Virtue signalling in a general sense refers to any kind of signal, true or false, that someone or something has some good qualities. However, the term is often used more narrowly, in a derogatory sense that refers to someone who signals support for a (politically correct) view in order to gain personally from this, rather than due to having a strong, genuine belief.
The term tend to more rarely be applied to expressing support for politically incorrect views, since expressing support for such views is not seen as a politically correct virtue, tends to be harmful rather than beneficial for the individual expressing such views, and consequently expressing support for such views tends to be due to genuine beliefs.
Typically, the virtue signalling is seen as costing little and having large potential advantages for the signalling individual personally. However, the critics using the term often argue that the signalling may have negative effects for others and/or society in general, such as by contributing to harmful policies being implemented.
Examples of "virtue signalling" may include making a politically correct statement, sending politically corrects tweets, signing politically correct online petitions, or wearing a physical sign expressing support for a politically correct cause. It may also be involved in the Bradley effect, voters telling pollsters that they will vote more politically correct than they then actually do.
A particularly problematic variant is when influential individuals, such as politicians, as a form of virtue signalling support politically correct policies such as mass immigration, which may have a positive effect for the politicians personally, but which may have devastating effects for a society in general.
Virtue signaling one explanation for expressed White guilt by Whites. Such Whites actually feel little or no guilt, but publicly express such views as a form of virtue signaling. In effect, they claim that Whites in general are bad, but that they personally are virtuous exceptions due to their condemning of other Whites.
A purity spiral is a related concept, where views and actions become increasingly extreme, possibly in part because of virtue signalling, when those signalling compete with one another and try to appear as the most virtuous by sending increasingly extreme signals. This may include demands for and actions causing censorship and other forms of repression of those stating less extreme views, causing increasingly "pure" and extreme stated views and actions.
See also The Great Awokening.
- Astroturfing - Another cause of misleading impressions of support for something.
- Politically correct Internet activism organizations - Organizations that often rely on politically correct virtue signalling.
- Social justice warrior
- Telescopic philanthropy