As June comes to a close, we reach the end of Pride Month, a month devoted to the celebration of the LGBT community. Companies across the U.S. saw this as yet another opportunity to make money through various forms of media, taking part in a campaign to show how virtuous and tolerant they were. All of these attempts served one cause: to increase profits by pandering to groups of people who would easily fall for their obvious and dishonest marketing schemes. Across social media, television, and commercial websites, one could find the same thing again and again: rainbows, same-sex couples sporting the product that was being peddled, and various “pride” slogans. One especially prevalent feature on social media was the company’s logo in rainbow colors, sometimes with an accompanying phrase like, “love is love”. With this marketing came the slew of comments with praise, such as, “Wow, love (company name) thank you!” Just a few years ago, this was far less prevalent, but all it took was one company to deploy a strategy that others would soon follow, those that would trade integrity for dollars. It has given us the same spectacle that has been seen within our politics as well – the circus of virtue.
American politics has become an act in the circus of virtue, this grand spectacle that has pitched its tents on the old grounds of deception for quite some time now. Unfortunately, many Americans have fallen for the circus’s ploys – chiefly, the ploy of virtue signaling, which is the act of attempting to improve or add to one's character by showing how good, tolerant, or accepting they are by jumping onto social bandwagons in hopes of praise or advancement in society. The greatest bout of virtue signaling performed its sad spectacle on the Democratic debate stage with pitiful and cringey attempts at speaking Spanish or saying that biological men deserved access to abortion, the highlight of the evening’s lunacy. The contemporary American political and commercial world has reduced itself to nothing but empty words in order to let their audience hear what they want to hear. No moral backbone, shred of integrity, or ideological cohesiveness could be mustered in front of their lemmings and therefore the need for spectacle and insanity flourished. It is often the elite who put their virtue out on display. They do this not only to boost their profits but to smother the wrongdoings within their company. These are the same people who will preach equality, tolerance, and fairness, but then turn their backs on their nation and ship their operations overseas. They will pay those in their factories very little and offer to them no respect. The use of virtue signaling was the perfect card to pull: keep the skeletons in the closet and crank out another easy dollar, all in a day’s deception.
Those who uttered simple and empty words offered an alternative that was fair and kind. But how fair and how kind really are such words? One such promise – or, rather, temptation - came from Bernie Sanders. He called for a forgiveness of student debt, a promise which would gather the support of those with a college education. Young adults and, most likely, parents would flee to his political camp. The issue is not that access to higher education is a bad thing, but that the disturbing, foolish, and elitist nature of Sanders’s remarks was that he believed those who were able to afford college should have their bills paid by the rest of the country. Those who could never afford to send their children to college would now be footing the bill of those who had that luxury. To his defense came those who stood by his promise, calling the opposition things such as self-centered, greedy, and so on. Is it really self-centered and greedy to see what the true nature of that promise would mean to many poor Americans?
Virtue signaling manifests itself in a variety of different ways, primarily social and political, but now, as we increasingly see, commercial. The commercial and the political boundaries become more and more blurred with the continuation of virtue signaling. Ultimately it is the dollar which stands above and commands all, made possible by the “free” market, the mutation of capitalism which continues to make sick this country and people. When watching debates and politicians, are we really watching a politician, or are we watching a salesman hawk his product?