Buzz Lightyear and Woody from Toy Story | Virtue signalling virtue signalling everywhere

Virtue Signalling

Updated Jun 11, 2020 at 08:24AM EDT by andcallmeshirley.

Added Apr 28, 2016 at 01:51PM EDT by Don.

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Virtue Signalling refers to the public expression of an opinion on a given topic primarily for the purpose of displaying one’s moral superiority before a large audience to solicit their approval. Online, the practice is often associated with various platitudes shared on social media that proclaim one's political affiliation or stance on a variety of hot-button issues related to social justice; it has been criticized by some as a shallow attempt at improving social status within a particular group.


On April 18th, 2015, the British conservative news site The Spectator[1] published an article by writer James Bartholomew titled "The awful rise of 'virtue signalling'", which mocked the practice of posting political opinions on social media for the purpose of "indicating that you are kind, decent and virtuous."


Within evolutionary anthropology, signalling theory[6] has been used as a framework to explain various forms of communication between humans, including public displays of commitment to solidify membership within a particular group. In the context of religious groups, anthropologist William Irons argued that the use of "ostentatious" signals of commitment improved trust and cohesion within communities, which he used to provide a possible adaptive explanation for various religious rituals and beliefs.

The similar pejorative karma whore, used as early as January 2000, is often employed in online communities to accuse others of attempting to raise their social standing by pandering to the stereotypical prejudices or trends that are widely accepted by its members.


On July 21st, 2015, Something Awful user Al Cowens used the phrase "virtue signalling" in a thread about a tuba player walking behind a KKK march (shown below).

Al Cowens Virtue signaling at its most pedestrian. Aug 11, 2004 Someone loves me enough to give me a custom title but I'll have it for less than a week until I get banned again | # | | (20 Jul 21, 201 5 08:42 Profile Post History Rap Sheet

On November 5th, 2015, Bartholomew released a short film about virtue signalling, which criticized the practice as a dishonest form of slacktivism (shown below, left). On November 15th, evolutionary behavioral scientist Gad Saad released a podcast describing "hashtag activism" and "flag displays" as examples of virtue signalling, specifically in the context of social media posts following the 2015 Paris Terrorist Attacks (shown below, right).

On December 24th, the Boston Globe[4] published an article titled "Virtue signalling and other inane platitudes," which mistakenly cited Al Cowens' Something Awful post as the earliest use of the term based on an incorrect reporting from the online database Word Spy.[3] On January 4th, 2016, the pop culture blog Acculturated[5] published an article titled "Are You Guilty of 'Virtue-Signaling'?" The same day, Urban Dictionary user Jizz in butt submitted an entry for "virtue signalling," defining it as "saying you love or hate something to show off what a virtuous person you are" (shown below). On January 20th, The Guardian[2] published an op-ed piece titled "'Virtue-signalling' – the putdown that has passed is sell-by date," which argued that the term was being overused in order to win political arguments.

virtue signalling Saying you love or hate something to show off what a virtuous person you are, instead of actually trying to fix the problem Jane: "Wow! I hate Fox News! They're so evil and they hate women!" John: "Why don't you actually do something instead of just virtue signalling about it? Jane: "OMG that would be WAAAAAAY too much work" goes back to shitposting on twitter by Jizz in butt January 04, 2016

In February, CGP Grey discussed the phenomenon of virtue signalling during an episode of the "Hello Internet" podcast.[4] On April 10th, The Guardian[3] published an article op-ed article by writer Zoe Williams, who likened "virtue signalling" to the pejorative label "champagne socialist," referring to wealthy people with lifestyles that seem contradictory to their professed socialist political views.

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