Holiness Spirals

We’re living in an age of hyper/militant morality – a combination of holiness spirals and virtue signaling, to the extreme. But at the same time, it’s juxtaposed with cultural depravity, which makes the whole thing kinda confusing. Consider the Trump Access Hollywood tape, in which I correctly predicted that public outrage would fall short of the left’s contrived outrage. What Trump said was lewd, but maybe 50-70 years ago, not now. What’s offensive these days is not ‘shocking’ – rather it’s more subtle, benign, or just arbitrary, capricious, or nonsensical. It’s Scott Adams in 2011 using a ‘sockpuppet’ account to defend his writing against critics, and the sanctimoniousness that followed when his identity was revealed, for otherwise an small violation of online etiquette. A scientist making a ‘joke’ about women in science, or observing how women are different than men in terms of aptitude. Or authors getting ‘pulped’ for minor instances of self-plagiarism or miss-attribution of quotes. Had Trump been discovered using sockpuppet accounts, his campaign would have been over. A holiness spiral, by definition, is a feedback loop that sustains itself by people being rewarded with social capital via ‘virtue signaling’ to keep the cycle perpetuated until it finally dies. Forget hurricanes – the holiness spiral is one of the most destructive forces known to mankind, leaving ruined lives, careers, and reputations in its path.

But also there are elements of market-libertarianism in all of this – the idea that society and markets are interchangeable, and because markets are efficient, that society is analogous to an efficient marketplace that always results in the correct outcome. Digital lynch mobs are the marketplace acting correctly, and these victims brought it themselves and deserve no sympathy. One of the most well-worn arguments, especially by the left, is that companies and institutions reserve the right to fire people, and, yes, in many instances they have that right, but does nothing to address the problem of a punitive society where all trust, human decency, and compassion has been outsourced to ‘social markets’. This also ties into positivism and scientism, in which case society is analogous to science or a physical law and always produces the ‘correct’ answer.

Comments are closed.