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Western Lit, shot to death by ‘trigger warnings’

20 July 2015

From Politico:

Boring bien pensant opinion in Europe has long maintained that low-brow American culture — all the greasy fast food, oafish Hollywood shoot ‘em up films (often starring a muscle-bound Austrian, Belgian, or Swede), and schlock television — has done incalculable damage to highbrow European culture. And it has happened with the assent of the average European, who happily scarfs down a McRib sandwich, feet swaddled in Air Jordans, while queuing for the latest “Transformers” film.

But there is a more pernicious American cultural invasion, as irritatingly destructive as the North American gray squirrel and, unlike the Hollywood blockbuster, wholly immune from free market pressures. It was noticed in 1994 by a reporter for Reuters, who gravely reported that the scourge of political correctness, “an American import regarded by many Britons with the same distaste as an unpleasant virus, finally seems to be infecting British society.” First it poisons the local universities, then within a generation wends its way into the broader culture, wreaking havoc on the native intellectual ecosystem. It’s the most odious, implacable, and least remarked upon manifestation of American cultural imperialism.

. . . .

Writing in the left-leaning magazine The New Statesman, British academic Pam Lowe worried that a new fad in American academia called the “trigger warning” would soon touch down in the UK, requiring the sensible professoriate to valiantly resist the boneheaded ideas of activist students. In his new book, appropriately titled “Trigger Warning,” British writer Mick Hume warns that trigger culture has already “spread across the Atlantic,” and supine European college administrators have given in faster than Marshal Pétain.

. . . .

So what exactly is a trigger warning? Precisely that: a label on a work of literature, history, and memoir, designed to forewarn students that what they are about to read might upset them or “trigger” an episode of PTSD. The warning allows psychologically damaged readers to opt out of an assignment, or at least steady a nervous hand while turning pages of a triggering book. One particularly silly American college gave an example of how professors might warn readers that Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe’s celebrated postcolonial novel “Things Fall Apart” could send them into spirals of despair, explaining that “it may trigger readers who have experienced racism, colonialism, religious persecution, violence, suicide, and more.”

. . . .

Last year, multiple Columbia students objected to the inclusion of Ovid’s 1st century lyric poem “Metamorphoses” in a class devoted to classic Western literature, with one tallying that it contains “roughly 80 instances of assault.” All of them triggering. Indeed, even this tally is an underestimate, she explained, having “treated many of the instances of mass rape on the syllabus as a single data point for simplicity.”

. . . .

European intelligentsia used to ruthlessly mock this type of censoriousness masquerading as sensitivity. Because until the mainstreaming of political correctness, these literary Carrie Nations, for the most part, all inhabited the same side of the ideological divide — they were almost all religious conservatives. I turned to the American Library Association’s 1995 list of banned books — literary works under attack by would-be censors and right-wing moral scolds — and noticed the inclusion of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic “The Great Gatsby,” which was rejected from Baptist College in South Carolina because of “language and sexual references.”

. . . .

Twenty years later, and with social conservatism on the decline, it’s still under attack — but by philistines on the other side. Writing in the Rutgers University student paper, one particularly twitchy undergraduate suggested that professors plaster a trigger warning on “The Great Gatsby” — a book of “gory, abusive, and misogynistic violence”— that warned of the themes of “suicide,” “domestic abuse,” and “graphic violence” contained therein.

. . . .

If a once-prestigious university like Columbia wants to hold itself hostage to the vicissitudes of underdeveloped undergraduate minds, they are welcome to do so. But allowing teenagers who know nothing of great literature the power to determine what should be taught as great literature seems ill-considered.

Link to the rest at Politico and thanks to Barb for the tip.

Books in General

240 Comments to “Western Lit, shot to death by ‘trigger warnings’”

  1. I find it fascinating that phrases such as ‘political correctness’ mean whatever the user WANTS it to mean. What ‘political correctness’ has to do with trigger warnings and PTSD, God only knows. I suspect that the author of this piece doesn’t.

    • It’s kind of like “social justice” in that regard.

      • Just like so-called ‘hate speech.’ Hate speech is whatever the left wants it to be.

        • Chris Armstrong

          Just curious, what’s the non-subjective definition of “the left”?

          • Off center — but the other way from me? 😀

          • Whatever the right wants it to be.


            If it works to say ‘the left’ and your audience nods in agreement then you keep saying it. No definition needed.


            There is none.

          • People who frame their politics in terms of a Marxist class struggle and favor the redistribution of wealth and power to the allegedly underprivileged classes. This includes not only communists and socialists (as well as those who sympathize with communist and socialist ideology), but also radical feminists of the Sarkeesian camp, who reject Choice Feminism for a much more Marxist narrative (which is where we get concepts like the “Patriarchy”).

            • I’m as left/liberal is it comes and I don’t believe any nonsense about “redistribution of wealth” or any of that junk. None of my “left/liberal” friends do either.

              We believe in things like “healthcare is a right, not a privilege as it benefits an entire society” as well as “equal rights/pay for women” and other (apparently) hateful stuff like that.

              But hey, label me however you want. It’s cool, I won’t go on Fox News or MSNBC and cry about it.

              • Have you followed your politics to their logical conclusions? You may be surprised by what you find there.

                • And the slippery slope argument appears. Here’s one example of the slippery slope applied to lack of sex education: Todd Adkin’s and others explanation that ‘legitimate rape’ hardly ever causes pregnancy.

                  If you take arguments to the extreme you can get almost any result you want. Like mass food poisoning from lack of testing from small government.

                  Here in Canada we haven’t married our dogs yet despite gay marriage being legal (and yes I’ve seen that argument by conservatives). I’m sure some nut case try though. But some nut cases use guns to shoot people too. Can’t hurt everyone else for a few nut cases.

                • I’ll see your slippery slope and raise you three straw men.

              • Uh, not that I care about the left-right debate, but “healthcare as a right” *IS* income redistribution. Hence the government forcing the young and healthy to buy insurance they don’t need or pay a fine.

                Just saying’…

                • Chris Armstrong

                  By that definition is it income redistribution to provide for the elderly and infirm? By that standard, anytime an ambulance shows up without being paid in cash by the injured party, they are also participating in this redistribution.

                • It becomes income redistribution when the State enforces it. When individuals decide to provide for their own elderly, or when people buy insurance on a free market, it isn’t redistribution at all.

                  Basically, those on the Left turn to the State to solve society’s problems, while those on the Right believe in limiting the power of the State.

                • Chris Armstrong

                  Well, naturally I knew I was a leftist long before we got here. I guess I’m surprised to find it’s my support of state-regulated emergency response services that would be the defining moment.

                • Like I said, I don’t care overmuch about the right vs left culture war because both camps are really on the same side of the true divide of human politics.

                  The only meaningful divide in human social-political thought is 25 centuries old. It goes back to Salamis and for the past 100 years, the modern “greeks” are losing to the modern “persians”: Both the right and the left start from the premise that citizens exist to serve the state. They just differ on which orders to give at gunpoint to their serfs.

                  Everything else is just smoke screens and posturing.

                • @Felix J. Torres: Is it necessary to be a blank-slatist in order to be a Libertarian in good standing?

                • They just differ on which orders to give at gunpoint to their serfs.

                  Whew! So who believes that the state exists to serve the citizens?

                • By that definition is it income redistribution to provide for the elderly and infirm?

                  When the government is the agency, of course it is. Social security is a classic economic transfer payment. Income is taken from one, and transferred to another.

                • All organizated government is a form of income redistribution. Have to pay for the common good somehow..

                • Common good differs from income distribution or transfer payments. With common good, the benefits are available to all.

                  With income distribution or transfer payments, the benefits are targeted to a defined group. One group loses, and another wins.

          • The one point that all Leftists agree on is that human nature is infinitely malleable, like Silly Putty. They can, and do, disagree on optimum levels of taxation and social spending, on matters of war and peace, on the question of anarchy versus the state, and so on, but never, ever on environment as the sole shaper of belief and behavior.

            This can have inadvertently comic consequences, such as when a Leftist on the one hand denies that there is any inborn difference between a man’s brain and a woman’s brain while on the other hand supporting, for example, the medical mutilation of those diagnosed as having been born with a woman’s brain in a man’s body.

            • One of the characteristics of right wing nutters is their inability to understand anyone to the left of the Atilla the Hun. This is not surprising in a population that clinical studies have shown to have swollen amygdalas and damaged mental flexibility. Their tedious lectures on what centrists or the left believe are best understood as panicked OCD compulsive shouting whose purpose is to quell their own anxiety.

              • Your comment brings to mind how the Soviets used to lock dissidents away in madhouses because they thought that anybody who disagreed with them must be crazy.

                • And yet, there really are some crazy people in the world.

                • No doubt that was what the Soviets said as well, when required to justify how they treated dissidents. Of course, in our day we simply require those with sufficiently un-PC views to undergo “sensitivity training,” as was the case some years ago with baseball player John Rocker and more recently with Colorado baker Jack Phillips.

              • Can you give us an example of an issue the right is incapable of understanding?

            • “The one point that all Leftists agree on is that human nature is infinitely malleable, like Silly Putty.”

              A classic caricature of members of the left. It certainly doesn’t describe me.

              • Recall that all caricatures must have a basis in reality in order to be effective, as any political cartoonist will tell you, but never mind just now.

                Instead, I propose an experiment that will educational and fun. For one of us, anyhow.

                In order to disprove what I said, all you have to do after you read this is to go to your Facebook page or whatever site you prefer, as long as lots of Leftists that you normally interact with online are likely to be there. Announce that you believe that certain variations in intellect, behavior, and accomplishment are determined at least in part by biology. Remember to be very specific as to how these differences manifest themselves in the real world. Then gauge their reaction.

                If you are right, then your action will have little effect on how they regard you. If I am right, then you will be expelled from the herd because you have revealed yourself to be something other than a Leftist after all, even if you never before understood this about yourself.

                Remember, the truth about of the matter is only a few keystrokes away. I’ll be very interested in how things work out for you, so please let me know. I’ll be checking this page over the next couple of days, assuming that the comments remain open.

                Best of luck. You’ll need it.

                • Sorry, but your experiment does not prove that they believe humans nature is infinitely malleable. It proves that people are cliquish. If they truly believed it was infinitely malleable, then they’d be more likely to try to correct/convert a person.

                  And I say this as someone merely looking at the face of your comments. I’m actually conservative.

                • @Liana Muir

                  If they truly believed it was infinitely malleable, then they’d be more likely to try to correct/convert a person.

                  If Peter Winkler is foolish enough to follow my suggestion, his fellow Leftist will not attempt to convert him to blank-slatism, any more than they tried to convert Nobel Laureate Tim Hunt to egalitarianism a few weeks ago; instead, they destroyed old man’s scientific career because of a careless remark. Similar punishment has been meted out to Brendan Eichs, Pax Dickinson, James Watson (another Nobel Laureate), Curtis Yarvin, Vivek Wadha, and a number of others–and by “a number of others,” I mean that I have a list of over two hundred thought-crimninals who have been purged by Leftists in the quite recent past, in most cases even after they recanted. No, he will be expelled from the herd, and face social and perhaps even professional backlash. So much for “conversion.”

                  But of course it is rude to notice such things.

