The NYTimes wrote a piece pertaining to ‘Trigger Warnings’ last weekend and it has ignited a much needed discussion on Trigger Warnings and what they entail.
Trigger Warnings are designed to prevent people from encountering an extremely damaging emotional response to an evocative piece of content.
Examples include but are not limited to rape victims, victims of violence, victims of depression, victims of self-harm & PTSD victims.
Trigger Warnings are regarded by some as necessary warnings on emotive content, but have been derided and sneered at by others.
Proponents of Trigger Warnings suggest it’s a simple, tactful endeavour to add a piece of text notifying the reader of some emotive piece of content.
Opponents claim fervent emotion is an integral part of education, and that we should not seek to deter people from experiencing it, others claim it’s just a few steps away from censorship, and others claim it’s narcissism, masquerading as concern.
There’s nothing laborious about adding a few keystrokes of text to obviate the triggering of someone; journalistically speaking judiciousness is a necessity, it’s incumbent on one to have the sensitivity and foresight to discern what constitutes a triggering piece of material. No one is suggesting we neglect emotive topics, or even sanitise them but the reader should have the forewarning if they’re about to encounter an extremely evocative piece of information. Emotion will invariably be an integral part of education but this is not an attempt to stifle or discourage that; conflating everyday emotion we experience to crippling, mentally debilitating emotion which victims of aforementioned things endure is disingenuous and problematic; a form of trivialisation. In relation to the claims about censorship, the slippery slope fallacy rears its ugly head again, censorship is not an inevitable result and is completely extraneous to “Trigger Warnings’, a lazy piece of hysteria designed to fear-monger. The most absurd assertion and allegation against many journalists is their tactfulness is a mere facade used to draw attention to themselves; decidedly ludicrous.
The premise that people should be impervious to triggering and if they aren’t, they’re mentally fragile, is a tenuous one.
If you’re fortunate enough to be insusceptible to triggering, that’s great but unabashedly ridiculing and scoffing at those who aren’t is ableist and unquestionably tactless.
Responding emotionally to something traumatic that’s happened in your life is not a form of mental fragility, but a form of humanness.
The individual should have the autonomy on whether they want to encounter an emotive piece of content and facilitating that choice is the morally obligatory thing to do.
Others claim “Trigger Warnings” are doomed because it’s impossible to foretell what may or may not induce an extreme emotional response, and either way some people are going to be triggered anyway. But this is a fallacious piece of reasoning, while emotions are a highly subjective thing, there are obvious topics which are inherently emotive, and having the judgement to determine which are, is intrinsic to adept journalism. Furthermore warnings are not supposed to completely remove distress but to significantly reduce it.
There are many people across social media who can attest to the efficacy of Trigger Warnings and their effect in preventing an ordeal.
These problematic notions about “trigger warnings” just reinforce and perpetuate insidious beliefs which further stigmatise people with mental illness, victims of rape and victims of violence.
The fact that such an important topic has been met with immediate levity and facetiousness should alarm us and is symptomatic of pernicious beliefs about mental illness which pervade the media. It’s time for more sensitivity, and less callousness.