The dangers of virtue-signalling
Woke culture encourages and rewards pathological behaviours.
In his 1984 book, Political Ponerology, psychologist Andrzej Lobaczewski coined the term ‘pathocracy’. It refers to a government made up of people with personality disorders, particularly narcissism and psychopathology. Predictably, interest in the idea of pathocracy flourished after Donald Trump became president in 2016.
The presence of such personalities in politics is neither new nor surprising. Research has long shown that narcissists are drawn to participation in politics, as indeed they are to positions of leadership in general. As one commentator notes, businesses and other organisations tend to reward arrogance, preferring displays of confidence over competence. This can regularly lead to the promotion of the wrong individuals.
But it’s not business or party politics we should be most concerned about today. Pathological personality types are flourishing above all in the wilds of identity politics. Social-justice warriors and their compatriots in the world of diversity, equity and inclusion condone, promote and reward pathological behaviour on a grand scale. This, after all, is the age of the ‘Oppression Olympics’, a cultural-political arena in which people aggressively manufacture suffering in order to demonstrate their status as a victim.
That’s why an increasing number of people are engaging in hate-crime hoaxes. Think, for example, of actor Jussie Smollett, who falsely reported to police that he had been the victim of a vicious racist attack. It’s also why we’ve seen a rapid rise in the bizarre phenomenon of race-fakers – usually white middle-class people who present themselves as oppressed people of colour.
There is a direct connection between these trends and pathology. Indeed, research has shown that the ‘virtuous victimhood’ tactic is employed more often than not by those with ‘dark triad’ traits – that is, Machiavellianism, narcissism and psychopathy. These individuals are often successful in manipulating others, not to mention wider society, who reward their behaviour financially and with social status. The pathological are effectively using woke virtues for their own ends.
It’s very difficult to raise this problem. Even the mildest questioning of the motives of prominent woke activists will be denounced as bigoted – as a product of a ‘-phobia’ or an ‘-ism’ of some kind. This insulates problematic behaviour from criticism and punishment. And it further emboldens pathological people, encouraging them to continue weaponising their victimhood in return for even more attention and power.
This never ends well, as we saw at San Francisco State University earlier this year. Some students attacked and threatened swimmer Riley Gaines over her criticism of biological males’ participation in women’s sport. The university decided to praise their behaviour rather than condemn or censure it. This reflects the broader failure of those in power to protect women’s rights in the face of pathological and often violent trans activists.
These pathological behaviours will continue to proliferate until we remove the incentives encouraging them. We must collectively stop tolerating and reinforcing extreme behaviour. And above all, we must stop valorising victimhood and encouraging people to confect and weaponise their victim identities.
We can’t let these deranged people have all this power.
Dr Rebekah Wanic is a psychologist and leadership coach.
Picture by: Getty.
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