Virtue Signal or Piety Display? The Search for Cognitive Identity and the Attack on Social Bargaining

The accusation of virtue signaling has become a standard rhetorical device in recent years. There are at least three major problems with this. First, there is not a lot of signaling involved, at least not in the sense that economists and biologists use the concept. Second, there is precious little virtue involved, in the sense that it has usually been understood in moral philosophy. Third, it tends to presume hypocrisy on the part of those allegedly engaged in it, the implication being that people do not believe what they are saying when they are virtue signaling.

When biologists and economists talk of signaling, they mean things that entail real costs, thereby making the signaling effective. The elaborate tattoos of gang members are a classic example: signaling commitment to the gang life. Without the cost, the signal would have little power.

Now, that’s signalling. (Wikipedia commons)

Much of what is labeled virtue signaling involves remarkably little effort or cost. Indeed, it is often about avoiding costs (typically costs from not being seen as properly conforming) rather than incurring them. Talk is, after all, notoriously cheap. Unless there are real costs incurred in undertaking an action, it is better to talk of display than signaling. A lack of incurred cost usually implies a weak signal but can still entail an effective display.

Virtue is usually understood to involve genuine effort, embedded in a continuing pattern of behavior. Much of what is labeled virtue signaling is remarkably easy to do and is often about avoiding incurring the costs of not conforming. Moreover, it is typically much more about adherence to doctrines or public attitudes than behavior. Unless we are talking of persistent patterns of behavior involving genuine effort, it would be better to talk of piety rather than virtue.

In neither case are these hard boundaries. That is not in itself a problem: fuzzy boundaries are a pervasive feature of social categories. The point is not to deny the importance of signaling theory, particularly normative signaling, in explaining much social behavior, but to be more accurate in describing what counts as actual virtue or as serious signaling.

So, if what people are mostly pointing to can be better described as piety display than virtue signaling, how much power does the critique of wrongly imputing disingenuous motives have? Potentially quite a lot, because something can be a piety display without being hypocritical or disingenuous. People may well be showing how much they fit in precisely because they identify with the group they are fitting in with. If that has become central to their sense of self, then their beliefs will adjust to maintain their cognitive identity. They may be piety displaying furiously, yet believe every word they utter. Yes, they are avoiding costs, but they may also genuinely not want to be ejected from the cognitive club they see themselves as members of. This does not rule out hypocrisy, but it is also far from requiring or implying it.

So, if we take the (re-labeled) notion of piety display to presume hypocrisy or disingenuousness, then we will misunderstand what is often going on. But that does not mean that the description itself is misconceived, for people may well be adjusting their beliefs to maintain their cognitive identity. Indeed, the breakdown of such an adjustment is what typically happens when people change their minds. Often, when people, for whatever reason, lose their commitment to their previous cognitive identity they begin to shift their beliefs as a result. Specific facts or events may trigger the change, yet such a change often has consequences for the beliefs people come to adhere to.

The Rhetoric of Slurs

It is worth reflecting on why the notion of virtue signaling has become so salient. Clearly, stigmatization has become a feature of public discourse and particularly of progressive discourse. Consider the ubiquity of the stigmatizing rhetoric which replaces argument with slurs like racist, sexist, misogynist and Islamophobic. To a significant degree, modern education teaches students to slur rather than argue.

If those who disagree with progressive opinions are clearly of such low moral character as to be racist, sexist, Islamophobic etc., the natural implication is that those who denounce such people are of high moral character. The accusation of virtue signaling, of broadcasting one’s positive moral character, follows from this. Yet people are often engaged in what is better described as piety display when they stigmatize others in such ways.

While the scale of this stigmatization might be new, the pattern is not. Argument (to use the term loosely) by stigmatizing has always been a feature of Marxism—consider how the term bourgeois has been used in Marxist rhetoric. As T. Greer points out in his excellent Scholar’s Stage blog:

Marx is not so deterministic as to deny that ideas have an influence on the course of history altogether. However he does seem to maintain that with effort any given set of ideas can be traced back to the material conditions that gave birth to them. Ideas, in the Marxian frame, are not the product of reason, but the instinctive expression of internalized differences in social position. Thus the Marxist’s skeptical disdain for those who appeal to dialogue and reason to resolve disputes. Reason is a vain pursuit in a world where all reasoning is a blind byproduct of interests. In such a world, argument inevitably reduces down to identity.

The Marxian notion that what we believe is dominated by our class interests is as destructive of rational discourse as the Foucauldian notion that what we believe is dominated by power interests or that layers of oppression dominate relations between groups in Western societies. Such notions all lead naturally to argument by slur (using slurs as a substitute for argument) as a dominant rhetorical technique.

The Demand for Cognitive Status

If a cognitive identity is based on adherence to a set of opinions (that is, publicly expressed or endorsed beliefs) that are felt to generate prestige, to justify a collective and internalized sense of approval and admiration towards their adherents, then opinions which contradict those prestige opinions cannot also generate prestige. They must generate negative prestige. If X generates prestige, then Contrary-X must generate negative prestige and so be subject to the opposite of public admiration (within that cognitive milieu), which is stigmatization. Indeed, avoiding such stigmatization can become a powerful reason to engage in affirming the prestige opinions (or, at least, not openly contradicting them).

Thus, a set of prestige opinions—affirming a cognitive identity of collective, and internalized, moral approval and admiration—must generate a set of contrary, stigmatized opinions. Those affirming those opinions, those inside the cognitive club, share in the prestige and sense of approval. We might call this club, Piety Club or Moral Prestige Club. Those who hold contrary opinions are excluded from the prestige and approval. Indeed, they are subject to stigmatization for their opinions. Prestige opinions thereby generate what economists call a club good: in this case, a moralized prestige that is available to all within the club but from which outsiders are excluded. The moralizing increases the prestige value, because basic to morality is the notion of its being normative trumps: of dominating other considerations. This also gives the stigmatizing exclusions greater intensity.

There might be selection pressures in favor of analyses of the world that generate a cognitive identity expressed via prestige opinions, especially if they also help justify the stigmatization of contrary opinions. So, would the evolution of Marxian notions of a world of class interests lead to notions of the social dominance of relations of power and oppression and then to patterns of prestige and stigmatized opinions? Or would different conceptual framings be selected for, as circumstances change, so as to satisfy a pre-existing demand for opinions that grant prestige, a demand that arises for other reasons?

Given that (1) power and oppression analyses are not inherently intellectually richer or more compelling than Marxism and (2) that there has been a dramatic expansion in the adoption of prestige opinions, with a consequent, and intensifying, pattern of cognitive stigmatization, it is much more plausible that the demand for prestige-granting cognitive identity has expanded, with opinions that provide identity boundaries. It is not hard to identify reasons why.

The first is the consequence of the uncoupling of sex from marriage, itself a consequence of women being able to unilaterally control their own fertility, through the Pill and readily available abortion. The dramatic drop in pregnancy risk meant that marriage was no longer the price of sex (or, at least, the price of pregnancy). In the face of such a shift in basic constraints, long established norms rapidly collapsed. This created a situation of normative flux. As is natural in such circumstances, a process of exploration (finding what works) and normative bidding (advocating new norms and expectations) developed. Since the received benchmarks of behavior no longer resonated, naturally the search was on for new ones, creating a demand for new sets of norms and expectations, with associated cognitive identities.

