[Trigger warning: classic literature]

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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby Xenomortis » Fri May 23, 2014 3:17 pm UTC

BlackSails wrote:What if trigger warnings provide temporary comfort at the cost of reinforcing and exacerbating the underlying condition?

That doesn't change anything.

By presenting a warning, you're giving people the ability to make a reasoned choice.
Without it, you're not.
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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri May 23, 2014 3:29 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
EMTP wrote:And yet you're not able to show any evidence that they work and were dismissive of the very idea of supporting your belief with evidence.
Wrong. We are dismissive of the idea that there needs to be some kind of rigorous double-blind clinical trial prior to moving forward with content warnings. We are not dismissive of the idea that evidence is good, because evidence exists in the form of every person who has ever been glad to know what a work contained before going ahead and consuming it.


So, you are dismissive of science, but consider anecdotes to be evidence.

Why?

Xenomortis wrote:
BlackSails wrote:What if trigger warnings provide temporary comfort at the cost of reinforcing and exacerbating the underlying condition?

That doesn't change anything.

By presenting a warning, you're giving people the ability to make a reasoned choice.
Without it, you're not.


How would it not change anything? Surely, choice is good, and people can inform themselves about any particular topic before consuming regardless of trigger word policies. I imagine most professors would be THRILLED to have their students seeking more information about the subject material earlier.

But why should we mandate a policy if it's potentially harmful? Shouldn't any mandate be accompanied by at least pretty decent evidence that it's helpful?

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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby Belial » Fri May 23, 2014 3:45 pm UTC

Can we please, as a thread, drop the "you can't effectively warn for every possible trigger therefore the idea of warning for any of them is stupid and should be abandoned" nirvana fallacy nonsense?

Just, like, as a favor to my poor beleaguered neurons?
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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri May 23, 2014 3:49 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Can we please, as a thread, drop the "you can't effectively warn for every possible trigger therefore the idea of warning for any of them is stupid and should be abandoned" nirvana fallacy nonsense?

Just, like, as a favor to my poor beleaguered neurons?


It's not merely a nirvana fallacy. The point is more that the actual triggering things are wildly varied. If your claims on benefits are based on the number of people who are subjected to violence, then you have to figure out what those people are.

If, instead, you use a limited subset, then the benefits, if any, are correspondingly reduced. Additionally, you then have created a list of issues worthy of attention. This is inherently going to be a problem, and subject to expansion and revision.

Others have already explained this in detail. It should be adequately clear that they are not merely relying on the nirvana fallacy.

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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby Belial » Fri May 23, 2014 3:56 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
Belial wrote:Can we please, as a thread, drop the "you can't effectively warn for every possible trigger therefore the idea of warning for any of them is stupid and should be abandoned" nirvana fallacy nonsense?

Just, like, as a favor to my poor beleaguered neurons?


It's not merely a nirvana fallacy. The point is more that the actual triggering things are wildly varied. If your claims on benefits are based on the number of people who are subjected to violence, then you have to figure out what those people are.

If, instead, you use a limited subset, then the benefits, if any, are correspondingly reduced. Additionally, you then have created a list of issues worthy of attention. This is inherently going to be a problem, and subject to expansion and revision.

Others have already explained this in detail. It should be adequately clear that they are not merely relying on the nirvana fallacy.


I fail to see how any of those concerns translate to anything other than "I do not believe we can implement this perfectly, so it should not be implemented at all".
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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri May 23, 2014 4:05 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:
Belial wrote:Can we please, as a thread, drop the "you can't effectively warn for every possible trigger therefore the idea of warning for any of them is stupid and should be abandoned" nirvana fallacy nonsense?

Just, like, as a favor to my poor beleaguered neurons?


It's not merely a nirvana fallacy. The point is more that the actual triggering things are wildly varied. If your claims on benefits are based on the number of people who are subjected to violence, then you have to figure out what those people are.

If, instead, you use a limited subset, then the benefits, if any, are correspondingly reduced. Additionally, you then have created a list of issues worthy of attention. This is inherently going to be a problem, and subject to expansion and revision.

Others have already explained this in detail. It should be adequately clear that they are not merely relying on the nirvana fallacy.


I fail to see how any of those concerns translate to anything other than "I do not believe we can implement this perfectly, so it should not be implemented at all".


It's "your plan will have these negative unintended consequences".

That is a cost. Pointing out a flaw is definitely not a nirvana fallacy. If it was, then literally any objection to anything would be such.

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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby somehow » Fri May 23, 2014 4:32 pm UTC

I think it would be helpful to split up the two things Tyndmyr claimed:

1.
Tyndmyr wrote:If, instead, you use a limited subset, then the benefits, if any, are correspondingly reduced.


2.
Tyndmyr wrote:Additionally, you then have created a list of issues worthy of attention. This is inherently going to be a problem, and subject to expansion and revision.


If (1) is intended to be an argument against the proposed trigger warning policies, then I would agree that it is a "we can't do it perfectly, so we'd better not do it at all" kind of an argument. I don't think the same can be said about (2). I don't believe (2), myself, but it's at least a claim about some potential negative consequences that aren't just "it won't work perfectly".
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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby KrytenKoro » Fri May 23, 2014 4:47 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Can we please, as a thread, drop the "you can't effectively warn for every possible trigger therefore the idea of warning for any of them is stupid and should be abandoned" nirvana fallacy nonsense?

Just, like, as a favor to my poor beleaguered neurons?

This is what I was trying to point out earlier, yes.

