pay no price.

Second, if you go out of your way to post comments in feeds to tell the world how much you hate something, you’re not just virtue signaling. You’re being an asshole of the highest order. The NFL and NBA are not out to get you. They’re not out to destroy America. They just want to entertain and make money. Sometimes, that means catering to a diverse audience.

Certain snowflakes on certain extremes of the political spectrum may hate it. They can whine about it all they want, telling as many people as they can how they’re not going to participate. They’re still the bigger assholes here and considering the scandalous behavior of organizations like the NFL, that’s saying something.

I’m sorry if this rant is dragging, but as someone who’s genuinely excited for football season and doesn’t mind at all seeing athletes protest causes they believe in, this kind of virtue signaling just pisses me off more than most. If you hate the NFL just because they dare to raise awareness of social issues, then I don’t know what to tell you. That’s petty, shallow, and just plain stupid. Virtue signaling is bad enough. Let’s not make it worse by adding whining and hypocrisy to the mix.

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What Exactly Does “Canceling” Someone Solve?

In general, I try not to comment on “cancel culture.” It’s not because I don’t have an opinion. I just think it’s a waste of time, for the most part. I’ve never seen it lead to a productive conversation on anything. Most of the time, it just amounts to people publicly whining about something they find offensive to a point where others cave, if only to stop the whining.

I am not a fan of this, to put it mildly.

Every time I see it trend, I want to bash my head on my computer screen while telling some of these people to grow thicker skin.

The world is a chaotic, ugly, offensive place. We can only do so much to change it. No matter how much change we manage to implement, it won’t change the past or the context in which it transpired. That’s especially true if the people others are trying to cancel are long dead.

Now, as much as I despite the term and what it represents, I also understand that it’s not as simple as its critics make it out to be. At times, I find the people who whine about cancel culture to be just as insufferable. Their whining can basically be boiled down to, “Other people want to cancel the stuff I like and it hurts my feelings!” That’s just as pathetic as wanting to blackball a celebrity for old tweets from 2009.

Both efforts are equally absurd.

Both efforts do nothing to make the world a safer, more tolerant, more inclusive place.

Most of the time, I find the effects of “cancel culture” to be inconsistent, at best. People will complain about the lack of diversity in media, politics, business, and certain industries, but those same people can’t be bothered to vote or support the things that reflect those preferences. They always revert to whining.

People on both sides of the political spectrum will do this. The same people who laugh at those who complain about a video game character being too sexy while whine just as much because Brie Larson said something that hurt their feelings. They’ll claim their efforts are not contributing to cancel culture, but it’s the same damn concept.

Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of decent human beings with thick skin and a good sense of humor, cancel culture is still a thing. People are going to condemn celebrities and public figures for things they said or did years ago. We saw it with Kevin Hart, which cost him a chance to host the Oscars. We’re seeing that now with celebrities like Jimmy Kimmel and Sarah Silverman, who once did skits involving blackface.

All this is happening as statues of historical figures who did deplorable things are coming down. Never mind the context or bigger picture of why they’re historical in the first place. They did something awful. Any image that exists that may glorify them in any way is just too much for our tender sensibilities.

In addition to people, the urge to cancel all things offensive has extended to art. Movies like “Gone With The Wind,” which definitely had some offensive imagery, was removed from streaming recently. Shows like “Paw Patrol,” which is geared towards children, was seen as too offensive at a time when police brutality is a hot topic.

Now, I’m not going to justify old tweets or outrage about movies from a different era. I know there’s nothing I can say to change the minds of those who are so offended by statutes, celebrities, or the names of football teams that they want them all canceled. There’s also nothing I can say to change the minds who think it’s part of some elaborate censorship effort meant to destroy freedom.

Instead, I’d like to ask a few simple questions for both sides to consider.

What exactly does canceling something achieve in the long run?

At what point does canceling something amount to censorship?

