Trigger Warnings Trigger Me

28 Feb

[Trigger Warning: if you think trigger warnings are a good idea, you’ll hate this post. Here are some nice cat gifs.]

You know, after extensive consultation with myself, I have come to an unpleasant realisation.

Trigger warnings trigger me.

I mean it. Every time I see a trigger warning, I have an uncontrollable urge to scream in rage, chew the carpet, put my fist through the computer monitor and write long screeds about the irredeemable stupidity of the human race. Clearly, trigger warnings trigger me something awful <grin>.

The solution <puts on smug face> is obvious. In order to stop triggering me, people should stop writing trigger warnings. <evil smirk, as done by evil characters in Disney movies, just in case someone in the audience is too dumb to realise that they’re evil>.

Ok, I’ll be serious now.

The world is not a safe place. I mean it. If you’re lucky, your parents are wealthy enough to bring you up in a nicely sheltered cocoon … which lasts until you go to school. Homeschooled? That lasts a little longer, but eventually you have to get a job and go to work. No job? That leaves you completely dependent on someone else, who may leave you in the lurch one day.

And yes, one of the dangers is encountering something that may frighten you, or set you off, or offend you, or merely get on your nerves. Trigger warnings do all four of those for me.

Yes, that was serious.

There are people who go through serious traumas in their lives, people who are left with PTSD and other mental problems. I wouldn’t make fun of someone who has genuinely suffered in their life. But looking at the vogue right now for trigger warnings, defences against micro-aggressions (as if they were intentional, which they rarely are), safe spaces and other moments of absurdities, it is increasingly difficult to take them seriously.

Put a dozen humans together and chances are that some of them will rub some of the others the wrong way. There might be a loudmouth who brags endlessly about the time he scored a touchdown while playing soccer. Or there might be a whiny little man/woman-child who’s thirty and acts like she’s five. Or there may be someone from a culture which has no sense of personal space meeting someone who is required to keep some distance between himself and everyone else at all times. And, of course, some of them will have different opinions about … well, anything really.

The internet pushes all that up to eleven. There are no shortage of opinions on the internet that I find disturbing. The concept of trigger warnings is one of them <grin>. How am I meant to know what will trigger someone? Am I required to write a 6000-word disclaimer (2 chapters) warning people that they might be offended? Or should I just shrug and point out that the internet is for adults and one of the things that separate an adult from a child is the ability to recognise that offense may not have been meant? Personally, I’m in favour of the latter.

It gets more absurd on college campuses. I won’t deny there are some subjects that are awkward even before some idiot invented the concept of trigger warnings. But should courses be changed because someone might be triggered? Should a law course be revised, keeping out all the trigger-worthy stuff, because it might cause a lawsuit? Law students might not be taught about certain crimes (rape, for example) because they might find hearing about them traumatic … but I’d bet good money they would, sooner or later, find themselves working a case that involves rape. If, of course, someone with such delicate feelings, actually manages to get a law degree in the first place.

Telling people that you have a trigger doesn’t make you look strong; it makes you look weak and pathetic. Telling people that you’re the victim of micro-aggression makes you sound ridiculous. No one will be inclined to take you seriously – and if you want to get anywhere in life, you need people to take you seriously. People have a right to their opinions – and those opinions may be different from yours.

And yes, that means I have to put up with people calling for trigger warnings. It’s a small price to pay for freedom of speech.

17 Responses to “Trigger Warnings Trigger Me”

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard February 28, 2015 at 10:29 pm #

    Very Good!

  2. Jack Boone February 28, 2015 at 10:43 pm #


    Jack Boone


  3. hipfx120 March 1, 2015 at 1:15 am #

    BRAVO! As usual you’ve voiced, eloquently, what I never could.

  4. Tim March 1, 2015 at 3:14 am #

    I often find myself deliberately tweaking pathetic twerps with their self-proclaimed “trigger-warnings”…

    I guess I’m just a bad person… *GRIN*

  5. caspar March 1, 2015 at 3:44 am #

    I always find it funny that the human rights are great crowd are the first people to find ways to silence those that don’t agree with their point of view and come up with concepts to justify their behaviour. Indeed the true test of a free society is our ability to say unpopular things, it is a quality that is being increasing absent in this day and age especially in universities which historically have been places where free debt of ideas is encouraged.

  6. Barb Caffrey March 1, 2015 at 9:42 am #

    Well said, Chris.

    I don’t get the current vogue for “trigger warnings” either. I just don’t understand it…do people who use these things think that if they warn people, what they fear will go away?

    I actually think “safe spaces” may have a good purpose — especially if you’re talking about a place like a women’s shelter (where abused women and children retreat after their spouses have mistreated them). Even at a convention, a place where you can meditate and be quiet sounds like a place that might prove to be beneficial, providing you call it what it is and don’t hedge it about with unnecessary verbiage.

    But again, I don’t really see why this is in vogue. You can’t get away from things that frighten you by saying “it’ll trigger me, so don’t say it.” That’s like trying to put your hands over your ears to avoid hearing something you disagree with. (It won’t work, as you pointed out.)

    • caspar March 1, 2015 at 8:34 pm #

      safe spaces are distinct from from shelters and the like

      • Barb Caffrey March 2, 2015 at 2:20 am #

        Of course they are. But as an editor, I try to be precise. (Sometimes overly precise…)

        At some conventions — years ago, anyway — they made time for “meditation centers.” These usually were hybrid conventions that had some SF, some art, and some other stuff going on. I approve of things like that, because in this modern world we don’t get enough time to reflect as it is.

        But trigger warnings going along with these safe spaces bothers me, as I said before. It assumes that you aren’t safe otherwise. That you can’t protect yourself from what you see or hear, that you can’t protect your own emotional and mental integrity — and as a smart, mature person, I reject that as an ideology.

  7. Dave March 1, 2015 at 11:04 am #

    I had never heard of trigger warnings

    I suppose a short sentence warning of content is OK but otherwise I can’t see the point

    • Dennis the Menace March 2, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

      I have never heard of them either. But I can tell right off the bat that they are simply another form of Newspeak designed to curtail the spread of ideas some people find threatening to their ossified world view.

  8. JJ Reuter March 1, 2015 at 12:18 pm #

    I like pulling triggers and watching heads explode (figuratively speaking of course) If I offend, don’t read me.

  9. Sombrero Joe (@sombrero_joe) March 2, 2015 at 4:46 am #

    Trigger Warnings, brought to you by privileged tumblr children needing some pretend strife to blame all their failures on. If something triggers them then they obviously can’t be expected to be held to the same standards as everyone else.

  10. ander75it March 2, 2015 at 8:21 am #

    I had no idea what a trigger warning was until I read this.

  11. Dennis the Menace March 2, 2015 at 6:58 pm #

    If someone is actually stupid enough to tell me what their trigger warnings are, I’ll just push those buttons as much as I can in response. They’ll learn that crap — which is merely a form of trying to get me to shut up — doesn’t work with me.

  12. Mark March 3, 2015 at 8:21 pm #

    The world is a nasty dark horrible place at times. The sooner people realise this and get on with their lives the better off they and us will all be.

    On another note “scored a touchdown while playing soccer” !!!! Must be a parallel universe.

  13. Korwin March 5, 2015 at 8:04 am #

    I find them useful as a sort of tags. But real tags would be better.

    • Korwin March 5, 2015 at 8:06 am #

      PS.: Only encountered them on online Story-Archives, Web-/Story-Blogs.

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