Moral Exhibitionism and Crisis-Jacking
These days, we often hear of people being accused of ‘moral exhibitionism.’ This particular naming convention, together with ‘virtue signalling’ may be fairly recent, but the behaviour it describes has been part of the human condition since human beings figured out that laziness requires less energy than doing things. Indeed, even Jesus Christ warned against it millennia ago in Matthew 6:1-6.
To illustrate the phenomena though, something I frequently see on SNS sites such as The Facebook is people writing and posting links to articles about natural disasters such as a recent earthquake and related relief efforts. They broadly fall into two categories:
- People that have taken it upon themselves to actually go to the place where the disaster happened to help distribute goods, clear debris, and otherwise help out with the relief efforts. By posting about it, they hope to raise awareness of the issues, and encourage others to also help out, leading by example.
- People that have taken it upon themselves to share the links and writings of people in group 1 above, or off the internet in general, in the hopes of raising awareness.
Hopefully, the difference between the two should be self-evident.
Now, you’re probably thinking that—surely—raising awareness is a good thing. Indeed, there’s nothing wrong with it per se, but raising awareness should never be the end goal of a personal activism project.
For person #1 above, actually helping those in need is the end goal, and raising awareness of what other people can also do is one of many tools they’re employing to directly further that goal.
For person #2 though, they’re content to just sit around and not do anything. Somebody else will probably do the work. Or not. Whatever.
To put it another way, person #2 is frankly just lazy. In fact, I’m not convinced they even give two hoots about the people in need at all. They just want people to think they do, so they can feel better about their own shallow existence.
And that’s moral exhibitionism in a nutshell. As Jesus says, “they have received their reward in full.”
In and of itself, moral exhibitionism is largely harmless, so long as you aren’t fooled by it. And I’ve seen no evidence to suggest it fools anyone other than the exhibitionists themselves, and probably their mothers if we’re being generous. Heck, some of them may well have helped out in other direct ways and simply chosen not to mention it—not only does that put them into group 1, but it also earns them the Kingdom of Heaven!
However, there is a third category of poster who surpasses mere laziness and enters the territory of denigration. These are what I call the ‘moral exhibitionist crisis-jackers!’
These inhuman slack-jawed time farters with aspirations of liberal arts degrees like to take any example of human suffering and reframe it (‘crisis-jack’) to make it about their own pet agenda, taking needed attention away from people that need help.
The Tōhoku Earthquake in 2011, for example, wasn’t really about the tens of thousands of lives lost, houses and livelihoods destroyed, and the plight of those living indefinitely in temporary accommodation: it was about government corruption, ineptitude and cronyism; or it was about the evils of nuclear power; or it was about the herd-mentality of (those stupid) Japanese people (which totally isn’t racist); or it was about man-made climate change.
A school shooting isn’t really about the lives lost, fatherlessness and the dangers of unaddressed mental health issues: it’s about the need for more gun control and those crazy NRA rednecks holding the country back; or it’s about toxic masculinity, misogyny and a need for feminism; or it’s about white supremacy and racism; or it’s about man-made climate change.
The 2016 Ghostbusters movie (which was arguably worse than both the previous examples) wasn’t a complete flop because of a cascade of poor decisions at every stage of its production: it’s because of toxic fandom—fans of the original movie illegitimately claiming ownership of the franchise; or it’s because men just hate the idea of women in movies, and have convinced their girlfriends to hate it too; or it’s because of man-made climate change.
It varies considerably depending on who’s doing the posting.
Of course, they never actually do anything about these pet causes. They just like to pretend they care, and for this, they will be fully rewarded.
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