Second, there was a massive expansion in higher education, especially certificating education tied to career prospects. Large numbers of people moved into social milieus very different from those of their parents, in a situation in which people’s status and careers became wrapped up in their cognitive status. This magnified the search for new norms and expectations, especially ones that appealed to people looking to secure and broadcast their cognitive status.

The information technology revolution created massive increases in available information. This added to the problems of cognitive status. How was one to seem informed in the face of such a flood of information? The information flood created an expanding demand to economize on information. We could not function without such economizing—that is why we have habits, routines, prejudices, etc. But the information flood has greatly increased the pressure to do so.

In such a situation of normative flux, visions of the imagined future naturally gain increased power. In particular, politics based on a moralized vision of the future have an inherent advantage that was greatly magnified. For the problem of the past was not only that it now looked so different, but that the past (being sequences of human striving) is inevitably morally messy. Conversely, the imagined future can be as pure as one wants. So, if one wants opinions that provide some guarantee of cognitive status, those based on the politics of the imagined future have a near unbeatable cachet. Especially as it is easy to confuse moral intensity with moral superiority, and even use the former as a marker of the latter.

The perennial appeal of socialism feeds on the information-economizing purity advantage of the imagined future. Rarely precisely defined, socialism becomes a righteous catch-all for the aspiration to attain some profoundly better society, without grappling with practical difficulties or past failures along the path.

Prestige Opinions

Normative flux, a dramatic expansion in certificating higher education and the information flood came together to generate a widespread wish for a cognitive identity that provided clear guidelines as to what to think and how to speak, and for a status-guaranteeing discourse of informed moral certainty. The politics of the imagined future had a profound advantage in providing such a cognitive identity. Hence the evolution of a set of prestige opinions held by the club of the morally informed, with the concomitant stigmatized moral opinions held by the cognitively unworthy—the wicked and the ignorant. Who might even be deplorable.

Adhering to this cognitive identity means one becomes a member of the solution people: the people who understand what the proper direction of events are, how to get there and what—and who—blocks the way. Failing to adhere makes one a member of the problem people, the people who are willfully blocking the radiant future. Not only does this provide a cognitive identity, it also offers a powerful sense of cognitive entitlement, of moralized cognitive superiority.

One salient contemporary example unites these patterns. We have people who have never undertaken any serious study of Islam, yet who just know the correct opinions to have on matters Muslim. This brings moralized status, cognitive identity and economizing on information together into a single package.

What is particularly insidious about the moralizing of prestige opinions is that it encourages active hostility to any raising of awkward facts or questions, as they undermine the value of the prestige opinions. Indeed, merely raising such facts or asking such questions tends to put one outside the moral club, outside those who have a shared interest in maintaining the status value of prestige opinions. Hence, the prestige and stigmatization pattern generates the categories of not only wrongthought, but wrongfacts, wrongquestions and wrongconcerns.

For instance, in Britain it is considered OK to implicitly slander Sikhs, Buddhists and Hindus by talking of Asian grooming gangs, ignoring their overwhelmingly Muslim membership. In Sydney, it is OK to implicitly slander Maronites by talking of Lebanese gangs, avoiding mention of the gangs’ specifically Muslim membership. But to talk of African—rather than Sudanese—gangs in Melbourne is considered outrageous. Embracing these blatantly contradictory label taboos establishes one’s membership in the progressive club. Questioning such taboos imperils one’s membership, which helps generate opinion conformity—as former British Labour spokesperson Sarah Champion found out when she had to resign her position in the Shadow Cabinet after referring to the rape gangs that have afflicted a string of English towns and cities as Pakistani (which—while not quite right—was more accurate than the Asian labeling).

The demand to ignore awkward facts and blatant inconsistencies is not, however, a weakness but a strength. It defines and maintains cognitive identity, providing a powerful mechanism that separates moral club members from outsiders, a mechanism remarkably similar to the over-the-top, self-abasing flattery common in personality cults, which signals loyalty in situations in which overt loyalty is compulsory. People embrace self-contradiction—or even deliberate unknowing—while affirming their cognitive status as informed and moral. If done intensively enough, this may turn piety display into a signal. Either way, it provides a sorting mechanism, as well as affirming a shared cognitive identity.

Perhaps the most striking result of this dynamic has been to re-conceive racism as a racist concept, to hold racism to be the most grievous of sins, yet one that can only be committed by people with a specific skin tone—a pattern most strikingly obvious in the Sarah Jeong affair, discussed in this magazine here. Language that would be reviled as racist if used against folk without pale skin was justified as a form of performative activism, in which intent should be differentiated by skin color. This idea is based on a reductionist, but greatly information-economizing, notion of social power in which a poorly educated factory worker is assumed to socially dominate a highly educated New York Times editor if the former is male and white and the latter is female and Asian. Racism isn’t racism if the good people do it, if it is a marker of club membership. Thus we have, as geographer Mark Maslin puts it in a different, but related, context, “the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

The nature of these patterns of what we might call prestige progressivism is demonstrated by the use of the label of hate speech. It’s a concept Stalinist in its origins, in its war on human nature, and its inherent lack of principled definition, tailor-made for self-serving political activism. Those who are most ardent in their denunciation of hate speech are typically also the most frequent practitioners of the politics of stigmatization, hatred and contempt. Indeed, the accusation of hate speech is itself a part of such politics, as it implies that anyone who seriously disagrees is hateful. The status and exclusion pattern is very clear: the category of hate speech has tended to expand, yet it rarely extends to progressive, in-club speech, no matter how stigmatizing.

A common commitment to a cognitive identity based on shared status expressed through prestige opinions is also sufficient to, over time, dominate institutions. All it takes to achieve such institutional domination is herd behavior plus cognitive intolerance (excluding or ejecting people who adhere to, or publicly express, contrary opinions). The prestige from opinions that provide a shared club-good spurs the herd behavior, and the concomitant stigmatization of contrary opinions serves to create and preserve the prestige of the shared opinions.

A conformist “long march through the institutions,” in activist Rudi Dutschke’s phrase, can therefore happen without any central coordination. No organizing conspiracies are required. Or even specific doctrines: it is entirely possible for the prestige opinions to be a moveable feast, though clearly some ways of thinking are more naturally helpful to the pattern than others. Areas in which employment has grown dramatically (university administrations, corporate HR departments, advocacy NGOs, education bureaucracies generally, new areas of academic study) can be expected to be particularly susceptible to this pattern.

An analysis of patterns of political donations by the consultancy Crowdpac shows what convergent political outliers the cultural production and distribution industries have become.

Professions in the US grouped by industry, ranked by their pattern of political donations.

Source: Business Insider, Nov. 4, 2014.

One natural result of conforming to prestige opinions over inconvenient facts is the increased generation of bullshit, as per philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s definition: statements made for rhetorical effect without regard to their truth. In particular, misrepresentation of opinions that threaten prestige opinions have become rife, as so many people in key institutions have a common interest in protecting the prestige value of those opinions and in blocking or discrediting criticism.

Nor is it surprising that overt rage against racism has grown while the incidence of racism itself has dramatically fallen. Witch hunts are not outbreaks of deviance, they are outbreaks of enforcement. Crying racism has increasingly become an intellectually lazy and self-righteous way of proclaiming your moral club membership. Enforcing club membership norms is particularly attractive to those who are nervous about their own membership status. Performative outrage can be a self-defense device.

