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The Peculiar Madness of 'Trigger Warnings'
Townhall.com ^ | May 21, 2014 | Jonah Goldberg

Posted on 05/21/2014 4:34:01 AM PDT by Kaslin

Trigger warning: I am going to make fun of "trigger warnings."

Of course, if you're the sort of person who takes trigger warnings very seriously, you probably don't read this column too often. So maybe my mockery will miss its target, sort of like making fun of the Amish on the Internet -- it's not like they'll find out.

In fairness, the Amish are actually very impressive people. Even though some Amish communities are more tolerant of technology than the stereotypes suggest, their Anabaptist puritanical streak leaves me cold. On the whole, I like modernity. I may not love every new fad of the last few centuries, but mark me down as a fan of refrigeration, Netflix, modern dentistry, universal suffrage, the internal combustion engine and all that stuff.

Here's another thing about the Amish. They don't expect everyone else to pussyfoot around them.

You can't say the same thing about the trigger unhappy folks making headway on college campuses. Before I continue, I should explain what a "trigger warning" is.

They started on left-wing and feminist websites. Like a "spoiler alert" in a movie review or a more specific version of the movie rating system, trigger warnings are intended to alert very sensitive people that some content might set off, or trigger, their post-traumatic stress disorder or simply offend some people. According to most accounts, this was a conscientious accommodation of people who'd been raped or otherwise horribly abused.

But soon the practice metastasized. Trigger warnings were provided for an ever-increasing, and ridiculous, list of "triggers." For example, one website offers a trigger warning that it contains images of small holes, lest it terrify people suffering from trypophobia, which is -- you guessed it -- a fear of clusters of small holes. Another website warns visitors that it will not tolerate any debate over the validity of its trigger warnings for, among many other things, trypophobia, pictures from high places, audio of snapping fingers, or images or discussion of spiders, food, escalators or animals in wigs.

Now, the Internet is a very big place, and there's nothing wrong with obscure websites catering to the boutique anxieties of troubled people.

But now the cancer has spread to the college campus. At UC Santa Barbara, the student government has formally requested that professors provide trigger warnings on their syllabuses. The idea was initially suggested by a student who had been the victim of sexual abuse. Her class was shown a film that depicted a rape, and while she herself was not "triggered" by it, she felt she should have been warned.

I have no problem with expecting professors to warn students that some material may be graphic or upsetting, and my hunch is that most professors do that already.

But as is so often the case, common sense is barely a speed bump for the steamroller of political correctness. Oberlin College's Office of Equity Concerns advised professors to avoid such triggering subjects as racism, colonialism and sexism. They soon rescinded it, perhaps because they realized that if such subjects become taboo, much of their faculty would be left with nothing to talk about.

The New York Times reports that activists want many classics to have trigger warnings in effect printed on them like health advisories on cigarette packages. "The Merchant of Venice," for instance, would need the label "contains anti-Semitism." Virginia Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway" would need a warning that it discusses suicide. Oberlin's memo advised faculty that Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart," may "trigger readers who have experienced racism, colonialism, religious persecution, violence, suicide and more."

As a victim of "and more," I can sympathize. But this way leads to madness.

And what a strange madness it is. We live in a culture in which it is considered bigotry to question whether women should join combat units -- but it is also apparently outrageous to subject women of the same age to realistic books and films about war without a warning? Even questioning the ubiquity of degrading porn, never mind labeling music or video games, is denounced as Comstockery, but labeling "The Iliad" makes sense?

I do wish these people would make up their mind. Alas, that's hard to do when you've lost it.


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: collegesandunis; education; jonahgoldberg; spoileralert; spoilers; triggerwarning; university; warning

1 posted on 05/21/2014 4:34:01 AM PDT by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin

Dear god, we are so doomed.


2 posted on 05/21/2014 4:36:14 AM PDT by MrNeutron1962
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To: Kaslin

Good observations from Jonah. He’s a fun writer, some days.


3 posted on 05/21/2014 4:43:25 AM PDT by Tax-chick (You say I'm insane ... I say you're afraid.)
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To: Kaslin
Her class was shown a film that depicted a rape

Uhhh. . . Why?

4 posted on 05/21/2014 4:43:32 AM PDT by SamuraiScot
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To: Kaslin
As I read this, I thought of an FreeRepublic meme, which I suppose is a "trigger warning":

"BARF ALERT!"

