I think it was Clint Eastwood who, as Dirty Harry, gave the world’s most famous trigger warning:
I know what you’re thinking: “Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk?
The punk in question did not feel lucky—because he was well cautioned.
I myself partook in and of trigger warnings. One day back in high school I had a fight with the sheriff’s son (he started it). Later that afternoon, as I strolled down a dirt road, the sheriff himself drove up and invited me to sit in the air-conditioned comfort of his squad car. There I received a colorful but theoretical education about the capabilities of the sheriff’s weapon, an education that he promised would turn practical were I to meet his son again.
Another was while I was breakfasting in my apartment in a rough area of San Antonio. I heard a shot and, being curious, I rushed outside to see what was the matter. Two gentleman wielding guns ran by, and as the lead saw me he asked, “You in the military? C’mon!” I was. I followed. A figure in the distance receded then disappeared. This later proved to be Peepin’ Pete, a fellow who derived perverse satisfaction from peering into the windows of young couples (who are you to judge?). Peepin’ Pete made the mistake of looking into the wrong apartment that morning. But he was fleet of foot and escaped. He was months later caught in flagrante delicto and met his reward.
These incidents show that trigger warnings work, but they are not infallible in the sense that, depending on the circumstance, one caution may be insufficient. Anyway, I took the lessons to heart and joined the National Rifle Association that I might learn more.
And now to show my pride and display my love of education, when asked for an ID on the Upper West Side, a Progressive suzerainty, as a kind of weak trigger warning, I sometimes bring out the badge pictured above (I altered the number here). I do after all sort of look like the man standing in front: tall, hatted, big nose, crooked teeth, appropriately dressed, Caucasian.
This long introduction was necessary to explain why I was initially enthusiastic when I spotted a column by Michael Moynihan which promised a discussion on trigger warnings. I was excited to learn his opinion whether revolvers gave better cautions than pistols, or were .20 gauge bird-shotted shotguns sufficient?
Alas, no. Trigger warnings are no longer straightforward. Yet another term, yet another useful descriptor, has been lost to us.
It seems that certain delicate kiddies which infest our universities worry that they might—I say might—be offended. This very possibility is intolerable to them. So they insist that they be warned with prominent labels on material which might in any way might “trigger” bad feelings in anybody. This way nearly all of Mark Twain, and pretty much all white male authors writing before 1950, can be avoided. Moynihan:
At the University of California, Santa Barbara, the student senate, which appears to be staffed by the only people in the solar system dumber than actual senators, passed a resolution to “begin the process of instituting mandatory ‘trigger warnings’ on class syllabi,” flagging books that could make students feel uncomfortable. One student arguing in favor of the measure commented, with all the grace and wit of Soviet bureaucrat, “I’ve been in this kind of situation before—it sucks; we should pass it.”
There are already many websites listing items which must have trigger warnings. One collection includes “Slimy things”, “Insects”, and, my favorite, “Anything that might inspire intrusive thoughts in people with OCD.” How do you test that one?
It surpasses the imagination to consider how these precious children would behave in the face of real trigger warnings. Apocalyptic tantrum doesn’t come close to covering it. I’d tell these poor darlings to man up, except that that phrase is now deemed officially “offensive” at Duke University. The most depressing poster I’ve seen in decades read “I don’t say ‘MAN UP’ because I don’t believe in gender norms.
The feminismization (not a typo) of America is nearly complete, at least at its higher echelons.
Update This is probably the best place for “Rape, Rape-Rape and Sexual Assault at Colleges: The battle over what constitutes sexual assault on college campuses is reaching new levels of absurdity.“