Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Should You Say No to Negativity?

Here’s some more well-meaning advice. Say No to negativity. It’s the latest in psychology, brought to us in an extended Wall Street Journal essay by John Tierney and Roy Baumeister.

The psychology profession has lately been promoting positive thinking, though, if memory serves, one Norman Vincent Peale sold millions of books about The Power of Positive Thinking. And of course, there was that old song that advised us to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. The authors echo the song’s message, so they must be aware of the fact that outside the psycho hothouse, everyday people have not been wallowing in negativity.

As for basic concept of saying No to negativity, am I the only one who noticed that that requires us to double down on negativity, to be more negative about negativity. Do you really think that we can eliminate negativity by being more negative about it? 

The authors suggest that we are living unbalanced lives. Our lives are skewed toward negativity. We are more sensitive to danger than to joy. We are more motivated by bad feelings than by good feelings. We obsess about them, to the detriment of our joy.

Of course, we should not forget the nuance. Some of this is a function of human nature. Another part has been produced by our therapy laden culture, one that has taught us that the meaning of life lies in abuse, suffering and trauma.

Anyway, the authors begin with a discouraging thought:

Our minds and lives are skewed by a fundamental imbalance that is just now becoming clear to scientists: the negativity effect. Also known as the negativity bias, it’s the universal tendency for bad events and emotions to affect us more strongly than positive ones. We’re devastated by a word of criticism but unmoved by a shower of praise. We see the hostile face in the crowd and miss all the friendly smiles. We focus so much on bad news, especially in a digital world that magnifies its power, that we don’t realize how much better life is becoming for people around the world.

One is happy to see more wide eyed optimism about the state of the world, but this is really a philosophical fiction. Things seem very good and will remain very good until they are not. To believe that the stock market always goes up and that we should not be aware of the risk side of the equation is a fool’s errand. At the least, predictions about the future are not science. They are prophecy.

The authors continue:

Psychologists studying people’s reactions had found that a bad first impression had a much greater impact than a good first impression, and experiments by behavioral economists had shown that a financial loss loomed much larger than a corresponding financial gain.

They add:

The pain of criticism is much stronger than the pleasure of praise. A single bad event can produce lifelong trauma, but there is no psychological term for the opposite of trauma because no good event has such a lasting impact.

Later in the piece they will regale us with stories about the mind’s resilience, how well it normally recovers from trauma. This would appear to contradict the notion that a single bad event can produce lifelong dysfunction-- the word trauma is misused in the sentence-- but the truth is, a recent study suggested that two thirds of those who suffer trauma overcome it by using their own psychological resources. Best not to be alarmist here.

The authors suggest as much:

So the public learned lots about psychoses and depression but precious little about the mind’s resilience and capacity for happiness. Post-traumatic stress disorder became common knowledge but not the concept of post-traumatic growth, which is actually far more common. Most people who undergo trauma ultimately feel that the experience has made them a stronger and better person.

If the human brain pays more attention to danger, there might be a good reason. The authors call it a survival mechanism. One catastrophe can wipe out a building we spent a year building. Eat one bad berry and you will not see tomorrow. The truth is, we pay more attention to bad because we want to survive:

Our brain’s negativity bias evolved because it is a survival mechanism. On our ancestral savanna, the hunter-gatherers who passed on their genes were the ones who paid more attention to threats (like poisonous berries or predatory lions) than to the good things in life. This bias is still useful—one mistake can still be fatal—but what worked for hunter-gatherers doesn’t always work for us.

But, how do they know whether or not we should revise human nature? If the authors think it’s possible and if they are granting themselves the task, perhaps we should tax them with terminal hybris. Human nature evolves, but, as Prof. Chomsky once opined, it takes around ten thousand years for it to do so. Just because are not out picking berries and killing gazelles does not mean that we do not face danger, physical and moral. ]

Would it not be better if the teenager in his new sports car does not believe that can ignore risk, put pedal to the metal and go maximum speed? Negating negativity is not merely a contradiction in terms. It is slightly too optimistic, and slightly to naive to be really useful.

