Trigger Warning: This Post Contains Criticism Of Trigger Warnings

Andrew Sullivan —  Mar 6 2014 @ 11:02am

Noting that college students are now pushing their professors to append trigger warnings to course material, Jenny Jarvie protests:

Issuing caution on the basis of potential harm or insult doesn’t help us negotiate our reactions; it makes our dealings with others more fraught. As [Susannah] Breslin pointed out, trigger warnings can have the opposite of their intended effect, luring in sensitive people (and perhaps connoisseurs of graphic content, too). More importantly, they reinforce the fear of words by depicting an ever-expanding number of articles and books as dangerous and requiring of regulation. By framing more public spaces, from the Internet to the college classroom, as full of infinite yet ill-defined hazards, trigger warnings encourage us to think of ourselves as more weak and fragile than we really are. …

Structuring public life around the most fragile personal sensitivities will only restrict all of our horizons. Engaging with ideas involves risk, and slapping warnings on them only undermines the principle of intellectual exploration.