A friend has this two-part view – and I would have quoted but lost his email – that responding to someone else’s framing of a debate is enabling or giving credence to said framing, just the way the first person wanted it.
Now I might be wrong here but perhaps an example is someone saying Person X is racist. If Person X gainsays that by getting angry and saying he’s not, then trying to prove he’s not, he runs a second risk, on top of agreeing to the framing:
A habit that is very close to the responding to framing is the habit many have of virtue signalling their purity and goodness by branding others as lepers and unclean.
On the surface, that seems clearcut and to be avoided. There is, however, an immediate difficulty:
Who defines when it is necessary self-defence and when virtue-signalling?
My definition of the difference is:
Virtue signalling is wishing to aggrandise oneself, to make oneself seem pure and wholesome, when one is quite clearly not. Self-defence is simply refuting specific charges and one must do that.
An example is when someone has the power to do harm, be it the state or an employer and that entity attempts a character assassination by framing a case against you, for whatever reason. If, contained within that case, there is clear, unfounded defamation, then not only is it not virtue signalling to point out, using data, that that is not so but it is insanity not to do that.
An example of that was an employer I had who initially thought me the bee’s knees and was giving inflated assessment reviews. These were not good because a potential employer would be suspicious of such effusiveness. And experience had taught me that it could easily go the other way, on whim.
It did and now I could do nothing right. Not only that but this unprofessional now wrote things in my file without my knowledge or discussion [so I subsequently found, one ‘truth’ an allegation made by a disgruntled employee I’d dressed down].
Which brings us to signalling their purity and goodness by branding others as lepers and unclean. Sometimes one must, in a zero sum, where the lack of bona fides of the other negates the allegations against you. In the case of that disgruntled employee, it was necessary to show a pattern of such behaviour of the other, not just towards me.
And with these clowns next door and their noise, when I fronted them, I asked: ‘Do I do this to you at 3 a.m.? Recount one time my noise has disturbed you?’ That seems, on the surface, virtue signalling on my part.
That’s why, in the fuller definition of the term, there must be an element of, as written earlier, when one is quite clearly not. With pollies, that is clear for anyone with eyes to see.
As for the framing, one cannot allow the other to frame. In a discussion, one can walk away, choose not to respond, shut that person out. But when something is riding on that framing, e.g. a defamation charge, as in a ‘hate crime’ the police charge you with, then one must lay out that not only is there no history of what is alleged, but that the opposite is true.
And on a blog, the admin cannot afford to allow a framing to remain as the given framing if it is tosh and places the site in danger. Hence the policies page. And what an admin is doing there is also protecting others associated with the site. Or is it virtue signalling to write that?
So the theme throughout this post is that, if there is no personal danger involved, e.g. Geldof mouthing off about how good he is and how rotten Nigel is, then that’s virtue signalling.
If one is defending one’s corner though, when there is very much something to lose – I do not call that virtue signalling by any stretch of the imagination. And to call it virtue signalling; ‘You do it all the time’ – don’t you just love that modifier ‘all’ – then we’re back to that question – who defines when something is virtue signalling and when just self-defence?
An answer might be that it is apparent to ‘any normal, sane person’. That’s a bit each way. But it’s certainly not cut and dried, not a clear line in the sand.
One place I agree that virtue signalling their purity and goodness by branding others as lepers and unclean is unhealthy and unnecessary is in the judicial process, the adversarial system, which requires that you destroy the other side in order to win.
What’s the alternative? The Italian system? Still has adversaries, still has liars.
What I’ve tried to get across here is that to respond to someone else’s framing is sometimes quite necessary, almost de rigeur but it seems to me, my friend’s beef was about the branding as lepers, as unclean, going overboard with the detestation, rather than just refuting or indeed, leaving it alone and not commenting at all.
And when one sees the things going on out there and the people who are facilitating, enabling it:
… then I’d agree it’s difficult not to drop into the language of detestation.