I've finally worked out what right-wingers are describing when they talk about "virtue signaling". It's compassion, interpreted by someone completely lacking in empathy.
@petrichor it's also one of those things that can be implied more and less cynically though -- the rightwing perspective is, like you said, incredulity that anyone could actually care in the first place, but there's also room to critique performative empathy from the left as well, it's just a bit touchier when you're using that same language to discuss bad faith
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