                • @Liana Muir

                  To clarify, all of the above people got into trouble because their words suggested that they did not take blank-slatism as seriously as they were supposed to. That Leftists behave in a way that is seemingly at odds with their beliefs says nothing about my thought-experiment. But it does tell us a great deal about Leftists, in much the same way that the phenomenon of someone who believes that his religion stands for peace even as he slices a captive’s head off is also instructive.

                • The one point that all Leftists agree on is that human nature is infinitely malleable, like Silly Putty….In order to disprove what I said, all you have to do after you read this is to go to your Facebook page or whatever site you prefer, as long as lots of Leftists that you normally interact with online are likely to be there. Announce that you believe that certain variations in intellect, behavior, and accomplishment are determined at least in part by biology. Remember to be very specific as to how these differences manifest themselves in the real world. Then gauge their reaction.

                  If you are right, then your action will have little effect on how they regard you. If I am right, then you will be expelled from the herd because you have revealed yourself to be something other than a Leftist after all, even if you never before understood this about yourself.

                  Reactions from a few Facebook friends isn’t going to prove that “all Leftists” agree that human nature is “infinitely malleable.”

                  Or do you mean that “Leftist” has a very narrow definition – specifically that they must believe in the “infinitely malleability” of “human nature” (I have a hard time writing all that out – it keeps making me picture some gray-beard issuing a “harrumph” while scowling over glasses perched at the tip of his nose)?

                  I always thought a “Leftist” was broadly someone who identified with some or many policies of “the Left” – depending on where “the Left” happened to be geographically and in time. But if I’m wrong, not a big deal. I’ll just hand-fart a few times and go on my merry way.

              • @Matthew Lee Adams

                Leftist are always advocating that action (whether government-based or corporate-based) be taken to reduce inequalities, close gaps, and shatter ceilings of one sort or another, in the belief that by doing so outcomes can be made to be the same across all groups. The lack of women Navy SEALs, for instance, is taken to be evidence of sexism. This is the essence of the Blank Slate theory. Without it Leftists would be all dressed up but have nowhere to go.

                • Okay, I glanced over the blank slate theory and infinitely malleable stuff because I was bored and semi-curious – and it strikes me as basically a lot of excessive mental masturbation.

                  Basically, a bunch of people have decided that “Leftists” and their behavior should be studied to try to derive an understanding of what makes “Leftists” tick and how to thoroughly categorize them into neat, little packets.

                  Way too over-complicated as well as over-simplified – not a mean feat, that, achieving both over-complicated and over-simplified simultaneously.

                  Look – liberal efforts in the social realm in a nutshell are an extension of what many or most families do. It’s just being extended to a group/societal level. No need to over-think it or come up with theories and write long dissertations, etc.

                  It reminds me of when I first read Marx’s Communist Manifesto back in the 80s. I shook my head, trying to figure out how a bunch of supposedly intelligent people ever took this stuff seriously. That’s not with the ability of hindsight. Remember, this was the 80s and a height of tensions with Soviet leaders dropping dead every few years and Reagan wanting Pershing missiles in Europe (actually more of a decapitation tactical nuke, due to its accuracy as opposed to the more strategic SS-20s it was meant to counter; hence why the Soviets were panicked about the deployment).

                  I just tend to nod my head, yeah, yeah, yeah, when some think-nik decides to come up with theories of human behavior that ignore gaping holes in logic or are predicated on things that have no historical precedent.

                  So I read the Manifesto again in Russian and German, and it still didn’t make sense.

                  If studying “Leftists” and writing about them and the theories around them is your cup of tea, have at it with gusto. Because it sure isn’t mine. I take things pretty pragmatically. We have tension in any human interactions between ideas and ideals, and things get pushed or pulled one way or another and back again. What progresses is technology. Otherwise, society itself is just an etch-a-sketch for people to write different (and similar) patterns on until someone shakes it up again.

                • All families are socialistic in nature, as GK Chesterton pointed out long ago. That has nothing to do with the centrality of Blank Slate theory to Leftism.

                • Good thing he pointed out the obvious. I hope it helped make him famous.

                  Meanwhile, I do hope you have fun with all that research and all those theories on “Leftists.” I am sure they are thrilled to be so well-studied. It would stroke anyone’s ego to know that someone is paying so much attention, divining every written thought and ever utterance like any good haruspex would inspecting some nice choice, ripe entrails.

                  Not my stuff, like I said. But that’s what makes this world so great. As Richard Bach once noted, “We are game-playing, fun-having creatures, we are the otters of the universe!” Sidenote – make sure these are sea otters we’re talking about here. River otters can be territorial and develop a pretty mean streak. They’re otter-ly cute – until they rip into you and tear out your femoral artery.

                • @Matthew Lee Adams

                  That socialism is practiced within families wasn’t obvious when Chesterton said it, which is why it did indeed add to his fame. But it was a truism by the time you said the same thing by writing “liberal efforts in the social realm in a nutshell are an extension of what many or most families do,” which is why it won’t add to your fame.

                  With respect to your apathy regarding the nature of Leftism, well, you may not be interested in Leftists, but they are interested in you.

                • Well, I really doubt Chesterton was the first to realize that families practice redistribution and sharing and other social practices within the familial circle.

                  Good God, how stupid would people have to be to not see that one staring them in the face?

                  What you do have is the late 19th century explosion of thoughts and theories and observations, spurred on by technological and social innovations and a bit of backlash against the industrial revolution. Besides a slew of socialist and utopian theorists and writers, we even saw it all bleed into the realm of literature, especially the evolving sci-fi and fantasy genres. Those same genres tend to be responsive to social changes at large. Witness the way sci-fi and fantasy reflected the rapid changes of 1950s through 1970s Western (and particularly U.S.) societies.

                  Me, I’m not seeking fame. I’d like to enjoy myself. That’s pretty good enough for me, I think.

                  I’m cool with Leftists being interested in me, if I can get free ice cream.

                • @Matthew Lee Adams

                  Well, I really doubt Chesterton was the first to realize that families practice redistribution and sharing and other social practices within the familial circle.

                  Good God, how stupid would people have to be to not see that one staring them in the face?

                  And yet you yourself pointed that very thing out when you wrote, “liberal efforts in the social realm in a nutshell are an extension of what many or most families do.” You only seemed to be bothered by the sheer obviousness of it when I mentioned that Chesterton had made the same observation a hundred years ago.

                • Um, I pointed it out because it was obvious. Not because it requires any great thinking.

                  I’m not bothered by the obviousness of it. I accept that.

                  I tend to disbelieve that Chesterton singularly came up with that one and no one else had seen that one before. I mean, it’s not very much of a stretch, any more than the King or other titular male figure representing an extension of a father figure. That one’s been used a lot as well.

                • @Matthew Lee Adams

                  Good thing he pointed out the obvious. I hope it helped make him famous.

                  What was the point of that statement, if not to belittle him for saying the same thing that you said?

                • I would call it more of an amused lookback at the wide-eyed age of discovery of all kinds of ideas about society and how things work – and particularly how some people thought things ought to work.

                  Since I am standing over a century past that time and possess an occasional dose or two of snarkiness and this is a friggin’ Internet thread, I can’t take the whole thing quite so seriously as if I were back in his time and sharing a beverage and actually discussing things of great import or whatever.

                • @Matthew Lee Adams

                  Snark for snark’s sake, then, and directed at somebody who said the same thing you said, but a hundred years before you said it.

  2. Post may contain irony: discontinue use if experiencing mood swings, nausea or elevated blood pressure.

    That is all …

  3. Maybe we can start treating PTSD as a serious condition and not mock it? I mean, gods forbid we have some empathy for other people.

    Listing a few words at the top of an assignment is not some horrible burden.

    • Perhaps we can stop defining the condition as resulting from things that are not TRAUMA?

      Sorry, but unless you are a refugee from a Muslim country in Africa – you do NOT have “trauma” from experiencing slavery. Unless you are a refugee from an Islamic country – you do NOT have “trauma” from experiencing anti-homosexual hatred.

      “Trauma” is not having your neat, sheltered world-view disturbed by someone who was so rude as to disagree with it.

      • Oh really. So those kids who commit suicide because of harassment because they are gay, the many who are kicked out onto the streets by their parents, beaten up by their peers, they’re just IMAGINING that it was trauma. Thanks for clarifying that.

        • Yeah he screwed up on the gay part. Maybe he’s too young to remember kids getting beaten, tossed out of their homes, forced into the closet, put on drugs, sent to reorientation camps, imprisoned, castrated, killed, dying of AIDS because they deserve to die for their sins and all for being gay.

          Oh wait, that still happens. In the US anyway.

      • My cousin is not a refugee from an Islamic country. He has “trauma” (not sure why you used quotes, but I will too in this instance) from being put in the hospital by a bunch of hillbillies who “hate queers.” Combine that with a lifetime of abuse (whether verbal, physical, or emotional) from other “queer haters” and you hopefully understand that Islam has nothing to do with PTSD in homosexuals.

        As I posted below, my wife’s best friend in junior high was brutally raped. She (and the victim) both suffer “trauma” at the slightest hint that a rape is happening on a movie/TV screen (or in books where it is described in horrific detail).

        I could probably go on, but mostly I just wanted to point out that one does not have to be from an Islamic/African country/continent to suffer trauma/PTSD.

        And this is to Joe below: The people who actually suffer from PTSD aren’t using it for ideological opportunism. The people who do that are the terrible persons who are out to make a quick buck, be a troll, or any number of other ignorant, selfish reasons they do such things. You know, typical nonsense where the victims are used as poster children for some other person’s crusade (that usually isn’t geared towards helping victims at all).

      • You don’t get to judge what experiences are traumatic enough to count.

        • And on that same note, who is to judge at what level a ‘trigger warning’ is actually needed? All so subjective and it varies from person to person.

          Let’s take something easy like underage sex. Just what is that age? Wait — you mean different countries and/or religions state different ages? And ‘when’ you ask it matters too? (As when my folks had me, she wasn’t eighteen and he was over twenty — by today’s laws he should have been locked away! And my grandmother and her mom were wed long before hitting the current ‘adult’ age.)

          Okay, let’s try another easy, violence. At what point do we get there? A punch connecting, a punch thrown, or just a balling of the hand into a fist?

          One person’s treat will be another’s deadly poison no matter how one writes it …

          • Typically violence is “A punch connecting, a punch thrown”, the other doesn’t require a warning, references to violence or implications of violence refer to off-screen events, and graphic violence is either explicitly described with pain (think “bones cracking”) but usually blood and/or gore. It’s a spectrum, but not one that’s hard to navigate.

            And yes, many people use warnings as advertising. There are people who look for what they want in them and for what they don’t want, and then read that which has the right combination.

            It’s just glorified tagging. I prefer my fiction tagged or spoilery reviewed while acknowledging that some people like to be surprised, so mark spoilers and make the warning field obvious so it can be easily skipped.

            • Yep. Most of my stories have some form of profanity or violence or sex. The ones that have what I personally consider “graphic” depictions of that are the ones I label.

              Each author/reader/viewer has his or her own definitions of what is a trigger or graphic. What I consider graphic violence / sex (description of a person being strangled to death or explicit sexual details) is sometimes far, far different (be it “tame” or “horrific”) than what another person does.