5 posted on 05/21/2014 4:44:01 AM PDT by justlurking (tagline removed, as demanded by Admin Moderator)
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To: Kaslin
may "trigger readers who have experienced racism, colonialism, religious persecution, violence, suicide and more."

Anyone who has experienced suicide is unlikely to be reading the trigger warning...

6 posted on 05/21/2014 4:45:52 AM PDT by WayneS (Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos.)
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To: SamuraiScot

I was wondering that, myself. Maybe it was a class about film, or maybe it was a women’s studies class.


7 posted on 05/21/2014 4:49:54 AM PDT by Tax-chick (You say I'm insane ... I say you're afraid.)
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To: MrNeutron1962

A “trigger warning” seems to be rather like what I have heard described as a “dog whistle”, audible only to those who are sensitive to the very high-frequency sound.

I am not, and shall not be, responsible for other people’s sensitivities, particularly if I do not perceive that they have some undisclosed consciousness of that slight, or what is in their minds, a slur.

Now some things I KNOW are slurs and epithets, and if I use them, it is with the thought of inflicting insult. Perhaps, if people would not be so injured by a mere word, it would not be used nearly so often, especially after they have been particularly obnoxious themselves.

Name-calling may not be a very high form of discourse, but sometimes it is the only one remaining when reason and logic have fled the room. But rightly, when reason and logic have left, so perhaps should yourself.


8 posted on 05/21/2014 4:50:26 AM PDT by alloysteel (Selective and willful ignorance spells doom, to both victim and perpetrator - mostly the perp.)
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To: Kaslin
Whew...I was afraid the article was going to be about little warnings engraved on gun triggers in #2 font. Such as: "Caution! Pressing the trigger on this device could lead to death, destruction and massive lawsuits."
9 posted on 05/21/2014 4:55:04 AM PDT by moovova
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To: alloysteel

‘Trigger warning’, well I learned a new term and it’s meaning.

Now I know that my profile page is...a trigger warning.


10 posted on 05/21/2014 5:00:25 AM PDT by Beagle8U (Unions are an Affirmative Action program for Slackers! .)
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To: Kaslin

Indulgence warning.


11 posted on 05/21/2014 5:05:20 AM PDT by AppyPappy
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To: Kaslin

12 posted on 05/21/2014 5:06:23 AM PDT by workerbee (The President of the United States is DOMESTIC ENEMY #1!)
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To: workerbee

That picture distresses and traumatizes me. A horse once bit my sister!


13 posted on 05/21/2014 5:07:02 AM PDT by Tax-chick (You say I'm insane ... I say you're afraid.)
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To: Kaslin

How do you experience colonialism?
I think I’m experiencing a trigger right now reading Little Bee—triggers of liberal novelists writing in an overly simplistic fashion about geopolitical events. But I could be wrong. Maybe Shell Oil kills, tortures and rapes people.
I have to be careful of triggers that remind me of Election Night 2012. Also Election Night 2008.

Seriously do you ever think you are the Bobby character in Dallas, and you will wake up one morning and these past few years will all have been a bad dream.


14 posted on 05/21/2014 5:21:49 AM PDT by crazycatlady
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To: WayneS

I thought of that too.


15 posted on 05/21/2014 5:23:08 AM PDT by crazycatlady
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To: Tax-chick
That picture distresses and traumatizes me. A horse once bit my sister!

Was that before or after she was bitten by a moose?

16 posted on 05/21/2014 5:23:32 AM PDT by justlurking (tagline removed, as demanded by Admin Moderator)
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To: Kaslin

“The Merchant of Venice,” for instance, would need the label “contains anti-Semitism.” This is my favorite Shakespeare play. I have the 1980 BBC version from Netflix. It’s a bit hard to watch. Shylock is a very compelling character. But so is Portia.


17 posted on 05/21/2014 5:26:04 AM PDT by Mercat
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To: alloysteel

Social engineers are doing their best to create more and more defective people. Shame that.


18 posted on 05/21/2014 5:28:04 AM PDT by martian622 (The Revolution is being televised.)
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To: Tax-chick

I walked out of both A Clockwork Orange and Deliverance because of the rape scenes and I’ve never been abused. I wish that I could edit the rape out of the latest movie version of Les Miserables. I love the movie but want to be able to watch it with my 13 year old granddaughter.


19 posted on 05/21/2014 5:28:12 AM PDT by Mercat
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To: crazycatlady
Seriously do you ever think you are the Bobby character in Dallas, and you will wake up one morning and these past few years will all have been a bad dream.