Research indicates that people who are not true believers, but are socially or institutionally adjacent to nodes of true believers, and fear the effects of contravening their norms, are likely to adopt the protective strategy of norm enforcement, thus generating conformity cascades. Academic grievance studies departments provide obvious nodes of true believers and form center points of such cascades in academe and in the organizations that grievance studies graduates later enter. This helps explain why theories propagated by grievance study departments are such an obvious factor in the prestige opinions of contemporary progressivism.

Education expands our ability to understand the world. Indoctrination offers go-to answers rather than open enquiry. (In the language of philosophy, indoctrination provides epistemic closure.) A situation of normative flux, with tsunamis of information and consequent pressures to economize on information, increases the wish for the ease indoctrination provides. Grievance studies provide such ease.

We must, however, be careful not to overstate the role of academics. Research indicates that strong engagement with academics by students actually has a moderating effect on student opinions. It is intense involvement in student life, an area in which the role of university administrations is strongest, which has the most powerful conformity effects. University administrations are much more ideologically conformist than academe in general. Many of the on-campus pathologies that have attracted so much attention are centered in university administrations, rather than symptomatic of academia in general.

To deride the notion that socially liberal and diverse campuses need diversity units is to miss the point. If the object is to protect the status that comes from prestige opinions, then universities are the place where loyalty oaths, anti-heresy speech codes and in-house diversity inquisitors and commissars are most useful. Just as Christians took over the Roman Empire in the third and fourth centuries via the vastly increased bureaucracy of the Dominate, waging war against the pervasive demonic sins of paganism, so networked prestige progressivism is doing much the same in our increasingly bureaucratized societies, hunting down allegedly pervasive sins against diversity.

A recent report dividing the US into seven political tribes found progressive activists to be the whitest group, with the highest average income, level of education and opinion conformity. They were also the only group in US society not generally hostile to political correctness; which they use to establish moral prestige club membership and to exclude outsiders from their institutional and social milieus. It is their prime social dominance mechanism.

While prestige progressivism is far from the only manifestation of the search for new cognitive identities based on in-club prestige opinions, it is by far the most important, due to its now institutionalized dominance of the cultural commanding heights.

The Attack on Public Reason

The elevation of a (shifting) set of opinions as granting moral prestige, based on economizing on information (thus creating sets of facts that must be ignored, avoided or denied as part of such moralized economizing), with a concomitant stigmatizing of contrary opinions, is obviously not good for the health of public debate. Opinions that become wrapped up in people’s sense of their cognitive identity and status, which thereby require the stigmatizing of dissent, are toxic to freedom of thought and speech if, as is increasingly the case, such status commitments become increasingly dominant in key institutions. Nor will science be immune, given that anything which undermines prestige opinions must be rejected in order to protect the moralized prestige and cognitive identity that adhering to such opinions generates.

If one’s sense of cognitive identity becomes wrapped up in the holding of prestige opinions, then the use of public reason, facts and logic to seek to explain and persuade in any way that implies that such opinions are contestable must be resisted in an act of cognitive self-defense. Social media provides an excellent mechanism for stigmatizing pile-ones to protect prestige opinions, and thus cognitive identity and status. This pattern of group prestige leads to social dominance behavior.

What gives Twitter mobs power is not only that we are primed to care about social reputation, but that such mobs activate and seek to enforce the line separating moral prestige club members from those excluded. This is particularly powerful if, say, you are a young adult author and librarians (or anyone not spending their own money for personal enjoyment) are key buyers of your genre.

The appeal of club membership creates a danger for members, as enforcing moral superiority via exclusion tends to generate upward purity bids, in order to maintain exclusivity and a sense of moral superiority. Hence those who embrace the cognitive identity may still find themselves targeted object lessons. Any surprise that the process turns on its own is misplaced, as so much of the exercise is about setting and policing moralized status boundaries. Pressure to maintain moral exclusion by intensifying the markers of membership trumps any identification with the cognitive identity by the person targeted as an object lesson. Apologies by those so targeted generally just fuel the sense of being engaged in justified exclusion, thereby giving further energy to a winning social dominance tactic.

These patterns are deeply undermining to democracy. Democracy is not merely a matter of voting. The vote is simply a way of giving people effective social levers. If democracy is to mean anything, it must involve an ongoing pattern of broad social bargaining. But, if a whole range of opinions are stigmatized to preserve the cognitive identity of those dominating key institutions, the process of social bargaining will inevitably be undermined. If those holding contrary opinions are evil and stupid, then clearly one must not bargain with the evil and stupid.

The more intense and systematic the stigmatization, the wider the range of concerns—and people—excluded from the arena of legitimate social bargaining. All the voting in the world will not matter if more and more voters find more and more of their concerns ruled out of the realm of the legitimate by those dominating the culture. A widening ambit of angry and resentful voters will be thereby created.

The use of prestige opinions is a status game. Implicit or explicit denigration of those lacking status is a natural result. This can generate increasingly intense purity spirals. But it also naturally leads to a tendency for the slurs to inflate, for the development of ever wider notions of racism, sexism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, etc. Both the list of categories of transgression and the ambit of individual categories tend to expand: for example, opposition to open borders becomes racist and the legal term illegal alien becomes hate speech. Media based on generating and harvesting moral outrage is a natural, but also an intensifying, development.

As social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has noted, morality binds and blinds. If one’s cognitive identity is of being one of the solution people, nothing is ever the fault of you and yours (except possibly not going far enough). If fellow citizens are acting up, that just cements their status as problem people. The pattern is toxic, but the costs are general, diffuse and largely borne by those outside the moral prestige club, outside prestige progressivism. The benefits are personal, shared and self-blinding. Given that the underlying drivers of the demand for prestige opinions that generate and protect status-asserting cognitive identity are not likely to go away soon, the prognosis for the health of freedom of thought, science, public debate and democracy in Western societies, or for the competent functioning of institutions, is not good.

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117 comments

  1. Author still has not corrected academic credentials on this article, even though he knows they are incorrect. Is happy to continue ‘academic signalling’ to the readers of Areo.

    Author has also not addressed very relevant points on:

    1. The unrepresentative nature of twitter and how that devalues the very premise of the article.
    2. How virtue signalling of libertarians gets ignored. The virtues include:
    a) demonstrative ability to perform fair, objective reasoning; b) the morality of free-speech; c) the ultimate justice of libertarianism.
    This is relevant, but not even a whiff of a rebuffal. I assume this means you do not have an explanation and you admit neo-libertarians are some of the most guilty virtue signallers around.

    The credibility of this author is shot.

  2. “The ANU thinks its Graduate Diploma in Economics is a degree. https://programsandcourses.anu.edu.au/program/DECON
    The University of Sydney apparently does not regard a graduate diploma as a degree. http://sydney.edu.au/policies/showdoc.aspx?recnum=PDOC2011/77&RendNum=0
    So, my usage was more colloquial/ambiguous than I realised.”

    Author has still not corrected his academic credentials on this site.

    From what I can tell, he has two degrees, not four.

    1. Lorenzo, I’d recommend you correct the summary of yourself on Areo – easy enough to request from the administrator if you’re unable to do it yourself. I’ll be checking every day whether you’re continuing to allow your incorrect academic signalling to remain.

      Something along the lines of the following should do it:
      “Michael “Lorenzo” Warby has a degree in history and philosophy and further graduate diplomas in education and economics and has worked in public policy areas of the Australian Public Service. He is director of a business that puts on medieval and ancient days for schools.”

      Really is that simple.