              Basically, I just want readers to know, same as in movie ratings, what will be contained within the story without actually giving anything away.

    • It would be easier to treat it seriously if people weren’t taking advantage of it for ideological opportunism.

      • I’m not out on the internet all that much, not a gamer, etc., but it seems to me that most of the political rhetoric I see about this general topic is coming from the right. Perspective is everything.

        Is the defense budget an example of “income redistribution?” I can’t help but think that having healthy citizens is good for a nation and for business, while all that defense money may not be. I think that would make for an interesting discussion without the ideological name-calling and insults.

    • And deities forbid anything ‘unpleasant’ (defined by each person) come up in the real world either.

      The Brits are afraid (rightly so) that the ‘United Nanny States’ will soon overrun them as it has us in the states.

      A new warning is required on all book covers (leaving no room for the title or author’s name):

      This book may contain sex, violence, bad words, bad thoughts, bad ideas, bad plots and sub-plots! Do not attempt to read if you are easily excited as this could lead to you doing or saying stupid things. On the other hand, this book may not contain enough sex, violence, bad words, bad thoughts, bad ideas, bad plots and sub-plots to make you happy you wasted your time reading it.

      And Amazon is EVIL, please pay more for this book elsewhere!

      That is all, please enjoy your reading …


      Post may contain irony: discontinue use if experiencing mood swings, nausea or elevated blood pressure.

      • The real world is hard enough for people with PTSD and other mental health issues. A warning is a kindness.

        Why is it such a huge problem to be a little more kind to each other? To consider someone else’s feelings?

        • Serious question for you. How would you propose we warn the different PTSD types away without causing the rest of your readers saying ‘WTF?’ to all the warnings and giving it a miss?

          As in: “How dang bad must this thing be that they had to put warning labels on a book?” Especially with the types of books out there with no warnings.

          Or maybe PTSD books could say: “This book is PTSD safe for sex/violence” …

          • nah, I just say “graphic violence / sexual situations” as that’s my own personal opinion of the words I wrote. I let readers take it as they will. I’ve received emails saying that the “triggers” were wrong as the story wasn’t nearly graphic enough to earn that tag, as well as emails complaining about how the trigger/tag wasn’t enough of a warning.

            I figure if a person has some sort of PTSD, they’ll be able to judge for themselves whether or not my tag of “adult themes / graphic violence” is enough warning to buy or avoid my drivel.

          • For ebooks, bottom of the Amazon description.

            Something like:

            Trigger Warnings: Graphic violence, mentions of sexual abuse, strong language

    • It’s not listing just a few words. That’s the issue.

      Professors have been reprimanded for discussing issues in class. The point of these warnings is not to give people time to prepare. It’s to remove material from the curriculum

      • And they love us for making it so easy for them to find by key-wording it for them …

    • Here’s the problem with this: two people can experience the same bad thing and only one of them gets PTSD and needs “trigger warnings.”

      It’s not about a lack of empathy for PTSD. It’s about the approach to PTSD and our respect for science. Do we help those with PTSD get properly diagnosed and treated (i.e., you don’t get to declare that you “identify” as traumatized) so they can become healthy, or do we demand everyone else walk on eggshells every time members of particular classes assert an injury with no qualified expert confirmation or evidence? The former is compassionate science, the latter is authoritarian politics.

      Trigger warnings are the antibacterials of the mind. Now we know that too much hygiene when raising kids can wreck their immune system, and we’re learning more about the efficacy of exposure therapy for allergies, phobias, and PTSD. In other word, medicine tells us the opposite of what trigger warning culture does. It’s illustrative to note that “hygiene” refers to both a medical concept and a moralistic cultural concept that’s used to impose authoritarian control over others. Understanding this distinction reveals “trigger warnings” to be more about imposing moral control than about healing medicine.

      Needing therapy is nothing to be mocked. But, if you’re in therapy you don’t demand the whole world be in therapy with you. You finish your therapy, then rejoin the world.

      The “trigger warning” culture, however, isn’t about getting healthy. It’s about instituting grievance and injury as permanent cause for demanding things from others. It’s a power play, given to all sorts of fraud and exaggeration, and we are under absolutely no obligation not to mock or oppose that.

      • The ones wanting all types of PTSDs to be protected from seeing/running into any triggers are the same ones wanting to ban all nuts, eggs, milk, and all the other things that a very small number of people have bad reactions from (for one of my brothers, it’s celery seeds. He can eat celery all day long, but a few seeds in a sauce or dressing and watch him blow up!)

        And like:

        points out, sometimes a shock to the system helps build the system to survive other shocks …

      • Needing therapy is nothing to be mocked. But, if you’re in therapy you don’t demand the whole world be in therapy with you. You finish your therapy, then rejoin the world.

        The “trigger warning” culture, however, isn’t about getting healthy. It’s about instituting grievance and injury as permanent cause for demanding things from others. It’s a power play, given to all sorts of fraud and exaggeration, and we are under absolutely no obligation not to mock or oppose that.

        A lot of people who ask for trigger warnings are already in therapy. And often enough, traumatic events aren’t something where “You finish your therapy, then rejoin the world.” People often describe heavy trauma relating to sexual violation, experiences with violence, and exposure to war as something that tends to be lifelong.

        I know it really gets some people frothingly worked-up because our whole society is wimpifying itself by trying too hard to be nice. I get that.

        I also don’t really have a problem with clothing tags that reveal what materials are used and country of origin and washing instructions even if I personally just throw things generally into cold water and warm dry, regardless of the label. Some people do use those labels.

        I also don’t have an issue with MPAA film ratings or explicit lyrics labels on music. I see films that interest me. But I also know there are some people and parents who look at ratings and content and make decisions accordingly.

        I don’t have an issue with food ingredients labeling – I can’t say I hold off on buying ice cream just because of the eye-popping calories and fat-count, but I do sometimes look at the label and squint as I try to decipher some of the more ingeniously-named artificially-created ingredients.

        But I guess trigger warnings may be where we need to draw the line. Because there is something different about sticking a label “May contain graphic depictions of violence and sexual abuse” on a story. As opposed to MPAA ratings like “Rated R For violence, language and some sexuality.”

        The latter is fine, because it isn’t catering to anyone’s special needs. The former is coddling people who just need to get over it and stop making us coddle them.

  4. It’s funny how people on the far left often arrive to the same conclusions as people on the far right: they find something is distasteful to their delicate senses and decide it should be censored or removed from society altogether. Extremism in any form is dangerous, whether it’s hard-line Christians burning Harry Potter books, or hard-line atheists burning bibles. Intolerance only breeds further intolerance, and slowly seems to creep into the general consciousness.

    Oh well, back to eating enchiladas on my confederate flag plate while I watch anime and listen to John Coltrane. 😛

    • Putting a trigger warning at the top of a page is now ‘censorship’. Ah well, we needed a new definition.

      • To convince someone that something is bad, you must first label it. It’s a warning to stay away from something. We’re not talking about dirty magazines at a gas station with a black plastic cover – and yet by way of the examples in this article, classic literature is practically being treated in the same way.

        (Per my edit below in response to Liana.) I just re-thought this, and don’t have a problem with it. It could be brilliant marketing, just like with 50SOG – The more salacious you make it, the more some people will want to pop open the cover, all the while protecting those wishing to be protected. 😛

      • Right? Censorship isn’t descriptive enough! Maybe we can group-think a new word and Websters or other dictionaries can grant us the privilege of adding it to their list.

        But honestly, I don’t see classic literature or any literature being “censored” because of tags or trigger warnings. Not really sure how that works, even after reading a ton of comments. But apparently this is how things are and now I’m unable to read classic or other literature based on these warnings?

      • Well, iBooks blacklisted one of my books when I included a trigger warning for rape in the description. The rape happens off the page, but I decided to include the trigger warning anyway, because I knew it might upset people. For that act of consideration, my book was indeed censored.

      • Putting a trigger warning at the top of a page is now ‘censorship’. Ah well, we needed a new definition.

        No. The old definition works fine. It is censoring if it is required by a government or commercial authority, placed in or on the book, based on viewpoint, and placed there against the wishes of the rights holder.

        Removing or adding content both qualify as censoring.

    • Thank you, Bardic. Very good points. I get tired of the name-calling of those who don’t agree with one’s political views.

      • Thanks, Kathlena. Btw, checked out your site and bought “Blackthorne” from Amazon. “Familiar Magic” looks good, too.

  5. Coming out of a fiction culture that contains warnings, I find them extremely helpful in navigating the material that won’t squick me and won’t trigger me, and everyone’s squicks and triggers are different and eclectic. At the least, it allows me to brace myself for something that might be scarring if I went in unforewarned.

    It’s the primary reason I’ll try new-to-me fanficcers all the time, but I demand and require a complete free story or a TON of spoilers before I’ll buy a book from a new-to-me original fiction author. It’s easy to know what I’m getting into if there are warnings, and too easy to end up trying and failing to sponge stuff off my brain if I don’t.

    ETA: But if you don’t want people to know what they’re going to read in advance, then by all means, let them use some kind of filtering app or program. Either let them deal with surprises or don’t surprise them, but it’s not wrong for readers to figure out ways to avoid what they don’t want to read because it leaves them squicked out or worse.

    • This. So much this. Trigger warnings aren’t censorship. The material is still there, it’s still exactly as it is, there’s just a note at the beginning/in the description to let people know of content that might be a problem for some people. It is up to each potential reader whether they want to read it, avoid it, or read cautiously while knowing it might potentially be a problem.

      I find it fascinating when the people complaining about how trigger warnings are sanitizing fiction are the same people who are complaining about how “perverted” fan fiction is. Don’t they realize how deeply trigger warnings are integrated into fanfic culture? Something doesn’t compute here….

      • I couldn’t agree with you more wholeheartedly.

        • I guess my issue is that I would definitely put a rating/warning on my Amazon page for a book that has lots of sex/violence, for example, but I would never put a big sticker/warning like that on the cover of my book. You also have to ask where you stop with defining “triggers”? Do they only cover extreme violence/sex, or do they cover dog attacks, accidental poisoning, a person drowning, any mention of religious or spiritual beliefs, etc, etc, etc?

          Actually, I just re-thought this, and don’t have a problem with it. It could be brilliant marketing, just like with 50SOG – The more salacious you make it, the more some people will want to pop open the cover, all the while protecting those wishing to be protected. 😛

          • You can’t cover everything, and even the strongest supporters of warnings will admit that.

            Cover the major stuff and people will appreciate it.

            I’d be against putting it on book covers. At the bottom of the Amazon page should be fine. Or a back page in a print book.

          • The only time I’ve heard the “sticker on the cover” complaint, it’s from people complaining about people who advocate for warnings, it’s never from the actual people who use them. Trigger warnings in practice would be a section in the book description, a page in the front matter of the book, a note on the back cover below the summary, something like that. It’s there for people who know there are things they try to avoid or need to be aware of what they are getting into, but not to be an in-your-face kind of thing.

            Re what to warn for: it really depends on the author or what they know about their readership. Some fanfic authors warn for everything just in case, some only for the big stuff, usually they are up front about what kinds of things they mention, so people know what they are getting into. And yes, I’ve seen warnings for dog attacks, drowning, poisoning, and things like that, but other times the warning is phrased more like “graphic descriptions of violence”.

