As human beings, we love to feel superior and that we are one of the good guys. Throw in a dose of helplessness at the state of the world today, add social media into the mix – and you have a recipe for disaster.
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Virtue signalling is a term that has evolved to describe empty gestures with no real commitment—think throwaway comments designed to generate “likes” and to appear virtuous.
Celebrities have been called out for hypocrisy when their moral posturing has turned out to be of little substance. Members of the public have also tripped up when trying to change the world. Perhaps the point to remember is – it’s OK to care, just do your research.
In January 2019, the Spice Girls were back in the news when their eagerly awaited comeback tour was sold out in minutes. They announced they were to join forces with the charity Comic Relief to front a campaign called “Gender Justice”. The group designed an exclusive T-shirt bearing the words “IWannaBeASpiceGirl” with “Gender Justice” emblazoned across the back. The T-shirt went on sale for £19.40, (approx. US $25) with £11.40 (approx. US $14.65) being donated to the charity Comic Relief. In turn, the charity promised to use the funds to help “champion equality for women”.
The Guardian newspaper decided to trace the origins of the T-shirt and uncovered a story distinctly lacking in equality and justice.
They discovered that the garment had been produced in a factory in Bangladesh. There, the mostly female workforce toiled for up to 16 hours a day in stifling heat and inhuman conditions. They earned less than the local living wage. Workers told the reporters how they suffered daily abuse and threats if they failed to meet production quotas, even being called “daughters of prostitutes” by the managers. Many suffered neck and back injuries after spending hours bent over sewing machines.
A spokesperson for the Spice Girls said it was “heart-breaking to hear about the treatment that these women receive.” They had believed that the online retailer who sold the clothing was ethical. The group offered a full refund to anyone who had bought the tainted T-shirt.
In April 2018, two black men arrived at a Starbucks in Philadelphia to wait for a friend. Trouble brewed when one asked to use the restroom and a worker refused, saying that they were for paying customers only. After an argument, the manager called police and the men were handcuffed and arrested for “trespass”. They were later released without charge. A video of the incident was posted online, and crowds of people began to protest outside the store. Stuck in a PR nightmare, Starbucks announced that they were to close all 8000 stores for half a day to hold staff training classes on racial bias.
Chairman Howard Schultz then declared that its toilets would be open to all – no purchase necessary. The toilets became very popular and staff soon reported finding alcohol, drugs, dirty needles, blood and condoms in the cubicles. Some had to take anti-viral drugs after handling used needles.
Although the policy still stands, customers are finding many stores’ toilets are locked, barred or “Under Maintenance” as baristas take back control.
In an attempt to become eco-friendlier, McDonald’s announced that they were to phase out single use plastic straws in all its UK restaurants. By 2019, they had introduced new sustainably sourced paper straws and 1.8 million a day were issued. Customers soon began to complain that the straws dissolved in drinks. McDonald’s claimed that the new straws were designed to hold liquid for one hour. An online petition was launched to bring back the plastic straws and gained 50,000 signatures. Some enterprising customers tracked down the old plastic straws and began to sell them online. Others shared their trick of using a plastic cup lid as a scoop for their shakes.
It then emerged that the new paper straws were too thick to be recycled – and staff were being instructed to throw them out with the trash. The old plastic straws had been fully recyclable.
Stacey Dooley is a British TV presenter and a documentary maker. In 2019, she travelled to Africa to make a film for the charity “Comic Relief”. It was to be used as part of their TV fundraiser, an event where viewers pledge donations to the charity after seeing the work they do. Dooley was filmed at a village in Uganda meeting the locals and later shared a photo of herself hugging a young boy. British politician David Lammy shared his thoughts on Twitter stating:
“The world does not need any more white saviours.”
He wrote that the photo “perpetuates tired and unhelpful stereotypes.”
Stacey described his comments as “farcical”. The row opened up a media debate about race.
Comic Relief announced that they were to stop celebrity visits to third world countries when an aid charity described it as “poverty tourism”.
After the TV show aired, it raised £63m in donations. This was £8m less than the previous campaign in 2017, and the lowest amount of cash raised for more than a decade.
A duck farm in Petaluma, CA caught the attention of an animal rights group called Direct Action Everywhere. They believed the animals were being kept in cruelty before being slaughtered. The group organized an early morning raid and demonstration to expose conditions on the Reichardt Duck Farm. Busloads of protestors pulled into the farm at 6am and set free hundreds of ducks. But this wasn’t far enough for some of the protestors.
Thomas Chiang and others broke into an area which housed the slaughter line – a metal conveyor belt where the ducks would dangle by the neck and be moved along to their death. Chiang decided to attach himself to the highly dangerous machine and even fixed a U-lock around his neck – just like one of the doomed ducks. A few minutes into his protest and unable to escape, the processing line unexpectedly began to move forward. An unknown person had pressed the start button. Chiang was dragged forwards by his neck and repeatedly smashed into a metal pole as the lock began to choke him. Chiang was minutes away from death and losing consciousness when the machine was suddenly turned off. He made a full recovery in hospital.
Reichardt Farm told the police that it was an accident, and the machine operator had no idea that there were people chained to the machine at the time.
