Wednesday, March 24, 2010

a serious response about trigger words

On my main blog, Chalicechick left this comment on for people with "trigger" words: "Given that everyone I've ever known who has had a "trigger word" was some kind of abuse victim, I don't really see the need for self-congratulatory mocking." Because my main blog has several feeds, I'm responding in a new post:

Where's the self-congratulatory mocking? The Onion is making a point, as it often does, by carrying an idea to a logical extreme. No one thinks, for example, that the death of someone's husband is funny.

We understand why trigger words are triggery. But that doesn't mean the solution is to make them socially unacceptable or illegal. I believe the opposite: the more forbidden a word is, the greater its power. See what happens to "Nazi" in Germany, where the word and its symbols are banned.* Or compare the people who say "the n-word" rather than "nigger." In the first camp, you get people who want to ban Mark Twain. In the second, you get great thinkers like Lenny Bruce, Aaron McGruder, and Dick Gregory (who titled his autobiography Nigger and told his mother, "Whenever you hear the word Nigger, you’ll know they're advertising my book.")

People like me are sorry that words are triggery. But replacing those words is not the solution.

I'll let Lenny Bruce have the last word: "The point? That the word's suppression gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness. If President Kennedy got on television and said, "Tonight I'd like to introduce the niggers in my cabinet,: and he yelled "niggerniggerniggerniggerniggerniggergigger" at every nigger he saw, "boogeyboogeyboogeyboogeyboogey, niggerniggerniggernigger" till nigger didn't mean anything any more, till nigger lost its meaning-- you'd never make any four-year-old "nigger" cry when he came home from school."

*ETA: Censorship in Germany isn't quite as simplistic as that hasty sentence implies. Context is taken into consideration. See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_in_the_Federal_Republic_of_Germany#National_Socialism_and_Holocaust_denial

But it's still censorship, and it makes people feel powerful when they embrace the forbidden.

44 comments:

  1. FWIW:
    My personal treatment for my trigger events is to submit myself to them repeatedly until I am numb to their effect, or have re-associated them with something else.

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  2. Ps. I think Lenny Bruce confuses words with the feelings and actions behind him. No matter how "ok" you think you're making the words with constant repetition, Bruce's little kid is still going to cry if he's being mistreated.

    You can go RAPERAPERAPERAPERAPE all week, and rape victims are going to cry.

    Or, you can go along when they make reasonable requests and try to be someone who treats them decently and well.

    And maybe they won't cry so hard anymore.

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  3. The thing is, we can't control how other people are. And everybody has a trigger word. One of mine is "worship." It's not even on the same planet of trouble as the word "rape" is for someone who's survived being raped, but it's still a trigger word.

    So for a person who wants to be sensitive to saying things that hurt people with trigger words, the situation is pretty dire - there's no way of knowing which of the many words you choose will trigger someone.

    I agree that in a special case situation like a blog about empowering women who have suffered from violence, you have a few words that you can assume are trigger words, but you just said one of those words several times here without a trigger warning, so even that is pretty situational.

    On a practical level, I think the practice of asking people not to use your trigger words doesn't work. Nobody could ever have a complete map of all the possible ways they might offend whoever might happen to hear or read what they have to say. The only thing we really have any control over is whether we act on our kind intentions, or our unkind intentions.

    We just have to trust to the good intentions of the people who probably would try to avoid saying our trigger words, and avoid doing anything to suggest to those who would not that the words have any power over us.

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  4. *sigh* No, listening to Lenny Bruce saying "RAPERAPERAPERAPERAPE" is not therapeutic to a rape or other sexual abuse victim, but talking about it with a therapist or trusted person tends to be more helpful than avoiding it all together. I'm unsure if you are being deliberately obtuse, but I'll give you the benefit of a doubt. "FWIW" means for what it's worth, I never stated or implied that what I do is the only way to help resolve trauma, or even that it is the best way. Simply that it is what I do to try to control my reactions to certain trigger events. We could take it the other way. I could request that everyone do things a certain way to help me resolve my issue. "Dear Onion, I am suffering from PTSD. It would help me get over it if everyone could attempt to sneak up on me and surprise me from behind, rather than greeting me like normal." No, it's not as amusing as the original, but then I don't write for the Onion either.

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  5. Today I came across an interesting case regarding banned words: Was Racial Slur Anger or Hate Crime? That link will take you an ABC story. For a more biased version, but with photos that strike me as pertinent, see Say the N-Word, Go to Legal Hell.

