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To take a conspicuous but essentially useless action ostensibly to support a good cause but actually to show off how much more moral you are than everybody else.
Fred: I see George has changed his profile picture to show his support for refugees.
Barbara: Has he donated money or time? Is he giving English lessons? Is he making a room available?
Fred: No, no, he's just virtue signalling.
by Verboy March 18, 2016
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Advocating a political or philosophical position, and/or taking up a public cause, from a position of vanity, for the primary purpose of demonstrating your conformity with fashionable pop culture values.
Angela's sudden advocacy for the local pet shelter was mostly an exercise in public relations and virtue signalling. She had never much cared for dogs and cats before, but she instinctively understood teary-eyed public support for defenseless animals generally said something good about her as a person.
by Okie G.L. June 02, 2016
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Saying you love or hate something to show off what a virtuous person you are, instead of actually trying to fix the problem.
Jane: "Wow! I hate Fox News! They're so evil and they hate women!"
John: "Why don't you actually do something instead of just virtue signalling about it?"
Jane: "OMG that would be WAAAAAAY too much work" *goes back to shitposting on twitter*
by Juz16 January 04, 2016
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A term that is far too often used to dismiss an opposing opinion that is based on morals, ethics, or ideals, when the introduction of such into a debate could critically undermine one's stance.
Waldon: "But you CAN'T flatten that building to build a Walmart! Not only is it an orphanage, but the roof is a rare bird sanctuary, it's built over a graveyard AND an aquifer, hosts the only local live music night in the city on Wednesdays, and is a legally protected heritage site!"

Developer: "Don't listen to that virtue signalling hippy, boys, start up them bulldozers, we got a permit!"
by Urban Savage March 17, 2017
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Expressing an attitude or describing a behavior of yours in the hopes of gaining approval from a group that you fear in order to increase your sense of security, always at the expense of your own group.

Therefore, criticizing a group of which you are not a part is not virtue signalling.
examples of virtue signalling:

"Not all Muslims are terrorists. I hate 'Islamophobes'!" (said by a Jew).

"Those Trump supporters got what they deserved for inciting hatred and division!" (said by an American).

an example that is not virtue signalling

"All crackers need to be skinned alive. Kill cracker babies!" (said by a Black Panther).
by ObamaLovesSharia July 23, 2016
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Trying to look virtuous because you more about appearances than action; for example:
1. when anyone puts a "SUPPORT OUR TROOPS" bumper sticker on their car
2. when republicans appoint members of minority groups to key positions to make their policies look less bigoted
3. when neocons, identitarians, and the alt-right use social justice rhetoric to make it look like they care about women's rights and gay rights but are just trying to advance regressive policies such as bans on entire religions, mass deporations, wars in the middle east, etc.
The right has been virtue signalling for as long as there have been genuine advocates of social justice; this is the reason Hitler appropriated the rhetoric of socialists, and why the modern alt-right appropriates the rhetoric of social justice activists.
by Valerie Morghulis May 03, 2017
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