      1. (1) As a guest, I don’t have access after posting. (2) I requested the changed days ago, and haven’t received a response. (3) A double honours degree is a degree in both those subjects. (4) At no stage did I lie, I just didn’t realise that my unreflective use of the term ‘degree’ was not as accurate as I had always assumed.

        1. Finally some progress.

          Now, if you can take some time out from grooming young men to be racist misogynists, maybe you can address my relevant points below.

  3. I’m going to send you an invoice for all my advice (the therapeutic stuff is free):

    1. Twitter is not representative (the article uses twitter mobs as a reason to be concerned).

    Twitter mobs weren’t cited as a representative sample of a population for the purposes of drawing inferences about that population. Twitter mobs were cited as one prominent example the phenomenon.

    From a scientific standpoint, the author doesn’t even need a sample because he’s pointing to public behaviour that’s widespread. The right counterargument here—what you’re supposed to be doing—is to show that the behaviour is not as widespread as it appears, that its effects are insignificant, and that it has no value for the participants. That’s a tall order, so I’m not surprised you offered nothing in this vein.

    What’s worse for you is that Twitter can be used as a sample to support the author’s case and to undercut yours. You said below that Twitter users do not represent the general population. That’s true. Twitter users come disproportionately from the exact same class of people—discussed in the Hidden Tribes research cited by the author—whom the author claims are vying for status in the prestige club with piety displays. So you shot yourself in the foot: Twitter users do represent the subpopulation of people who engage in piety displays.

    2. You are all signalling your virtues but seem to ignore this (the whole article is about virtue signalling).

    Well, I had dedicated my life virtue-signaling until I read this article. Now I realize the folly of my ways—thanks, Mr. Warby!

    Of course, I wasn’t virtue-signaling in the comments here because I realize I’m anonymous, and I won’t accrue any social brownie points for displays of piety. Since almost everyone else who commented is anonymous too, they’re in the same boat: Signaling needs a source to receive the benefit. So much for your virtue-signaling accusation. As for your behaviour, we’ll get that in a moment.

    3. The wild statement about socialism ignoring its challenges (not true, much discussion on the left).

    No reference cited and no explanation of why it should matter. You’re appealing to your own authority. As impressive as unsupported assertions written in all-caps are, I’m sticking with my own assessment of that point. I expect others will too.

    4. The author lied about their qualifications and (as yet) has not corrected them on this site, even though he now acknowledges it is not the case he has four degrees.

    And you just lied about the author! There’s only one of him, and yet used “their” to refer to him, unscrupulously implying multiple authorship! If I had as much time on my hands as you have on yours, I might follow your lead in posting 30 more comments demanding an apology. This is serious stuff, after all!

    How many are called degrees, how many diplomas, how many diploma-degrees and degree-diplomas comes down to the whims of institutional credentialing. More important, it’s irrelevant to the argument. The author could’ve claimed to be a dancing bear trainer. In fact, I encourage him to use that in his bio next time because his analysis stands on its own.

    …your credibility in these discussions is shot

    Oh no! Not my precious credibility! Given your willingness to insult people, you must recognize the psychological advantage of being anonymous: You can talk like Chuck Norris without ever having to act like him. Yet you still suffer under the impression that credibility counts for anything in anonymous comments. It’s evident in your aping of the rhetorical style of TV pundits, declaring this and that false and stupid. On TV it can work: tailored suits, flashy credentials, and the platform confer (often unjustifiably) authority on the pundit. In a comments section, anonymous commenters have none of the authoritative backdrop conferred by the medium. No one’s persuaded by the pronouncements of some nobody pretending to speak ex cathedra—you just look deluded fool.

    If you want to persuade anyone worth persuading (i.e., anyone other than yourself), you need to stick to making arguments and offering evidence. If not, someone who does might well use you as fodder—like I’m doing to you now. Undecideds will look at this comment section and conclude along with commenter Take a Moment to Reflect (below) that you’re “a textbook example of what the articles is talking about.” And on this point I disagree with Warby. Areo should leave your comments up because it makes his case and shows everyone why venues like Areo are needed nowadays.

    One last bit. You think asserting that I’m a teenager and a Youtuber will get a rise out of me and turn people off. I have no problem saying I’m a 12-year-old who dropped out in Grade 4 and my one Youtube video was a failure, because nothing I said depends on me being anyone of consequence. But confess that I wish you were a full professor so I could cite this cringe-inducing thread as an example of the declining academy.

    1. Yawn. You already proved yourself to get confused with philosophy so gave up listening to you a long time ago. Are you a teenager or man-child?

      Anyway…

      1. If the twitter mob represents a very tiny minority of overall population, the level of concern should reflect this. Any mention of the dangers to the future of rational discourse would discount the fact the mob are a tiny fraction of population.

      2. You are not posting anonymously, thus virtue singalling.

      3. Assumptions about society should be supported with empirical evidence. No such evidence is present here.

      4. He definitely lied. He admits he doesn’t have four degrees. He was attempting to signal academic authority.

      5. You are a moron.

      1. On my ‘anonymous’ comment, you will no doubt reference my previous posts implying you are actually posting anonymously as some form of hypocrisy.

        But I’m realising that, as you use your moniker on here, you are happy to virtue signal on Areo to maintain some kind of anonymous reputation.

        And for someone who doesn’t care about my insults, you seem to be rather frustrated. Are you a snowflake?

    2. “There’s only one of him, and yet used “their” to refer to him, unscrupulously implying multiple authorship!”

      A bit of schooling on the English language from the Oxford English dictionary:


      their

      POSSESSIVE DETERMINER
      1. Belonging to or associated with the people or things previously mentioned or easily identified.
      e.g. ‘parents keen to help their children’

      1.1 Belonging to or associated with a person of unspecified sex.
      e.g. ‘she heard someone blow their nose loudly’

      I would give up now. It’s really getting embarrassing.

      Every time you post, you dig yourself deeper into your hole of stupidity.

    3. “From a scientific standpoint, the author doesn’t even need a sample because he’s pointing to public behaviour that’s widespread. The right counterargument here—what you’re supposed to be doing—is to show that the behaviour is not as widespread as it appears, that its effects are insignificant, and that it has no value for the participants. That’s a tall order, so I’m not surprised you offered nothing in this vein.”

      This is a ridiculous suggestion, and once again a demonstration that you do not understand logical discourse. It is equivalent to a religious person asking me to disprove the existence of God. No, as it was Lorenzo who made the wild statement in the first place, it is the responsibility of the originator of the assertion to prove the truth of the it (i.e. the premise on which the entire article is based), not my responsibility to disprove it. Representative sampling and empirical data is needed to determine just how “widespread” the issue is. None is provided.

    4. “No reference cited and no explanation of why it should matter.”

      Sorry, I thought you were reading my previous comments. (It’s easy to know it’s me because I’m the only dissenting voice on here). Here is my full previous comment for future reference:


      “Rarely precisely defined, socialism becomes a righteous catch-all for the aspiration to attain some profoundly better society, without grappling with practical difficulties or past failures along the path.”

      These are the kind of wild statements regularly thrown around but have no basis in actual reality.

      On the left there is much debate about how to practically incorporate socialist values into a market economy. In Europe, we call it Social Democracy. Advocates of full-on socialism (state-run enterprise) are few and far between. That you appear not to be aware of this is a testament to your lack of research on the subject, else a purposeful omission of contradictory information. Maybe you should avoid Twitter as your source of public opinion and broaden your reading list beyond self justifying free-market/libertarian websites.