We should not consider positivity and negativity to be antithetical. We should not imagine that we are being forced to choose the one of the other. Too much positivity is dangerous. Too much negativity is crippling. 

Let’s opt for balance, for balanced judgment, for a rational evaluation of risk and reward. We should understand that a double negative-- a grammatical error--  is not going to change human nature and solve all of our problems. 

More Exercise, Less Cancer

At the risk of seeming a bit one-note, here is some more news about one of the greatest discoveries in modern medicine. The study has shown that regular exercise helps to prevent several kinds of cancers. So, exercise does only improve cardiovascular health, improve your mood and help to forestall depression. It prevents you from getting cancer.

What's not to like?

We are all interested in scientific discovery. It's sexy to see a great scientist discovering a new cure for cancer. Shouldn’t we be even more concerned with preventing cancer in the first place? And while politicians drone on about how they are going to provide great health care for everyone for free, shouldn’t we be thinking of what we might do in order not to need it.

It would be politically incorrect to do so, but still.

So, today, on the day before the new year arrives, it should be a good time to resolve to take up a fitness program next year. And to stick with it.

The report comes to us from NBC News:

Exercise is linked to a reduced risk of seven types of cancer, and the more physical activity the better, according to a study published Thursday.

The study, in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, looked at whether meeting the recommended physical activity guidelines had an effect on cancer risk.

In general, healthy adults are encouraged to engage in 2.5 to 5 hours a week of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking or gardening. Alternatively, up to 2.5 hours of vigorous activity — jogging, running, swimming laps, jumping rope or hiking — are recommended.

These "guidelines have largely been based on their impact on chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes," Alpa Patel, senior scientific director of epidemiology research at the American Cancer Society, said in a statement.

"These data provide strong support that these recommended levels are important to cancer prevention, as well," she said.

How was the study conducted?

Participants reported their leisure-time physical activity, and were followed for a decade, on average, to see if they developed 15 different types of cancer.

What was the result?

Meeting or exceeding the recommended guidelines goals was linked to a reduced risk of seven of those cancers. Among both men and women, the risk of kidney cancer was reduced by up to 17 percent, liver cancer by up to 27 percent and myeloma by up to 19 percent.

Among men, increased exercise was linked to up to a 14 percent reduced risk for colon cancer. Among women, more physical activity was associated with up to a 10 percent lower risk for breast cancer and up to an 18 percent lower risk of both endometrial cancer non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The report correctly notes that the study involved a correlation, more than a causation. It might be that those who exercise more also have healthier lifestyles:

The study was observational, and the findings do not prove cause and effect. Indeed, it's possible people who exercise more also engage in other healthy lifestyle behaviors that may influence cancer risk.

And yet, physical activity has been shown to affect tumor growth.

But evidence is growing that physical activity may directly affect tumor growth: A 2016 study from the National Cancer Institute found people who exercised the most also had lower odds of developing cancers of the bladder, esophagus, lung, rectum and stomach.

Exercise also helps protect against other diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and has been shown to improve mood and sleep.

This type of information has been widely disseminated for some time now. And yet, the message has not yet translated into direct action.

But most people aren't meeting their exercise requirements. Less than a quarter of American adults get the recommended amount of physical activity each week.

Think about that: less than 25% of Americans get enough exercise. No wonder health care is such a big issue. No wonder we count among the world's leading consumers of medical care.

Bari Weiss Gets It

Bari Weiss gets it. But, she does not get it right. She gets it backwards. But then again, as the old saying goes, getting it backwards is better than not getting it at all.

Weiss, the New York Times’ resident anti-Semitism expert, and all-around excellent writer, offered up the following tweet regarding the recent spate of attacks on Jews in New York. 

Anyway, Weiss tweeted this explanation for the rise of Jew-hatred yesterday. 