Let's not tell the moth kids, or the combat PTSD-but-due-to-uncommon-coincidences people that they have to just deal with it. I'd be surprised if those with vanilla triggers are even the majority of triggerees.
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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby gmalivuk » Fri May 23, 2014 5:01 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
EMTP wrote:And yet you're not able to show any evidence that they work and were dismissive of the very idea of supporting your belief with evidence.
Wrong. We are dismissive of the idea that there needs to be some kind of rigorous double-blind clinical trial prior to moving forward with content warnings. We are not dismissive of the idea that evidence is good, because evidence exists in the form of every person who has ever been glad to know what a work contained before going ahead and consuming it.

So, you are dismissive of science, but consider anecdotes to be evidence.

Nope. I am dismissive of the demand that we do rigorous medical research *before* going ahead with something that anecdotally seems to help and doesn't seem to have a real downside (if used to prepare oneself rather than avoid material entirely).

If such research had already been done, then of course we should weigh its findings higher than anecdotal accounts. And if solid future research refutes experiential anecdotal claims, we should favor ther solid research.

But the problem is that personal coping methods haven't been studied much, and so demanding research data that doesn't actually exist came off as somewhat absurd.

(And do you know what could be set up to provide strong scientific data one way or the other? A pilot program of trigger warnings for university course materials.)

Edit: also, anecdotes *are* evidence. They aren't particularly strong evidence, and shouldn't be held to in the face of higher quality contradictory evidence, but they absolutely are evidence.
Last edited by gmalivuk on Fri May 23, 2014 5:05 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby morriswalters » Fri May 23, 2014 5:03 pm UTC

I'm back.

Is it the classic books, or what, that you want trigger warnings on? What content do you want to warn about?

Are you trying to protect those who suffer from PTSD? Or just people who have qualms? If it is the first, how do you identify them? And if the second, why should anyone care? Or is there an in between group? If there is, define them and explain why we should care.

From the OP's quoted material.

At Oberlin College in Ohio, a draft guide was circulated that would have asked professors to put trigger warnings in their syllabuses. The guide said they should flag anything that might “disrupt a student’s learning” and “cause trauma,” including anything that would suggest the inferiority of anyone who is transgender (a form of discrimination known as cissexism) or who uses a wheelchair (or ableism).

“Be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other issues of privilege and oppression,” the guide said. “Realize that all forms of violence are traumatic, and that your students have lives before and outside your classroom, experiences you may not expect or understand.” For example, it said, while “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe — a novel set in colonial-era Nigeria — is a “triumph of literature that everyone in the world should read,” it could “trigger readers who have experienced racism, colonialism, religious persecution, violence, suicide and more.”
This is vague to the point of stupidity. Were I a teacher I would shit can that book, and replace if with something really insipid. Why take the chance? Even more foolish, the book title would be in the syllabus and the student has to buy it. Here is a summary. That took no longer than the time needed to formulate the query. Is the fear that even the summary will be to traumatic? Or are we suppose to protect them even from that?

In general, warning labels serve a couple of purposes. They either warn people about things that someone would like to ban, but can't. Like cigarettes and alcohol. Things that people have to use, but that have inherent risks. Things that parents don't want their children exposed to, and things that might get someone sued, as in peanut allergies.

Someone mentioned book banning earlier, and stated that there high school was prohibited from giving Slaughterhouse-Five as an assignment for students to read. This is ongoing. I can see it now, "Oh, my God! My sons University put a trigger warning on that book, take that smut out of the library." I wish that were a joke.

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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby Angua » Fri May 23, 2014 5:13 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:and things that might get someone sued, as in peanut allergies.

Yes, the only reason to label things with peanuts is to avoid being sued. Not to stop anyone from potentially dying or anything.
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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby gmalivuk » Fri May 23, 2014 5:20 pm UTC

Your rhetorical questions have all been given explicit answers in the thread (though of course you get different answers from different people).

For who it's supposed to help, I would say primarily people who have experienced trauma in their own lives. We wouldn't have to identify them individually, because for example we could start with warnings related to the most common types of PTSD-associated experiences.

But other suggested policies are more individually tailored and needs-based, where students could volunteer information (anonymously if necessary) about what triggers them and warnings can be added as necessary.

Book-banning could be prevented to some extent if the specific warnings a book gets aren't permanent of school-wide. (Though there's also the point that parents have very little influence over university curricula, and this discussion is not about primary and secondary public schools.)
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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby LaserGuy » Fri May 23, 2014 5:49 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Nope. I am dismissive of the demand that we do rigorous medical research *before* going ahead with something that anecdotally seems to help and doesn't seem to have a real downside (if used to prepare oneself rather than avoid material entirely).


There is plenty of rigorous medical research on PTSD and on how and why people trigger. There are well-established, evidence-based treatments for PTSD. Trigger warnings are not among those treatments, and, if anything, are counterproductive to effective treatment.

Here's one psychiatrist's take on the subject.

As a psychiatrist, I nonetheless have to question whether trigger warnings are in such students’ best interests. One of the cardinal symptoms of PTSD is avoidance, which can become the most impairing symptom of all. If someone has been so affected by an event in her life that reading a description of a rape in Ovid’s Metamorphoses can trigger nightmares, flashbacks, and panic attacks, she is likely to be functionally impaired in areas of her life well beyond the classroom. The solution is not to help these students dig themselves further into a life of fear and avoidance by allowing them to keep away from upsetting material.

I am also skeptical that labeling sensitive material with trigger warnings will prevent distress. The scientific literature about trauma teaches us that it seeps into people’s lives by networks of association. Someone who has been raped by a man in a yellow shirt at a bus stop may start avoiding not only men, but bus stops and perhaps even anyone wearing yellow. A soldier who has seen a comrade killed by a roadside explosive device may come to avoid not just parked vehicles, but also civilians who look like the people he or she saw right before the device exploded. Since triggers are a contagious phenomenon, there will never be enough trigger warnings to keep up with them. It should not be the job of college educators to foster this process.

