In a video clip from nearly three decades ago, the legendary Rush Limbaugh was able to obliterate the concept of virtue-signaling, and did so in 45 seconds.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines virtue-signaling as: "The act or practice of conspicuously displaying one's awareness of and attentiveness to political issues, matters of social and racial justice, etc., especially instead of taking effective action."
According to an article in the Boston Globe, the word "virtue-signaling" first surfaced in online message boards in 2004. In 2015, The Spectator published an article titled: "The awful rise of virtue signaling." Google Trends shows the term "virtue signaling" was not really used until the summer of 2017, and the term exploded in June 2020.
Rush Limbaugh categorically understood the concept of the virtue-signaling way back in 1993. He not only grasped the dangerous flaws of virtue-signaling, but he could effectively lampoon the concept before anyone had a name for it.
In the 1990s, there was no Facebook to put a filter on your profile photo or Twitter to put pronouns in your bio to show you support the "current thing." So people would wear ribbons to flaunt their moral high ground on a myriad of different causes.
For instance, orange ribbons are associated with leukemia, yellow to raise awareness for missing children, lavender to stand against urban violence, and blue ribbons are often worn to protest bullying. In the 1990s, a red ribbon was worn to raise awareness for HIV/AIDS.
In 1993 near the height of the AIDS epidemic, some people felt pressured to show their support for those suffering from HIV and AIDS by wearing a red ribbon on their clothes.
The Hollywood actors wanted to show the world how much they care about AIDS by wearing red ribbons. In 1993, the New York Times described the 65th Academy Awards audience of actors as a "sea of red AIDS ribbons."
The Los Angeles Times noted, "When Billy Crystal emceed the Academy Awards on Monday night, we were surprised to see that he wasn’t wearing the red ribbon that symbolizes AIDS awareness."
"The next morning we heard several radio shows abuzz with the to-wear or not to-wear (an AIDS ribbon) controversy," the Los Angeles Times remarked, and added, "Radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, for one, called Crystal 'the bravest man in Hollywood' for not feeling like he had to follow the herd."
Limbaugh set out to use the ribbon controversy to expose how feckless and shallow virtue signaling is.
During an episode of his syndicated television show in 1993, "America's Anchorman" obliterated woke virtue-signaling.
Limbaugh pinned six different-colored ribbons on his suit, and satirically boasted to the studio audience, "Because I’m wearing these ribbons, I care more than any of you about anything. And these ribbons say so."
The iconic radio host instructed his viewers to look at their own lapels, and then asked, "When you look down, what do you see?"
He answered his own question, "You don’t see anything, because you’re not wearing any ribbons."
El Rushbo then explained how not wearing the ribbon meant that you were not as virtuous as those who did.
"It means you’re a bigot, it means you’re a racist, it means you’re a sexist, it means you’re a homophobe," Limbaugh rattled off. "It probably means you’re a white guy, it probably means you’re a European, and you and you alone are responsible for all the ills of America."
He then triumphantly proclaimed, "But I’m not, because I’m wearing these ribbons. I care more than you."
The audience erupts into laughter over the absurd premise.
The classic video clip of Limbaugh destroying liberals for virtue-signaling resurfaced on Sunday. The old clip from 1993 went viral and racked up more than 700,000 views on Twitter in less than two days.
Nearly 30 years later, Limbaugh's lesson on virtue signaling still holds true.