Two things can be true. Donald Trump's relentless war on decency has facilitated a culture in which Jew-hatred has become a regular feature of American life. And the desire of many to tie everything to Trump has blinded the public to other sources and causes of lethal Jew hate.
5:17 PM · Dec 30, 2019·Twitter Web App

As I said, Weiss is on to something. And yet, she has managed to invert the subject and object in her first sentence. It’s a common mistake, so we will happily forgive her. She has lit on one of the primary causes for the rise of Jew hatred. That is: Trump hatred.

So, we would want to rewrite her second sentence to read:

The relentless and thoroughly indecent war on Donald Trump has helped legitimize hatred, and especially hatred of our first Jewish president. Who has been leading this war? Of course, the hate filled members of the Congress, from Rep. Al Green to Rep. Maxine Waters to the Squad and even including the vicious Rep. Adam Schiff. These supposedly dignified legislators have been spewing vitriol against Trump and against Trump supporters from the moment he took office. They have been doing so day after day after day.

And let’s not forget nitwits like Madonna who called for the burning of the White House and comedian Kathy Griffin who posed with a Trump-resembling severed head. Expressions of violence against Trump have known no limits.

And let’s not forget the violent threats against anyone who dared speak out in defense of Trump, like George Washington Law Professor Jonathan Turley.

And of course the media, where talking heads and empty suits have been railing against Trump hour after hour for the past three years. Great newspapers have devoted their news sections to Trump hatred. It’s no longer all the news that’s fit to print. It’s about all the news that makes Trump look bad.

Thus, America’s leftists elites have made it acceptable to express hatred openly against Donald Trump and, by the by, against Jews. After all, Trump has overturned the Obama legacy of empowering Iran and disparaging Israel. By the way, how many House Democrats boycotted the address to Congress given by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu a few years back?

From hating Trump to hating Jews is not a very great leap. Add to it the policing policies in New York and other large cities, policies that are intended to decriminalize crime and to allow criminals to walk free. Assault a police officer, not a problem. Assault a Jew, not a problem.

The American radical left has produced these conditions, and now they blame Trump. After all, they are radically incapable of taking responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

So, Weiss is slightly off the mark on this topic. She is too desirous of distributing blame equally between left and right. To do so she has ignored the simple fact that the drumbeat of hatred against President Trump has made hatred legitimate. And has made its expression a good thing.

Monday, December 30, 2019

The World Is Ending... Tomorrow

Here is something to brighten up your day. Assuming that you still have a sense of humor, that is. It’s a report on the climate emergency or is it the climate catastrophe. The report was written in 2004. It was prepared for the Pentagon, of all groups.

It concluded that the world would end by the year, get this, 2020. It offered all manner of absurd prophecies… the kind that can now be tested against reality. It pretended that they were all scientific fact. Where is Nostradamus when we need him?

To call this science is a disgrace. The notion that we still take these hysterically alarmist prophecies seriously is a bad sign indeed.

Anyway, Larry Kummer offers some excerpts:

From The Guardian on 21 Febuary 2004.

“Secret report warns of rioting and nuclear war. Britain will be ‘Siberian’ in less than 20 years. Threat to the world is greater than terrorism.”

“Climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters. A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a ‘Siberian’ climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world. …Randall added that it was already possibly too late to prevent a disaster happening. ‘We don’t know exactly where we are in the process. It could start tomorrow and we would not know for another five years,’ he said. …”

Apparently, Great Britain does not have a Siberian climate. It has Boris Johnson.

Kummer continues:

The report explores how such an abrupt climate change scenario could potentially de-stabilize the geo-political environment, leading to skirmishes, battles, and even war due to resource constraints such as:

  • Food shortages due to decreases in net global agricultural production.

  • Decreased availability and quality of fresh water in key regions due to shifted precipitation patters, causing more frequent floods and droughts.

  •  Disrupted access to energy supplies due to extensive sea ice and storminess.

And now, check out the time line. You thought that the threat of terrorism was bad. Here are some more prophecies, year by year:

By 2005 the climatic impact of the shift is felt more intensely in certain regions around the world. More severe storms and typhoons bring about higher storm surges and floods in low-lying islands such as Tarawa and Tuvalu (near New Zealand).