It would be much more useful for faculty members and students to be trained how to respond if they are concerned that a student or peer has suffered trauma. Giving members of the college community the tools to guide them to the help they need would be more valuable than trying to insulate them from triggers. Students with unusually intense responses to academic cues should be referred to student-health services, where they can be evaluated and receive evidence-based treatments so that they can participate fully in the life of the university.

One of the most important treatments for PTSD is exposure therapy, which helps patients unlearn the associations between traumatic events and triggers so that they can start functioning again. Narrative therapies also provide exposure by encouraging patients to tell their stories over and over again, allowing them to find a less central place for the event in their personal history so that they can start to rebuild their lives.

One of my biggest concerns about trigger warnings is that they will apply not just to those who have experienced trauma, but to all students, creating an atmosphere in which they are encouraged to believe that there is something dangerous or damaging about discussing difficult aspects of our history. The current DSM specifically excludes exposure to media depicting traumatic events as a cause for PTSD. During my training as a psychiatrist, I have seen how the aftereffects of trauma can destroy lives, but I remain convinced that discussion and debate are among the most important things a college education has to offer.


[edit]It's worth pointing out that anecdotal statements from PTSD suffers are probably not reliable indicators of effective treatment. Avoidance is a key symptom of PTSD. It is entirely reasonable to assume that a PTSD sufferer may believe trigger warnings very helpful because they can use trigger warnings as a way to avoid or disengage with material that triggers them. The problem is that their subjective opinion is tainted by the fact that their condition predispositions them to avoid trauma in the first place. Thus even though sufferers may find the warnings useful, they are only useful insofar as they are cultivating their PTSD.

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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby morriswalters » Fri May 23, 2014 7:04 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:For who it's supposed to help, I would say primarily people who have experienced trauma in their own lives. We wouldn't have to identify them individually, because for example we could start with warnings related to the most common types of PTSD-associated experiences.
And here is the crux of my reservations. Separating the wheat from the chaff. The tendency is for PTSD to be used as a blanket description for things which may of may not be. I am afraid of spiders that borders on a phobia and a fear of heights that is phobic. But those aren't PTSD. I wouldn't mind the individual departments as telling students at registration that they will be exposed to things that may offend, or shock, or worse, without specificity. Give them the syllabus and have students do due diligence. I would even go so far as to have the instructor give a precis the type of text or a warning about any possible content of other material when it may be encountered, if the content could be reasonably described as provocative. I do however have a problem with labeling specific works beforehand. Labels are never good things, even if they are appropriate.
gmalivuk wrote:Book-banning could be prevented to some extent if the specific warnings a book gets aren't permanent of school-wide. (Though there's also the point that parents have very little influence over university curricula, and this discussion is not about primary and secondary public schools.)
No it isn't, and I don't want Universities to end up like them, where you are protected to the point of not getting a real picture of the world at large.

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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby cphite » Fri May 23, 2014 7:35 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
EMTP wrote:And yet you're not able to show any evidence that they work and were dismissive of the very idea of supporting your belief with evidence.
Wrong. We are dismissive of the idea that there needs to be some kind of rigorous double-blind clinical trial prior to moving forward with content warnings. We are not dismissive of the idea that evidence is good, because evidence exists in the form of every person who has ever been glad to know what a work contained before going ahead and consuming it.

So, you are dismissive of science, but consider anecdotes to be evidence.

Nope. I am dismissive of the demand that we do rigorous medical research *before* going ahead with something that anecdotally seems to help and doesn't seem to have a real downside (if used to prepare oneself rather than avoid material entirely).


According to some psychologists, one potential downside is that it may actually exacerbate some of the problems that PTSD people face, by reinforcing the fear they have of whatever situations they are avoiding. So if we're really interested in helping/protecting people with PTSD, simply running with an idea that anecdotally seems to help and where we don't see a downside (when we haven't bothered to look) might not be the best approach. Even if the person is glad to know in advance that such material is present beforehand, it might not be in their best long-term interests to be shielded from it.

Personally, I like the idea of trigger warnings for things like rape, torture, and extreme violence; but I'm certainly not going to advocate for them being used as a form of treatment for PTSD without more than some anecdotal evidence and a hunch.

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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby Bassoon » Fri May 23, 2014 7:41 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:Nope. I am dismissive of the demand that we do rigorous medical research *before* going ahead with something that anecdotally seems to help and doesn't seem to have a real downside (if used to prepare oneself rather than avoid material entirely).


There is plenty of rigorous medical research on PTSD and on how and why people trigger. There are well-established, evidence-based treatments for PTSD. Trigger warnings are not among those treatments, and, if anything, are counterproductive to effective treatment.

Here's one psychiatrist's take on the subject.

[edit]It's worth pointing out that anecdotal statements from PTSD suffers are probably not reliable indicators of effective treatment. Avoidance is a key symptom of PTSD. It is entirely reasonable to assume that a PTSD sufferer may believe trigger warnings very helpful because they can use trigger warnings as a way to avoid or disengage with material that triggers them. The problem is that their subjective opinion is tainted by the fact that their condition predispositions them to avoid trauma in the first place. Thus even though sufferers may find the warnings useful, they are only useful insofar as they are cultivating their PTSD.


You're advocating that society, as a whole, take on the "exposure therapy" approach to all individuals who have PTSD. Though exposure therapy has been shown to help, it doesn't necessarily work for everyone. Further, exposure therapy isn't as simple as "do stuff that may trigger you." There's a ton more that goes into it than that, and just because a psychologist suggests that exposure therapy may be key for some people with PTSD to become better doesn't mean that society should then shove all people with PTSD into events that make them uncomfortable. Society is not a trained psychologist.

morriswalters wrote:I would even go so far as to have the instructor give a precis the type of text or a warning about any possible content of other material when it may be encountered, if the content could be reasonably described as provocative. I do however have a problem with labeling specific works beforehand. Labels are never good things, even if they are appropriate.


