It's not just about Boris Johnson - virtue signaling from all sides is damaging the political discourse

Last week, we were reminded once again that classical-liberal arguments no longer exist in our debates.

It is advisable to either fully agree with delicate positions or to remain calm. If you dare to criticize, pray that the virtue signers are merciful to you.

Surely, former Foreign Minister Boris Johnson did not receive any mercy, whose robust (albeit provocative) defense of the right of a woman to carry a burqa or niqab on the telegraph caused massive backlash from all sides of the debate.

Continue readingThe Conservative Party launches an investigation into Boris Johnson's burqa comments

Not only was his position misrepresented – many claimed that he demanded the exile of the garments, although he actually claimed the opposite – but even those who understood him still questioned his descriptions and some even branded him racist.

We can debate whether his descriptions were rude or not (and from his track record he must have known his wording would cause a stir). But Johnson's real mistake was that he could analyze that subject intellectually and ethically without being targeted as a criminal.

That's not an exaggeration. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner actually had to make a statement clarifying that his comments did not raise the bar for a crime.

The series made me think on two fronts. First, how tragic it is that liberal considerations are met with such contempt.

Whether Johnson's remarks on the burqa or the religious beliefs of former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, public life is increasingly incapable of involving those who are critical of one's behavior at the same time, yet tolerant of others' rights to do so.

It is a sad feature of the current political climate in which outrage has become a dominant theme.

But this story has another aspect that is rarely talked about. Virtue signaling is often viewed as a left-wing activity – another feature of the "safe space" or "snowflake" generation that attaches great importance to expressing their own moral positions while often trying to shut down (or "no platform"). " ) The expression of the opinions of others.

But the virtue signaling is not unique to the left. It happens almost as often on the right side. We just are not that fast to recognize it.

Donald Trump is the ultimate virtue maker. He has made it a daily habit to openly express his morality, which is marked by nationalist and protectionist sentiments. The slogan "Make America Great Again" is itself a catchy form of virtue signaling designed to appeal to and shame those who do not support the US under conditions of presidential economic illiteracy.

While NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest against racism were an expression of their own ethical code (one I agree with), the President's call to boycott the NFL was the other side of the same coin. Signaling is answered with signaling – and not surprisingly, it does not produce the most productive results.

It also happens in the UK. In particular, immigration decisions seem to signal to immigration skeptics that the government is tough. Take a look at the arbitrary upper limits of migration and commit yourself to reducing the number to tens of thousands.

As the Federation of British Industry stressed last Friday, this does not benefit the UK economy in any way. The political obsession is all for the sake of perception.

The newest option is to make travelers at airports aware of inconvenience. Despite the evidence that separate lines for British and EU citizens in post-Brexit airports are likely to slow down the British border control process, the prime minister insists that there should be separate queues.

It could focus on reducing waiting times for everyone in general, but that would not send the same message.

There is an important place in our discourse to signal our ethics and virtues, but dramatized indignation to reassure certain groups should not stifle legitimate debate or influence public policy. On these fronts, both sides of the political spectrum are guilty.

Continue reading: Tory chair calls Johnson apologize over Burka comments

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