            ETA: I’m talking specifically about tags I see in fanfic, which often include warnings on specific chapters, and therefore tend to be more granular.

            • This. Dog attacks is probably a good one to be specific, but most would say near death or graphic violence or some such for the rest.

          • The cover? Eek, no. In “Dowse and Bleed”, it’s a little bit of bold text at the bottom of a front matter page. On most romance books (that do heat labeling, kinks list [both warning/advertising]), it’s usually on the back cover toward the bottom in bold. Think of it like movie ratings. It’s not a front cover thing.

      • Yeah, right? Fanfic is pretty much the most uncensored thing on the internet. LOL.

    • Yes, thank you for bringing this up.

      Trigger warnings are different that squicks. Can you imagine the “real world” using both terms?

      Trigger warnings should only be used for something really really bad, like violent death or rape or something that might have been experienced by the person or by someone they know or are close to, something horrible, life changing, awful, terrible.

      Putting a trigger on for, say, “this story contains references to dairy products” (or the like) is a joke, and actually makes the trigger warnings less effective. (Unless you’re doing it for comedic effect, as in, “This story contains references to oatmeal!”)

      You can’t sanitize everything in life! But yes, warning that a story contains xyz factors is different than censorship. But putting triggers for everything is like trying to put padding on all the sharp corners in the world.

      Squicks on the other hand are those things that I am not and would not be traumatized by, but that I would not care to read. Like….reading about people eating brussel sprouts “squicks” me, so I’ll avoid that story. Thank goodness someone put “brussel sprouts” in the tags!

      Oh wait, you mean that doesn’t happen in the “pro publishing” world? Well, thank goodness for fan fiction!

      • :giggles: I honestly am unsquicked by brussel sprouts, but my squicks are usually things that are triggering or squicky to a lot of other people: infidelity/cheating/betrayal, embarrassment, body-related humor, murder, etc. They’re usually easy to figure out from tags or spoilers, and that’s not a bad thing.

        • Murder and/or character death is one of my squicks, too. I know that having a cannon character die can get a lot of angst-mileage, but I never get over those kinds of stories, so I avoid them. An OC death is one thing, but I still don’t enjoy it. But that’s my squick, and not a trigger, and so I filter those tags out of my list of “I might want to read this.”

  6. I find that I have very little sympathy for the poor Europeans here. They quite merrily spread the flu – it’s just too bad it came back to them as the plague.

  7. I put content/trigger “warnings” (I don’t really consider them warnings, but I guess others do so whatever) in the blurbs of all my books. For example:

    Mature themes / violence / profanity

    I’ve grown up with the MPAA ratings system on movies (and now the ESRB warnings on video games), so this is nothing new or odd for me. I want readers who might be sensitive to such things to decide whether or not they might want to take a chance with the story before spending money on it.

    Mostly, though, I got tired of moms sending me angry emails about how they let their teenager read one of my books, which they wouldn’t have done if they’d known there was foul language, graphic sex/violence, etc. in it. Whatever it is they don’t approve of.

    It isn’t my job to police my readers (or their children) and keep them from reading something immoral (to them). I do feel like it is my job to at least let them know what kind of book they are getting (for themselves or their children).

    Combine this with my wife’s best friend back in junior high (middle school for those who don’t live in the western USA) being brutally raped (while almost everyone did nothing other than blame the victim after). My wife cannot and will not sit through rape scenes in movies/TV (this has made Game of Thrones difficult to watch at times). Because I’ve seen her reaction so many times, I decided that because I write stories for adults, it would be good for me to clue readers in on what they might encounter in one of my books.

    Other authors have vehemently disagreed with my addition of ratings/triggers. To each his/her own. The great thing about self-pub is I can make the rules for myself.

    • This. I call them warnings, but not trigger warnings because it could just as easily be a maturity / squick / preference warning as far as that goes, but I use them on my own fiction most of the time and I skip it in appropriate settings, like a blog post with no on-screen serious content.

      It’s a courtesy to allow people to make their own informed reading choices with no one to blame but themselves if they choose to read and don’t like.

      • Be careful, Liana. The thought police will come for us in their black government vans and take away our mental processes. And guns. And flags. And our Constitution.

  8. [Cue old people rant]

    In my day, “Trigger warnings” were your parents hiding books on the top shelf so you wouldn’t read them.

    That’s why my cousins and I read “Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex (but were afraid to ask).”

    Giggling the whole way, mind you.

    • Heh, with me, it was my mother hiding “Playgirl” and such on her top closet shelf (which was weird to me seeing a bunch of naked men) and my brother hiding “Playboy” where he thought neither me nor my mother would find it.

      My wife is a decade younger than me, and for her, it was discovering her parents’ VHS porn collection (she was less traumatized by the porn than she was about thinking of her parents watching it and doing “gross” stuff haha).

      • And you are careful not to traumatize her by asking which position she thinks they used to conceive her? 😀

        Guy next door was getting rid of his Playboy collection and my house had four boys in it (oldest early teen). Foldouts pined to the walls in the bedrooms.

        Parents’ thoughts you ask? They figured (rightly so as it happened) that we’d get it out of out system early …

        This is still more of trying to childproof the world rather than world-proofing the child — or getting help for those traumatized so they can better manage in a world where ‘sh** happens’ …

        • My mother, for some reason, gave my brother a sub to Playboy when he was 14 (I’m 7 years younger), and for a while, he too had playmates tacked to our bedroom wall.

          My friends thought I was the bestest, most coolest friend in the universe. I thought nothing of it once the weirdness went away (about a week later, but that’s because I was raised to understand sex, profanity, and violence from a young age).

          My only disappointment is that by the time I hit puberty, my brother was in college and he’d given away his entire collection, leaving me only with mom’s Playgirl magazines.

    • There’s not top shelf anymore though, right Meryl?

      Cuz Internets.

      I wonder if young people growing up with the ability to see and read anything and everything will be numb to this sort of thing.

      Is it the younger people needing trigger warnings, or people who grew up in a pre-internet sheltered world like me? Or does it not matter, generation irrelevant? Or is it just totally rare for all people and a few vocal folks are yammering about it?

      I started seeing the ‘trigger’ warning thing a couple of years ago on feminist blogs.

      • I think the book might have been passed on to one of my cousins. But I also remember reading about some pretty smart parents who put classics on the top shelf to get their kids to read “forbidden” novels. Nice idea. Can’t do it anymore, alas.

  9. I don’t know how I feel about this.

    On the one hand, I think that part of what makes books great–especially when you are young / in college–is that they can push you, challenge you, force you to expand your boundaries. Books are not always supposed to be comfortable and safe.

    But on the other hand, I don’t have PTSD, so this is easy for me to say. I might well feel differently if I was suffering from PTSD.

    • The thing about trigger warnings is that it is freeing in many ways. Someone who would be triggered by coming upon content unexpectedly, might just need the heads-up to know it’s coming and be able to handle it. Some might still need to avoid it. It doesn’t take away the element of pushing and challenging, it just provides a courtesy for those who need it.

      Maybe think about it this way, the people who benefit from trigger warnings have already dealt with whatever that subject is in such a way that they are psychologically scarred from the experience. They don’t need to be challenged or stretched in that way. The people who don’t need the warning can still deal with the material, but have the added benefit of becoming aware of how whatever it is can affect other people, and learn more about trauma and it’s consequences.

      • This. It’s a courtesy and doesn’t stop people from reading and being challenged, just stops someone who might honestly need to brace themselves from being sideswiped.

        • I did recently get an email from a ‘friend’ and in the body of the email popped up a picture of a dead kittie with a freakin’ arrow through it’s head. ‘Donate to PETA’ or some such. 🙁

          Talk about side swiped. It was terrible. Couldn’t get the image out of my head for like 2 days. Super graphic.

          The profanity laced reply to this ‘friend’ assured I would never get an email from her again.

  10. Academics often give a pass to material – history, literature – because it is old and well-known.

    I’ve always been horrified by ‘The Rape of the Sabines’ – and many instances of rape and violence in the Bible – but somehow students were just supposed to suck it up, because that’s the way the world is. Was. Continues to be.

    White men writing history don’t get bothered by all this stuff – so why should the students?

    Schools and teachers should at least acknowledge that some of their ‘Western civilization’ material is raw. And you can’t tell, looking out at a classroom full of fresh-faced students, which ones came from horrific backgrounds.

    PC meaning ‘have a little bit of sensitivity’ isn’t a bad thing.

    • Um. Anne McCaffrey was pretty big on writing rapey scenes in her novels. She even rewrote a story because decades later, she decided it was rape, not sex (which it was). [Updated to clarify: It was definitely a rape scene.]

      It’s not just the classics, and it’s not just white men.

    • White men writing history don’t get bothered by all this stuff – so why should the students?

      Are Asian historians bothered by that stuff? How about Indian historians? Any bothered by stuff in Indian history or literature?

  11. I expect a reader is entitled to this sort of information in the book description so he/she can avoid the book.

  12. My writing partner was molested and raped by close family members as a child. When I asked him if I needed to put a trigger warning for rape on some of my books, he told me absolutely not.

    • Well that settles it?

      • Not at all, but it’s certainly an interesting data point.

        • There is a large group of people who would rather not have warnings, just as there’s a large group who prefers them. On AO3, warnings and tags can be toggled on or off for the spoilers/no spoilers crowd because they are simply two (very large) subsets of people, regardless of whether they’ve ever been traumatized.

          That’s why if you put warnings on a book, you want in the front matter/small print variety that’s skippable.

          • What’s AO3?

            • http://archiveofourown.org/

              It’s a really prominent fanfiction site that is incredibly well-designed regarding searching, browsing, tagging, etc. I have never seen a site that makes it so easy to find good stories to read that have just what I’m in the mood for at the moment.

            • Ditto what Beth says. It also has won a place in Google’s “Top 50 Websites of XYZ Year.” It contains the largest repository of fan fiction on the internet, accepts all fandoms (that is, is not fandom specific), is run by fans, for fans. You can find any story about any subject you care to read – all of this is because stories are tagged for subject matter, triggers, and squicks. So if you like stories about brussel sprouts, all you have to do is filter on that tag.

              Would that all the libraries and bookstores in the world were run on this model.

            • What they said. I really wish there was an original fiction site run like AO3.

              • ^this… A thousands times this!

                • Oh, I know right! I hear people talk about posting things to Wattpad, and I’m all “Oh honey, I’m so sorry.” *shudder* I can’t handle using Wattpad because I read on my phone and I spend the whole time thinking that I could find stuff just as good or better on AO3 and actually enjoy the experience of the site.

            • I don’t even know what a “squick” is.

              • When I read or see embarrassment, I feel embarrassed and horribly uncomfortable. I’m “squicked.” If I see or read gore or blood or surgical scenes, I’m beyond grossed out and getting it out of my head is hard. I’m “squicked.” What Joe described above, his reaction to the cat picture is “squicked.”

                When I read certain things that put me back mentally in a traumatic situation and I start hyperventilating and having a panic attack, I’m triggered. Triggers are serious business. Squicks are to be avoided and horrible but you live through them and don’t get too worried about it.

