I’m virtue signalling am I? Shut the fuck up.

Now, following postings of artwork on social media supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, I’ve been accused of ‘exploiting political and social turmoil to prop up revenue’. It would seem that I am ‘a vulture, a bottom feeder and a vile human being for supporting… prejudiced organisations’. The prejudiced ‘organisations’ in question being, in actual fact, no organisation at all but merely the belief in the benefits of an ant-fascist political standpoint.
I’ve been posting my art on facebook for probably a decade and unless you’re new to my feed you’d be hard pressed not to find politics in my work. Clearly this punter was just aggrieved by my general sense of anti-authoritarianism impinging obviously for once on their delicate political toes. I presume that the person in question wouldn’t consider themselves a fascist but they’re siding with a political establishment and media that are portraying anti-fascism as being a singular block of organised anti-statists, determined and organised enough to replace their liberty-loving western world with a “Marxist-Leninist-Anarcho-Trotskyist Communist dictatorship”. They could start by reading beyond their regular media providers. A library might be a good idea too. Perhaps spend some time researching all their pet hate terms that they love to bandy about so liberally. I know of the word ‘epistemology’ and I may even have a passing interest in its definition(s) but I don’t know enough about it to comment on the subject. Some others would benefit from a little less enthusiasm to drive their mouths full-throttle into an argument without at least some approximation of a map pinned to their dashboard.
And another contemporary cliché has been tossed in my direction too. That of ‘virtue signalling’ on various issues, but Black Lives Matter in particular. Now I’ve got a lot to say on this issue but my response to those that are taking me to task over it is basically boiling down to ‘shut the fuck up’. Black Lives Matter doesn’t need me to get involved but it does need me to listen. And it needs me to not be another silent dissenter. It needs me, as a white man (benefiting from white privilege), to call out the racism and bigotry when I see it. And it needs me to shut up and listen to the black community – because though I know the dictionary definition of ‘racism’ I haven’t actually lived it have I? Every day, every week, every year… I haven’t had to change my name on a job application because I fear not even getting an interview. I haven’t had to worry about being followed by security whenever I walk into a shop. I don’t get in my car and immediately check I’ve got all of my documents in case I’m stopped by the police. So I will listen to black people and I will not challenge what I am told because I have not lived through their experiences. I will stand alongside when asked and speak up when it’s demanded – and it is currently being demanded. Silence in the face of the violence, hurt, bigotry, inequity and discrimination is as bad as assent. It’s not ‘virtue signalling’ – it’s solidarity against injustice.
Do you want to know where the phrase ‘virtue signalling’ comes from? It was first used in The Spectator magazine (famously right-wing) by the writer James Bartholomew to supposedly put down political grandstanding by individuals who, in his opinion, were trying to gain kudos from expressing their ‘virtuous’ political beliefs but weren’t necessarily matching them by their own actual behaviour or lifestyles.
This was written by a journalist who essentially has a full c.v. of right-wing British newspapers to his credit. He’s written books that attack the welfare state. He’s stood as a candidate for the Brexit Party. He trained as a banker. He’s the founder of the Museum of Communist Terror… So you can guess which end of the political spectrum he’d level any attack at.
So, in my opinion, the often-hollered ‘virtue signalling’ attack is an attack from the establishment. It’s an attack to shut down any challenge to the establishment’s right to continue doing what it has always been doing – protecting its own interests at the expense of anything or anybody else. And if your only attack is this whiny, pathetic, think you’re clever, ad hominem attack – well… you can just shut the fuck up.

“the estate we’re in (duchess)” 2019

back to writing menu

11 thoughts on “I’m virtue signalling am I? Shut the fuck up.

  1. Well said Guy, I have been following your art work for years and I love it. You inspire me to no end. I did not know that you are also a fantastic writer. As an African Canadian I really appreciate how you have voiced your perspective. Thank you, you get it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Guy, don’t take this impersonal scatter gun shite personally. By chance, it may have been aimed at you but the problem is in the unhappy little mind it came out of. Either (a) ‘abused’ as a child or (b) lost payience with the queue in Wetherspoons. He probably emailed them with a cut and paste of your message. Ha ha! Good luck and keep up the good work…a running dog of niceness. David


  3. Hi,
    You may remember me from your Bristol time, still an Anarchist and living in Barcelona for some ten years now. My granddaughter who lives in Midsomer Norton has taken an interest in political issues. She loves reading and particularly comics and when her mother, my daughter asked me to help I remembered you. I well remember your poignant artwork in comic form and wondered if you could help at all?
    Brian Maynard.


    1. Hi Farida. It’s a drawing using compressed charcoal (conte) and white chalk pastel on brown paper – and a small text stencil sprayed with aerosol paint.


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