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  6. CC, you're right that almost anything said with an insulting meaning can hurt. On the other hand, "suffragette" was meant as an insult, and the suffragists embraced it to defuse it. They're not the only folks who do that. So long as a word can hurt, it will be used to hurt.

    I have no idea whether the guy in the racial slur story is what we would commonly call a racist, but I know when he was furious about what had been done to his wife, he called the other guy the most hurtful word he could think of. If the other guy had started to giggle, there wouldn't have been any story here. And the first guy would've pretty quickly stopped calling people names that made them giggle when he wanted them to be angry.

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  7. I have no tolerance for people who expect the world to bow to their triggers, and consider those who don't to be terrible people for failing to move the universe to accord with their personal wishes.

    Your triggers are yours: YOU deal with them, you don't make OTHER people deal with them -- because if you do make others deal with them you it can easily be behavior self-centered to the point of blind narcissism.

    Which is exactly what I think the Onion piece points out terribly and amusingly well.

    Especially when you actually look at the behavior in action: such as Tiger Woods being lambasted for using the word "spaz" a number of years back, or people protesting a horror movie because it presents a stepchild as evil, and so many other examples I've noted over the years.

    I'm also aware that the Onion does actually get those sorts of letters from people that read just exactly like that, "Hey, those adultery articles are hilarious, but please don't make fun of cancer, my brother died of cancer. It's a serious thing."

    It isn't making fun of reasonable requests, it's making fun of a reasonable thing people use unreasonably all the time.

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  8. The world is a dangerous place; we can't put guard rails around everything that might hurt you. But noting that fact is NOT a good excuse for not putting safety covers on machinery with a history of pulling fingers off. I, personally, think the world is a better place for the existence of OSHA.

    The same is true for these kind of discussions. Yes, there are all kinds of trigger words, and no, you can't predict them all... but there is a list that everyone over the age of twelve knows for a fact are trigger words. There's a reason Eve Ensler didn't call her play "The Cunt Monologues"

    Respecting well known trigger words is just a common courtesy. No, it can't be a law- but why should we need a law to avoid knowingly hurting people?

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  9. The RAPERAPERAPE was more in response the Lenny Bruce quote in the post than it is to you, Jeff.

    While some people are triggered by completely random things, my impression is that putting a "trigger warning" on things that have a high liklihood of triggering somebody (or thinking carefully before you make a rape joke) is mostly just courtesy and decent behavior.

    I mean, lots of people don't like graphic discriptions of surgery, foot fungus, etc. Polite people don't describe their surgery, their foot fungus etc, unless they know their audience is receptive. Gawker did a story yesterday about what sorts of people you should defriend on Facebook and the person who won't stop going on about their bodily functions was second on the list. I'm not making this up, these are basic ettiquette rules that lots of people follow.

    As I wrote in the now closed thread, I see people who are seriously triggered by obvious trigger words as akin to people who have peanut allergies. All but the most severe peanut allergies can be overcome with great work and effort through roughly Jeff's method of sampling a bit at a time and building up a tolerance.

    But some people might not want put themselves through that when they could simply avoid peanuts, and maybe some people are in the middle of the process and sneaking them a dose of peanuts because you believe that the world has peanuts and you think they should get used to it will screw the process up.

    My impression is that the people who don't want discussion God in churches generally don't use the term "Trigger word" and generally don't mean to imply that hearing the term stirs up traumatic memories that make it hard to sleep at night, just that it irriates them and pulls them out of the contemplative place they try to be in when they are at church.

    To me, that's not a "trigger word" any more than changing the words of a book is "rape."
    Yes, one can use dramatic metaphor to make a point, we all do sometimes, but doing so doesn't exactly say great things about the validity of the point.

    (((you just said one of those words several times here without a trigger warning, so even that is pretty situational.)))

    You mean, saying them in a discussion with "trigger words" in the headline isn't warning enough? Come on, victims of trauma are hurting, not stupid.

    Anyway, like Joel said, "Respecting well known trigger words is just a common courtesy. No, it can't be a law- but why should we need a law to avoid knowingly hurting people?"

    Or, as the John Stewart likes to put in on the Daily Show, "be a person." People with "trigger words" have enough problems without the assumption that they are whiners who make unreasonable demands, particularly given that this assumption is largely not true.