          • Thanks for your comments, by the way. I’m kind of on the fence when it comes to trigger warnings: I’ve used them in the past but it’s gotten my books blocked from certain vendors (like iBooks). Usually I just use a broad warning at the bottom of the blurb, like “WARNING: contains sexual violence.”

            • That is a good way to do it, in my experience.

            • You’re welcome, I’m glad to help. I see a lot of confusion about the subject, and even though I don’t have any triggers myself, I’ve seen the benefit of them, and use them to know what kind of story I’m getting into. I’ve enjoyed following this conversation.

      • I guess it does. I’m going to remove all my tags/warnings now. I didn’t realize I was doing it wrong based on someone’s writing partner’s experience!

        • Not saying he’s right or wrong, just that that’s his opinion. Politically, he is much further to the Right than me (if you can believe it, lol).

          The people who are most in need of “trigger warnings” are not always the ones calling loudly for them. There are ideolgues who use things like “triggering” to further their own agenda. The solution I’ve found is to include a broad warning without playing the game that the ideologues want you to play.

          Even more broadly, I think that this debate points to a need for a general rating system for ebooks. Challenging, when you factor self-publishing into the equation.

          • You can plug in an established rating system if you like. There are several. I tend to avoid rating in original fiction and use common ones in fanfic for clarity reasons.

  13. And don’t get me started on “Huck Finn” – that thing is loaded with triggers, especially the language.

    I’m not referring to the common use of the “N-word”, but to the constant assaults on our noble language caused by the non-standard grammar and spelling. This thing needs to be banned!

    • Haha, don’t worry, in 50 years, people will be crying about how awful our grasp of the English language was and how terrible our books were (UNREADABLE DRIVEL! BOO!).

      • In 50 years? They have been complaining loudly and continually about the tsunami of swill since the rollout of KDP.

  14. Notice: There will never ever under any circumstances ever ever ever be any rape or rapey situations in anything I ever write.

    Tons of profanity though. Loads. Thinking of cutting that out too though. My inner Mormon popping out.

    But that’s my personal choice as a writer. I don’t think a label takes away my choice, but it might influence my choices. Different labels lead to different levels of sales.

    Like the “R” rating in Hollywood. It hurts sales, or it seems to.

    Interesting topic. Not going to affect me though. I write fun stuff, not heart wrenching stuff.

  15. My father has PTSD from ‘Nam. Worst case I’ve ever seen. If he hears aggressive Vietnamese, sees a war movie or a chopper roars over without warning it can trigger a huge flashback.

    He’ll start screaming in Vietnamese and breaking stuff, start sweating, not sleep for a few days, get violent on you for shutting a door loudly. Total insanity.

    Not sure what trigger warning he’d need. He mutes when any war stuff comes up on TV and doesn’t watch war movies, ever.

    • ^This.

      I am very certain the author of this article has no knowledge of PTSD, and thus can happily scoff at it, and call facing it it a “challenge” or “unpleasant”. I could get very, very angry at him.

      It is more than fair to warn people with PTSD about triggers. It’s a courtesy, it protects families, and it helps a person with PTSD live life from day to day. I’m all for sensible, useful trigger warnings, either in the blurb or in a specific area for them.

      (Joseph, your father might find help here: http://stressproject.org/
      It’s designed to help veterans with PTSD, with a modality I’m trained in and which I know is effective. All the best for him.)

      • Except… don’t you think it’s pretty easy to know if a book or story you’re reading is a war story? The title or dust jacket should tell you.

        I don’t read horror because it gives me nightmares. I don’t need a trigger warning to stay away from the genre.

        A warning for graphic violence, now that’s different. I thought Amazon already does that fairly well by allowing you to choose the minimum age and say whether its for mature readers or not.

        • I don’t use Zon’s age categories as I worry they’ll be shifted into some weird “dungeon” so I just use tags (based on my interpretations of things like “graphic violence” and such).

          Keeps it visible to the widest audience and lets customers decide for themselves. I think this is especially important as the “YA” category is extremely diverse in terms of how much/little profanity / sex / violence is contained in these stories.

          One 14 year old might not be bothered at all with FSOG, while another might turn white as a sheet and fall over dead.

          Fun fact: My niece (12 years old) had just finished Hunger Games and saw the Kindle ad for FSOG. So she downloaded it, then mom found it and literally freaked the %#@$ out. Niece wasn’t upset at FSOG (other than labeling it a poorly written book) contents, but I think it’s because she didn’t understand most of the sexual content.

        • Warnings for elements of the genre are redundant really. It’s more for the things readers don’t expect.

  16. Victorian women who wished to increase their social status by being viewed as delicate flowers found it expedient to swoon easily, hence the popularity in that era of fainting couches and smelling salts. Victorian men who did not wish to be perceived as brutish enabled such behavior.

    Modern women who wish to increase their social status by being perceived as victims now find it expedient to experience what the Geek Feminism Wiki describes as post-traumatic flashbacks, hence the popularity in our era of trigger warnings and safe spaces. Modern men who do not wish to be perceived as misogynistic enable such behavior.

    And thus human nature, the very thing that SJWs deny exists, is conserved.

    • Only women can be triggered? Anyone who’s had a panic attack or a flashback is faking it?

      Wow. Just wow. You must live a delightfully coddled experience.

      • Hrmmm…. I’m an enabler. This is sad news. I better fix this quickly.

        (I didn’t realize just how awful of a person I am until I started reading these comments!)

      • Trigger warnings and feminism go together like bread and butter. That’s why Geek Feminism Wiki is the second site to appear when performing a Google search for “trigger warning.”

        As for the question of whether only women can be triggered, that is your interpretation of my post. Another, more nuanced interpretation is that only women but not men can gain social status by being triggered, whereas only men but not women can gain social status by growing a beard.

        • Isn’t that because men lose status for appearing weak? They are mocked if raped by women for example (case not long ago in Toronto as an example).

          • Precisely. No man ever increased his social status by appearing weak or victimized, even if he acquired PTSD while serving honorably in the military (recall the notorious incident in which General Patton slapped a shell-shocked soldier during the Second World War). This is not the case with women.

            • I had to tell a teenager this recently. He had a ‘weak’ moment and bared his soul to this girl he had just started dating.


              I don’t have to understand why or agree with the double standard, but I know the rules. You don’t share weakness with a lady until quite some time into the relationship.

              Probably someone will bring up an exception to that rule but that doesn’t change the rule. It’s a thing. Promise.

              • “Double standard” is shorthand for “concession to the biological realities of human nature.”

                • Meh. We break down some of the double standards. Others are outgrowths of biology and still others need no breaking down. As a sick person I have to deal with the expectation of universal competency quite a bit. Yes this is my truck. No I can’t help you move. No I can’t start your lawn mower. That sort of thing.

                • But people ask you for help moving and starting lawn mowers because you’re a man. If you were a woman, even a perfectly healthy one decades younger, they would not.

                • But people ask you for help moving and starting lawn mowers because you’re a man. If you were a woman, even a perfectly healthy one decades younger, they would not.

                  That has not been my experience. I’ve been asked to help in all sorts of situations, from heavy labor to finding books in the library and any sort of thing you could imagine. My being female had no bearing on it.

                  I also own (and know how to use) more tools than 90% of the men I know. The five decks I’ve built are still standing strong, a couple after more than ten years. The storage building I helped my brother with still looks brand new. The three children I bore — and raised with little help from my deadbeat partners — are thriving, vibrant and loving young men.

                • @Sheila

                  Outliers always exist. The players on the US Women’s Soccer team are more athletic then most men, and yet they often scrimmage (with mixed results) against under-16 male high school soccer players rather than against men college players. Ditto for the US Women’s Hockey team. The existence of outliers does not invalidate pattern-recognition.

            • I’d argue there’s a big divide being ‘appearing weak’ and ‘being victimized’ in men. Or John McCain being a POW wouldn’t have been mentioned so often.

              • McCain is a very special case. Google “John McCain: When ‘Tokyo Rose’ Ran for President” to learn more about this captain son of an admiral son of an admiral. I promise you some fascinating reading.

                • Aaand we’re out. That article is on VDare and Lew Rockwell’s sites. Those are pretty disgusting sites that forward the agenda of racists and anti-Semites.

                • Anybody can link to anybody else, and to pretend otherwise is an attempt at disqualification along the lines of “Hitler liked dogs and was a vegetarian, and so therefore anybody who likes Lassie movies or tofu must be a war crimninal.” Or maybe a better example would be “Werner von Braun was in the SS and so therefore the Saturn V rocket can’t possibly go to the Moon.”

                  PS. Because turnabout is fair play, let me attempt to qualify rather than disqualify by pointing out that Ron Unz, the author of the piece I cited, not only is a former publisher of The American Conservative but also has degrees from Harvard and Stanford. Nor has he ever been caught claiming on one occasion that his arms were broken when his plane was shot down while claiming on another occasion that his captors broke his arms while he heroically resisted interrogation. Oh, and Unz is Jewish, so ixnay on the whole azi-nay thing.

                • Ms. Yourish:

                  Aaand we’re out. That article is on VDare and Lew Rockwell’s sites. Those are pretty disgusting sites that forward the agenda of racists and anti-Semites.

                  There are also articles on Lew Rockwell’s site praising J. R. R. Tolkien. I guess that means everyone who ever enjoyed The Lord of the Rings had better repent in sackcloth and ashes. Just because something happens to be said on an extremist site does not necessarily mean it is not so.

                  Mind you, there are plenty of people who insist that we ought to do just that: China Mieville and Michael Moorcock come to mind.

                • First: The American Conservative? Pat Buchanan’s magazine? Oh, that’s a reputable source. Not.

                  Second: Jews can be anti-Semites (cf: Gilad Atzmon). The jury is out on Ron Unz, but it’s telling that he partners with Buchanan and offers a platform for Jew-haters and Israel conspiracy theories.

                  Third: Tom Simon, the source, in this case, is relevant. When only the nutty and bigoted sites are pushing an article, that’s because the mainstream sites see it for what it is: An unsourced bunch of hearsay and rumors, with a few conspiracy theories thrown in.

                  The fact that you can find non-hateful articles on hate sites does not make the sites any less hateful.

                • @Meryl Yourish

                  In your opinion the magazine and people you reference are anti-Semites, racists, and so on, but but others see things differently.

                • Tom Simon, the source, in this case, is relevant. When only the nutty and bigoted sites are pushing an article, that’s because the mainstream sites see it for what it is: An unsourced bunch of hearsay and rumors, with a few conspiracy theories thrown in.

                  Matt Drudge published the story of the Blue Dress. The mainstream said it was a bunch of hearsay and rumors. Hillary Clinton said it was a vast right wing conspiracy.

                  In the Duke Lacrosse case, a small blog called Durham In Wonderland said it was a huge hoax. The mainstream said the hoax idea was a bunch of hearsay and rumors.

                  When Obama said, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,” Breitbart said that was false. The mainstream said Breitbart’s claim it was false was a bunch of hearsay and rumors.

                  People said these sources were nutty and bigoted. Those sources told the truth. The nutty and bigoted story was pushed by the mainstream.

                • Charlie Mackenzie: “Hey Mom, I find it interesting that you refer to the Weekly World News as, ‘The paper’. The paper contains facts.”

