Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Content Warning: I Call Kevin Drum A Fool

So this really pissed me off.
As you might expect, I'm not especially sympathetic to the trigger warning movement, which seems more appropriate for explicitly safe spaces (counseling groups, internet forums, etc.) than for public venues like university campuses. But put that aside. What I don't get is what anyone thinks the point of this is. You're never going to have trigger warnings in ordinary life, right? So even if universities started adopting broad trigger policies, it would accomplish nothing except to semi-protect sensitive students for a few more years of their lives, instead of teaching them how to deal with upsetting material.
Now, you could make this same argument about a lot of things. But in other cases—for example, a university policy aimed at racism or disabilities or whatnot—it would presumably be done in the hope that it might influence public policy and eventually lead to changes in the wider world. But does anyone have this hope for trigger warnings? It doesn't even seem feasible to me.
But maybe I'm just demonstrating a lack of imagination here. In any case, I'm curious about what the ultimate point is. Are supporters of trigger warnings just hoping to give kids a few more years of refuge from the outside world? Or do they somehow think that these policies might spark the outside world to change? I've never really heard anyone explain what the end game is here, and I'd like to hear it
I realise Drum is respectfully asking for enlightenment here, but even so, this is so painfully stupid it hurt me to cut and paste it onto my blog. I just can't process someone who's implicit argument is that unless you can stop something, it makes no sense to lessen it.  The actual experience of being triggered is not at all pleasant, as anyone who's suffered it could tell Drum.  The idea that because it happens out there in the deserts of the real we're not really accomplishing anything by protecting people vulnerable to it where we can is utterly insane.  It's like saying you shouldn't tell lab techs to wear gloves when handling test-tubes filled with the flu virus because out there in the big, bad world, you'll never see the little gribblies coming.

We lessen suffering where we can, when we can.  We don't just throw our hands up and say "It'll hit you eventually" unless we're uncaring dicks. Especially in a situation like this, where the cost involved is almost nothing (those complaining in comments that they'd rather encounter a text in the way the creator intended might want to consider how fucking stupid that argument is when applied to courses specifically designed to dissect and reinterpret the text; if you're worried about spoilers in Huck Finn you are really doing English literature wrong).

In short: the end game is to try and reduce the number of triggers someone has to go through in their lives (Drum's argument seems to ignore frequency in favour of just whether they happen or not, of course, which is another big problem here).  If you can't see why that is of huge and real use in and of itself, there's not much anyone can do for you.

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