    CC

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  10. Joel, I would've respected Ensler more if she had. I would love to know if she considered it and rejected it because of the commercial backlash she would get. You really can't deal with the taboos about female body parts without addressing the US's #1 "obscene" word.

    CC, I do believe in giving warnings for things like fan fic or "graphic" pictures that fall into the vague NSFW category. I'm not arguing for being an abusive asshole here.

    But dichroic and I are going to disagree about the metaphorical use of "rape."

    And I have met UUs who say they've been abused by Christians and they don't want God in their churches. Hell, I've been abused by Christians--I was an atheist in fifth grade, and when the teacher asked me who made the earth, I said I didn't know and I didn't care. She said I was being rude and made me sit in the Florida sun during P.E. Kids laughed at me, as kids do. On the scale of abuse, it's pretty minor, but I'm really not fond of some kinds of Christians. I'm still going to respect the people for whom Christian language is useful.

    Common courtesy works both ways.

    And, no, "PC" is not always common courtesy. Lonny Rae did not deserve what he got.

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  11. Something about euphemisms: "rape" did not originally have its current meaning of forced sex; it meant "to seize, carry off by force, plunder." It became a euphemism for forced sex, and now, to some people, the euphemism is as unbearable as the blunter expressions. I think that's what Louis CK is getting at when he says that by using a euphemism, "You make me say [the harsher word] in my head."

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  12. Another thought: when I was kid trying to do my bit for civil rights, I was often called a nigger-lover. When I recount this story, should I say I was called an "n-word-lover"?

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  13. Will, there is an entire monologue in Ensler's play in which she does reclaim the word "Cunt." I think there's even a part in which the audience is encouraged to chant the word. I don't know that she needed to name the whole play for that, though.

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  14. DSD, good to know. And I wouldn't say she "needed" to name it that, but if the point is to confront taboos, why did she choose the safer title?

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  15. OK, going backwards:

    1. "The Vagina monologues" has all sorts of problems with cities not wanting it publicized as it is. If it had an even more shocking title, it would be a little art house thing that none of us would have ever heard of. Will can withold his respect if he chooses, but all the name change means to me is that Ensler is not an idiot.

    2. Again, my impression is that like with other sorts of triggers, most of the affected people don't want the name removed from the language, they want it used thoughtfully. While my impression from the race fights I've seen on Will's blogs is that the "Nigger lover" story doesn't really impress people*, I don't think anyone objects to the word being used in that fashion.

    3. Swastikas also had one meaning, but now have a very different meaning. In both cases, people who use the old meaning and pretend ignorance of the new meaning and the cultural context that surrounds it are up to something.

    4. I looked up Lonny Rae. He threatened to beat somebody up when he was in a position to do it." He was convicted of "assault," which the common law defines roughly as "threatening to beat someone up when you are in a position to do it."

    (Contrast, if you like, with the Gates case. Gates was arrested for "disorderly conduct" which in the common law means something like "trying to incite a riot and failing, participating in a bar fight and pleading guilty, attempting to be a prostitute bt having no customers and similar public disturbances that are much more public and much more disturbing than demanding to see an officer's ID on one's front porch.")

    So yeah, the racial slurs made things more complicated for a bit, but the only thing he was actually convicted for is something he pretty much admits he did.

    4. It's good to know that you did not get PTSD or a related trauma from having some kids make fun of you and thus hearing about Christianity is distasteful but not harmful to you. That said, some people are traumatized by rape and assault and I continue to not see that they are asking for anything unreasonable.

    5. Odd that you have sympathy for someone who could get in trouble at work for a disturbing content and so little for people who could be upset more deeply by it.

    CC

    *Is there any white person who argues for civil rights who HASN'T been accused of being a traitor to their race? I sure have.

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  16. 1. I respect the play, based on what I've heard about it. As I said initially, I would respect it *more* with a title that tackled the taboo headon.

    2. I don't mean to impress anyone. I'm saying that "nigger-lover" is part of my personal history, and I won't give up my right to accurately relate what I have lived through. As I may say too often, I was beaten for being a nigger-lover. Whether that impresses people who want to have the power to decide which words may be used, I honestly don't care.

    3. Swastikas had many meanings. Banning the nazi image also bans the Tibetan and Hopi swastikas.

    4. Did you look at the picture of his wife's throat? In a non-PC world, she was the one who was assaulted--yet the person who physically assaulted her was not charged. All Rae did was insult someone who physically harmed his wife.