Do you think the film rating system is inappropriate, that a viewer shouldn't know beforehand about intense violence, sexual scenes, inappropriate language, among other things? What about for video games? Obviously those systems are tightly-controlled by small subsets of people who assign arbitrary ratings, but don't people have some right to know what they're getting into before they get into it? If I told you Toni Morrison's Beloved featured intense violence, rape, and sexual themes, does that ruin the book in any way?

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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby somehow » Fri May 23, 2014 8:11 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:There is plenty of rigorous medical research on PTSD and on how and why people trigger. There are well-established, evidence-based treatments for PTSD. Trigger warnings are not among those treatments, and, if anything, are counterproductive to effective treatment.

cphite wrote:According to some psychologists, one potential downside is that it may actually exacerbate some of the problems that PTSD people face, by reinforcing the fear they have of whatever situations they are avoiding ... I'm certainly not going to advocate for them being used as a form of treatment for PTSD without more than some anecdotal evidence and a hunch.


To my knowledge, none of the people in this thread who are advocating for the use of trigger warnings in academic contexts are under the impression that trigger warnings function as a treatment for PTSD. A trigger warning is no more a "treatment" for PTSD (or whatever the underlying condition is) than a "Contains peanuts" label is a "treatment" for a peanut allergy. It is not supposed to get rid of the condition. It is supposed to make living with the condition (which one may be simultaneously treating using some of those well-established, evidence-based treatments) less unpleasant. We are not claiming that trigger warnings are effective at treating these conditions. That is not the point. They are intended to ameliorate symptoms, not to cure the underlying condition.

And maybe they are somewhat counterproductive to effective treatment. To me, that's not an argument against providing them. An analogy: say someone has injured their knee. They go out and buy a knee brace to wear sometimes in their everyday life. It reduces the pain that they experience while walking around, etc. They talk to their doctor, who says, "Hey, you know, if you wear that brace too much, it may actually work against the healing and re-strengthening that your knee needs to do." And then it's up to the person with the knee injury: they have medical advice about the downsides of relying too heavily on this pain reduction tool, and they can make their own informed decision about how to proceed. They may end up using the brace too much and fucking up the knee's recovery process. This is not generally seen as an argument against making knee braces available.

Similarly, a therapist may say to a patient, "Hey, you know, if you choose to avoid materials with trigger warnings about [topic X] too much of the time, it may actually be counterproductive to the process of recovery in terms of your PTSD." And then the person can make their own informed decision — which, by the way, might consist of making use of the trigger warnings in ways that aren't simply avoiding the material entirely.
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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby KrytenKoro » Fri May 23, 2014 8:59 pm UTC

Bassoon wrote:You're advocating that society, as a whole, take on the "exposure therapy" approach to all individuals who have PTSD. Though exposure therapy has been shown to help, it doesn't necessarily work for everyone. Further, exposure therapy isn't as simple as "do stuff that may trigger you." There's a ton more that goes into it than that, and just because a psychologist suggests that exposure therapy may be key for some people with PTSD to become better doesn't mean that society should then shove all people with PTSD into events that make them uncomfortable. Society is not a trained psychologist.

No, he's advocating that society (well, universities) not, as a whole, disgard exposure therapy and mandate their opposite.

There's a middle ground between "mandate trigger warnings" and "force students to watch graphic depictions of rape". "Allow the use of trigger warnings" is even in that gap.

Do you think the film rating system is inappropriate, that a viewer shouldn't know beforehand about intense violence, sexual scenes, inappropriate language, among other things? What about for video games? Obviously those systems are tightly-controlled by small subsets of people who assign arbitrary ratings, but don't people have some right to know what they're getting into before they get into it? If I told you Toni Morrison's Beloved featured intense violence, rape, and sexual themes, does that ruin the book in any way?

I think the idea is nice.

I think the execution is so heavily corrupt, politicized, and filled with bigotry as to create more of a problem than it potentially solves.

The MPAA and ESRB are terrible, terrible examples for whether a trigger warning system should be mandated.

In addition, you're conflating something that is purportedly a health measure (trigger warnings) with ideals of avoiding Caveat emptor, which is completely irrelevant and not an ethical component of this debate.

We shouldn't be discussing whether content descriptions makes a book "less enjoyable" to the buyer -- we're supposed to be discussing whether mandating trigger warnings would be beneficial and practical within the system of secondary education.

To my knowledge, none of the people in this thread who are advocating for the use of trigger warnings in academic contexts are under the impression that trigger warnings function as a treatment for PTSD. A trigger warning is no more a "treatment" for PTSD (or whatever the underlying condition is) than a "Contains peanuts" label is a "treatment" for a peanut allergy. It is not supposed to get rid of the condition. It is supposed to make living with the condition (which one may be simultaneously treating using some of those well-established, evidence-based treatments) less unpleasant. We are not claiming that trigger warnings are effective at treating these conditions. That is not the point. They are intended to ameliorate symptoms, not to cure the underlying condition.

A "contains peanuts" label is a treatment for a peanut allergy, because it allows quality of life to be maintained without making it worse in the long run.

If the quoted experts are correct (which, that's up to their psychiatric establishment to decide), then trigger warnings are not only not an effective treatment, but actually act to make the condition worse in the long run -- that, in conjunction with the threat of the process becoming discriminatory or neglectful of minorities, or the threat of a chilling effect, would be a very good reason why trigger warnings would be hugely bad.

