Amy Alkon, the “Advice Goddess” spots Jurassic lefty Todd Gitlin correctly reminding his readers that college education will often be “disturbing” by its very nature:
At Chronicle, in the wake of all the “trigger warnings” everywhere, Todd Gitlin gets it right on what a college education is supposed to be — disturbing:
No one ever promised that the truth would be comforting. History, Western and otherwise, is (among other things) a slaughterhouse. The record of civilization is a record of murder, rape, and sundry other brutalities. As for the discomfort that may be occasioned by the discovery — even the shock — of this record, discomfort is the crucible of learning. The world is disconcerting. The proper way to begin understanding it is to accept the unwritten contract of university education: I am here to be disturbed.
Where did this epidemic of thin-skinnedness come from? Gitlin’s not sure.
I suspect it’s a collision of feminism and other politically correct isms and helicopter parenting.
We live in America at a time of more physical ease than any other time in history, and what do we do? We use the extra time we have to gnash about how awful everything is.
College kids demanding “trigger warnings” be assigned to everything potential piece of literature they read is one part of this phenomenon, as Rd Brewer writes at Ace of Spades, with first-hand experience that “The thing is, triggering is a valid concept in psychology and counseling. But it has been swiped and used inappropriately:”
The concept of triggering is for those who are close to a person who is hurting: family members, close friends, and mental health professionals. It is for when you are knowingly dealing with someone who has a problem. If you know a topic, a word, or an image that might cause someone difficulty, you can avoid it. Accordingly, trigger warnings are for known situations where sufferers might encounter common triggers, like if you’re conducting a seminar for people with PTSD or writing a book for people with DID. Triggering is not a concern for the general public. You and I do not have to worry about triggering some unknown person. There is no way to trigger-proof our entire culture on the chance you might affect a stranger with an emotional or mental problem. And there is absolutely no need to worry about triggering Social Justice Warrior snowflakes and prudes. No one has to walk on eggshells around them. They need to learn to own their feelings.
Speech police types who use triggering improperly to shut down speech are misguided. Opposing political views should be discussed. Comedy does not have to be anodyne. Stories and movies need not be bland, and we do not need to live in a way that kowtows to those with aggressively delicate sensibilities. Unless you’re dealing with a family member or a friend who has a real problem, say what you want to say. Don’t allow the speech police to make fun, free expression taboo.
Maybe owning our feelings should become a thing again.
Well yes, when you make the cossetted boomer generation look like rugged individualists, it may be time to rethink things, as Purdue graduate student Fredrik deBoer writes. Walter Olson of Overlawyered.com describes deBoer’s post as the equivalent of “a prisoner’s note smuggled out from inside the current progressive discourse, particularly when deBoer concludes:
Criticism of today’s progressives tends to use words like toxic, aggressive, sanctimonious, and hypocritical. I would not choose any of those. I would choose lazy. We are lazy as political thinkers and we are lazy as culture writers and we are lazy as movement builders. We ward off criticism of our own bad work by acting like that criticism is inherently anti-feminist or anti-progressive. We seem spoiled, which seems insane because everything is messed up and so many things are getting worse. I guess having a Democratic president just makes people feel complacent. Well, look: as a political movement we are in pathetic shape right now. We not only have no capacity to move people who don’t already share our worldview, we seem to have no interest in doing so. Our stock arguments are lazy stacks of cliches. We seem to want to confirm everything conservatives say about our inability to argue without calling other people racist. We can’t articulate why our vision of the future is better than the other side’s, and in fact many of us will tell you that it’s offensive to think that we have an obligation to educate others on that vision at all. We celebrate grassroots activist movements like Black Lives Matter, but we insult them by treating them as the same thing as hashtag campaigns, and we don’t build a broader left-wing political movement that could increase their likelihood of success. We spend all day, every day, luxuriating in how much better we are than other people, having convinced ourselves that the work of politics is always external, never internal. We have made politics synonymous with social competition. We’re a mess.
If you want us to stop being a mess, you have to be willing to criticize, and you have to accept that every criticism of an ostensibly progressive argument is not some terrible political betrayal. Not everyone who complains about white people has enlightened racial attitudes. Not everyone who constantly drops “mansplaining” or “gaslighting” into conversation actually helps fight sexism. One-liners don’t build a movement. Being clever doesn’t fix the world. Scoring points on Twitter doesn’t create justice. Jokes make nothing happen. We’re speeding for a brutal backlash and inevitable political destruction, if not in 2016 then 2018 or 2020. If you want to help avoid that, I suggest you invest less effort in trying to be the most clever person on the internet and more on being the hardest working person in real life. And stop mistaking yourself for the movement.
Trigger warning: As long as the “backlash” isn’t physically brutal, as with the left on left rape camps of Occupy Wall Street and the (trigger warning: my copy of the Newspeak Dictionary is woefully out of date) thugs of Ferguson and Baltimore, I hope the coming backlash against the left is good and hard, as one early “Progressive” inspiration would say. Or at the very least, the rest of America simply tells the left to “Eff Off:”
All of this stuff stems from three impulses:
1) A desire to assume unearned moral superiority – I’m better than you
2) A desire to assume unearned prominence – I’m more important than you
3) A desire for attention – Look at me! Aren’t I special?
That’s what they’re looking for. Don’t give it to them. Don’t play their game, refuse to acknowledge that their game even exists. I just realized it right this second, but this is exactly what Breitbart did, and it drove them NUTS! They’re yapping on about the oppression of the 1% and he’s screaming “STOP RAPING PEOPLE!” in their face. He popped their bubble. He refused to acquiesce to their assumptions. He pointed out the reality they were purposefully attempting to ignore. Imagine how Andrew would have handled the VA frat rape hoax or the reaction to Christina Hoff Sommers’ speech.
Be Breitbart. And have fun with it. The meltdowns from the special snowflakes when you refuse to grant them what they assume is theirs by right of their magnificence are AWESOME.
Oh and by the way, in their meltdown over Christina Hoff Sommers, Oberlin students helpfully identified by name which students will need, to borrow from Amy’s terminology, big extra-cushy couches in particular when they enter the work force. Potential employers take note:
[jwplayer player=”1″ mediaid=”80505″]
Related: “When Politics Substitutes for Religion: Daniel Hannan: How the Left’s hatred devoured its own election campaign” in England. And in the Weekly Standard, Mark Hemingway writes that “After years of relying on identity politics, Democrats no longer even know how to argue,” as they begin to devour themselves stateside.