    4 (2nd time): That incident was part of a time during which the Klan threatened to burn down my home. I never realized it at the time, but I think I probably did suffer a little emotional trauma.

    As for people who have been traumatized and their thoughts on censorship, you might see Child-abuse survivors oppose EU censorwall.

    5. I have sympathy for both. But it's worse to have people lose their jobs for saying forbidden words. Yes, everyone should be nice all the time. But it's also nice to understand that people lose their tempers or study the past (I'm thinking of Keith John Sampson, who was punished for reading a history book about *opposing* the Klan). Nice calls for actually being nice, rather than demanding that the law or the community punish people who say bad things. What matters most are our deeds, and when those deeds amount to censorship, we're no longer entitled to say that we're just asking people to be courteous. One of the anti-racists had a rant about hiding behind courtesy, and I agree with much of her argument: "nice" can be a shield for horrible things. Most, maybe all, restrictions on liberty are presented as the desire to enforce niceness.

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  17. 1. OK. Well, if I were her I think I'd rather have the impact she had made on the world with her play than a nice art house play with a shocking name and an additional dose of Will Shetterly's respect.

    2. I don't think anyone wants you to not relate that story because they don't want anyone to use the word "nigger" ever. At the very least, when I've see the story related by you and by people writing about you, I've never seen that suggested.

    3. Who is talking about banning?

    4. I didn't see a picture of his wife's throat. I believe that skin abrasions can look unpleasant. I'd say in a just world they would both have been arrested since my impression is that they both committed crimes. My guess would be that nobody saw the ref pull the camera cord* and that part was more or less a he said/she said. Conversely, I bet dozens of people saw Rae screaming words that tend to attract attention and were happy to talk to the cops about it. Evidence works that way sometimes, particularly when one party tells a newspaper that he committed the crime.

    My guess is if he hadn't had the need to settle the issue himself, the call to the cops might have worked as he said/she said evidence and a wound is probably enough if the accuser doesn't come across as a nut. The lesson of this story for me is still "don't be an idiot" rather than "Lonny Rae didn't deserve what he got."

    4b. From the article you linked to "(and most importantly), that the EC should be turning its attention to making it easier for EU member-states and other nations to actually shut down sites that host images depicting the abuse of children."

    As in, the abuse victims don't oppose getting rid of the images at all, they just don't think the wall is the best way to go about it.

    5. This isn't about restrictions on liberty. You have the liberty to look at all the NSFW sites you want and your boss has the liberty to fire you, either for creating a hostile environment for your coworkers, for doing something offensive where customers or clients might see you that would reflect badly on your workplace or for goofing off when you're supposed to be working. Such is life.

    Keith John Sampson was never punished. There was talk of firing him, but he wasn't fired. He was cleared and he got an apology letter from the Chancellor of Perdue.

    CC


    *The newspaper article said Rae himself was 100 yards away. He might not have even seen it.

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  18. 2. ((( But how do people who use "the n-word" express "nigger-lover"?))

    My guess is they don't really have a reason to, or they say things like "they shouted racial slurs at me" and let people figure out the specifics for themselves.

    3. You pointed out there was an archaic meaning of "rape," I pointed out that, like with Swastikas, when there is a comparitively unknown archaic meaning that someone uses ignoring the modern meaning and cultural context of the word, they are generally up to something.

    4b. I'm not asking for a giant censorship firewall. You brought that one up. All I'm asking for is people to be decent to each other and help each other out.

    5. If the hashhish was in a car you were driving, you were probably guilty of simple posssession depending upon the laws of your state. Pretty much everyone who is caught with drugs claims the drugs aren't theirs, after all.

    Either way, if you're going to have friends who do that stuff, get your car detailed before you try to cross any national boarders.

    CC

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  19. Agreed he was an idiot. But having a visibly hurt wife strikes me as moving this into a forgivable offense. He didn't go charging after the guy. He was yelling for him to come out and fight.

    And why wasn't the other guy charged? We have photographic evidence of his crime, but I don't think there's an audio recording of Rae's.

    "Don't be an idiot" is always the real lesson! :)

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  20. If being an idiot were illegal, most of the human race would be in prison right now. (Not me, of course. I'm a genius. ;) )

    The crime committed against Rae's wife would most likely be considered battery, by the way.

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  21. Swastikas also had one meaning, but now have a very different meaning. In both cases, people who use the old meaning and pretend ignorance of the new meaning and the cultural context that surrounds it are up to something.