    5. And another thing to consider:

      “Of course, I wasn’t virtue-signaling in the comments here because I realize I’m anonymous, and I won’t accrue any social brownie points for displays of piety. Since almost everyone else who commented is anonymous too, they’re in the same boat”

      In previous encounters, you have complained about my anonymity, but now (you think) it suits your argument (it doesn’t, as you are using a consistent moniker on a platform where your virtue will be rewarded with likes), you are happy to consider yourself as anonymous.

      Again, proof of your confusion – moving the goalposts. If I may quote the famous X. Citoyen: “you just look deluded fool”.

  4. Mr. Warby:

    I’ll join X. Citoyen in his observation that a list of academic credentials – a life reduced to a single short sentence – is unnecessary for an essay of this kind.

    One’s essay is either good enough for publication or it is not, in the opinion of one’s editor. And if academic credentials matter to anyone, it is only to him.

    1. You’re making a big assumption that there are editorial standards at Areo! Are there?

      As I reiterated earlier (repeatedly) – it is not the qualifications themselves, rather that he lied about them.

      FOR AN ARTICLE THAT DECRIES THE SIGNALLING OF VIRTUES, IRONIC THE AUTHOR CHOOSES TO SIGNAL HE HAS ACADEMIC QUALIFICATIONS WHICH HE DOESN’T POSSESS.

      I thought I’d put it in capitals as you’re all so slow on the uptake.

      Still no response from author or commenters on:

      1. Twitter is not representative (the article uses twitter mobs as a reason to be concerned)
      2. You are all signalling your virtues but seem to ignore this (the whole article is about virtue signalling).
      3. The wild statement about socialism ignoring its challenges (not true, much discussion on the left). Need empirical evidence to show there is no discussion on the left to define how it should work in the 21st century. Far from it, there is lots of discussion in my experience, but it is the responsibility of author to address this wild assumption with evidence. Has yet to do so.

    2. “I’ll join X. Citoyen in his observation that a list of academic credentials – a life reduced to a single short sentence – is unnecessary for an essay of this kind.”

      Then why did the author bother to pretend he has four degrees? It seems at best he has two. A joint honours degree and the diploma from ANU.

      Lorenzo, is that correct? And when will you update your profile on this article? If you’re not able to do it yourself, I’m sure the administrator of the site could do it for you?

      (Based on his writing, I suspect X. Citoyen is in his teens. If not, he is certainly some kind of man-child).

      1. Thanks for the eventual reply.

        Ok, so how many degrees do you have? It certainly doesn’t appear to be four.

        My only request is you update your profile on this site to be accurate (and not colloquial). The fact you didn’t know the difference between your own qualifications is concerning.

      2. Mr. Warby,

        Credentials only matter when you’re appealing to authority (e.g., a medical doctor doesn’t have to explain a diagnosis to offer one). You’re not appealing to authority; you’re making an argument, which stands or falls on its merits. The troll’s throwing rancid spaghetti at the wall to see what’ll drag you into a fight—a common tactic when one doesn’t have a counterargument. Don’t get sucked into it because you’re unintentionally giving credence to something that’s completely irrelevant to your case.

        1. LOL. Keep defending the lie. He lied. Just acknowledge your guy lied. He’s still lying on his profile, he even admits this. I never suggested that having or not having a degree itself was the issue, rather that the author chose to lie about it – when he chose not to lie on his linked in profile.

          Why would he do this? Why would the author boost his qualifications on an article where he uses lots of clever words, but not on his LinkedIn profile where an actual employer might ask about the four degrees he doesn’t have.

          I have repeatedly said this. Feel free not to feed the troll but it doesn’t change the dishonesty of the author. Author still has not corrected the article.

        2. This is not rancid spaghetti:

          1. Twitter is not representative (the article uses twitter mobs as a reason to be concerned).
          2. You are all signalling your virtues but seem to ignore this (the whole article is about virtue signalling).
          3. The wild statement about socialism ignoring its challenges (not true, much discussion on the left).
          4. The author lied about their qualifications and (as yet) has not corrected them on this site, even though he now acknowledges it is not the case he has four degrees.

          All of the above are specific to this article. What is missing are any kind of decent responses. Feel free not to feed the troll, but for all of the complaints, none of the above relevant points of mine have been addressed specifically on this comments thread.

          As for you specifically, X. Citoyen, you’ve already proven yourself to be confused by philosophical concepts so your credibility in these discussions is shot.

      1. This site has a reply option that helps track conversations. I don’t think my anonymity is the issue here. It’s all the cod philosophy and your readers’ inability to construct decent arguments. They want to believe they are clever because they understood all your clever words.

        But your article can be summed up as:

        “Virtue is usually understood to involve genuine effort, embedded in a continuing pattern of behavior. Much of what is labeled virtue signaling is remarkably easy to do and is often about avoiding incurring the costs of not conforming. Moreover, it is typically much more about adherence to doctrines or public attitudes than behavior. Unless we are talking of persistent patterns of behavior involving genuine effort, it would be better to talk of piety rather than virtue.”

        Plus a load of waffle. All those references are irrelevant – the above is all you had to say. The rest is using other people’s opinions to try and shoehorn an actual explanation of the above which is how you dig yourself into the unrepresentative sampling and societal assumptions. It’s essentially just a one paragraph opinion. It is also bad writing to expect readers to check around three sources every minute of reading. I typically see this when nothing is actually being said or where distraction is intended (such as conspiracy theories).

    1. I was, as was common for my cohort, the first generation of my family to go to university. I did a double Honours (History and Philosophy) and Sydney University and then did a Dip.Ed at the same university. It never occurred to me to think of it as other than a degree. Never had reason to think about it further, so when asked to provide a two sentence biography I just went with what I had thought was the case. Now, I find that my alma mater does not regard a Graduate Diploma as a degree. I feel vaguely cheated: irrational, but there it is.

      1. And the correction? When will this happen? Can we assume the joint degree and the diploma add up to two and not four degrees?

      2. (I also was the first in my family to go to university – it didn’t prevent me from understanding the nature of my qualifications).

        I suggest that without a correction, it continues to stand as a form of ‘academic signalling’.

  5. Mr. Warby:

    I particularly enjoyed this article.

    Please allow me to say that if, hypothetically, you had no university degree at all – if, hypothetically, you dropped out of high school at 16 to avoid repeating a year – your article would still stand well on its internal merits alone.

    Well done.

    1. My complaint was about honesty. Clearly, I couldn’t understand why someone would enhance their qualifications beyond that shown on their LinkedIn profile.

      Please amend your profile on Areo.

  6. Nice article. This unhinged and raving “Anonymous” character seems to have been triggered by a critique of his piety strategy. Wait . . . insults from Anonymous are following!

    1. No, I’ve outlined my points very clearly throughout. None have been addressed, which is fine by me – this is your domain. I thought you guys would rise above the sarcasm, but you flaked out of the debate because you were offended. Sound familiar?

  7. Lorenzo has had some days to respond to my request that he clarify his academic qualifications. He has not yet done so. He is a FRAUD. Why LIE Lorenzo? Scared your views won’t hold up without DISHONEST qualifications?

  8. Liberty is probably a fool’s errand. It puts the individual first, while all the power is in institutions. It accepts that humanity is varied, but society wants conformity, especially now with concepts like diversity, immigration, intersectionality, rights, etc. Rights used to be something you reserved for yourself from control over others; today it means forcing others to provide for you.

