Over at The Catholic Weekly, we look at the flip side of virtue signalling, vice signalling:
What I mean is that it is one thing to say somebody does good things to show off. It is quite another to say that the good things are themselves bad things. It is one thing to say that helping the poor in order to showboat is disgusting. It is another thing to say that helping the poor is disgusting.
And that is, in fact, something human beings are capable of doing to themselves if we are not careful. We can come to a place where virtue itself, not virtue signalling, is regarded as contemptible and laughable: to a place where mobs think it is funny to pour milk shakes on the heads of black people who just want to sit at a diner; to a place where a crowd jeers with glee as a man is roasted on a griddle; to place where SS troops shoot infants for sport and laugh to each other as they do it; to a place where men amuse themselves by pressing a crown of thorns down on the head of a Galilean peasant because he is helpless and offers no resistance.
In such acts, which are always mob actions, what is happening is vice signalling: the perverse mutual agreement of humans at their worst to seek the approval of their peers in being the most demonic version of themselves possible. Virtue signalling at least seeks a virtuous end, despite its selfish motivations. Vice signalling is not only selfish in motivation, it deliberately seeks diabolical ends as well. It is perhaps the most deadly condition a soul can put itself in, and only a fool can look at human history and believe it can never happen again.
Are they always mob actions? There seem to be serial killer types who kidnap lone victims to degrade and torture them in private. And a lot of domestic violence. Your main point stands of course.