    Yeah, Buddhists are totally "up to something" by using that sacred symbol of their religion and not hiding it away because it might offend some folks.

    Rape has one meaning, but also has a very different meaning. People who ignore that words have more than one meaning, often very different, and pretend ignorance of the other meanings and the well-known context that surrounds such are also very much up to something.

    Because that is where I throw up my hands and declare the critical theory bullshit train has arrived. Since the folks on it are usually context-Nazis regarding words/symbols/statements, demanding they only have on meaning: the one that triggers them the most, and everyone else better fucking build their world around it.

    That.

    THAT is what I stand in firm opposition to, because it has nothing to do with being nice, or being a person. It has to do with social manipulation and control of others under the guise of humane treatment.

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  22. 3. Agreed that modern meanings matter. But those who would control words really shouldn't complain about those of us who use dictionaries. If a usage isn't commonly considered archaic, it's relevant.

    5. I was in the habit of searching cars that I drove, because I was young and I had crossed the US-Canada border before. But I was driving my parents' car that time, so I didn't give it the careful cleaning. Since then, it doesn't matter where a car is from, I clean it before crossing a border.

    As for the family friend, I had no way to know she did "that stuff" or even had been in the car.

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  23. 3. You quote Dichroic as saying he/she protested the use of the word "rape" in that context. How does that equate "control" of the word to you?

    Why would someone protest something that they can control?

    Also, at least on dictionary.com, the "the act of seizing and carrying off by force" definition IS listed as archaic.

    5. Suffice to say, you were caught with drugs in your car. Though you may be able to get out from under the charge, to call a drug possession charge a "false accusation" is a little much.

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  24. Just to sidetrack things even more, it could be argued that Lonny Rae didn't commit assault. His exact wording is reported to be "You bring that nigger up here. I want to kick his f-ing ass" which isn't a direct threat. (If he'd said, "I'm going to kick his ass" that would be closer, but given that he was outside the locker room and the referee was inside, it could still be argued that there was no real threat. Of course, since the prosecutors didn't actually charge him with simple assault, it's moot.)

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  25. 3. I was thinking of Dichroic's position --which I continue to understand and respect--as being on a spectrum that includes people who want to ban Huckleberry Finn, people who want to persecute anyone who says anything against their religion, Andrea Dworkin saying that all heterosexual sex is rape and all pornography demeans women and therefore should be banned, etc. Controlling discourse covers many things. That's why the First Amendment matters.

    I'm not denying that "rape" has a primary meaning of forced sexual acts now. It also has a metaphorical meaning that people should be allowed to use to show strong displeasure. Note that I'm not advocating using "rape" metaphorically to indicate approval, though the Old Testament approves of literal rape under various circumstances. But I will argue that because the act is hateful, the word is appropriate for describing other things that are hateful. Would you quibble with someone who said the US's foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan was international rape?

    On a lesser level, would you say schools should quit teaching "The Rape of the Lock"?

    As for protesting, that's how you get control. The Andrea Dworkins and Jerry Falwells have not won, but they're still seeking to win.

    5. I was writing quickly--you're right that there's no such thing as a "false" accusation in that accusations are only accusations. But I was not the owner of that hashish. I think you can say someone is falsely charged with murder even though a murder has actually occurred, at least when speaking colloquially.

    Heck, Keith John Sampson was actually reading a book with an image on the cover that allowed the PC police to try to fire him. That the book was about people opposing racism was irrelevant--I don't believe Germany's laws allow you to have a swastika on the cover of a book about opposing the Nazis either. Do you think Sampson was guilty because he was doing what he was charged with?

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  26. New numbers! Yayy!

    1. Conventional commercial logic is that you use cover images that grab people’s attention. The image does not mean you approve of it. In fact, I would say you’re arguing for a black and white world in which nice people don’t use images that might upset anyone and bad people do.

    My guess is that they changed covers because the PC police came after Sampson. But it may’ve just been time for a new cover.

    2. I'd say his coworkers were assholes when they complained about him reading it, even after he told them it was about PEOPLE SUCCESSFULLY OPPOSING THE KU KLUX KLAN.

    Are you really supporting the right of employers to prevent people from reading antiracist material during their breaks in places where the public can’t see them?

    3. He was almost fired for reading an antiracist book. His coworkers said he was a racist. As hell goes, that’s mild, but why would you want to put anyone through that?

