Sometime around 2014 or so trigger warnings became the cause du jour of college social justice warriors seeking to make their campus bubbles just a little bit safer.
Students at UC Santa Barbara, Scripps College, Oberlin College and other institutes of higher learning demanded (and in many cases were granted) warnings that preceded course material that could trigger unpleasant memories of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, stubbed toes, dropped ice cream cones, a case of the runs after a bad plate of pad Thai, etc.
The trend migrated from clinical psychiatry to feminist blogs to college campuses and then back to the internet where it is often found on the Tumblr and Reddit pages of the easily rattled.
While web surfers are free to click and download as they choose, the practice has raised questions about free speech and expression in an academic environment. In an essay published in The New Yorker, Harvard law professor Jeannie Suk wrote that “About a dozen new teachers of criminal law at multiple institutions have told me that they are not including rape law in their courses, arguing that it’s not worth the risk of complaints of discomfort by students.”
Considering the company that a Harvard law professor likely keeps this is beyond troubling. If professors at the country’s most highly regarded schools can be bullied into altering course content over fear of student complaints then it does not bode well for the rest of academia. One could argue that this amounts to an attempt at the coercive abolition of free speech by the campus social justice crowd or at the very least signals the first steps down an incredibly slippery slope.
This week Lauren Southern, a contributor at Rebel Media, struck a blow in favor of liberty with #TheTriggering.
In an article for International Business Times, Southern wrote that she initially suggested #TheTriggering as a joke, but was encouraged by positive feedback.
“The reaction was overwhelmingly positive. With threats to our freedom of expression coming thick and fast both online and in the real world, I knew we had to go through with it.”
Southern said she picked March 9 as the day of reckoning because it was, “the day after International Women’s Day and the day before Osama bin Laden’s birthday, giving us the maximum opportunity to make jokes about both events.”
#TheTriggering drew an explosive response with one Twitter user telling Southern that it prompted a classroom discussion on freedom of speech.
And that’s exactly the point replied Southern because as she explained, and those who love liberty will agree, “We don’t want the very free speech that our forefathers fought and died for to disappear in the most coercive and underhanded way possible. We will not let our liberty perish at the hands of the professionally offended.”
Want to get in on the fun? Jump on twitter and fire away with your #TheTriggering tweets. And if you need some inspiration here are a few of my favorites.