The central questions should be: in the long run, are trigger warnings better for the patient's mental health, or inhibitive; and if they're inhibitive, are they beneficial enough to secondary education (and thus, having a job) to be worth the temporary health sacrifice?

After that, it's just a matter of making a system that isn't hugely corrupt and inefficient.

Sidenote:
An analogy: say someone has injured their knee. They go out and buy a knee brace to wear sometimes in their everyday life. It reduces the pain that they experience while walking around, etc. They talk to their doctor, who says, "Hey, you know, if you wear that brace too much, it may actually work against the healing and re-strengthening that your knee needs to do." And then it's up to the person with the knee injury: they have medical advice about the downsides of relying too heavily on this pain reduction tool, and they can make their own informed decision about how to proceed. They may end up using the brace too much and fucking up the knee's recovery process. This is not generally seen as an argument against making knee braces available.

Is this, like, actually a thing? My understanding was that you wear braces only because your body needs them, not because they make life easier in the short term. I know when I had a cast, or had my mouth wired shut, the doctor had to constantly urge me to keep them on and not try to subvert them.
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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby gmalivuk » Fri May 23, 2014 9:12 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:For who it's supposed to help, I would say primarily people who have experienced trauma in their own lives. We wouldn't have to identify them individually, because for example we could start with warnings related to the most common types of PTSD-associated experiences.
And here is the crux of my reservations. Separating the wheat from the chaff. The tendency is for PTSD to be used as a blanket description for things which may of may not be.
O...kay? And?

That doesn't change the fact that "the most common types of PTSD-associated experiences" is actually an objective category, in the sense that we could look at all people diagnosed with PTSD and see which traumatic experiences are most commonly associated with that diagnosis. So as is so often the case, I'm not at all sure what you think you're responding to or refuting with this.

cphite wrote:I'm certainly not going to advocate for them being used as a form of treatment for PTSD without more than some anecdotal evidence and a hunch.
Who is advocating that we use it as a form of treatment?
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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby somehow » Fri May 23, 2014 9:38 pm UTC

KrytenKoro wrote:
Bassoon wrote:You're advocating that society, as a whole, take on the "exposure therapy" approach to all individuals who have PTSD.

No, he's advocating that society (well, universities) not, as a whole, disgard exposure therapy and mandate their opposite.

There's a middle ground between "mandate trigger warnings" and "force students to watch graphic depictions of rape". "Allow the use of trigger warnings" is even in that gap.


Wouldn't mandating the opposite of exposure therapy be requiring triggered students to avoid the trigger-warned media? Mandating the inclusion of trigger warnings in professors' syllabi (syllabuses?) doesn't stop anyone from being exposed to triggering materials, unless they make the choice to avoid those materials — and surely people should be able to choose not to undergo exposure therapy?

KrytenKoro wrote:A "contains peanuts" label is a treatment for a peanut allergy, because it allows quality of life to be maintained without making it worse in the long run.

Okay. I guess we're using the word "treatment" differently.

KrytenKoro wrote:Is this, like, actually a thing? My understanding was that you wear braces only because your body needs them, not because they make life easier in the short term. I know when I had a cast, or had my mouth wired shut, the doctor had to constantly urge me to keep them on and not try to subvert them.

The knee thing may be a bad example, though I don't think it is. Regardless, my point is this: there are certainly physical injuries where the comfortable option and the medically advisable option are not the same, because the course of action that's optimal for long-term healing involves doing painful things in the short term, and in those cases, it is not (to my knowledge) generally considered acceptable to force people to take the medically advisable option. I'm not sure why it should be any different with the mental conditions we're talking about here.
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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby Elvish Pillager » Fri May 23, 2014 9:48 pm UTC

KrytenKoro wrote:Is this, like, actually a thing? My understanding was that you wear braces only because your body needs them, not because they make life easier in the short term. I know when I had a cast, or had my mouth wired shut, the doctor had to constantly urge me to keep them on and not try to subvert them.

Yes. A couple years ago I was wearing a wrist brace to help treat RSI, and a doctor told me not to keep it on *too* much of the time because the muscles needed some activity or they would become weaker and more vulnerable to being re-injured.
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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby morriswalters » Fri May 23, 2014 9:56 pm UTC

Bassoon wrote:Do you think the film rating system is inappropriate, that a viewer shouldn't know beforehand about intense violence, sexual scenes, inappropriate language, among other things? What about for video games? Obviously those systems are tightly-controlled by small subsets of people who assign arbitrary ratings, but don't people have some right to know what they're getting into before they get into it? If I told you Toni Morrison's Beloved featured intense violence, rape, and sexual themes, does that ruin the book in any way?
The film rating system is biased towards sex, the blood has to flow pretty freely to get hammered by a restricted rating or whatever it is now.

In any case I do know. I never go to a movie blind, not anymore. But not because I fear the content. Critics tell me everything I need to know about the content. I choose to be informed. I don't know about Beloved, it would depend upon the point of it. But I know how to put it down and walk away if it trips my trigger. I have been both pleasantly and unpleasantly surprised by film and theater. Saving Private Ryan had a scene I thought was particularly unpleasant and Equus caught me by surprise. I regret neither. But I'm not the target demographic in this discussion.