In 2007, a particularly severe storm causes the ocean to break through levees in the Netherlands making a few key coastal cities such as The Hague unlivable. Failures of the delta island levees in the Sacramento River region in the Central Valley of California creates an inland sea and disrupts the aqueduct system transporting water from northern to southern California because salt water can no longer be kept out of the area during the dry season.

After roughly 60 years of slow freshening, the thermohaline collapse begins in 2010, disrupting the temperate climate of Europe, which is made possible by the warm flows of the Gulf Stream (the North Atlantic arm of the global thermohaline conveyor). 

Ocean circulation patterns change, bringing less warm water north and causing an immediate shift in the weather in Northern Europe and eastern North America.   {It lists many many more bad things that happen.}

I am not going to list it all. I do recommend that you check out the rest of Kummer’s report. Either for light reading or to mock the complete stupidity of those who put together the research. Only a Swedish truant would believe such swill.

Will the Real Anti-Semites Stand Up

So, a new Muslim convert walked into a Hanukkah celebration,  a machete in hand, and started slashing and stabbing. Anti-Semitism, anyone. Immediately, the knee- jerk liberal intelligentsia popped up in the media to explain that, the problem really was white supremacy and Donald Trump.

How stupid are they? How stupid are their followers?

Obviously, it was not the first anti-Semitic attack in New York State. It will not be the last. The anti-Semitic left has taken over the Democratic Party and has been spewing hatred non-stop for three years against America’s first Jewish president. After all, Donald Trump has instituted numerous pro-Israeli policies. Half his family is Jewish. Hating Trump is one acceptable way to be anti-Semitic. Besides, orthodox Jews are especially likely to be Trump supporters.

As noted on this blog, the presumably Jewish Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin once called for the incineration of all Republicans. Did she know that the other word for incineration is Holocaust? Does she now hate Republicans because they have become far more supportive of Jews and of Israel? Why is she still writing a column for a major national newspaper?

As for the source of today’s anti-Semitism, we need look no further than the Democratic Party, and especially the Obama administration. What else would you expect from Jeremiah Wright’s protege?

Jeff Dunetz at The Lid blog lays out the case:

During a phone call with Obama and other Jewish leaders about the Iran deal, William Daroff Senior Vice President for Public Policy & Director of the Washington office of The Jewish Federations of North America tweeted about what the president was saying “Jews are leading effort to kill #Irandeal. ‘Same people opposing the deal led us into Iraq war,’” and followed with “Canard: Jews got us into Iraq War.”

Of course, at a time when Democrats are screeching that President Trump should denounce anti-Semitism with stronger language they neglect to mention that their hero, Barack Obama, refused to denounce Islamic radicalism during his presidency. Was that the reason for the many terrorist attacks during his administration, from the Fort Hood massacre, the Boston marathon bombing, the San Bernardino shooting and the Orlando nightclub murders?

At the least, we should emphasize that today’s anti-Semitism has been fomented by Muslims. By the ones that Barack Obama refused to denounce. And by the British Labour Party. The more Muslim migrants enter the west the more they become an actual or potential voting block. Surely, they outvote Jews by a large percentage. Craven politicians are happy to adopt their cause, that being anti-Semitism. Anything for a vote.

Let’s not forget Obama’s embrace of that notable anti-Semite, Rev.Al Sharpton.

Obama refused to recognize the Antisemitism of others. During his presidency, Obama allied himself with Al Sharpton who was a leader of the anti-Semitic pogrom in Crown Heights and incited the anti-Semitic firebombing of Freddy’s Fashion Mart in Harlem. He sent his closest adviser, Valerie Jarrett, to keynote an anti-Semitic ISNA conference whose discussions included: how key Obama aides are “Israeli,” proving Jews “have control of the world,” or how the Holocaust is the punishment of Jews for being “serially disobedient to Allah.”

