[Trigger Warning: Fuck You]
As part of living in a free society that means the right to having and voicing your own opinions. What that also means is that other people living in the same society have the same rights as you do. So just because you disagree with someone’s opinion it does not grant you the right to shut them down.
Honestly, students, you are the fucking worst.
I could have written that more tactfully but I need to be succinct and concise. You are the fucking worst. University is a place of learning, where you are taken out of your comfort zone and your ideas get challenged. But no, not now in this ultra-PC culture we live in where feelings trump fact. Now we live in this pitiful society where it seems to be justifiable to silence someone simply for the crime of having an opinion differing to your own.
I’m sorry darling, but no.
Alas, early last week students at Cardiff University launched a petition to try to stop Germaine Greer from giving a lecture titled “Women & Power: The Lessons of the 20th century” because she has expressed differing views regarding the trans-community. Her crime? Failing to recognise trans-women (male to female transition) as women. The comments she has made can certainly be described as incendiary (especially when you consider the tinder-like nature of the audience), like claiming that trans-women aren’t women because they don’t know what it’s like to have a “smelly vagina” and that transphobia doesn’t exist. She also said that being trans was a “delusion”. Irrespective of your views of her (I myself do not particularly like her because of her attempts at dismantling the nuclear home) you don’t censor because “muh, feelings”, it is both idiotic and infantile. Views you disagree with should not be censored but given a light so as to be criticised with greater scrutiny.
This is not new. The Breitbart journalist Milo Yiannopoulos is currently facing similar issues at Bristol University at the hands of Feminism Society, just as he and fellow journalist Julie Bindel had been banned from University of Manchester. Comedian Kate Smurthwaite was banned from Goldsmith’s University for being the wrong sort of feminist. Dapper Laughs was banned from Cardiff Uni just last year for making his humour a couple of shades too dark.
Not only are they preventing people with differing opinions and choice of expression from coming onto campus, but they are shunning and removing those who are themselves an active part of the university, their own fellow students. Jacob Williams, editor of the Oxford University student magazine “No Offence” had a little run-in of sorts with the police after student union leaders called them in because he was distributing his magazine. His magazine had been banned from this year’s freshers’ fair by the Student Union so he took to Oxford High Street instead, which is just down the road from the university. This, the student union leaders must have thought, is illegal! How dare someone respect their wishes by not distributing the papers where he had been told to stay away from! How dare he listen to the student union! Frolicking aside, Kiren Benipal, the union official who alerted the authorities did so due to receiving a complaint from a fresher who had previously been sexually assaulted. Their argument, I’m assuming, is that the magazine is triggering. But how someone distributing a student magazine can be considered police worthy is astounding, unless those who called were aware of that and just wanted to fuck his day up. One can only wonder.
This kind of behaviour, the stick your fingers in your ears and scream “laa laa laa” kind, stands testament of the deteriorating ability of students to hear, question and challenge that which they find uncomfortable, don’t know or disagree with. Their ignorance, coupled with a desire to shield themselves from that what is different or unknown, is what seems to drive their policing of other people’s right to free expression. They act as though what they cannot handle is thus unsafe for all, what is bad for the good is bad for the gander. Yet surely, if these ideas are truly as dangerous as they claim (they are not) and university is the supposed home for an enquiring mind, then it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it? Maybe it’s not Aristotle who is wrong but the students.
Their ignorance, which verges on militant, is their driving weapon. Gone are the days of the conservative right oppressing free speech for dissenting ideas now are the days of the progressive left oppressing free speech in case if someone cries. This is part of their ever-growing campaign to see free speech restricted, which leads me to my next point.
By the way, if you are a non-smoker turn away now, because what you are about to read is pure fucking cancer.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a survey from Yale University, the McLaughlin & Associates survey as commissioned by The William F Buckley Jr Program at Yale University (to be published in the November issue of The New Criterion) found a margin of 51% to 36% of students favour their school having speech codes to regulate free speech for students and faculty. Furthermore, 63% favour trigger warnings and a third of students could not identify the First Amendment as part of the Constitution that dealt with free speech. What these speech codes entail I do not know, but what can be deemed as acceptable or not? Who would be the ultimate authority of permissible speech and would they be fair? I highly doubt it. The rising appeal to Newspeak, dangerous enough as it was in George Orwell’s 1984, is manifesting as an infection where students not just accept it willingly but now defend and fight for.
