“Don’t virtue signal my thoughts and prayers”: conservatives

What Just Happened? | Stephen Whitworth | June 9, 2022

Hello friends and welcome back to “What Just Happened?”, the popular made-in-Saskatchewan news-roundup column that answers its own question to a wildly inconsistent degree of reader satisfaction. This installment has a fun focus on horrific gun violence, so you might want to renew your antidepressant prescriptions before reading further.

PREVIOUSLY ON WHAT JUST HAPPENED: A dipshit teen gunman murdered 21 people, almost all of them children, at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas with a legally purchased assault rifle on May 24.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 25: THOUGHTS & PRAYERS As America and indeed the world grappled with yet another horrific mass shooting committed in the United States with a, yes, let’s write it again, legally purchased assault rifle, politicians, pundits and people everywhere reacted with that common and most practical of responses: thoughts and prayers for the dead, the wounded and their families.

But what does “thoughts and prayers” even mean?

“I think it’s a device that they’re using to stop conversation about something,” says Luther College English professor and media discourse and rhetoric expert Scott J. Wilson. “Because quite frankly, it’s hard to argue with the idea of offering ‘thoughts and prayers’ after a tragedy. However, it also ends up being a euphemism for the status quo.”

And that status quo? No gun control.

MONDAY 30: HANDS WITHOUT GUNS In what seemed a direct response to the Uvalde massacre, Saskatchewan’s second-ever favourite Trudeau government tabled legislation to restrict handgun ownership today. Just letting you know before the next item…

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 2: “VIRTUE SIGNALING” Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe had a typically measured, apolitical response to the prime minister’s promise to regulate guns.

He dismissed Justin Trudeau’s proposed legislation outright. “This is nothing more than really virtue signalling by the federal government that we see time and time and time again, regardless of the topic,” multiple news reports quoted Moe as saying.

But what does “virtue signaling” even mean, anyway?

While the term is used by people inhabiting different positions across the political spectrum, Luther College’s Scott J. Wilson says Moe’s usage is consistent with the political rights.

“If you were to look at it, it would be more conservative or right-leaning politicians who use ‘virtue signaling’ as a criticism,” he says. “The person making the accusation doesn’t believe that the person talking is being genuine.

“There’s also something a little bit problematic about saying that virtue is a bad thing,” adds Wilson. “What’s interesting about [what Scott Moe said] is that Justin Trudeau is saying that gun violence is a problem, but he’s also backing it up with policy change. The question is, does Scott Moe not believe Justin Trudeau is genuine in his attempts to lessen gun violence in Canada? Is he questioning if he cares about victims of gun violence? Or is he just using to latest buzzword to criticize his opponents?”

MONDAY 6: MOO TROUBLE The Agricultural Producers of Saskatchewan have asked the Canadian government to activate a tax deferral program for livestock owners forced to sell their herds by drought conditions over the past couple of years. Producers, quite reasonably, don’t want to be wrecked by tax hits on sales they had no choice but to make. The federal program would allow them to spread revenue from emergency livestock sales over several years, making taxes more manageable.

The feds are looking into it, with a June 7 CBC story quoting an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada spokesman saying eligibility announcements are coming in a few weeks (thumbs-up emoji).

Now, you might be wondering why this news is relevant to the What Just Happened? desk. Agriculture news? Since when did this column give a hoot about that?

The fact is, WJH does “hoot” about climate change. And droughts will get nothing but worse as global heating ramps up, with more producers forced to sell herds they can’t feed more often.

What Just Happened wonders if we will see a day when Saskatchewan’s various conservative politicians find themselves forced to pick a side between livestock producers and farmers, and the fossil fuel industry that’s baking agriculture out of business. As lifelong members of team Fossil Fuel Sucks, we’d advise farmers and ranchers to brace themselves for some unpleasant revelations about the true loyalties of “their” politicians.