So what are “trigger warnings” anyway?

My latest chit-chat interview with Josiah Jennings is about trigger warnings and political correctness in academia.

It was really prompted by two articles: first, an article in Vox called I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me, and more recently an article in the Atlantic entitled The Coddling of the American Mind. Both articles talk about political correctness being the major force of censorship and limitation in classes: professors are terrified of hurting students’ feelings, and students are taking on a “coddled” attitude that they should never be challenged. The “big bad”, according to both articles, is “social justice warriors” and the “radical left.”

In this video, I talk about the reactions that some of my friends who actually do teach at colleges had to these articles. They didn’t think the problem had anything to do with “political correctness” or “social justice warriors” at all. Instead, they said the problem is the for-profit education industry: treating professors like burger-flippers and students like customers. And everyone knows “the customer is always right.”

In my opinion, the high points of the video are where Josiah and I were able to articulate some definitions of both “trigger warnings” and “political correctness” that need to be more widely known, and that you may not have heard before:

(Greg) “Trigger warnings, when described in their ideal concept, are not a bad thing. They are basically like those warnings that appear at the beginnings of movies: ‘may contain some nudity and science fiction violence.’ (Those are the movies I tend to watch.) And there’s nothing wrong with that: it’s putting a label on the can. And it’s not supposed to be about people using trigger warnings as a way to avoid things, or being coddled, or getting out of schoolwork. All it is is a polite heads-up… and when you describe it that way, then in theory there is nothing objectionable about it.”

(Josiah) “There is confusion that political correctness is a concern for the individual’s emotions: that people’s feelings are the end-all and be-all of political correctness. Look: I am one of these ‘social justice warrior’ that get so much criticism from people on the right, and then there are people on the left like the author of this Vox article who say that advocates of political correctness are these mealy-mouthed wimps. I wrote an article on my blog about political correctness, and a lot of the backlash I got was from people who said I was this pampered kid who just needs to grow a spine. I can tell you, as an advocate of political correctness, I couldn’t give two shits about people’s feelings. I grew up on a farm, I grew up in a very racist area. Insults don’t bother me. I was in the marine corps, my drill instructors threw all kinds of shit at me, I got all kinds of shit from fellow marines. A spine is not something I lack. And that’s the confusion about political correctness. Political correctness, in a nutshell, is that there are certain words, phrase and traditions in our culture, that, by accepting them, it legitimizes a mindset.  Like racism, or the confederate flag and what it represents. It’s not that people’s feelings are being hurt, it’s that you’re saying that we as a society, by adopting it in our culture and our vernacular, are approving of a mindset that is discriminatory and in some cases perpetuates a violence against a group of people. Political correctness is waging war on these types of mentalities. It’s not about people’s feelings being hurt.”

Check out the whole video here:

The comments to the video have been very interesting and instructive. More than one person has pointed out that this really is a multi-faceted problem. Capitalism and the for-profit educational industry surely play a role; however, the same types of problems seem to be arising in the United Kingdom as well, where for-profit education plays less of a role. It’s certainly possible that a censorial strain of “the left” is at least one of the factors contributing to the problem.

However, by the the best comment, in my opinion, was from Bobfish Almighty, who said:

To be honest, I don’t think this even is an “SJW” problem. It’s something I’ve been seeing coming for a long, long time. I’d say it’s more that those kind of people have grown up because of this mindset of mollycoddling, rather than them pushing for it in the first place. Of course, it’s then lead on to overzealous people pushing hard and causing a recursive loop. I’d also argue, vehemently, that these people are not progressive or liberal in any way, shape or form. They may genuinely believe they are, but actions and ideals speak far louder. These are Conservative people who have grown up with liberal ideals that they have been educated to accept as being the “right” way to do things. And, of course, have gone about supporting that in a conservative way.

So what do you think?  Check out the video, leave a comment, and as always, please subscribe to my Youtube channel if you haven’t already!

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Extra Screenshots!

A few extra screenshots, just for the people reading this blog! This was a pretty intense political discussion, so we’ve got some good facial expressions.