We Should Put Trigger Warnings on Conservatives

radiation-warning-on-shutterstockTrigger warnings for conservative points against the use of trigger warning (and discussion of reasons why people have triggers).

The folks at National Review  haven’t been on their game since their founder, the cranky dictionary known as William Buckley, died. On the Fox News scale of Reactionary Conservatism, they rate a seven to American Thinker‘s ten and Breitbart’s eleventy°. But don’t worry, Kevin Williamson won’t end his Andy Rooney-ish rant before going all “you people” on The Millennials. Williamson starts off all bitter, calling the generation after his “soft”°. Hell, he named his piece “You’re All Worthless and Weak.” He likes to imagine himself a Sith Lord.

Williamson complains about new demands to put trigger warnings on some literature and certain circumstances. This fight is led by universities and students who understand that people can have PTSD trauma related to certain memories, and that these events can be triggered by images and evocations. Of course, not everybody has trauma-related stress, and those that do can have it in a variety of forms and for different reasons. Some for sexual abuse and assault, some for domestic violence, some for intense thoughts of and attempts at suicide. Some trauma is battle-related for veterans. Some have faced violence or real threat of violence due to their sexual preference or sexual/gender identity. Additionally, many children in poor communities are surrounded by trauma on an everyday basis and do not have the resources to seek counseling to treat these issues. Often, confronting – without warning – triggering scenarios can cause panic attacks and render the survivor shaken, sometimes incapacitated for hours or days. For some, the triggering can happen with a touch (which is why youth workers are taught to not lay hands on a child), for some, images. For some, dialog and/or literature. For myself, it’s mostly through loud noises – I cannot be around yelling people and I’m incapacitated when I’m being yelled at. These triggers are real – as real as depression.

Kevin Williamson may not have triggers. He may not have had traumatic experiences – or he may have had them and got requisite care. Or perhaps he deals with it in other ways. Whatever. It doesn’t matter because Kevin Williamson is not the frigging center of the universe and should stop pretending that his White Hetero Male Privilege makes him more important than others. He hates the idea of trigger warnings not because it will hurt his appreciation of Moby Dick (which, after all, is just a simple tale about a man who hates a whale) or Jane Austin, but just because it’s a staple of White Male Hetero Supremacy conservatism. He thinks if something doesn’t affect or hurt him, it shouldn’t hurt anybody else either. And if other people complain about it but it doesn’t affect him, it means it’s not real, right? This is a crux of American conservatism. It’s how they can talk about the poor so callously, because ultimately US conservatism is centered on the White Rich Hetero Male and his self-sustaining myths.

Which is why, for examples, Williamson can compare trigger warnings to Tipper Gore’s music parental warnings. However, while the Parents’ Music Resource Center sought to put labels on all type of music and content it deemed inappropriate for the parent’s notification, trigger warnings empower the readers directly. Because they give the students the tools they need in order to prepare themselves for some content that may set them off . Or if they need to – and sometimes they do for they are still grappling with being very young – to avoid the matter altogether. The PMRC’s labels were for the buyers, not the users, and they serve a light censorship service. Ultimately, the power was not as much in the young person’s hands so much as the person holding the wallet. With trigger warnings, however, it’s about allowing the student to have power over her or his reactions and body.

That seems to trouble Williamson.

Williamson isn’t the only conservative white male asshole to be angered by trigger warnings. Jonah Goldberg warns readers in an LA Times article that he is going to make fun of trigger warnings. Which is code for “I’m going to make fun of people who have had traumatic experiences.” Did you experience sexual, physical, emotional abuse and could you still feel rage or panic attacks when reminded of such issues without warning? Goldberg (who, by the by, is the editor of the National Review’s NRO) is here to remind you that your life and safety don’t mean a thing to him and that you’re only worthy of ridicule.

I hope he gets eaten by a whale.

Notice, conservatives like Goldberg and Williamson are not angry at the triggers themselves. They’re not upset at what causes the reactions – at abuse or violence. These men are certainly not working to make the world less Rape Culture-friendly, or to reduce domestic violence, or violence on the streets. They’re definitely not interested in reducing veteran PTSD as they’re always ready to justify war. No, just like conservatives who despise protesting fast food workers, they are upset that the riff-raff take agency for themselves. Nothing makes them more upset.

But also, consider that this is another jab at students and higher learning as well. Contemporary conservatism is anti-intellectual. Even Buckley would be turning in his grave over these twerps.


°If you don’t know these online publications, count your lucky stars and thank whatever god or dog (or both) you serve.

*Hint: it’s more ignorant ageism and whining. Same as the Boomers did about my generation and their parents did before them. Aren’t we tired of this already?


When he’s not riding both his city’s public transit system and evil mayor, Jasdye teaches at a community college and writes about the intersection of equality and faith - with an occasional focus on Chicago - at the Left Cheek blog and on the Left Cheek: the Blog Facebook page. Check out more from Jasdye in his archives as well!


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