Al Sharpton visited the Obama White House dozens of times. He has been embraced and lionized by Democratic politicians:

Al Sharpton is a card-carrying anti-Semite who led two anti-Semitic pogroms in NYC. He was a regular visitor at the Obama White House, and Democrats fawned over Sharpton during his 65th birthday gala last year. It was attended by Democrats like Chuck Schumer, Andrew Cuomo, and Jerold Nadler. Despite his hatred of Jews, most of the 2020 Democratic Candidates visited Sharpton to kiss his ring,  The visits to kiss the Sharpton ring of hate does not mean those candidates are anti-Semitic, it just means they condone Antisemitism.

When Islamist terrorists attacked a Kosher supermarket in Paris, Obama refused to say that it had anything to do with anti-Semitism. He proceeded to boycott the French march against Islamist terrorism. World leaders showed up to express their support for the victims of terrorism. Obama sent his ambassador.

When radical Islamists attacked the Kosher supermarket Hyper-Cacher (French for Super Kosher) in Paris on a Friday afternoon. The attack happened just before the Jewish Sabbath when they knew it would be crowded with Jews. Obama first insisted it wasn’t an anti-Semitic act. And when the world leaders came together to march in Paris as a protest against the Charlie Hebdo shooting and the anti-Semitic Hyper-Cacher attack Obama was conspicuous in his absence.

Other Democratic politicians joined the chorus:

Before Louis Farrakhan called Jews termites, Hank Johnson (D-GA) used that phrase. At an event at the 2016 Democratic Convention, Johnson, who once worried that too many people on the island of Guam might tip it over, called Jewish people who live in disputed territories to “termites” that destroy homes. Johnson said it during an event sponsored by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, an anti-Israel organization that galvanizes supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, or BDS.  After his comment caused an uproar, Johnson gave a half-hearted apology. He was sorry about offending but wasn’t sorry for saying it or even or recognized that it was anti-Semitic.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

"Hong Kong's Not Right"

I assume that you are curious to know how things are going in Hong Kong. After all, the protests and demonstrations have been continuing for months now, and we are all curious to know what, if anything they have accomplished. 

At the least, they are killing Hong Kong. Xi Jinping has been fighting a war of attrition. He is not going to yield to protests, lest that set a bad example, and is not going to send in the army to suppress it. While it was possible to crush the Tiananmen protests outside of camera view, any repressive police action in Hong Kong would be instantly broadcast around the world. And would damage China’s image… of world leadership.

Besides, and most pertinent, the demonstrations in Hong Kong have not resonated throughout China. While a bright eyed idealist like Roger Cohen believes that liberal democracy is fighting against authoritarian despotism in Hong Kong, people around China seem not to agree. 

Cohen seems to have a hankering for world historical drama. With that in mind, allow him his on the ground description:

The confrontation will not end soon. To say the course of the 21st century hinges on this conflict’s outcome would be a stretch, but not an outlandish one. “This is the infinity war,” Joshua Wong, a prominent democracy activist, told me.

But the city is a special case; it’s dollars and oxygen. Hong Kong affords mainland tycoons the ability to move “red capital” in and out. The city, the world’s third-largest financial center, provides access to international capital markets. It even offers honest courts and judges. And so China is likely to play a waiting game.

And yet, we recall at the beginning of these demonstrations the analysis of Cornell professor Eswar Prasat. He pointed out that while China needed Hong Kong in 1997 China no longer needs Hong Kong in 2019.

Cohen echoes the point:

Hong Kong’s restiveness has many roots: rising inequality, unaffordable housing, diminishing prospects for young people, dithering governance, a sense of marginalization as China rose. The city represents 2.7 percent of Chinese gross domestic product today, compared with 18.4 percent in 1997. Shenzhen, just over the border, was a cow town three decades ago; now it glistens and gleams, a high-tech hub.

Hong Kong is shrinking into irrelevance. Perhaps this is reason for the locals to panic. Thus, Xi Jinping does not have to do anything. He can allow the locals to create conditions that will cause businesses to move to Shenzhen or Shanghai. 

