The pejorative culture-wars phrase ‘virtue signaling’ has become an ad hominem scorn—a shoddy substitute for intelligently addressing the substance of the argument you’re purportedly discussing.
If you declare somebody is ‘virtue signaling’ when you have an ideological disagreement with them, you’re probably more interested in making groundless and unfalsifiable speculation about their motives. You’re unhesitatingly framing their intellectual or emotional foray as an act of narcissism. (Paradoxically, wielding the term sometimes serves as virtue signaling in itself. You’re pleading a moral high ground by calling out virtue signaling.)
You can’t rebut a person’s subjective position merely by discrediting that person or dismissing their opinions as grandstanding. You can’t denigrate people’s motives without speaking to their argument. Even if you think someone is likely virtue-signaling, keeping your speculation to a minimum is better.
Idea for Impact: Don’t judge the motives of others. It rarely helps to respond to a conflict by indicting them of a personal sin that is internal and, therefore, inscrutable to anyone else.