  9. Judging by the ad hominem replies, this is a “problem essay” by a “problem person”. A list of cited sources having a libertarian-ish bias isn’t a refutation either, everyone is entitled to their beliefs, the argument made stands separate and those links appear to be merely clarification.

    1. Ad hominem? This is related to the reliability of the LYING author. If academic qualifications are not as important as the subject, why LIE?

    2. It’s a form of ‘Circular discourse’. The author makes assumptions about the state of society. Wild statements like the one I highlighted (and refuted) about socialism. Empirical evidence is needed to support these assertions. Unless you guys are happy to discuss without empirical evidence. Please confirm that is in fact the case to drive the final nail in your own coffins of rational credibility. You just keep proving you are all phony intellectuals, scrabbling to justify their support for this FRAUDULENT author.

  10. “Michael “Lorenzo” Warby has degrees in history, philosophy, education and economics”

    Um, his LinkedIn page seems to show he only has a single BA(Hons) joint degree in History and Philosophy. He does not appear to have a degree in education or economics. He does, however, have a Graduate Diploma in Education and a Graduate diploma in Economics. Are these degrees? Are you misleading readers?

      1. A graduate diploma, while equivalent to a degree in the level of subject matter studied, tends to be shorter in length than a full degree, hence the difference in name (‘degree’ vs ‘graduate diploma’). Specifically, in the case of the Australian Qualifications Framework, the learning levels were designed to allow some fairness when reviewing the level of subject matter between vocational and academic qualifications.

        You should not confuse the equivalence of the level of study with whether the courses are the same. They are not.

        So, one more time:

        How many degrees do you have?

        And, if your diplomas were truly equal in value (they are not – they are just at the equivalent learning level), why do you not state you have four degrees on your LinkedIn page (which would be referenced by an actual employer)?

  11. By any editorial standards for an 18-minute read, there are way too many sources for this article (it makes it difficult for readers to check subsequent sources down all the links). This is a typical sign of lots of links to make an article look well-researched. And the ‘well researched’ comments prove you guys are very bad at processing information.

    Let’s look a bit deeper at the sources though…

    Is this not a fine example of circular, libertarian discourse? Some of the sources are just personal blogs, but the vast majority are right-leaning websites justifying your positions. It is accepted that you need non-partisan sources to prove objective points. Here’s the list, in order of reference:

    adamsmith.org, quillette.com, scholars-stage.blogspot.comatlantic.com, The Atlantic,
    quillette.com, quillette.com, New Yorker, theindependentwhig.com, scholars-stage.blogspot.com, meltingasphalt.com
    brookings.edu, Australian National University (a 1996 essay, not actual research), http://www.libertarianism.org, BBC.com, pmclauth.com
    BBC.com, http://www.mindingthecampus.org, ssrn.com (not inherently peer reviewed), whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com, Areo.com, Hoover.org, Quillette.com, quadrant.org.au, BusinessInsider.com, BusinessInsider.com, www2.csudh.edu (not actual research, just an essay), igpa.uillinois.edu, sociology.yale.edu, Quillette.com, sociology.stanford.edu (selective use of this one. Seems to indicate social media not the problem, yet elsewhere you suggest it is), Quillette.org, libertarianism.org, Areo.com, insidehighered.com, New York Times, Hillsdale College (a libertarian college), mindingthecampus.org, hiddentribes.us, Quillette.com, ResearchGate.com, ribbonfarm.com, Quillette.com, Quillette.com, Guardian.com, Quillette.com, dailysignal.com, Quillette.com, positivepsychologynews.com

    Are open minded philosophers like yourselves happy with the above?

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      1. Good authors use empirical research to back up their societal assumptions. For this, you need peer reviewed research based on representative samples. This is not the ramblings of a corbynista, it’s requesting that the correct level of vigour is applied – like in the sciences. You should support my assertions as rationalists.

      2. The listing by “Anonymous” is not a honest one. First, I never said social media was the problem, I criticised Twitter mobs. Second, going through my list of links shows a much more eclectic range of authors and sources, including to directly pertinent academic studies.

        Adam Smith Institute – criticising a term much in use by conservatives and libertarians.
        Quillette – economist talking about social dynamics.
        Scholars Stage – scholar of China and Chinese history discussing public reasoning.
        The Atlantic – outlining for a broad audience scholarly works on tattoos and signalling.
        Quillette –PhD student talking about signalling and charity.
        Quillette – former left activist talking about his change of heart over Venezuela.
        The New Yorker – openly strongly left professor talking about political converts.
        Independent Whig – quote from social psychologist Jonathan Haidt about use of slurs.
        Scholars Stage – scholar of China and Chinese history discussing public reasoning.
        Melting Asphalt –philosophy and computer science graduate who has co-authored a respected book on social psychology (http://elephantinthebrain.com ) discussing the anthropology of status.
        Wikipedia – article on club goods.
        Brookings – two very well known economists presenting their findings on the effects of The Pill.
        Libertarianism org – former CIA analysist presenting the ideas from his excellent book ( https://www.amazon.com/Revolt-Public-Crisis-Authority-Millennium/dp/1732265143) on information and social dynamics.
        Agenda – article presenting the notion of economising on information and cognitive effort.
        BBC – Newstory on Hillary Clinton’s famous “deplorables” comment.
        Pmclauth – blog post listing those convicted as members of rape gangs in Britain.
        BBC – story on resignation of Labour spokeswoman Sarah Champion.
        Minding the Campus – blog post pointing out striking inconsistences in progressive positions on migration.
        SSRN – analysis by political scientist due to be published in a peer reviewed journal.
        Why Evolution is True – blog post by evolutionary biologist with links to Sarah Jeong affair.
        Areo – article discussing the same issue.
        Amazon—sourcing quote.
        Hoover Institute – piece by Danish law lecturer on the historical origins of the concept of hate speech.
        Quillette –Former senior engineering manager at Facebook talking about free speech and social media.
        Quadrant—Former ALP Left Minister on identity politics.
        Business Insider – article documenting political donation patterns by profession.
        Same again.
        Institute of Government and Public Affairs, Illinois University – report on trends in racial attitudes.
        Sociology Yale – Book sourcing quote.
        Quillette – Writer talking about the internal dynamics of literary circles.
        Sociology Stanford – Paper modelling dynamics of norm conformity.
        Quilette – five academics responding to the “grievance studies” study controversy.
        Libertarianism org – former CIA analysist presenting the ideas from his excellent book ( https://www.amazon.com/Revolt-Public-Crisis-Authority-Millennium/dp/1732265143) on information and social dynamics (again) to source phrase.
        Areo – piece by the protagonists on the “grievance studies” study.
        Inside Higher Ed – piece outlining study about student polarisation.
        New York Times – piece by a politics professor linking to information on political patterns of academic administrators.
        YouTube – clip from Heather Macdonald poking fun at student and campus antics.
        Minding the campus – professor of English writing on diversity statements at universities.
        The Conversation – adjunct prof. of law on university speech codes.
        Google – search for diversity units in universities.
        Amazon – link to book on the dynamics of Christianity supplanting Paganism in the Roman Empire.
        Hidden tribes – think tank report on patterns of political belief about Americans.
        Hidden tribes – link to page on Progressive Activist “tribe”.
        Quillette –Emeritus Professor of Mathematics about the campaign to suppress his paper on the mathematics of distribution of traits among males.
        Research Gate – Paper by Emeritus Professor of sociology on the dynamics of family violence and attempts to deny evidence about the same.
        Ribbonfarm – Essay by philosophy and computer science graduate who has co-authored a respected book on social psychology (http://elephantinthebrain.com ) on dynamics of prestige and social cooperation.
        Quillette – piece by journalist on the online mobbing of a young adult fiction author.
        Quillette – piece by a philosophically inclined economist examining the dynamics of purity spirals
        Guardian – piece by professor of geography arguing opposition to open borders is racist.
        Daily Signal – article by a Heritage Institute staffer on Twitter speech bans.
        Quillette – extract from a book by a journalist and novelist on the hounding of a tech innovator.
        Positive Psychology News – psychologist reviewing a book by psychologist Jonathan Haidt providing easy access to one of Haidt’s key points.