And it is worthwhile noting that Hong Kong, a bastion of liberal values, is poorly governed, with housing prices that even worse than those in New York. Economic realities like this seriously damage future prospects for its young people. Consider the fact that Hong Kong, representing liberal values, is barely livable. Would a few elections render it more livable? It is a point worth considering.

But, Cohen seems to believe that the people of Hong Kong, the large majority of whom support the protests, are driven by their love of ideals. Or, what he calls values. The civilizational clash between idealism and pragmatism has been ongoing for centuries now. Cohen believes that the central government repression will naturally give rise to a revolutionary counterthrust. 

In truth, Cohen’s Times colleague Nicholas Kristof argued the same point thirty years ago after the repression of the Tienanmen protests. How did that bit of Hegelian prophecy work out? 

If people have to choose between good jobs and a good living against the promise of a vote in an election, they might well choose not to become as dysfunctional and unequal as Hong Kong.  If you think that the people are going to rise up to defend the Uighurs, you are smoking the wrong kinds of cigarettes. Keep in mind, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia visited China a few months back. About the detention of his co-religionists, he spoke nary a word.

I don’t think the issue is independence. The protests, largely leaderless, coordinated through social media, ranging from flash mobs in malls to massive marches, are the furious response of a frustrated population to Xi’s ominous repressive turn and Lam’s subservience to it. Hong Kong’s culture has changed. Once intensely pragmatic, it is now intensely values-driven. That could happen one day on the mainland, too. Millennials value values.

Bright-eyed idealist that he is, Cohen sees Hong Kong as the beginning of a world wide awakening. He is obviously naive and sees what he wants to see.

The city is the avant-garde of a world awakening, with a mixture of anxiety and dismay, to the full implications of Chinese ascendancy.

If he thinks that universal suffrage is going to solve the problem, he is even more naive than I thought when I was writing the last paragraph. Will universal suffrage solve the housing crisis in Hong Kong? The third alternative is that Hong Kong’s protest demonstrations will end, not with a band but with a whimper, as the poet said.

Universal suffrage for Hong Kong is the only endgame I can see to the “one country, two systems” impasse, short of the People’s Liberation Army marching into the city and all hell breaking loose.

To add to our understanding of what is going on in Hong Kong, I am happy to bring you some elements of a Wall Street Journal report, published this last Friday. 

The Journal does not wear ideological blinders. Thus, its reporters offer a more objective perspective. Living in a state of upheaval produces a yearning for order, for a return to normalcy:

Months of unrest have transformed the city beyond the tear gas, graffiti and disrupted commutes. There are deep changes in the lives of residents.

Protests have created an increasingly unpredictable state of upheaval, forcing anxious decisions among the city’s 7.5 million residents—the safest route for the kids to go to school, whether to cancel a wedding or to move away.

People are on edge and angry: some at violent protesters, most at the government for failing to resolve the crisis.

Across the city, ATMs are boarded up, traffic lights broken and once-reliable subways erratic. Social outings are curtailed, special events canceled and plans shelved. Some weeks, schools have closed. Shop and restaurant workers have lost jobs to a dying nightlife and slowing commerce. Political arguments darken family dinners. Conversations end, “Stay safe.”

Everyday life has been changed, and not for the better. “Hong Kong is not right,” the Journal reports. And that means, Xi’s war of attrition is wearing the city down:

Hong Kong used to buzz with crowds around the clock. Residents are accustomed to spending most waking hours outside cramped apartments, visiting all-night noodle shops and ubiquitous 7-Eleven convenience stores.

Now, nights are quieter, streets are emptier. Protest graffiti appears and is hastily covered over. Trash cans, used as barricades by protesters, have become a rare sight.

Bit by bit, the fallout of unrest has spread deep into the fabric of daily life. Each time the tear gas clears, the booming sky’s-the-limit city of skyscrapers and opportunity is a little less recognizable to residents.