Every year, tech giant Google host a conference to discuss global issues. They invite experts, business leaders and A-listers to debate and share ideas in a private setting. In 2019, the 7th Annual Google Camp was held in Palermo, Sicily and the theme was climate change.
Google hired out the luxury Verdura Resort. Hotel staff were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements and all social media was banned. The tiny airport in Palermo was told to prepare for the arrival of 114 private jets carrying VIP guests from around the world.
Conference guests included Prince Harry, Leonardo di Caprio, Bradley Cooper and Katy Perry. Super yachts began to arrive, including producer David Geffen’s $400m vessel named Rising Sun.
Entertainment was courtesy of Coldplay, who performed with an extravagant light show at the Valley of Temples in Agrigento, an ancient Greek site which costs $100k to hire.
Guests were whisked around the island by Maserati and SUV. Prince Harry reportedly gave a heartfelt speech about global warming, pacing on stage barefoot.
Observers began to calculate the environmental cost of the climate change conference.
Each of the 114 first class flights from LA to Palermo generated 12.3 tonnes of CO2 per guest. If Prince Harry flew on a private jet from London, this would have used 1.3 tonnes of CO2. An environmental group called Trees For The Future estimate that 190 trees should be planted to off-set this journey alone.
The total cost of the 3-day jaunt is estimated at $20 million.
Extinction Rebellion is an international network which uses direct action to bring about ecological changes. The group get their message across by using civil disobedience, often causing major disruption to cities. One of their demands is that the UK government reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025, so London is often the place where many of their mass demonstrations take place.
In April 2019, they set up camp near Oxford Street in central London and brought traffic to a standstill for more than 11 days. The non-violent group spent their time dancing and practising yoga in the occupied streets until a guest speaker arrived. Oscar winning actress Emma Thompson climbed aboard a pink boat with “Tell the Truth” painted on the side and spoke to the crowds through a loudspeaker. Thompson later said she “absolutely wanted to be arrested on my 60th birthday.”
However, Thompson’s good deed was ridiculed when a photograph emerged, taken the day before. She was pictured at Heathrow airport—after flying in from LA to attend the protest.
It is estimated that a single 5,456-mile flight from LA to Heathrow can create a three-tonne carbon footprint.
As a Greenpeace supporter, Thompson had once helped to buy land near Heathrow in order to stop a third runway being built.
A spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion said:
“…it seems counter-productive in the short term, but we are looking at the bigger picture.”
In October 2019, Extinction Rebellion were again protesting in London. This time, they were occupying Trafalgar Square along with a hearse containing a coffin which read “Our future”.
Actor Benedict Cumberbatch was photographed as he visited the activists and spent around two hours sitting and talking with them.
However, after his meeting it emerged that he is the brand ambassador for MG cars in India and the face of MG India’s Hector SUV range. He stars in an Indian commercial for MG cars, where he is seen whizzing around in an MG GS with a 1.5 turbocharged petrol engine. The commercial was filmed in Trafalgar Square, the place that he had met with the protestors who hope to reduce carbon emissions.
Over one million people in India died from air pollution in 2017.
Passengers on a flight from Heathrow to Istanbul watched as a man in handcuffs was escorted onto the plane by four security guards. Soon, a crowd gathered around the prisoner who was shouting for help. People power sprang into action, as the passengers began to film the episode and attempted to question the man and his security team. The prisoner managed to call out that he was being taken away from his family and the outraged passengers staged a protest, chanting:
“Take him off the plane!”
Under pressure, the security guards reluctantly led the prisoner off the flight as the triumphant crowd cheered and clapped. The prisoner called out to thank the group as he was taken away.
What they didn’t know, was that the prisoner was a convicted rapist and his captors were employed by the Government to escort him back to Somalia, his country of birth. Yaqub Ahmed, 29, was jailed in 2007 and upon release the Home Office ordered his immediate deportation.
After the plane revolt, he was taken to an Immigration Centre and later released on bail. He has since been taken back into custody and will be deported, this time by a direct charter flight.
North Sentinel is a tiny island in the Indian region of the Bay of Bengal. The islanders have lived in total isolation for 30,000 years and they are one of the last uncontacted tribes left in the world today. All trespassers are met with violence.
American John Allen Chau, aged 27, was a Christian missionary and adventurer who dreamed of traveling to the island. This is a trip deemed so dangerous that all travel to North Sentinel is illegal under Indian law.
An indigenous rights group, Survival International also believe that by contacting the tribe, outsiders risk passing on harmful pathogens and causing a deadly epidemic of flu. This could potentially wipe out the entire population of 50 to 100 people.
Undeterred, Chau paid local fishermen to take him to the island. They only agreed to take him at night and to stay at a safe distance. In 2006, the islanders had killed fishermen who had sailed too close, leaving their bodies on bamboo stakes.
Chau waited for morning then paddled a kayak to the island. He called out:
“My name is John, I love you and Jesus loves you.”
Chau sang worship songs as an arrow hit the Bible he was holding. He hastily left the beach.
The following day he travelled back to the island. The watching fishermen said they saw the tribe drag John’s lifeless body along the beach, before burying him in the sand.
Indian authorities confirmed they were not planning to retrieve his body. A local anthropologist said:
“We have decided not to disturb the Sentinelese”.
About The Author: I am a true crime enthusiast and lover of words. Always looking at the darker side of the news to make new lists with.