    4. I’m glad they found other jobs. That freedom grows weaker as the job market sinks.

    5. No, that’s not nuts, but I was still falsely accused: I had not done what I was charged with. I think we’re flailing over semantics now. (Though a google of “falsely accused” suggests the semantics are on my side--to a great many people, it means being accused of something you didn’t do.)

    The friend was a good friend, a young Ojibwe woman without any money. We could afford it, so we didn’t bother her about it. Fortunately, because the hashish was lost in Canada and was found in the US, she wasn’t charged by the OPP.

    6. The brush may seem unreasonably wide to you, and I’m also reluctant when people make slippery slope arguments, but I do tend to think when dealing with freedom of speech that it’s better to err on the side of too much than too little.

    7. I would say the joke is about the logical consequences of asking people to go to extremes to avoid trigger words. What extremes are, I don’t know. I think it depends on context. If I was in a room with someone who had a trigger word, or if I was addressing a group of people with a trigger word, I would avoid it. That’s courtesy.

    But when writing for the general public, I’m going to assume some things will be triggery, and people will deal with their triggers as best they can, and if they have to leave the room or stop reading, that’s a reasonable way to deal with the problem. Sometimes most of us need a break from the things of daily life. Ain’t no shame in admitting you can’t deal with something. That’s what therapy is for.

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  27. "I tend to think bombing and looting countries and thereby creating an environment in which actual rape increases in that country is wrong, but if you don’t want to talk with me because I compare that to rape, that’s your choice, of course."

    Actually, in this sort of case, it wouldn't be that I didn't want to talk to you, and the reason is only tangentially related to trigger words. The reason I wouldn't talk to you is that it is very clear from the start that the case is settled in the mind of someone who uses language like that, and there is no good outcome possible from discussion. So in that sort of case, it's not the trigger word per se that counts, but mindset of the person using the word.

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  28. Joel, on issues like war, I fear it quickly becomes obvious whether either side is likely to change their mind. Too often, polite people are just being polite about their firm support of the status quo.

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  29. Piffle. It's possible to be polite about one's firm opposition to the status quo, as well. Stop trying to rig the game, you.

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  30. 1. I don't know that the "grabbing attention" concept usually applies to history books, but either way I would say for maximum impact one should have a chapter or two setting up the picture and talking about the meaning of a burning cross, THEN show a picture of one.

    This was not an image that might upset someone, this was an image that was upsetting a person standing in front of him and he had many options for getting to read the book without upsetting anyone.

    2. Uh, yeah. I do support the right of employers do make rules about what happens on premises that they are in charge of, especially when it is making other people uncomfortable and causing drama that is bad for morale. Again, this guy can read whatever he wants when he's not getting paid.

    3. I'm not sure how he was "almost fired." He got a nasty letter from someone who sounds like a loose cannon who mysteriously "retired" in the middle of all this, but no action was ever taken on his personnel file.

    As for getting called names, I suspect that someone who says, essentially, "I know what I'm doing is upsetting you, but I can do what I want to and I'm going to keep doing it and you can't stop me" usually gets called names.

    5. Something that's in a car you're driving is usually legally in your possession even if you don't own it. The drugs were in a car you were driving. My understanding is that you were charged with possessing them.

    Again, I'm glad you managed to get out from under the legal consequences, but I don't see how anybody who accused you did so falsely.

    6. You seem to be reluctant when OTHER people make slippery slope arguments. You decide that the "logical conclusion' of what someone is saying is something wacky and they have to answer for the wacky version rather than what they actually said all the time.

    7. Again, it doesn't seem to me like the logical consequences at all, I could give you the "logical consequences" of your views by exaggerating them in a negative fashion, but why?

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  31. "Oh, politeness should be everyone's default. But politeness is not a virtue in and of itself. Context always matters."

    Politeness is a virtue in and of itself. Politeness is what makes non-violent discussion possible in the first place. Winning an argument through inpolite means is not a victory in the long run, for odds are you've just created a life long enemy. You're a good writer; I'm sure you could create some scenario in which inpoliteness was, if not more virtuous, at least less more effective- but that hypothetical would hardly balance many thousands who have been killed in fights started over manners.

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  32. 1. History matters, and should not be hidden from people.