I wish it was a bad dream. But, no matter how hard I pinch myself, I can't wake up.

But, a slight correction: it was Pam Ewing's dream, not Bobby's. The "dream" was concocted to explain the absence of the actor playing Bobby for an entire season.

20 posted on 05/21/2014 5:28:43 AM PDT by justlurking (tagline removed, as demanded by Admin Moderator)
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To: Tax-chick

Horse bites HURT! Those massive incisors are like getting caught in a bear-trap, and horses are STRONG!

I know. I grew up around Percheron horses (my father and grandfather were breeders of the purebreds, some imported directly from France). Arthur, the stud, had his own box stall on the west end of the barn, and there was a huge oak wood gate that was within the outside weather door, with massive hinges and a heavy sliding bar. Arthur gnawed through the wood and undid the sliding bar, escaping for a short while.

Stud horses are not domesticated animals.


21 posted on 05/21/2014 5:29:18 AM PDT by alloysteel (Selective and willful ignorance spells doom, to both victim and perpetrator - mostly the perp.)
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To: justlurking

Oh, at the same time!


22 posted on 05/21/2014 5:34:54 AM PDT by Tax-chick (You say I'm insane ... I say you're afraid.)
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To: Kaslin

TRIGGER WARNING

Another liberal construct to separate us into smaller and smaller victim groups.


23 posted on 05/21/2014 5:35:08 AM PDT by Iron Munro (The “fourth estate”has morphed into a 5th column)
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To: Mercat

I don’t want to watch depictions of rape, either.


24 posted on 05/21/2014 5:35:16 AM PDT by Tax-chick (You say I'm insane ... I say you're afraid.)
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To: alloysteel

I was making a joke - don’t even have a sister - but I’ve seen some horse-bite injuries. Those are BIG teeth.


25 posted on 05/21/2014 5:36:37 AM PDT by Tax-chick (You say I'm insane ... I say you're afraid.)
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To: Mercat
I walked out of both A Clockwork Orange and Deliverance because of the rape scenes and I’ve never been abused.
The only movie I ever walked out of was Clockwork Orange. I had read the book and knew what to expect but seeing that much ultra-violence was not something I was up for. I was in my early twenties and a calloused sailor aboard Enterprise. Long ago and far away.

Fight the Free Sh☭t Nation
I, for one, welcome our new Cybernetic Overlords /.

26 posted on 05/21/2014 5:52:10 AM PDT by Mycroft Holmes (<= Mash name for HTML Xampp PHP C JavaScript primer. Programming for everyone.)
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To: Mycroft Holmes

For me it was “Marathon Man”. I have severe dental phobia.


27 posted on 05/21/2014 6:19:35 AM PDT by reformedliberal
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To: Kaslin
Here is the one that always triggers my PTSD...


28 posted on 05/21/2014 7:44:10 AM PDT by Gritty (Climate hysterics shriek on. Loud and apocalyptic is the only setting on the machine.-Mark Steyn)
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To: Mycroft Holmes
The only movie I ever walked out of was Clockwork Orange. I had read the book and knew what to expect but seeing that much ultra-violence was not something I was up for. I was in my early twenties and a calloused sailor aboard Enterprise. Long ago and far away.

I felt the same way. I thought the rape scene was gratuitous. A few years later, I reconsidered the notion. The ultraviolence depicted was central to the theme, and drives home the message. It's supposed to be horrific.

YMMV, opinions will differ on this of course.

29 posted on 05/21/2014 7:49:36 AM PDT by zeugma (Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened - Dr. Seuss)
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To: zeugma

In the fullness of time and reviewing the film I totally agree.


30 posted on 05/21/2014 7:57:20 AM PDT by Mycroft Holmes (<= Mash name for HTML Xampp PHP C JavaScript primer. Programming for everyone.)
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To: Kaslin
According to most accounts, this was a conscientious accommodation of people who'd been raped or otherwise horribly abused.
But soon the practice metastasized.

It's human nature, always taken to the max by bureaucracies or liberals. And yet we still have people who pooh-pooh the "Slippery Slope" observation.

31 posted on 05/21/2014 12:43:19 PM PDT by Oatka (This is America. Assimilate or evaporate.)
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To: justlurking

Thanks. I’d forgotten.


32 posted on 05/21/2014 2:52:49 PM PDT by crazycatlady
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