Why is canceling something more viable than simply growing thicker skin?

At what point does context stop mattering for something that’s offensive?

How does condemning the ugly history of the past make the present or future any better?

What right do you have to be offended by the feelings and preferences of someone else?

I won’t claim these are easy questions to answer, but to those who are behind or protesting certain cancel-this hashtags, I hope they offer perspective. Like it or not, cancel culture isn’t going away anytime soon. People are always going to be offended by something or someone.

In years past, it was uptight religious zealots who were aghast at anything that didn’t reflect or promote the values of a 1950s sitcom. Now, it’s uptight activists who are aghast at anything that doesn’t reflect their utopian fever dream that just happens to align with their politics. The passion is real, but the motivations are misguided.

You can tear down every monument.

You can censor every byte of media.

You can rewrite every textbook or novel that ever reflected outdated attitudes.

It won’t change what happened in the past. It won’t prevent people from being assholes in the future. If anything, it sends the message that people are too weak, stupid, or traumatized to handle certain ideas. That, in my opinion, is the most offensive thing of all.

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Why The NFL Protests Matter Less Than You Think (And How To MAKE Them Matter)

Whenever I talk about football, the NFL, and how much I love it, I usually do it to lighten the mood. Sure, sometimes football inspires talk of some less pleasant issues, but in general I try to avoid them and focus on the parts that make my Sundays so enjoyable.

Then, the real world has to come around and shit all over it, compelling me to talk about it when I’d rather be talking about my sexy novels or movies involving Sophie Turner and Jennifer Lawrence. I wish I could resist that temptation, but as many of the characters in my sexy novels can attest, that’s not always possible.

Unless you were in a coma under a rock inside a cave on Mars, you probably heard about the mass protests conducted across the NFL last Sunday. What exactly were they protesting, you ask? Well, that’s a hard question to answer and the fact that it’s hard to answer is pretty telling, in and of itself.

Officially, the protests were a stand against social injustice and a response to some trash talk by some high-ranking government official whose name I refuse to say, primarily because I don’t want to give him more attention than he deserves. Unofficially, it was the rhetorical equivalent of two colliding shit storms that only succeeded in creating a bigger storm.

There are many ways to protest injustice, corruption, and everything Gordon Gekko stands for. One of the perks of living in a relatively free society is that you get to attempt and experiment with a variety of ways. Sometimes petitioning works. Sometimes viral videos work. Sometimes just being Mr. Rogers and talking to people with unwavering kindness works.

Unfortunately, there are far more ways that fail instead of work. That’s just the nature of the world we live in. What Colin Kapernick did last year and what multiple NFL teams did last week succeeded to the extent that it raised awareness. While awareness is an important part of the process, especially in the era of the attention economy, that doesn’t mean that it achieved its goals.

More than anything else, it divided people within two tribes. In one, Colin Kapernick and the NFL are patriots in that they’re protesting in the name of the justice that the flag and the national anthem stands for. In the other, Colin Kapernick and the NFL are self-absorbed, virtue signaling drama queens who are disrespecting a symbol that many brave Americans fought and died for.

These are two irreconcilable ideas that kill any substantive conversation. They’re seeing the same picture, but interpreting it in wildly different ways. Instead of highlighting the egregious disparities in how the justice system treats certain minorities, it’s now a discussion about who has the a more patriotic hard-on for all things American.

That begs and important question. Which interpretation is right and which side is wrong? Who can truly say they’re being more patriotic than their counterparts? Well, here’s where it gets tricky and where I’m probably going to upset both sides. Bear with me, though. I promise I’ll try to inject some substance that both sides can use to further their cause.

First, I’ll answer those two questions definitively. I don’t expect everyone to agree with my answer, but I suspect I’ve already upset both sides already so I won’t bother making excuses.

“Both sides BELIEVE they’re true patriots. Both sides BELIEVE their opponents are anti-America. Neither side is inherently RIGHT, but BOTH are valid in their beliefs.”