The film rating and the game rating systems are about protecting children, rightly are wrongly. Are we in the position of protecting adults now? There was a time when the capacity to know was non existent, that is no longer true. And for college Humanities courses it hasn't been true for some time. But the labels I was talking about weren't just labels on media we consume. The blurb I quoted acted from the default assumption that because you have issues, whatever they might be, that you don't have the capacity to deal with what gets tossed at you because of some condition. Be it race or physical limitations or whatever. The implied bias was rather obvious I thought. I use a reverse process and assume that you are as capable as me unless you explicitly tell me different.

gmalivuk wrote:That doesn't change the fact that "the most common types of PTSD-associated experiences" is actually an objective category, in the sense that we could look at all people diagnosed with PTSD and see which traumatic experiences are most commonly associated with that diagnosis. So as is so often the case, I'm not at all sure what you think you're responding to or refuting with this.
I was hoping to draw the response you gave, explicitly. I won't try to refute it. It is at least specific.

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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby Chaoszerom » Sat May 24, 2014 1:35 am UTC

EMTP wrote:As to the question of whether these warnings work, I rather think this blogger on disability issues nailed it:

In fact much of the available literature on trauma and PTSD advocates against the kind of maladaptive coping mechanism to which the “trigger warning” caters. One particularly apt passage of the Handbook of PTSD: Science and Practice (2010), flatly states:

Negative reinforcement of fear through behavioral avoidance is the primary process that is postulated to sustain, and even promote, the maladaptive fear response. Typical behavior avoidance manifested by traumatized individuals includes avoidance of stimuli associated with the traumatized event, not disclosing or discussing the traumatic event with others, social isolation, and dissociation. (41)


Translated into plain English, this quotation says: “Avoiding stimuli associated with a trauma as a result of fear leads to the perpetuation of both the avoidant response and the fear.” Or, even simpler: “Avoiding triggers perpetuates trauma and the ugly feelings associated with it.”

So much for the declarations of Loverin and others that “trigger warnings” “avert trauma.” Not only do they not “avert trauma,” they may actually serve to perpetuate the trauma and associated feelings of panic, in addition to stalling the healing process, which can only be initiated and sustained by confronting the trauma.


So if you think placing warnings on books will help, I would again ask you: what is your evidence for this belief?


I'm a page or so late, but with regards to this quote, no one has said anything along the lines of "trigger warnings tell people to avoid whatever works if they may be triggered by them." I believe the opposite, actually. The idea I'm getting from most people is that "trigger warnings will allow people to be aware of what happens in a given work, and will allow them to make a choice about how they consume it, or if they do." Some people may choose to not read the work *right now*, due to whatever mental state they're in, some people may use the warning to steel themselves for it, and some people may decide that they're not in the right state to pursue this content.

I understand that people may decide that trigger warnings give them a list of works to explicitly avoid, and that is an inherent issue. One solution would be informing people about how trigger warnings should be used, and that's just off the top of my head. It's never going to be perfect, but I'm of the impression that informing people and letting them have that choice is better than not informing them and possibly throwing them into a situation that they're not prepared to handle.


As for the issue regarding politicization or otherwise corruption of whatever list one makes for trigger warnings, well, what's the worst case scenario? I can't see a huge negative to "Trigger Warning: Capitalist Ideals", just the lack of a positive. At worst, as I see it, the list becomes useless. So, way I see it, with regards to this issue, there's two outcomes: "Good things happen" or "Nothing happens". In that case, the only argument against it would be that it's not worth the effort if the chances of "Nothing happens" are too high.

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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby LaserGuy » Sat May 24, 2014 3:37 am UTC

somehow wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:There is plenty of rigorous medical research on PTSD and on how and why people trigger. There are well-established, evidence-based treatments for PTSD. Trigger warnings are not among those treatments, and, if anything, are counterproductive to effective treatment.


To my knowledge, none of the people in this thread who are advocating for the use of trigger warnings in academic contexts are under the impression that trigger warnings function as a treatment for PTSD. A trigger warning is no more a "treatment" for PTSD (or whatever the underlying condition is) than a "Contains peanuts" label is a "treatment" for a peanut allergy. It is not supposed to get rid of the condition. It is supposed to make living with the condition (which one may be simultaneously treating using some of those well-established, evidence-based treatments) less unpleasant. We are not claiming that trigger warnings are effective at treating these conditions. That is not the point. They are intended to ameliorate symptoms, not to cure the underlying condition.


There is no evidence that trigger warnings provide any positive benefits to PTSD sufferers. There is some evidence that they may impair treatment of this condition. Therefore, implementing trigger warnings for the express purpose of helping PTSD sufferers is, at best, useless. If it does them no more good than requiring that every book come with a sticker with a purple unicorn on it, then why bother going through the effort of it at all? Or why not just put purple unicorn pictures on all of the books? The policy is just as effective PTSD sufferers as trigger warnings are as far as the actual data is concerned. At least putting stickers of something random on the books doesn't leave open the possibly that the policy could be exploited for censorship, and doesn't potentially harm the very people it is supposed to be helping.

If a person has medically diagnosed PTSD (or other mental illness), then the university is obliged, by law, to provide appropriate accommodation as directed by a medical professional. If the student's therapist feels that trigger warnings would provide some benefit, then they can recommend that to the university, who would relay it to that student's professors. As policy, that is as far as things need to go.

somehow wrote:And maybe they are somewhat counterproductive to effective treatment. To me, that's not an argument against providing them. An analogy: say someone has injured their knee. They go out and buy a knee brace to wear sometimes in their everyday life. It reduces the pain that they experience while walking around, etc. They talk to their doctor, who says, "Hey, you know, if you wear that brace too much, it may actually work against the healing and re-strengthening that your knee needs to do." And then it's up to the person with the knee injury: they have medical advice about the downsides of relying too heavily on this pain reduction tool, and they can make their own informed decision about how to proceed. They may end up using the brace too much and fucking up the knee's recovery process. This is not generally seen as an argument against making knee braces available.