                  May Mackenzie: “This paper contains facts. And this paper has the eighth highest circulation in the whole wide world. Right? Plenty of facts. ‘Pregnant man gives birth’. That’s a fact.”


                • @Matthew Lee Adams

                  The Weekly World News never assured us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, although the New York Times did, and yet the latter is our newspaper of record. If Bush had stuck to getting his information from the tabloids we’d be three trillion dollars richer and thousands of Americans would still be alive.

                • Well, that’s because the Pentavirate wanted the war. And so it was. Who is the Pentavirate, you may ask?

                  Stuart Mackenzie: “Well, it’s a well known fact, Sonny Jim, that there’s a secret society of the five wealthiest people in the world, known as The Pentavirate, who run everything in the world, including the newspapers, and meet tri-annually at a secret country mansion in Colorado, known as The Meadows.”

                  Tony Giardino: “So who’s in this Pentavirate?”

                  Stuart Mackenzie: “The Queen, The Vatican, The Gettys, The Rothschilds, *and* Colonel Sanders before he went tits up. Oh, I hated the Colonel with is wee *beady* eyes, and that smug look on his face. “Oh, you’re gonna buy my chicken! Ohhhhh!””

                  Charlie Mackenzie: “Dad, how can you hate “The Colonel”?”

                  Stuart Mackenzie: “Because he puts an addictive chemical in his chicken that makes ya crave it fortnightly, smartarse!”


                • Matthew, you’re my new best friend. 🙂

                • @Matthew Lee Adams

                  I don’t know why the Iraq War came about (there are various theories, most no more substantive than what you just wrote), but I do know who lied about WMDs. And I also know how those who refused to believe those lies were smeared as unpatriotic and as anti-Semites.

                • I think they would say that they were “mistaken” or “misled” or had “wishful thinking” or were “thrown a Curveball” (to cite one of their favorite goal-seeking, confirmation-bias sources) rather than that they outright lied.

                • @Matthew Lee Adams

                  And the pro-war crowd also would go out of their way to attack the credibility of those who opposed them by saying, “But look at all the terrible websites that link to what they said.” Just as some seek to discredit Unz because others that they don’t like link to him.

                • Kudzu Bob, Unz discredits himself. His facts are unproven, his sources are hearsay, he was a publisher of The American Conservative, which means editorial direction was pretty much nonexistent, and the ONLY sites on which you can find his article repeated are the conspiracy theory/white supremacist/anti-Semitic sites.

                  Feel free to call me out by name, sweetums. I’m not shy.

                  Oh, and in my opinion, you’re a bigot.

                • @Meryl Yourish

                  Have you ever voted for a candidate who was called a bigot by his enemies? Does that mean that you are a bigot for supporting him? Or does it mean that calling someone a bigot is an easy way to discredit anything he has to say by smearing him?

        • That is my interpretation of this fairly straightforward comment:

          Modern women who wish to increase their social status by being perceived as victims now find it expedient to experience what the Geek Feminism Wiki describes as post-traumatic flashbacks, hence the popularity in our era of trigger warnings and safe spaces.

          Emphasis added.

          Trigger warnings came out of PTSD and therapy, and safe spaces came out of disabled, ethnic, and other social groups, not women as a group. Nevertheless, you stated in that comment that its due to women wanting higher status.

          Most people I know that work with trigger warnings don’t expect to be treated better for saying they’re triggered. They expect to be treated worse.

          I accept that apparently you weren’t trying to generalize all being triggered as inherently female (since you now say otherwise), but your comment was poorly worded if you didn’t mean that being triggered was fake and solely to benefit women’s status.

          • It would be foolish of me to defend something that I never said, and that in no way can be deducted, inferred, abducted (in Karl Popper’s sense of that term), or otherwise teased from my words.

            My meaning is clear. Women can increase social status by being triggered, whereas men cannot. On the other hand, men who do not agree to the necessity of trigger warnings for women face loss of social status, often in the form of responses such as “I think we can write off at least one comment as simply ignorant.”

            • I suppose we could observe who’s kneading the Play-Doh in the safe places.

            • :blinks: You are aware that this is a literal direct quote of your comment. You did say that trigger warnings and space space came out of women increasing their social status by faking PTSD. You may not have meant it, which I accept (I frequently word things poorly first go), but to deny you said it is ludicrous.

              • I have absolutely no idea what you think that I am claiming not to have said, since you never followed through with stating your interpretation of what I wrote but instead quoted a passage of mine and then began to discuss the origins of trigger warnings and safe spaces. My words, I think, were clear enough, but in this case I find yours impenetrable. Would you be kind enough to state what my perceived inconsistency is? I would appreciate it.

  17. And to think that the subversive American Academia borrowed the political correctness from communism. Just like Harry Truman said, PC is picking the s#it from the clean end.

  18. “…all the greasy fast food…”

    Interestingly enough, France is McDonald’s second largest market after the U.S. Do the French have a problem with McDonald’s or just some of their high-brow intelligentsia? Hmm…

    • LOL.

      “high-brow intelligentsia” have a problem with EVERYTHING.

      It makes them feel oh-so superior to the lumpenprole masses, who actually don’t give a rat’s a** what the HBI think.

      (Yeah, I noticed that Mickey D’s was *everywhere* in France. Surprised me, since so many French HBI’s decry American fast food exports.)

  19. The term “trigger warning” is now considered triggering to those who have suffered violence.


    It should also be noted how in some US colleges that students are complaining about being forced to read “triggering” literature. They want the books removed from curriculum. This won’t affect indie authors and their choices to warn or not warn readers, but many of the classics could fade away from schools as a way to prevent triggering sensitive students.

    • Orwell was an optimist, since he assumed that the Thought Police would at least want to be paid. Ours just work for free.

    • What was that silly movie, ‘Demolition Man’ I think, where anything non-PC had been removed? Where even the cops couldn’t handle anything unusual? Don’t get hurt, the doctors can’t handle the sight of blood and the nurses can’t stand sick people.

      Sorry, not the type of world I’d want to leave for future generations.

      So, while some may have to shield themselves from the bad old world, let’s make sure the rest can still clean a fresh fish, bury their dog, and deliver a swift kick in the nads to any would-be rapist. I want to leave behind survivors, not victims … (and that’s how I prefer to write them! 😉 )

      • Something tells me that the folks who need trigger warnings won’t leave to many descendants too carry on their ideology for the same reason that the Shakers died out. Comparing the birth rates of feminists versus traditionalists will tell you a great deal about what the future must look like. All the propaganda in the world can’t fill an empty cradle.

        • The problem comes when ‘rules/laws’ are put in place to ‘protect’ them that also keep others from doing/learning those things because of those rules/laws. A bit like that ‘no child left behind’ thingy where they lowered the tests and the teaching standards where the lowest could pass, but now even the bright ones are only taught to those lower standards …

        • Well, I appreciate warnings for some content, and I managed to have three children, all after protracted and painful labors (none of that four hour and pop one out shite for me). My first son was born more than 24 hours after labor started, after many doses of medication to quicken and then slow my labor. I had a crappy fool for a doctor, and he made things much harder than it had to be.

          My second son was partially breech, but I refused anything that would interfere with the labor (NOT repeating the first experience, thank you very much) , and after five days, he finally shifted and was born within the hour. My third son was totally breech. I had to have him manually turned, which was not a ride in the park, and more than 12 hours of hard labor later he was finally born (I did have a spinal, but it wore off long before he finally came, and I didn’t want another shot).

          You seem to have a thing against women, Bob, which is sad. We are not weak. We don’t need some man to tell us what to do, or what to think, or how to act, or laws that protect us from ourselves. We do just fine when we are in charge.

          • @Sheila

            You seem to have a thing against women, Bob, which is sad.

            In reality, I have a thing for the truth, which afflicts some the way garlic and crosses do vampires.

            • In reality, I have a thing for the truth, which afflicts some the way garlic and crosses do vampires.

              That feminism is hereditary?

              Comparing the birth rates of feminists versus traditionalists will tell you a great deal about what the future must look like. All the propaganda in the world can’t fill an empty cradle.

              Feminism in different forms has been around throughout history and almost certainly pre-history.

              It’s not going to die out.

              It’ll take different forms, consistent with whatever society happens to be like at a given time.

              Something tells me that the folks who need trigger warnings won’t leave to many descendants too carry on their ideology for the same reason that the Shakers died out.

              As far as people with trigger warnings, I don’t think that one is hereditary, either. It tends to be the result of traumatic events.

              You could make an argument that some types of brain-wiring may either be more susceptible to trauma or deal with it differently than others.

              But it’s not terribly likely that’s going to go away, either, unless someone has come up with ways to identify and promote genes for mental resilience to dampen the enduring effects of exposure to trauma.

              • Belief systems that discourage reproduction get squeezed out by belief systems that encourage reproduction.

                Fun Fact: Demographers expect that by 2108 there will be 34 million Amish in America.

                • Ummm…again, feminism and PTSD are acquired.

                  Go check out any country with high birthrates. They’ll have feminists and people with PTSD.

                  Now, if you’re proposing that the currently more elevated role feminism plays in mainly Western society won’t last forever, that’s less of a birthrate thing and more of a facet of societies and the ways they change, as well as the effects of external and internal events.

                  Feminism always crops up again and has done so throughout all history. Interspersed with it are periods of paternalism where women are more subjugated.

                  Now, if we were orcas or elephants, this kind of push me-pull me/teeter-totter stuff wouldn’t be an issue. And the really cool thing would be that we would either all talk in clicks and whistles or in infrasonic sounds. Of course, the Khoisan bush people of Africa already do the click and whistle stuff, so there may be evolutionary hope that one day we may join our fellow mammalian brethren in the sea and there will be no separate black or white, but instead we will be both black-and-white, and racism and sexism will both disappear once and for all.

                  Unless this were to happen, of course…


                • Of course belief systems are acquired…or imposed. And if those belief systems encourage having babies, they flourish. If not, they die out. If you don’t believe me, ask a Shaker or a Skoptsy. Oh, wait, there aren’t any of those left. My bad.

                  You keep pointing out that feminism crops up again and again throughout history, which is correct, but you don’t stop to ask yourself why it keeps disappearing.

                • I just happened to have seen a Skoptsy last season, and he is no one to mess with, let me tell you.


                  And to be honest, I always got Shakers and Quakers mixed up. Kind of like Steve Miller singing about who he is. We know he’s the Space Cowboy, Maurice, as well as the Pompatus of Love (which no one else has ever dared claim).

                  But we also learn that he’s:

                  ” a picker, a grinner, a lover, and a sinner, a joker, a smoker, a midnight toker.”

                  And when we say he’s the Joker – no, it wasn’t Heath Ledger, nor will it be Jared Leto, although they are both worthy of being close to the real thing. It was always Steve Miller.

                  I wouldn’t say feminism disappears. That would be ridiculous. Think of it as akin to Ernest Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory. There’s a lot of iceberg below the surface. And so it is with feminism. Sometimes that iceberg rides high, and sometimes more of it lies submerged, below the surface.