I know. It sounds like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth and a little out of my ass. Ignoring the influence of my ass, here’s where I’m certain I’ll upset both sides of the debate.

Regardless of how patriotic you feel, the American flag and the national anthem are symbols. No matter how universal you think they are, symbols are always subject to interpretation and those interpretations are rarely, if ever, agreed upon by every person in a society. Just look at all the symbols whose meaning has wildly changed over the centuries.

It’s because of this subjectivity that it’s possible for two people to look at it and interpret extremely different messages. That’s how one side can look at a flag and see the beauty of America. That’s how another can look at a flag and see the ideals America stands for and realizing that the people haven’t lived up to those ideals.

It seems impossible, but when you remember that irrational, tribal nature of the human species, it makes sense. In that context, the NFL and its players are patriots for telling Americans that they have not lived up to the ideals their flag stands for. The people booing them are patriots too for pointing out how they’re disrespecting the symbols and traditions that bind society together.

In either case, both sides can’t claim to be entirely objective. Those claiming that the NFL players are spoiled and using their positions of power to divide people probably wouldn’t feel that way if they were protesting something they agreed with. Change the message and the context and suddenly, they’re on the same side.

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Again, it’s an irreconcilable disagreement, as is often the case with such extreme tribalism. There’s nothing either side can do to convince the other that they’re the true patriots. It’s a downright tragedy because racial injustice is an important issue if we want to improve as a society. Once it becomes a discussion about who is more patriotic, then the protests and outrage behind them no longer matters.

That finally leads me to the practical part of this article. If you’re bummed out or frustrated at this point, then I thank you for sticking with me this long. I imagine some of you already hate my guts and think I’m trying to solicit money from George Soros and the Koch brothers.

I promise you I’m not doing this to win any favors with one particular political agenda. The suggestion I’m about to offer is being offered free of charge. Sure, I’ll kindly request that you buy one of my books or make a donation, but I won’t expect it. I’m still offering free insight into fixing a major problem.

With that said, and knowing that nobody in the NFL or their critics are listening, here’s how you protest social injustice effectively. It can be accomplished in one easy step.

“Make the protest easy, fun, and rewarding to join.”

I know that sounds easy on paper and for once, it kind of is. Granted, it’s not the same kind of spectacle as Colin Kapernick’s protest, but that’s kind of the point. It shouldn’t be that kind spectacle. It should be something else. Moreover, it should be fun.

The best example I’ve seen in recent years is the ice bucket challenge that briefly swept the nation a few years ago. For a brief time, celebrities and ordinary people alike participated in a fun show of solidarity that helped raise money for a worthy cause, namely the treatment of ALS.

It worked too. The ALS Association reported a record $3 million in donations because of this goofy ploy that was fun, easy, and entertaining to join. If it worked with ALS, why not racial injustice?

I’m not saying people should usurp the ice bucket part. I think the ALS folks have already branded that. Instead, protesting racial injustice should involve something different. Maybe it involves hugging someone, popping a balloon, or hitting yourself with a pie. It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to make sense. It just has to be fun, easy to join, and make people feel better about themselves.

Think of it as a way to weaponize the power of virtue signaling, making people feel better about themselves by doing something inane. In this case, there would be some substance behind it. In addition to the inanity, there would be a donation to organizations like the ACLU, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, or The Sentencing Project. It doesn’t have to be much, but if it’s more than zero, it helps.

If Colin Kapernick had taken this route instead of protesting the national anthem, would he be the poster child for all that is wrong with professional athletes not named O.J. Simpson? I don’t know, but it would attract more attention for the right reasons.

It would make his stand against racial injustice matter. It would get people to participate rather than remain numb or indifferent. Now that kneeling for the anthem has just become this never-ending argument about who’s the real patriot, the protest no longer matters. However, I don’t think it’s too late to change that.

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