This works with some things, but not others. Telling a recovering alcoholic "Well, it's okay to have a couple drinks, just this once, to take the edge off" might make them feel better in the short term as well, but could have catastrophic consequences.

somehow wrote:Similarly, a therapist may say to a patient, "Hey, you know, if you choose to avoid materials with trigger warnings about [topic X] too much of the time, it may actually be counterproductive to the process of recovery in terms of your PTSD." And then the person can make their own informed decision — which, by the way, might consist of making use of the trigger warnings in ways that aren't simply avoiding the material entirely.


Again, trigger avoidance is a symptom of PTSD. I'm not an expert in mental illness. But the people who are experts in mental illness who I've found commenting on this topic seem to think it's a bad idea.

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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby somehow » Sat May 24, 2014 4:47 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
somehow wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:There is plenty of rigorous medical research on PTSD and on how and why people trigger. There are well-established, evidence-based treatments for PTSD. Trigger warnings are not among those treatments, and, if anything, are counterproductive to effective treatment.


To my knowledge, none of the people in this thread who are advocating for the use of trigger warnings in academic contexts are under the impression that trigger warnings function as a treatment for PTSD. A trigger warning is no more a "treatment" for PTSD (or whatever the underlying condition is) than a "Contains peanuts" label is a "treatment" for a peanut allergy. It is not supposed to get rid of the condition. It is supposed to make living with the condition (which one may be simultaneously treating using some of those well-established, evidence-based treatments) less unpleasant. We are not claiming that trigger warnings are effective at treating these conditions. That is not the point. They are intended to ameliorate symptoms, not to cure the underlying condition.


There is no evidence that trigger warnings provide any positive benefits to PTSD sufferers. There is some evidence that they may impair treatment of this condition. Therefore, implementing trigger warnings for the express purpose of helping PTSD sufferers is, at best, useless.


Trigger warnings can help prevent panic attacks. I imagine that you agree that preventing panic attacks is beneficial. Note that I'm not saying that in every individual case the positive effect of prevented panic attacks will outweight the negative effect of impaired treatment. I'm not, therefore, saying that making use of trigger warnings is a net benefit for everyone. All I'm saying is this: they have positive effects, and they have negative effects, and neither you nor I nor any medical professional in the world knows whether the net effect of making use of trigger warnings will be positive or negative for a particular person. I am in favor of letting the individual make that informed decision for themselves.

Where in that line of reasoning do you disagree with me? I don't mean that in an antagonistic way. I'm genuinely interested in figuring this out. Are you not convinced that the short-term benefits exist, alongside the potential long-term negative effects you (and others) have brought up? Or is it that you agree that the net effect may be positive for some people and negative for others, but you don't want to let the people in question decide for themselves? Or is it something else entirely?
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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby LaserGuy » Sat May 24, 2014 5:24 am UTC

somehow wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:There is no evidence that trigger warnings provide any positive benefits to PTSD sufferers. There is some evidence that they may impair treatment of this condition. Therefore, implementing trigger warnings for the express purpose of helping PTSD sufferers is, at best, useless.


Trigger warnings can help prevent panic attacks.


Citation needed. Show me evidence. I've given you lots.

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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby addams » Sat May 24, 2014 5:39 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
somehow wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:There is no evidence that trigger warnings provide any positive benefits to PTSD sufferers. There is some evidence that they may impair treatment of this condition. Therefore, implementing trigger warnings for the express purpose of helping PTSD sufferers is, at best, useless.


Trigger warnings can help prevent panic attacks.


Citation needed. Show me evidence. I've given you lots.

But; Trigger Warning can prevent sudden unexpected shock.
Often, that is what starts the PTS ship sailing.

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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby Carlington » Sat May 24, 2014 8:56 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
somehow wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:There is no evidence that trigger warnings provide any positive benefits to PTSD sufferers. There is some evidence that they may impair treatment of this condition. Therefore, implementing trigger warnings for the express purpose of helping PTSD sufferers is, at best, useless.


Trigger warnings can help prevent panic attacks.


Citation needed. Show me evidence. I've given you lots.

Trigger warnings are literally a warning that there is content that might trigger a panic attack. Hence the name. They can help prevent panic attacks in the same way that a sign saying "Warning: High-intensity Lasers" can prevent blindness. You can choose to avoid the room with the lasers (or the book with the warning) or you can make sure you're properly prepared (whether that's eye protection to stop the lasers or self-care and coping techniques to mitigate the distress symptoms). But if there's no sign, and someone walks into that room and looks the wrong way, they'll be blinded. If there's no warning, and somebody reads the book in the wrong mental state, whilst unprepared, they'll have a panic attack. I'm not sure what part of that line of logic requires citation. Being blindsided has ill-effects. Being warned gives you time to prepare, and helps to prevent those ill-effects.

Having read through this thread and taken everything into consideration, I think I find the arguments for the use of trigger warnings more convincing. The most valid concerns I've seen raised have been mainly to do with the implementation and potential for politicisation, and I'll get to my feelings on that in a moment. Aside from that, the only concern I think I've seen that I don't think has been well-enough addressed has been that trigger warnings may, in fact, be detrimental to those suffering PTSD. That's something I hadn't previously considered in my thinking about trigger warnings, and it's quite a concerning point. However, as has been raised, this idea of a trigger warning policy isn't intended to foist the responsibility of a student's mental health in its entirety onto the professors and course coordinators. If a student sees a trigger warning and uses that to justify symptomatic and problematic avoidance behaviours, that's not the fault of the person who put the warning in place. This is literally just about putting that choice in the student's hands. To make an analogy to a physical injury (since that seems to be more justifiable to a lot of people, not necessarily in this particular thread): Somebody suffers a severe injury which causes intense chronic pain. A doctor prescribes painkillers. However, by avoiding the pain, the patient diminishes the need for proper physical therapy in their mind; it doesn't hurt that much, I don't think I'll need to do those exercises after all. This is harmful in the long run, despite improving short-term quality of life. Does this mean that we should stop prescribing painkillers altogether? Of course not! (Or, at least, valid arguments about this topic aren't based on this point, usually.) At most, I think you can argue that the doctor should warn of this possibility, and stress the importance of proper treatment. Guess what - this can happen!