And then there is the American Congress. Cohen concedes that the Trump administration has been playing the situation well. Trump is walking a tightrope, knowing that he cannot completely alienate President Xi and cannot completely turn his back on the protesters. Congress is all in with the protests, and seems blissfully unaware of the fact that the demonstrators are holding a losing hand. Then again, if Congress cannot virtue signal what good is it?

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Remembering Don Imus at his Best

In memory of the I-man, a Don Imus classic, from the 1996 White House Correspondents Dinner:

Vice Signalling and the Sin of Narcissism

What with the endless droning about virtue signalling we all feel a deep need for a clear and present example of vice signalling. Not the vice signalling that involves trashing someone whose political opinions you do not like. That still counts as virtue signalling-- as in, I am much more virtuous than that racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic climate change denier. No, vice signallers are proud of their badness. They flout it and flaunt it. 

In truth, virtue signallers have no more cornered the market on virtue than has anyone else. They are cult followers of the latest in politically correct dogma and won’t let you forget it.

They are tedious, uninteresting pretend people who are singularly lacking in good character. Would you ever trust someone whose commitments depend on leftist orthodoxy, who would happily join the Antifa mob in order to signal how virtuously they oppose fascism, while behaving like especially unhinged fascists?

But, I digress.

Happily, we have found the most exemplary instance of a vice signaller, in the person of one Julie Burchill. You might not have heard of her. You might not have read her voluminous writings, but Burchill has been a fixture on the British intellectual scene for decades now. And she has indulged all manner of vices, lately tending toward more conservative political positions. I find it strange that such a good writer has no real market on this side of the pond, but I find many things strange these days. 

Burchill defines the essence of vice signalling:

I am that rare thing, a vice-signaller; a breed defined by the fact that unlike our virtue-signalling opposites, we delight in presenting ourselves as somewhat worse than we are. Reasons vary; sometimes we were Bad People in the past and changed but (like teenage wallflowers who grew into table-dancing divas and still describe themselves as ‘shy’) we keep an image in our mind of the way we were. 

Vice signalling is a form of moral education. The vice signaller, like Burchill, is calling out those whose virtue signalling is a dodge designed to distract from their appallingly bad behavior:

Sometimes we choose to present in this way because we are repelled by people who consider themselves good but behave in a manner which we see as substandard; for example, regard the hardcore hypocrisy of racist, misogynist Corbynites who believe that they can never do wrong because they have ticked the box marked Brotherhood Of Man. Looking at such self-styled Good Guys, we vice-signallers cling tight to the comfort blanket of our allegedly wicked ways. Sometimes we are just very honest about what we want.

In more American terms, it’s like the nation’s leading enabler of sexual harassment defending women’s rights. Or it’s like the nation’s leading hair sniffer declaring himself the champion of women.

Burchill continues that she, vice signaller in chief, does not seek approval. She does not hide in the corner or offer abject apologies when someone calls her transphobic and threatens to report her to the local constabulary. She doubles down: and reports them

In our determined desire to show our bad side, we can be funny and original in a way no approval-seeking virtue-signaller ever could. For instance, after having a prolonged online ding-dong with an angry transsexual who first threatened me with a beating-up by their alleged Hell’s Angel partner and then threatened to report me to the police for hate crimes, I lost patience and phoned the local cop-shop to report myself. (They refused to believe me, as my voice is so cute and youthful, and suggested instead that I file a hate crime complaint against my erstwhile sparring partner.) 

Tell me you are not at least slightly gleeful to see someone reporting a trans activist to the police for harassment? If you aren’t, you need to get over your faux virtue.

As for her personal life, Burchill allows the same low standards to dictate her behavior:

Another time I implored my second husband to divorce me for adultery – which sounds wicked and thrilling -rather than unreasonable behaviour which sounds rather babyish but not half as bad. Sadly, the second option was chosen as I had committed not-strictly-adultery with a gorgeous 25-year-old girl; with true vice-signalling swag, I protested to my solicitor, ‘Have you seen her? It would have been unreasonable not to!’