                  Or think of it like hemlines and the like. In Victorian times, we still got to peek at ankles (or maybe that was just me. I’m not sure how old you are, so can’t presume you remember that far back.). Then the Twenties roared in and hemlines rose. Then a Depression made sack-like clothing surge back into style. Then women worked through World War 2 (made a little rhyme there, I did). And like a nuclear blast, the bikini signaled an end to those burka-like bathing suits that had dominated the earlier parts of the last century.

                  Sure, we’ll probably see some pushback again at some point, somewhere. But I’m holding out for Boudica 2: Electric Boogaloo to kick some paternalistic arse whenever that happens. You talk about history – folks still remember her. Heck, the Catholics built the entire concept of Original Sin around Eve’s willingness to exercise some free will and curiosity (a little “snake” symbolism? Hmmm) when Adam was more willing just to stay home and till the Garden.

                • Feminism can’t keep appearing unless it keeps disappearing.

                • That’s because “appear” appears in “disappear”

                • @Matthew Lee Adams

                  No, I think it has something to do with how feminists have careers, not babies. Traditionalists have babies.

                  The future belongs to those who show up for it.

                • I bet a lot of those traditionalists are gonna really hate it when some of their daughters grow up to be feminists. Because that’s happened, you know. It’s a kind of backlash thing some people do against authority and the way they’re raised.

                  Probably if I cite Reagan and his biological children you’ll go back and claim they weren’t raised traditionally enough or something like that. Or going back further and still doing the Presidential theme, we have the Roosevelts – Alice Lee and Eleanor (Teddy raised his sons mostly in his image – his daughter and her cousin didn’t follow the rules so much).

                  You’ll find a lot of famous feminists who were born into quite strict and traditional families.

                  Please don’t hold your breath waiting for feminism to go away, because it will not.

                • @Matthew Lee Adams

                  Before you said several times that feminism keeps cropping up (that is, appearing), but now you are saying that it’s always around.

                • And I further described it as akin to an iceberg where different amounts are visible or submerged.

                  What’s always around anyway are feminists, and through them feminism gets expressed to one degree or another.

                  Even in the most strict Arabic countries, there are women who don’t accept the strictures placed on them. Some do it more openly than others.

                • But since feminists don’t have many kids, the only way that feminists can make more feminists is through recruiting more feminists who come from traditional families, a kind of self-refutation, since the feminists that they recruit in turn don’t have kids. Feminism bears no fruit. Hardly a recipe for ideological success.

                  Of course, feminists could always encourage one another to have kids, but then they wouldn’t be feminists any more.

  20. I encourage authors to post trigger warnings on their books. If a book contains anything you think might trigger someone, then post a warning on the cover. Go for it.

    This will allow the triggered to find stuff that won’t trigger them, and it will allow people who think triggers are silly to avoid books with warnings. Likewise, it will allow people who are not triggered, but support warnings, to reward books with warnings. Other authors might just post that their are no included triggers.

    This is something any author can do today. Amazon doesn’t have to do it. Laws aren’t needed. Consensus isn’t necessary. Stop talking. Just do it.

    Universities can use the same system. Tell the world a university is a trigger university. Or tell the world it rejects triggers. Then students can self-select. This will give students the opportunity to select the environment most suited to them. It’s a win/win.

    The more information we have, the better choices we can make as consumers.

    God Bless Capitalism, for it triggers the market.

    • How about instead we treat it like the grocery stores do ‘organic’ food? Make a ‘PTSD safe sex/bad words’ sticker as most all ‘current’ books don’t have warnings and they may never be updated …

      That way PTSD types can look for the sticker and the non-PTSD may never notice it.

      This would be much easier than trying to recall all books/ebooks to get them stickered — least some poor PTSD pick up a book at the library and go into shock.

      • Sure. An author can certify that his book isn’t offensive to anyone.

        Other authors can certify they don’t care who is offended

        Let the market decide.

    • I still don’t recommend putting it on the front of the book. Romance books use small bold print on the back cover toward the bottom with heat rating and sometimes warnings. I put mine in small bold print at the bottom of a frontmatter page where it’s easily skippable and easily findable. Hasn’t bothered anyone yet.

  21. “May contain peanuts”

  22. Literature is saved! Bloom County has returned!

  23. Life contains bad stuff. Should education systems be protecting young people from this fact? Not sure that it should. But there needs to be balance in all things.

  24. just really hard to believe that Ovid is going to ‘trigger’ someone sane to suddenly put on billy goat horns, or arm themselves with a nail gun. There are plenty that do that and they cant even spell Ovid.

    I get that mentally ill people can be utterly incited by reading violent lit which to them is like hard core porn along with slavering and fantasizing and sexual arousal and …

    well, plenty slaver about without committing crimes too.

    Maya Angelou’s work “caged bird’ is regularly challenged in school districts by fundementalist christians because there is a rape scene in it. But it seems they’d protest also if there was a rap scene in the book too.

    Enough already.

  25. I dont think any student should be made to read anything. The group think of THAT is over its exiry date.

    Let them pick the books that interest them. And if they caint be trusted to read deep, then have the prof approve of the read. Or just give a list of 100 books and let the students choose.

    • Let them pick the books that interest them. And if they caint be trusted to read deep, then have the prof approve of the read. Or just give a list of 100 books and let the students choose.

      They can save a lot of money with an Amazon account. Who needs college to sit around reading what you want?

  26. All I know is I would have appreciated some sort of warning before viewing a safety video years ago where I once worked. I didn’t know what was in it until it was too late, and I ended up plugging my ears and putting my head down on the table.

    I was so sick and so shaken, that the woman conducting the training session nearly flipped out. When I explained to her that the scenes where an employee cut off their hands in the paper trimmer were far too close to the accidents my father and one of my sisters had, where they lost partial fingers (my father all the ends of the fingers on one hand), she was horrified that she hadn’t said anything.

    After that, people were warned, and allowed to leave and not view the video. I had several people tell me they were glad I’d spoken up, because they had similar experiences and seeing things like that were terribly upsetting, to the point of one having to be hospitalized.

    I myself had nightmares for years about getting my hands cut off, with a couple of near-misses of my own contributing to the issue.

    So, throw out all those conservative viewpoints all you want. Be dismissive of other people’s troubles, show little regard for how horrifying some things are to people. Predict the government coming after what you write for whatever reason you can come up with.

    The fact remains that bad things happen to people, and just because some can go on and not need warnings about certain things doesn’t mean it isn’t helpful to others. So long as it’s voluntary, I have no issue at all with an author who is thoughtful and considerate of his or her readers.

    • I’m thoroughly conservative but I fully support and thank you for this comment.

    • So, throw out all those conservative viewpoints all you want. Be dismissive of other people’s troubles, show little regard for how horrifying some things are to people.

      It wasn’t too long ago that the liberal viewpoint embraced Mario Savio and the Free Speech movement at Berkeley.

      • It wasn’t too long ago that the liberal viewpoint embraced Mario Savio and the Free Speech movement at Berkeley.

        50 years ago.

        And you quoted her text:

        So, throw out all those conservative viewpoints all you want. Be dismissive of other people’s troubles, show little regard for how horrifying some things are to people.

        I don’t see the relationship between her concerns that some people are dismissive toward trigger warnings and PTSD with the Free Speech Movement or Mario Savio.

        Her ending sentence of the post was:

        So long as it’s voluntary, I have no issue at all with an author who is thoughtful and considerate of his or her readers.

        She’s just asking people not to be a-holes about it.

        Savio and the Free Speech Movement was focused upon fighting against a ban of political activities on Berkeley’s campus.

        Stating trigger warnings on something is not equivalent to outright censorship of speech.

        As others have noted up-thread, it’s more akin to MPAA ratings – and even then not an exact analogy. Trigger warnings allow a potential reader to exercise their choice of what they want to read. MPAA ratings differ by also incorporating some age-restricted ratings – at least for films shown in theaters and where someone actually prohibits kids from seeing the rare R-rated film these days. But then, libraries often do age-restrictions of which books or even how many books juveniles can check out.

        • Trigger warnings are for children and the weak-minded. If Columbia University students (a major chunk of this country’s future ruling elite, after all) need such things so as to avoid slashing their wrists because of something Aeschylus wrote, then we are effectively done for as a civilization.

          PS. Five decades isn’t a very long time as controversies go. Indeed, the further some events recede into history, the more explosive they become. Do we not make more movies, write more books, build more museums, and hold more remembrances of the Holocaust with each passing year, not to mention argue far more vehemently in 2015 about the meaning of the Confederate flag than we did in previous generations?

          • I’d personally be cautious about calling people with PTSD “weak-minded.”

            Have you seen the video where *this guy* found out he was getting a Mac? (obviously a Windows user, but whatever)


            Sometimes the trigger warnings are for our own safety as well as the reader’s. I mean, people do take written stuff pretty seriously. That’s how we’ve had a couple of millennia of assorted wars and people-killing – all from the written word providing fodder and inspiration for people who perhaps took things in a different direction than the writers may have intended. Seriously, it’s great to have readers. But sometimes a little help so readers can self-select toward something more benignly their taste might not be such a bad thing. I’m just saying.

            I’d say the actual Civil War and Holocaust themselves were far more explosive and devastating than any rhetoric bandied around on the internet these days.

            And I also think it’s hyperbole to take the step that Columbia students not getting the full benefit of Aeschylus will doom our civilization. I’m holding out for pandemic (natural or somewhat “less-natural”), nuclear war (because humans always play with the toys we make, eventually), climate shifts (tends to have pretty disruptive effect on societies, as history has shown), alien invasion (from the cosmos, and not from our southern border), or the massed cloning of Justin Bieber, which I hear is well underway and is something to be taken quite seriously.

            The way I understand it, the plan is to flood YouTube, Facebook, all network and cable television channels, radio airwaves, and all other music outlets with cloned Bieber-music. Only, what makes this insidious is that these clones are imperfect. Bieber, like him or not, has some talent and a huge following he’s earned. His imperfect clones will make imperfect new music, and there will be a veritable tsunami of it. When Cream sang about Pressed Rat’s and Warthog’s “atonal apples and amplified heat” they were predicting what was to come. Listening to that stuff will be like re-enacting the infamous scene from David Cronenberg’s “Scanners” where the guy’s head asplodes (deliberately misspelled, since this is the Internet, after all).

            • Polio is an acquired condition that weakens the bodies of those who are susceptible to it. PTSD is an acquired condition that weakens the minds of those who are susceptible to it.

              As for the Holocaust and Civil War, you restate my point. Those were very traumatic events, and yet as the years go by we become more obsessed with them rather than less, unlike, say the Punic Wars.

              And again, when it comes to potential future challenges such as wars and pandemics, you restate my point. If the students of our Ivy League schools who will go on to be Cabinet members, Senators, and Presidents freak out (or pretend to freak out) because of something in a Greek tragedy, then how will they react when facing a real crisis? To hope for leadership from such people is like expecting that a surgeon who faints at the sight of blood will be able to remove a brain tumor successfully.

              • We now have people in universities who need trigger warnings and safe places in case they encounter an idea they don’t agree with. PTSD is a cover story.

              • Well, you just go out there and find some PTSD folks and tell them what you think. Just remember, some may indeed have weak minds like you say, but they may also have a pretty strong left hook or swift kick to the testicles. If that’s your thing, then by all means, you go for it and get ’em. Make some new friends.

