Saturday, 18 July 2015

Trigger warnings and censorship


Eugene Delacroix. The Death of Sardanapalus. Google images. 
(Should this come with a 'trigger warning'? )

I don't get this 'trigger warning' thing. The Columbia University students who claim they should be protected from learning about the rapes of Greek mythology - excuse me, university students, not kindergarten children, hopefully all over 18 - strikes me as absolutely ridiculous. 'Trigger warning'  is  a close relative of  censorship. I do not support a nanny state. I do not believe someone knows better than me what I should know about. I am an adult.
I certainly do not relish accounts of horrific rapes and beheadings. Greek mythology and Biblical stories aside, when they do happen in real life, repulsed though I may be,  I do want to know about them and I want to know that there are some people capable of such horrors and that they should be punished.
I am also very concerned that one of the latest endorsements of 'trigger warning' was in connection with a horrendous story  of a vulnerable adult woman, from Winchester,  raped by a thug - how else would you describe him ?- who used a shampoo bottle for his assault. The bottle  was then lodged in her insides causing her  tremendous pain. Eventually she died because of the internal injuries. This whole incident and the way it was reported provided the advocates of 'trigger warning' with an opportunity to clamour that it should have been more thoughtfully discussed, giving ample warnings of its gruesomeness and  omitting some details.
I do not remember any such clamouring on the occasion of the bus gang rape of the young woman in Delhi in 2012 whose intestines were pulled out by her rapists. She too died following the internal injuries caused by  this horrific assault. This incident sparked worldwide protests but the details about the case were discussed at great length. Yet no one  protested that a 'trigger warning' should have been put in place. I cannot help feeling this was because the young woman was not Caucasian. Why this discrepancy? Is there a difference between 'white ' pain and 'non-white' pain?
I also believe that 'trigger warning' would actually protect the crime perpetrators. I am an adult and I want to know what they have done. I do not want to be wrapped up in cotton wool. The moment you start putting warnings all over the place it is the beginning of censorship. No, thank you. A headline is enough  warning. You need not read the article if you do not wish to know. But do not ask for information to be omitted. Because this is what 'trigger warning' would end up being, with 'sensitive' content being withdrawn. And who will be deciding on what constitutes 'sensitive' content?
In conclusion no, I do not support any kind of 'trigger warning'. I can make up my own mind, thank you.

2 comments:

  1. While I do not want to be insensitive to the concerns expressed about triggering, I also have learned from my own experiences that to avoid anything that might invoke fear or terrible memories is not a good way to live. It is psychologically healthier to explore those trigger points, and by doing so, "trigger" the healing process. Perhaps this Columbia student might have eventually found that exploring the horrors of rape through classic literature had the power to help her own healing.

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