        1. Literally nearly three sources per minute of reading. Your language in the piece is designed to suggest intelligence. It is in fact confused and full of ridiculous words. My suggestion is the majority of your sources are just libertarian opinion, not any kind of solid evidence supporting your societal assertions. If you are then to base an article on other people’s opinions, your readers need to understand how flaky that is.

          Oh, and do you admit that your readers are virtue signallers too, or do your virtues mean it’s not virtue signalling?

        2. Um, Twitter is social media.

          And do you feel Twitter is an accurate reflection of our population? Even though it skews demographically? Do you feel it is a representative sample of society, such that we should be worried?

        3. This is not an eclectic mix, the VAST majority of these links are from libertarian opinion sources.

          The kind of wild statements that need empirical evidence to support them are things like this, in your conclusion:

          “Given that the underlying drivers of the demand for prestige opinions that generate and protect status-asserting cognitive identity are not likely to go away soon…”

          How are you predicting this? Anyone with any knowledge of sociology recognises that the nature of public discourse is always under constant change. Please provide evidence for this assertion.

        4. “First, I never said social media was the problem”

          Sorry, did I misintepret this?

          “Social media provides an excellent mechanism for stigmatizing pile-ones to protect prestige opinions, and thus cognitive identity and status. This pattern of group prestige leads to social dominance behavior.”

          Maybe you should re-read your own article.

          1. And also consider the irony of neo-libertarians agreeing with this assertion, thus protecting their own “cognitive identity and status”.

            1. Now we’re splitting hairs. The twitter mob is the very foundation of your article. The threat is nowhere near as bad as you suggest – in the same way as the teenage misogynist readers of Areo present no real threat to progressivism.

  12. “Rarely precisely defined, socialism becomes a righteous catch-all for the aspiration to attain some profoundly better society, without grappling with practical difficulties or past failures along the path.”

    These are the kind of wild statements regularly thrown around but have no basis in actual reality.

    On the left there is much debate about how to practically incorporate socialist values into a market economy. In Europe, we call it Social Democracy. Advocates of full-on socialism (state-run enterprise) are few and far between. That you appear not to be aware of this is a testament to your lack of research on the subject, else a purposeful omission of contradictory information. Maybe you should avoid Twitter as your source of public opinion and broaden your reading list beyond self justifying free-market/libertarian websites.

    1. Perhaps, but time will tell whether “social democracies” don’t suffer the same fate as full on socialism. The USA pension systems are a mess, especially in government. Public schools are creating more graduates with less ability to score well on standardized tests. Government deficits are now $1 trillion per year, and that after a decade of a strong economy. The post office was shown the door. The military is bloated and kills globally. Newspapers and journalism are waning. We have mass incarceration. We have the most expensive universities and medical services while also funding these massively through the government, losing the entire relationship that free markets (buyers and sellers each doing their best) provided.
      And the EU is falling apart, racism is rising, social services are being reduced, and fear of immigration is strong. We’ll just have to see how long it takes before the “socialism” side finally runs down the “capitalist” money making machine.

      1. “The military is bloated and kills globally. Newspapers and journalism are waning. We have mass incarceration. ”

        What, if anything, do these have to do with socialism?

        Could mass incarceration possibly be a reflection of the marketisation of the prison system for example? Same goes for militarism. Is this not possibly a reflection of the heavy involvement of the privatised military industrial complex?

      2. People in favour of social democracy are welcome to say so. That folk call wildly different societies or social projects “socialist” is exactly the point. After all, reconciling anything with a market economy is precisely what plenty of socialists will tell you they are against. Using capitalism to pay for welfare states, and particularly free and vibrant versions of capitalism, as in Scandinavia, and then calling it “socialism” as if it has something in common with Venezuela or North Korea is poisonous to any intelligent discourse on social options.

  13. (I should point out that as Areo allows one to enter a label as a name, we are all effectively posting anonomously. But, my first post included my email address and Areo have my IP, I’m only anonymous to readers, just like you – I doubt X. Citoyen is your real name?)

  14. Aren’t your complaints about virtue signalling rather ironic as everyone just comes on here to signal and reinforce their deeply thought out, deeply philisophical, deeply rational, free-speech oriented, openly libertarian virtues?

    Look in the mirror fellas. You flake out of debates like snowflakes, you repeatedly signal the above virtues like badges of honour.

    THE IRONY.

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  15. I would love M. “Lorenzo” Warby to write a full book on this. Stringing out an 18 minute read to an entire book should be a breeze for an amateur like Warby and I’m sure it would stand up to editorial scrutiny. Unless it was self published. In which case, the credibility of said publication would be questionable. Good luck with that.

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  16. Using Twitter as a gauge of public opinion is folly. As most of the articles dealing with public discourse on this site regard the twitterarti, tweetstorms etc, you would all do well to read up on statistical analysis and the use of representative sample data. Twitter users tend to skew towards the higher income, urban and formally educated. It is the very definition of a non-representative population sample.

    Not so rational after all, you bunch of phony intellectuals. The fact you think this matters and is good reason for your irrational sensationalism discredits the discourse on Areo.

    1. Before you reply with any quickly-researched Twitter demographics (a big percentage of their users are millenials), important to note that the percentage of Twitter users that are millenials is not as important as what percentage of millenials (and other demographics) use Twitter – the level of demographic engagement is important for correct statistical analysis.

      A simple analogy for your tiny brains:

      Let’s imagine that 80% of Areo readers are bitter misoginysts, rejected by women for being arseholes and use libertarian platforms to vent their hatred of women using flawed cod philosophy.

      It wouldn’t tell us much about the opinions of ALL the sad, rejected men out there that hate women because they couldn’t sustain a loving relationship with any of them (due to being arseholes), but don’t read Areo.

      Get it?

  17. This was an impressively thorough and well-reasoned piece.

    One nitpick: The question of sincerity on part of those who engage in virt… sorry, piety displays, seems to me beside the point. Whether the actor really believes what (s)he is saying, or is merely putting on a show, does not change the nature or purpose of the act. Even the true believers inherently understand that they are not engaging in any act of persuasion or seeking to enact the positive change they preach. More and more it resembles the Exodus story in which the Hebrew slaves mark their doors with lamb’s blood so that the wrathful hand of God will spare them when it comes at night to slay the firstborn of Egypt.

    1. “Even the true believers inherently understand that they are not engaging in any act of persuasion or seeking to enact the positive change they preach”

      Evidence of this please.

    2. “This was an impressively thorough and well-reasoned piece.”