Apparently, Burchill has now been denounced for being narcissistic. Virtue signalling egomaniacs in America often screech about how Donald Trump is so narcissistic that he needs to be committed to a psychiatric facility, all the while ignoring the fact that leading presidential candidate Joe Biden, to say nothing of saintly Robert Mueller show signs of senility.

As for the label of narcissist, Burchill has a few choice words about those who try to tar her with it:

‘Narcissist’ is the latest diss in town for the likes of me, though I was called one in print by Will Self way back in 1999; talk about swank-pot, kettle, hack! It’s having a serious moment right now; the rise of popular populist politicians has seen the unpopular liberal elite throw it around a lot. 

Apparently, in Great Britain, #MeToo feminists, which Burchill charmingly relabels as “PoorMeToo feminists, denounce toxic males for being narcissistic. In a few sentences she brings them low:

It’s also used copiously by women about their exes – a rather silly form of #PoorMeToo feminism for those who don’t have the mental rigour to base their arguments on anything wider than their own limited experience. 

And the dread narcissist label is often used by people who lack achievement but who are still conceited. On this side of the pond we would say that they are suffering from high self esteem, based on nothing.

Burchill remarks that the person she has most often heard denouncing others as narcissistic drones on endlessly about herself, never about or toward anyone else. Which makes her point:

Lastly, I’ve noticed that it’s used, ironically, by conceited people without any achievements to be conceited about – the I AM THEREFORE I AM WONDERFUL brigade for whom Jung’s excellent line, ‘You are what you do – not what you say you’ll do,’ could have been invented. Like a lot of insults, it generally says more about the person giving it than the person it’s aimed at; to borrow another pop psychology favourite, it’s called projection. The person I’ve known who used the word most talked about herself so continuously, never showing a spark of interest in anyone else, that her nickname was The Queen Of Meeba.

As it happens, the term narcissism has been so completely overused that it is difficult to know what we are talking about when we use it.

When Burchill reports on a new research project about people who are suffering from narcissism, she will suggest that the term seems to have been redefined. Now, people who are called narcissistic are people who lack the contemporary virtue to end all virtues: empathy.

This being the case, you can be fairly certain that the ability to feel each other’s feelings is generally, but not entirely, a bad sign. Empathy has its uses in the nursery and while dealing with non-speaking beings, but, in the marketplace or on the battlefield it is a handicap… one that will make you into a loser.

Being singularly lacking in empathy Burchill happily embraces the diagnosis of narcissism:

She won’t be a bit pleased to read the findings of an ongoing research project [on narcissism] by Queen’s University Belfast which has found that we [narcissists] are likely to be happier than most people, less likely to be stressed or depressed and are insulated against feeling bad about ourselves by our self-confidence – a ‘protective quality’ which makes us more likely to succeed in work and love due to a ‘mental toughness’, which helps us overcome rejection. I do recognise myself here – a resilient quality which once led a journalist to liken me to ‘The Bouncing Bomb’ due not just to my fatness but to my ability to resurface unexpectedly just when the monstrous regiments of haters who were dying to see me taken down thought I was finished.

Now, let her praise narcissism and put down the absurd therapy culture that has made it the sin to end all sins:

If being a narcissist means I opt-out of this endless Greek chorus of whining and whingeing then I’m proud to be one. I’m also happy that I can never claim to be an empath – those secular saints who presume to be everything we narcissists are not. Funny how so many of them seem to spend so much time alone, considering their superior sensitivity to social situations; it may well have something to do with them being moody, needy, clingy wet blankets who anyone with a bit of spirit would gnaw off their own arm to get away from. How much better to admit to flagrant self-adoration and reap the benefits it brings! Was there ever a classier answer to enquiries as to why she posed naked for Playboy than Ursula Andress’s statement ‘Because I’m beautiful’? And yes, I know Narcissus died by melting away in a fire of passion after falling in love with his own reflection, eventually turning into a golden flower – but imagine how that would look on Instagram!

Q. E. D.