The concept of protecting students in this manner, is incredibly petty, and was well discussed in The Coddling of The American Mind. The argument for trigger warnings by those who defend them is that they are to allow students to judge whether they can handle an upcoming topic, e.g. “trigger warning: poverty”. Any student who has suffered or claims to suffer from poverty be it directly or vicariously can then opt to continue or leave, which I find incredibly condescending. This, they argue, is for the protection of students. Intentions can be argued as honourable (though the seventh level of hell is built on the foundations of good intentions) but they actually have the adverse effect. Trigger warnings don’t remove stigma or harm, but perpetuates it.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), once long ago known as shell-shock is the condition most oft cited by those who argue for such measures, some claiming they get PTSD even from Twitter. Yet when you look at the behaviour exhibited by those advocating trigger warnings some bizarre trends seem to appear. Their behaviour closely resembles the maladaptive coping mechanisms utilised by people with anxiety disorders.
An article from MentalHelp.net titled The Maintenance of Anxiety Disorders: Maladaptive Coping Strategies details three maladaptive coping mechanisms for anxiety: sensitisation, safety behaviours and anxious avoidance. What is interesting is how they appear to translate very easily over the behaviours exhibited by those pushing trigger warnings and the banning of speakers at universities.
Sensitisation: “A person using this type of coping strategy seeks to learn about, rehearse, and/or anticipate fearful events … These efforts result in hyper-vigilance and obsessive worrying.”
They anticipate harm and in the case of Germaine Greer purport that “such attitudes contribute to the high levels of stigma, hatred and violence towards trans people – particularly trans women – both in the UK and across the world.” Irrespective that the talk doesn’t tackle the trans argument, it is her views on the trans community that caused the controversy. Anticipating a fearful event, hyper-vigilance and excessive worrying? Check.
Safety Behaviours: “This refers to coping strategies where people come to rely on something, or someone, as a means of coping with their excessive anxiety.”
The coping strategies in question are said trigger warnings and banning speakers from events. Rather than face their “fears” they would rather censor and hide. They have repeatedly conditioned the idea of fear and danger into themselves and require these buffers to form a defence so much so that there are working adults who will “suffer lots of crying attacks and emotional experiences and claim that everything they are shown (about things they disagree with) triggers them”.
Anxious Avoidance: “This coping strategy refers to the avoidance anxiety-provoking situations. Unfortunately, if a person does not confront the feared situation, and instead avoids it, their fear will mostly likely be maintained.”
I think this one speaks for itself, but to reiterate, avoiding what causes their anxiety actually exacerbates it. Let that sink in.
This is what many therapists do for phobia treatment, provide a steady increase in the exposure of the patient to their fears. Obviously this is performed in a safe and controlled environment, but the concept is still the same. The patient is not shielded away and told to avoid anything that resembles the fear, oh god no, but constant, incremental exposure systematically desensitises them to what they fear. Furthermore, research by the Institute of Medicine found that for PTSD repeated exposure to triggers diminishes the harmful effects of the disorder. The contrapositive is also true, that the more you centralise abuse to your personality the worse you suffer from symptoms of PTSD. They also found that “seeing one’s future through the lens of one’s abuse was especially associated with the severity of PTSD symptoms”. The constant reminder of and need to be defended in fact worsens the harmful effects of PTSD. The propagation of safe spaces, trigger warnings and banning speakers is not helping the situation but hindering.
Yet it is this kind of negative behaviour that is being rewarded, they are having their demands met and prominent speakers, controversial ideas and the freedom of thought are all paying the price. It seems to be favourable to be ignorant and scared than intelligent and challenging. The worst part is that it is students who are suffering, they are our future. Our future doctors, teachers. Our future workers. A cynic might find it ironic that these students not only accept their fate but actively defend and fight for it. A self-enforced police state for the mind. Me? I just want to get off this planet.