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Did Bari Weiss “Virtue Signal” by Disavowing Musk’s Journalist Ban?

Many conservatives and “intellectual dark web” types are affecting an aire of moral virtue in their response to Elon Musk’s suspending of several mainstream journalists.  They want to show that they stand on principle. They explain this as though it is a very high-minded ideal, which they’re not a little proud to have thought of. 

In their minds, their opposition to banning liberal journalists is an intellectual feat.  In fact, it isn’t a particularly interesting take, and it is all too predictable.

Weiss Disavows Musk’s Journalist Ban

When Bari Weiss decried Musk’s banning of some liberal journalists (who doxed Musk and his children), Musk dismissed her, stating simply that it is a “virtue signal.”  It must have been disappointing for Musk, given that Bari Weiss was his hand-picked journalist, along with Matt Taibbi, to release round-two of the Twittergate files.  But Weiss is motivated more by self-righteousness than loyalty.

CNN reports on the banned journalists: 

“Musk had on Thursday banned CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, The New York Times’ Ryan Mac, and The Washington Post’s Drew Harwell. Independent progressive journalist Aaron Rupar, former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, and Insider columnist Linette Lopez were also banned.”

Musk has given all of them a reprieve. Yet the affected accounts remain banned pending their deletion of the offending Tweets (except for Rupar, who already deleted his). CNN labels Musk’s claim as “false”; which is to say that the journalists did not dox him.  Yet CNN gives no evidence to contradict Musk’s claim that the journalists doxed his personal location in real time and that of his kid.  

Perhaps Weiss anticipated that her both-sides big-brained centrism would win her some popularity. Indeed, the tweet earned her 29k likes as of this writing: 

Background on Bari Weiss

Weiss was for a time a New York Times columnist, hired after Trump’s 2016 victory.  It was an effort by the paper, apparently short-lived, to try to add a diversity of opinion to its editorial page.  Wiess has indeed effectively taken aim at some of what she refers to as the “woke orthodoxy.”   “Offense,” she astutely observed, “is being weaponized.”

Bari Weiss isn’t especially gifted or compelling, but she at least is more reasonable than most people professionally employed in journalism today.  At worst, she’s a little overrated, maybe because she’s a young, attractive woman. 

At any rate, she resigned from The New York Times in 2020, citing a hostile work culture and a lack of ideological diversity.  In resigning, Weiss described herself as a “centrist” in an atmosphere of leftist bullying and intolerance.  This is ironic given that she was hired for the stated purpose of expanding ideological diversity.  Apparently that ship has sailed for The New York Times.  

…the verdict is that she is guilty of virtue signaling in her thirst for online acclaim.

Weiss took umbrage that Twitter engaged in censorship vis-à-vis the Hunter Biden Laptop story and other incidents surrounding the 2020 election.  In this, she is at one with conservatives who have been affected by the censorship and shadowbanning on Twitter.

What is Virtue Signaling?

So why did Weiss oppose Musk in banning the journalists who doxed his location? First, we must explore the concept of “virtue signaling.”

A virtue signal could be defined as a contrived action meant to receive acclaim from a (likely) online audience.  Virtue signals are widely reviled because they are transparently disingenuous.  It is mere naivety which makes such individuals act with the expectation that we cannot see their true intentions. 

Merriam-Webster defines virtue signaling as “conspicuously displaying one’s awareness of political issues, issues of social and racial justice, etc., especially instead of taking effective action.”  That is a solid definition, similar to my own (independent arrived at) definition of the term.

Meriam-Webster definition of “Virtue Signaling”

When conservative or big-brained centrists virtue signal, it takes on a distinctive character.  Their audience is in fact the powerful liberal media figures whom they normally criticize.  Now, however, they act either to curry favor with the same liberal media figures, or perhaps to play out their own grandiose visions of themselves.  They seemingly delight in the idea that they are confounding their own followers, who are perhaps not as elevated as they are in their moral principles.   

Candance Owens, on the other hand, declined to virtue signal in this same Twitter thread: 

Owens is immune to this desire for acclaim (the virtue signal).  She has accepted her status as a pariah in the mainstream media, and therefore simply states her honest opinion and lets the cards fall where they may. 

The Verdict

Those who worry little for their media image do not virtue signal. Bari Weiss has done some good work criticizing the excesses of the left. It isn’t a particularly difficult task though, criticizing “wokeness.” With regards to Musk and the banning of a few journalists for doxing, the verdict is that Bari Weiss is guilty of virtue signaling in her thirst for online acclaim.

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