      Hardly. It appears the author has lied about his academic qualifications and used (way too many) links to secondary, supporting information from other libertarian websites. It is essentially fiction written with the same structure as that of a conspiracy theorist.

      How many of the author’s links did you follow and verify?

  18. I came for the reframing and stayed for the thorough explanation.

    As a primer of the “what’s the deal with Social Justice?” sort, I think this is almost as comprehensive as, and rather more readable than, James Lindsay’s (still very good) _Postmodern Religion_ piece.

    1. Thank you. I liked James Lindsay’s essay, but I am wary of getting into “what is a religion?” arguments and was more interested in the underlying patterns that religion also mobilises.

  19. I cannot parse this:

    “The moralizing increases the prestige value, because basic to morality is the notion of its being normative trumps: of dominating other considerations. This also gives the stigmatizing exclusions greater intensity.”

    1. (1) Moral norms are trumps: they override other considerations.
      (2) A status claim differentiates more completely if it mobilises the trumping/override nature of morality.
      (3) Mobilising morality on behalf of the status claim also normatively and emotionally intensifies the status differentiation.

      Hope that helps.

      1. Some things to consider when parsing ‘norms’: We used to live in a siloed world, but now we have internet. Thus we are still defining the etiquette for cross border, cross cultural discourse. This is the battle of ideas you go on about. I am confident some of the more extreme opinions will pull back and we’ll end up with two forms of etiquette – local and global. Global etiquette will be broader and require a bit more self censorship (in the same way as you wouldn’t talk about last night’s sex session with a stranger on a bus). But local etiquette will still exist (and allow for the nuanced discourse you crave). Humans will become better at moving between the two. You need to step outside of your bubble of sensationalism and see the bigger picture. If you’re really as open-minded as you claim (I don’t buy it), you’d understand the swings and roundabouts of etiquette and allow time to play out.

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  20. I agree with the author on almost everything. However, I have used the phrase “Asian grooming gangs” more then once. Not for a moment did I think “Sikhs, Buddhists and Hindus” were involved.

    1. A friend of mine resident in Britain tells me that her Sikh and Ghurka friends get very angry over the “Asian gangs” terminology. Also, it assumes none of the perpetrators are North African or Somali.

    2. I can understand your post.
      I live in a immigrant country.
      Many of my friends are from SE Asia.
      They absolutely resent the way that the perpetrators of these horrific crimes are ‘phrased.’
      The discounting of the religious aspect seriously enrages them.
      I can easily understand their feelings/attitude.

  21. CROWDPAC figure appears to have an error, “Hedge Funds and Private Capital” should be 0.5L (based on its location)

    1. No. You should’ve read the whole piece here, there, or both. The grandstanding article only talks about grandstanding and its effect on public discourse. Grandstanding has been around forever. It’s been amplified by antisocial media, which also expands opportunities for it, but there’s nothing new in that piece. This one covers the whole radical progressive phenomenon.

      1. “This one covers the whole radical progressive phenomenon.”

        In an 18 minute read? Lots of words. Could be edited down to a 10 minute read easily. So, in 10 minutes, it’s possible to cover the whole radical progressive phenomenon?

        This is clearly an unconscious display of your naivety. It is not possible to cover the whole of ANY subject in such a short, poorly written piece.

        But what about all those words, it was so verbose, it must be important, what about all those clever words!?

        Yawn.

    2. Ted, thanks for the reference. If I had been aware of that fine essay on moral grandstanding, I would certainly have referred to it. However, I was more interested in the social and institutional dynamics, which Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke’s very clear philosophical analysis does not cover.

      1. From what I could tell, Tosi and Warmke’s essay also fails to acknowledge the equivalent moral grandstanding on the right.

        Their examples of moral grandstanding, such as:

        “an impressive commitment to justice, a highly tuned moral sensibility, or unparalleled powers of empathy.”

        Miss the following types of common (ironic) moral grandstanding on platforms such as Areo or Quillette.

        These include: demonstrative ability to perform fair, objective reasoning; the morality of free-speech; the ultimate justice of libertarianism.

        Another example of a lame libertarian essay being used in circular discourse. You still have not addressed the libertarian irony of your own virtue signalling and above moral grandstanding.

  22. This has the ring of consilient (all the way down to evolutionary psychology) truth. I second the motion for an expansion to book length.

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  23. A very fine essay. Ok, piety display is better than virtue signal, but I suspect that the latter is now entrenched.

    5
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    1. Ray Andrews has the logical processing abilities of an 8 year old child. His support for your article is worthless.

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        1. Because I am able to conduct respectful, loving relationships with women with very little effort, my seeking to seem more attractive to a load of men on this site is not my top priority. It’s actually to reflect your own hypocrisy back on you. No-one has responded on the ironic virtue signalling of neo-libertarians. Too busy dealing with your cognitive dissonance?

  24. This is the most comprehensive phenomenology (or sociology, if you prefer) of the new progressive movement I have read. I may make a longer comment later, but I have to say that this is (a few reservations notwithstanding) the single most important contribution to the intellectual dark web so far. You need a publisher to turn this into a book.

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      1. yeah, so what are you? spamming this comments section anonymously desperate for anyone to reply to you. and no one has until right this moment.

        was it everything you hoped it would be?

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        1. Not looking for replies, but I will keep commenting. My points stand. Twitter is not representative. You are all irrational. You are all flaky virtue signallers.

          1. (I should point out that as Areo allows one to enter a label as a name, we are all effectively posting anonomously. But, my first post included my email address and Areo have my IP, I’m only anonymous to readers, just like you – I doubt X. Citoyen is your real name?)

              1. I’m here to show you all that ironically you exhibit the same traits that you complain about in your opponents:

                1. Quickly offended.

                2. Poorly researched.

                3. Virtue signalling. Because your areas of debate are so narrow (literally 90% of articles are about the danger of identity politics on discourse), the virtue signalling from libertarians is actually way more intense than snowflakes. They have lots of granularity. You’re all just signalling the same thing. Again and again. Just because you SAY you’re rational, doesn’t mean you are.

                4. Not rational.

                1. You seem like a textbook example of what the article is talking about: smearing those who have the ‘wrong’ opinion. Literally every post you’ve made has been an irrelevant ad hominem to simply bat away views you don’t like without having to engage with them or even honestly represent them.

                  1. Actually, I have raised interesting points about your own virtue signalling, representative samples, the authors fraudulent credentials (this is not ad hominem, rather the same as questioning the reliability of a witness in court). I accompanied these points with sarcastic insults so you were distracted by the insults, ignoring my points and thus failing to defend your position adequately.

                    You’re all so predictable.

                    MY WORK HERE IS DONE.

                    1. Refering to your own points as “interesting”…
                      Your characterisation of what you believe you have been doing in your posts is also quite insightful. I wonder what you are really like.

                      1. They are interesting in that they touch on the article itself. I keep being accused of missing the point. But it is you that are all missing my points. I will reiterate:

                        1. Twitter is not representative (the article uses twitter mobs as a reason to be concerned)
                        2. You are all signalling your virtues but seem to ignore this (the whole article is about virtue signalling).
                        3. The wild statement about socialism ignoring its challenges (not true, much discussion on the left).
                        4. The author lied about their qualifications and (as yet) has not corrected them on this site, even though he now acknowledges it is not the case he has four degrees.

                        All of the above are specific to this article. What is missing are any kind of decent responses.

                        Refuse to respond if you like, but any readers that come to this article later will lose your point of view…

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