                People talk about the Civil War because the idea of the “Lost Cause” etc. was kept alive in the South for a century afterward, with particular focus upon the races. That’s how we got the Rebel flag affixed to a bunch of state flagpoles in the 1950s and 1960s.

                But the South has changed quite a bit since the 1950s – particularly the urban areas. Sure, there are some inherent cultural differences that have endured. But there’s also been quite an influx of people from all over, and that has a transformative effect. So now we have Upper Midwest Michigan man Kid Rock as the defender of the Rebel flag.

                And we have a petition to put Outkast on Stone Mountain – which is about the funniest damned image I’ve seen in a while:


                People get all riled up about flags. That’s fine.

                Tom Custer won *two* Medals of Honor for successfully playing a real-life and highly dangerous version of Capture the Flag during the Civil War. Lot of good it did him. Poor guy really got it at Little Big Horn from all descriptions of the aftermath.

                People also tend to do the whole nostalgia thing around their blinkered remembrances of childhood. So they don’t realize that the Pledge of Allegiance has only been an official thing for about 75 years and was created by a Christian socialist. Not to mention it originally involved the Roman salute which had to be supplanted due to a certain European nation also taking on that form of salute. Or that “under God” only came about during the Cold War.

                You talk about history?

                People aren’t talking about history and arguing about it. They’re arguing about their childhood and not much about reality even when it comes to that. You know how kids’ minds are. Not to mention the way the brain’s storage of memories evolves as well as the brain itself with all that explosion of development through the teen years before the whole thing more or less settles back a bit by one’s mid-twenties. People mis-remember and they don’t bother with actual history quite so much.

                Anyway, I have a strong suspicion the majority of Rebel flags and Rebel flag apparel and paraphernalia are made in China and other countries, many of which have somewhat left-leaning tendencies.

                I always thought comedian Bill Hicks had the right idea on flags when he talked about the hoopla around flag-burning during the Bush I years:

                “Hey buddy, my daddy died for that flag.”

                “Really? I bought mine. Yeah, they sell them at K-Mart and shite.”

                “He died in the Korean War.”

                “Wow, what a coincidence. Mine was made in Korea. No one – and I repeat, no one – has ever died for a flag. See, a flag … is just a piece of cloth. They may have died for freedom, which is also the freedom to burn the farking flag, see. That’s freedom.”

                • @Matthew Lee Adams

                  Do you think that getting PTSD makes people stronger rather than weaker? If it does, then why do people with PTSD have trouble coping with things that people who don’t have PTSD hardly notice? The opposite would in fact be the case if you were right.

                • Well, it might be that even if someone gets weaker in one area, they may overcompensate by becoming stronger in another, so it all balances out. The brain can do that, after all, if some regions are damaged.

                  It might even be like this Skittles commercial:


                • @Matthew Lee Adams

                  Just as people take steroids to get stronger physically, they study foreign languages, work puzzles, and even expose their brains to electromagnetism in the hope that it will make them mentally stronger. But nobody puts himself in traumatic situations in the hope that he will get PTSD and become mentally stronger.

                • I would be reluctant to never say never.

                  People do all kinds of things for very unusual reasons.

                  It certainly isn’t the norm for people to deliberately seek out PTSD. But also – people do seek out PTSD-inducing activities and situations without thinking about PTSD. Audie Murphy suffered greatly from PTSD, despite his willingness during wartime to throw himself into dangerous situations.

                • @Matthew Lee Adams

                  People seek out dangerous activities for all sorts of reasons, but never because they hope that they get PTSD and have nightmare flashbacks whenever a car engine backfires.

                • Well, back to what you said:

                  But nobody puts himself in traumatic situations in the hope that he will get PTSD and become mentally stronger.

                  I think you see a lot more cases where – if you dropped the part about the PTSD – the sentence would be true.

                  In other words:

                  “But nobody puts himself in traumatic situations in the hope that he will become mentally stronger.”

                  I never said people seek out PTSD. I just said that it’s acquired because of the way people and societies tend to be.

                  And the re-worded sentence (not your intention, but I’m using it to illustrate) is that some people seek challenging and stressful situations because they believe it will make them stronger. Maybe it does with some people. And with others, they may get PTSD.

                • People put themselves in situations for all sorts of reasons. Maybe they want to win a medal or show patriotism or pay for school. But never because they want to get PTSD, because PTSD leaves them mentally weaker, not stronger, and thus in need of things like trigger warnings.

        • 50 years ago.

          Savio was indeed five decades back. So what? So was Selma. They just staged a 50 year anniversary march across the bridge in Selma.

          The Free Speech movement would have laughed at the idea that they should add trigger warnings to their political speech. And those with the liberal viewpoint would have been pointing and laughing at anyone who championed triggers.

          Lots of folks lack an understanding of the history of their own intellectual heritage.

          • So where in Savio’s speeches – especially his most famous one – was he talking about sexual violence and other typical triggers?

            And how does today’s culture and trigger warnings fit in with the 1960s rise of the left’s stances of the cultural wars of those times?

            Look, my great-uncle used to clobber people over the head with whatever heavy object happened to be handy when someone riled him. He went from mild to not caring whether he killed them in about 5 seconds flat. I’m only surprised he didn’t kill someone, and I would almost believe that heads were harder back then – except that there are still a lot of hard heads around today.

            If he were around these days, I’d like to believe he’d show more restraint – because most of us don’t go around clobbering other people over the head these days. Or not for very long, anyway. Back then, things were a little different – especially in rural areas.

            The point is that times change and you deal with the cultural things going on now. If you want to imagine plopping someone with today’s cultural mores back in time for anachronistic reasons, no one is stopping you. Exercise your creativity and love of history and make it a rip-roaring yarn. I always loved Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee” so if you can match that one, I’ll read it.

            Otherwise, accept this fact: people with tendencies toward fighting for or against certain types of things will reflect the world and time they live in, for the most part. And older people are still going to talk about how “back when I was your age, we…” and so on.

            Some of the current concerns among many today of any political ilk might be considered a luxury granted by our society’s relative affluence and peace that wasn’t afforded other generations and certainly not many in other countries. Obviously, in many countries they’re not terribly concerned about trigger warnings. They have more immediate or certainly much different concerns. Still doesn’t matter. We’re here where we are now. And some people want to talk about trigger warnings, so we are talking about trigger warnings. Plop those same people into the mid-60s and they’d probably be focused on the very pressing concerns of the 1960s.

            • So where in Savio’s speeches – especially his most famous one – was he talking about sexual violence and other typical triggers?

              That has nothing to do with Terrence O’Brien’s point, which is that the Left stood, or pretend to stand, for Free Speech, capital letters and all. Now it does not.

              And how does today’s culture and trigger warnings fit in with the 1960s rise of the left’s stances of the cultural wars of those times?

              You are simply re-stating Terrence O’Brien’s point (namely, the seeming inconsistency of the Leftist Free Speech Movement’s transformation into a call for Trigger Warnings and Safe Spaces) and then attempting to present it as some sort of refutation of what he wrote.

              • How is adding trigger warnings censorship?

                Savio was protesting censorship.

                Trigger warnings are akin to labeling what a product contains so users can make a choice.

                If Berkeley had allowed students to engage in political activities on campus (or choose not to, if the students so wished) Savio wouldn’t have been protesting censorship because in that scenario, political activities would be allowed.

                Again, trigger warnings don’t have much of any parallel to Savio and the Berkeley Free Speech Movement – other than that some liberals may be involved in both and some aspects surrounding expression apply.

                It’s quite a jump to keep trying to say there is some kind of equivalent between Savio and trigger warnings.

                It’s not even possible to draw a parallel between trigger warnings and Tipper Gore’s involvement with Parents Music Resource Center – because the latter was actually focused on censorship by making explicit lyrics less-available (forcing radio stations not to play explicit-lyric songs, for instance). If Tipper had just stuck with putting warning labels on CDs, it would be a half-decent parallel with trigger warnings.

              • Trigger warnings are a form of soft totalitarianism, like what Leftists call “economic discipline.” (That’s when Leftist ruin an outspoken person’s career and then say with a smirk that the First Amendment was never violated because no government censorship was involved.) When Leftists were weak, they called for free speech. Now that Leftists are stronger, they call for trigger warnings labels to slapped on things they don’t like, which is whatever is insufficiently Leftist. They do not call for trigger warnings on the works of Marx, for instance, even though the ideas in those books led to a hundred million deaths.

  27. Honest question: How does one provide trigger warnings without giving away every plot point, surprise, hook, etc.? For instance, my pubbed novel has all of the following (yes, I’m going to go ahead and spoil the whole thing):

    Explicit sex
    strong language
    a character with multiple personality disorder because of being molested as a child by a relative
    several things set on fire (and near miss deaths)
    someone badly burned by fire
    someone shoved down stairs
    someone unable to escape a locked room
    someone throwing up (poisoned)
    a discussion of someone having had a miscarriage or self-induced abortion

    In the current WIP I have someone with a fear of heights (who of course has to climb down a tower wall) and another with claustrophobia (who of course gets locked in an small space). And sundry people getting shot or having things dropped on them.

    It’s those very things, that might trigger someone, that are plot points BECAUSE we see how the character manages and overcomes. Do I need to warn for all that? I don’t want to freak anyone out, turn them off, or cause harm, but I also don’t want to NOT write stuff like that.

    Did I mention these are romance novels?

    • I’ll take a stab at it, but of course others might have very different ideas. One possibility would be: “Trigger warnings explicit sex, strong language, domestic violence, depictions of mental instability.” Or, you could go for “explicit sex, strong language, some violent situations.” The second option would allow someone to be prepared for violence if that is an issue, but it wouldn’t reveal whether it is abuse, a gun fight, or a car accident, or anything like that.

      Trigger warnings by their nature give away some information, but that would be a reason to put it somewhere where it isn’t obvious, but people who look for them can find them, you could even have a heading in the description in bold for “Trigger warnings, may contain spoilers”, and then the warnings themselves unbolded or smaller. That way anyone not wanting to see them can look away.

      Does that help at all? Like a few people have mentioned, what you do and how you do it, is completely up to you. AngryGames mentioned above that he uses “sexual situations/graphic violence” or some variation of that, which is general enough that it provides a heads up without giving away any plot points. If you decide not to include warnings, someone who might be triggered would read your description of the story, and decide whether or not to take a chance on the content.

      • Thanks, Beth. I’ll give it a shot. It’s just feels as if it’s almost impossible not to have something that will trigger someone (for instance, even the word “vomit” makes me queasy and the sound of someone being sick will send me running for the bathroom–and yet I include it in the novel because it fits, and it’s almost like I desensitize myself to stuff by writing about it, which is why I do it. I like a challenge.) And I realize some people’s triggers will be so very specific, it’s hard to anticipate (e.g. a woman who’s just had a miscarriage may be horrified to trip over a secondary character not mentioned in the description who also had one). Le sigh. I’ll cogitate upon all the good advice and see what I can do. Heaven knows I don’t need to warn about the sexual situations. At least half the reviews are ripping me a new one because the H/h have on-page sex.

  28. Maybe if they burn the trigger warnings on with a brand, the paper will catch fire “by accident” and problem solved.

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