    2. We'll have to disagree on the power of bosses.

    3. Sampson: "For months, I felt isolated and dejected. Yet I knew that most of the faculty, staff and students at Indiana University were good people. The campus is a growing, thriving part of Indy, where people of all colors and religions come to study. But the $106,000-a-year affirmative-action officer who declared me guilty of "racial harassment" never spoke to me or examined the book."

    Having experienced mobbing myself, beginning when my family was isolated and threatened because of our involvement in civil rights in the '60s, I may be unusually sympathetic to him.

    I was sad to see that his union failed him. Some unions too often side with the bosses. Thank God the ACLU was on his side.

    I do like this statement of his: "Abolitionist Charles Sumner said, "Prejudice is the child of ignorance. It is sure to prevail where people do not know each other." The people at the Affirmative Action Office were so myopically intent on finding a Klansman, they failed to see a natural ally standing before them."

    5. Yes, I was charged with something I had not done. Colloquially, that’s a “false charge.” Really, google it. If having drugs in the car was all that mattered, I would have been found guilty. The law requires that you actually be responsible for the thing you’re charged with.

    6. Hey, I’ll happily cop to the charge that I’m as inconsistent as anyone about which slippery slope arguments I accept. But I will continue to be an extremist on free speech issues.

    7. When someone is disciplined for reading an antiracist book in his free time because a cover photograph of Klansmen burning crosses makes someone else uncomfortable, limits on intellectual freedom in the US have already gone further than I would have imagined possible twenty years ago. But, as in #2, we’ll just have to disagree on whether the joke’s funny.

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  33. Joel, some very polite people have advocated some very reprehensible positions. I retain the right to deny them vigorously. If using "rape" metaphorically to declare my belief about the effect of the Iraq War on the Iraqi people is impolite, very well; I'm guilty of being impolite.

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  34. Joel, I do think politeness is often more effective than impoliteness. At protest marches, for example, I'm a big fan of trying to appear to be as mainstream and unthreatening as possible. But politeness is a tool, and its use should always be evaluated.

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  35. Now you've got a Malvina Reynolds song stuck in my head.

    "It isn't nice to block the doorways
    It isn't nice to go to jail
    There are nicer ways to do it
    But the nice ways always fail
    It isn't nice
    It isn't nice
    You've told us once
    You've told us twice
    But if that is freedom's price
    We don't mind."

    What is on the new cover of Notre Dame Vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan anyway? All I can find is the cover with the cross-burning. (Not a terribly shocking cover either. Too much greyscale to be properly dramatic.)

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  36. How does that equate "control" of the word to you? Why would someone protest something that they can control?

    It is an attempt to control, through leveraging social mores, someone else's language and their use of it. "Don't use rape that way because it triggers me and that's bad, and therefore you are bad if you now choose to trigger me," is an attempt to control language.

    "Don't use the swastika because it triggers me, and I don't care if it is an ancient symbol sacred to your religion," is an attempt to control other people based on the state of your internal world (and nevermind theirs or anyone else's).

    Consider how some feminists protest the use of the word "girlfriend" because they see it as demeaning and pedophilic. Nevermind how the rest of the world actually perceives and utilizes the word.

    If you don't realize protest is all about control, then I'm not sure what you think it is about (or what it can accomplish sans control).

    Also, at least on dictionary.com, the "the act of seizing and carrying off by force" definition IS listed as archaic.

    The use in question is not "seizing and carrying off by force" but "an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation". (Which is not archaic.)

    Regardless, if you understand the context of the usage in question, and we all do in this case, then playing the "running to the dictionary to prove my point" game is not an argument. It's an attempt to justify controlling the discourse and forcing others to do what you want them to do and speak the way you want them to speak.

    I suggest the idea that "I'm a victim, and therefore my feelings/reactions have more weight" seems to be at the center of this debate.

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  37. 1. So anything that is inside a book abut not on the cover is "hidden"?

    3. This guy didn't care that he was upsetting his coworkers and didn't listen to their concerns. Kinda makes it hard to feel bad for him when someone upset him and didn't listen to his.
    And it's hard to see someone who dismisses so grandly that he is making his African-American coworkers uncomfortable to be on the side of the EEOC cause, no matter what he's reading.

    5. Ok, Canadian laws must be different. I had been assuming that it took place on the American side. Suffice to say, the standard in America is possession.

    6. You must be. Most free speech advocates I know focus on the government making laws rather than individuals making polite requests.

    7. Luckily no one was ever punished, so we will have to see when that happens. And whether a break where the boss is still paying you counts as "free time" in the usual sense of the word remains debatable. I can think of many things one might do on one's actual free time that would, I think understandably, get one fired if one did them in the office breakroom.

