An Interesting Observation About Signaling

Megan McArdle’s guest blogger, Adam Ozimek,  writes about a concept, in the opposition to “pink slime”, I think is important to understand:

Instead, most of these things are about signaling something else about ourselves. If people’s desire to regulate pink slime isn’t about health, safety, or even taste, then what is it about? Robin would probably suggest that it is about signaling. Pink slime is seen as low status, and even though consuming it is not bad for our selves or our children, we would ban it to show that we care. This Hansonion hypothesis is borne out pretty clearly by a lot of pink slime complaints.

I believe this plays heavily into the motivation for many opponents of gun ownership. They are doing it “because doing so shows that we care.” And by opposing them, we signal to them that we don’t, which makes us evil people. The world would be a much better place if some of these people found more productive means for bolstering their self-esteem.

5 thoughts on “An Interesting Observation About Signaling”

  1. This article and the comments along with it (see Unix-Jedi’s marvelous rejoinder about how people complain about ammonia in beef but ignore the lye that their bagels were soaked in) remind me of one of my favorite quotes (the original author I cannot find)

    “As human society gradually solves the problems of basic survival and reduces the amount of other miseries rooted in the reality of the human condition, the fringe elements of that society feel an increasingly strong compulsion to become obsessively angry about ever more trivial causes to recapture the sense that life is a painful struggle.”

    1. This is Eiland’s Theory Of Compensatory Misery by M. Scott Eiland.

  2. The other thing is that the “pink slime” thing appears to be, for many, a purely aesthetic “ick” reaction (as Mr. Allen points out; ammonia bad, lye good? Why? Because they “know” bagels are fine, thus lye must be fine, and they “know” ammonia is icky because Windex smells bad).

    I’ve seen that with arms as well, and it’s just as bad a motive for policy in either place.

    (Which is ironic sometimes; most of the people I’ve seen whingeing about “pink slime”* are Good Solid Leftists.

    The sort of people who know and will reiterate that someone’s “ick” reaction to, say, homosexuality is no argument against it in itself… presumably because That’s Just Different Than Food, I guess.

    * As I said in the comments over there, “when you have to make up a name to call it to make it sound Horrible, you reveal that you have no better argument against it”.)

  3. The greater irony is those of us on the Pro Gun/Pro Self Defense side actually demonstrate we really do care about our fellow Citizens by empowering them to protect themselves from the predatory criminals the left always wants to see let out of jail early.

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