Saturday, December 28, 2019

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.


UbuMaccabee said...

More Julie Burchill, less Maureen Dowd.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the people who throw around the term narcissist are thinking about empathy. Empathy means nothing to them. They say empathy should be shown to illegals. But they really mean charity or indulgence rather than empathy.

Sam L. said...

I couldn't get interested,

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