    CC

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  38. ((("Don't use rape that way because it triggers me and that's bad, and therefore you are bad if you now choose to trigger me,")))

    Have you ever seen anyone say that? Really? Because all I saw was someone who felt the word was being misused and they didn't phrase it that way at all.

    (((If you don't realize protest is all about control, then I'm not sure what you think it is about (or what it can accomplish sans control).))

    My impression is that protest is usually made by those who have no control and it usually doesn't achieve control even if that were the objective, so it is unlikely that a rational person would protest at all if control were what they really wanted/expected.

    ((("running to the dictionary to prove my point"))

    Will had specifically mentioned dictionaries and usages commonly consider archaic in the previous post. Pointing out that one of the usages he had cited was considered archaic didn't seem unreasonable.

    FWIW, are you protesting my "running to the dictionary"? If not, how does your criticism of "running to the dictionary" differ from a protest?

    ((("I'm a victim, and therefore my feelings/reactions have more weight))

    I don't really see it that way. I see it that most of us need the rest of the world to do us a solid every now and again, be it to help us pick up some packages when we drop on armload or call the cops when they see our house is on fire.

    I'm not trying to control you by saying that if someone drops some packages, has a house on fire or is really sensitive about a sensitive topic that you HAVE to help them out, all I initially asked was that we not compound their difficulty by making fun of them for needing the help in the first place.

    CC

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  39. CC:

    1. Yes. Covers cover what's inside them.

    3. People should not be able to broadly dictate what others read during their breaks when they're not in the public eye. It's not like he was sitting there with a copy of Hustler or Mein Kampf. Reasonable people would've said, "It's about opposing the Klan? Cool!"

    5. It happened on the US side. But because the hashish was lost on the Canadian side and they identified the guilty party, the did not charge me. See, I was what they call innocent, and by finding the guilty party, I established that. This is why the accustation was not valid, but false. Yes, I'm being a bit of an ass in this paragraph, and I apologize for that, but I'll let it stand as an illustration of how frustrating I'm finding this part of the discussion, but that's okay.

    6. Polite requests to infringe people's rights are not polite. There's a difference between "Please don't smoke" and "Please don't read." If you don't like the cover of someone's book, look away.

    7. Yes, but I would hope reading about opposing the Klan is not one of them.

    Last word is yours now.

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  40. CC, it is clear your hackles are up, and so you are not listening. You are defending. I do not wish to contribute to a bear-pit (ie: argument bit *swat* argument bit *swat*) because that is not a discussion, and because I still have no clue whatsoever if you have heard or understand anything I've said so far.

    I see you continuing to insist that anyone, anywhere, has the right to ask the world-at-large not to do something, and see no problem whatsoever with that request. THAT complete blindness to the problem IS the problem, and what is actually being mocked. And rightly so.

    It has nothing to do with doing anyone a solid, being human, being nice, or showing compassion. This appears to make no sense to you, I suspect because you have confused it with being about that.

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  41. (By "why not", I mean "why shouldn't he read that on his lunch break". Sorry, just realized that wasn't as clear as it could have been.)

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  42. CC, if you have more questions here, I won't answer them. I think we're just philosophically opposed on these issues.

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  43. This comment really belongs on the previous post, but you've turned off comments there, so I'm putting it here. Also, I do not have time to thoroughly read all the preceding comments here, but I did skim, and I don't think this is duplication.

    To me, the use of quotation marks around only the word "trigger" in the subject your previous post read as though you were not taking the concept seriously -- "'trigger' words" reads as "so-called 'trigger' words", in a somewhat mocking tone. While I don't see anyone calling that out, I can't help but wonder if it's a subconscious saddle-burr flavoring the reaction to what follows.

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  44. ...exaggerating someone who needs that sort of warning into someone who is making crazily unrealistic demands is akin to "Ha! Ha! You have burn scars and they make you ugly!" in the humor department.

    Problematically, it is often not an exaggeration of the demands or reactions of certain individuals (I again point to the furor over Tiger Woods and "spaz", and "articulate" being called a racial slur).

    And if you don't understand the power dynamic involved, then I can't help you out: it is as plain as day. Especially to someone who has been bullied by people who demand you unreasonably submit to avoiding their "triggers".

    But I'm just repeating myself now, so I'm done.

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