Now, to implementation. A trigger warning or a content warning can take many forms. People have brought up classifications on movies and video games repeatedly, so that's an example which we're all quite familiar with. Another possibility is to take the route taken by many television shows, with a warning prior to the content that says something like "Due to the graphic nature of this content, viewer discretion is advised." There's a television program I remember seeing here in Australia called Message Stick, which was targeted at issues relating to Indigenous Australians. At the start of every episode, there was a warning that the program could contain likenesses of dead elders and other important cultural figures, as well as stories from people who had suffered various traumatic experiences; and that some viewers may find this material challenging, offensive, or disturbing. Earlier this afternoon, my fifteen-year-old brother recommended I start watching Breaking Bad, and the very next Facebook message I received from him was "It does get full-on sometimes though". I don't suffer PTSD, nor does any sort of content trigger a panic attack in me. Nonetheless, my brother evidently wasn't sure how I'd react to some of the scenes in the show, so he took literally five seconds to let me know that I should be prepared for anything I might otherwise have difficulty handling. It's really that simple.

I don't think a university-wide list, strictly approved, list of triggers, or list of potentially triggering books should be how we do this. There's too much opportunity for somebody in charge to make ideologically or politically driven decisions, too much ability for people to be shitty about it. That's not to say I don't think this should be handled on an institutional level, though. I think that there should be some policy put in place, words to the effect of "All professors, coordinators, or other staff that act in any sort of teaching capacity should make reasonable effort to prevent undue exposure to traumatic materials for their students, materials relating to or depicting things including but not limited to rape, graphic violence or torture, x, y, z other things et cetera". There should be a short-list, maybe, of the most prevalent and common triggers, things like rape, things like gore, things like excessive violence or torture or suicide or graphic depictions of warzones or disaster zones and things like dead bodies and so on, all of which can be worked out before the policy is implemented by dialogue between administration and students. Then there should be channels of communication put in place, so if a student knows that they are triggered by something not covered by the university's policy, they can inform the professor ahead of time, or submit a request to the coordinator of a given course asking whether topic relating to that is presented in the course. Then the professor can either choose to sanitize the course, or tell the student that there will be potentially triggering material covered, and then let the student decide whether to take the course or not. All of this, being done through proper channels, will be given proper oversight, so if a student alerts a professor that they are triggered by something, the professor says that those materials aren't covered, and then those materials are covered and the student suffers for it, then the student can lodge some form of grievance and will be offered remediation and proper access to counselling, and the professor will be given the opportunity to make amends. Outside of the officially sanctioned system, of course, I expect professors will be as free as ever to include in the housekeeping lecture at the start of semester a warning for students that the course contains whatever.
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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby LaserGuy » Sat May 24, 2014 8:39 pm UTC

Carlington wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:
Trigger warnings can help prevent panic attacks.


Citation needed. Show me evidence. I've given you lots.


Trigger warnings are literally a warning that there is content that might trigger a panic attack. Hence the name. They can help prevent panic attacks in the same way that a sign saying "Warning: High-intensity Lasers" can prevent blindness. You can choose to avoid the room with the lasers (or the book with the warning) or you can make sure you're properly prepared (whether that's eye protection to stop the lasers or self-care and coping techniques to mitigate the distress symptoms). But if there's no sign, and someone walks into that room and looks the wrong way, they'll be blinded. If there's no warning, and somebody reads the book in the wrong mental state, whilst unprepared, they'll have a panic attack. I'm not sure what part of that line of logic requires citation. Being blindsided has ill-effects. Being warned gives you time to prepare, and helps to prevent those ill-effects.


I'm well aware of what trigger warnings are, and what people say they're supposed to do. I''m interested in whether they actually work.

I think the problem is that you're confusing security withe security theater. Security theater is like the sign on the door of the laser lab. It doesn't actually do shit to protect you. It's primary purpose is to protect the lab from you--protect the lab from getting sued. A well-designed lab doesn't need the sign--you're safe regardless of its existence; a poorly designed lab is unsafe regardless of the sign. The sign itself makes no difference; it only creates the illusion of security.

In terms of trigger warnings, again, what I am seeing is that professionals who actually work with PTSD seem unconvinced of any benefits. This leads me to believe that advocates of trigger warnings are grossly overstating what they can actually accomplish.

Carlington wrote:Now, to implementation. A trigger warning or a content warning can take many forms. People have brought up classifications on movies and video games repeatedly, so that's an example which we're all quite familiar with. Another possibility is to take the route taken by many television shows, with a warning prior to the content that says something like "Due to the graphic nature of this content, viewer discretion is advised."


And the classifications on movies and video games are a highly politicized, inconsistent, poorly-designed process. It's exactly the type of system that I would be deeply concerned about if it showed up in a university setting.

Carlington wrote:Nonetheless, my brother evidently wasn't sure how I'd react to some of the scenes in the show, so he took literally five seconds to let me know that I should be prepared for anything I might otherwise have difficulty handling. It's really that simple.


Once again, I'd say this is more security theater than anything else. He didn't actually know, or tell you, what content you might find disturbing. It's a useless, blanket warning designed primarily to absolve him of responsibility if you did find some content bothered you. Not that being bothered/disturbed by something is in any way the same as a PTSD-related trigger anyway. In an academic setting, I see no reason to excuse people from engaging in material simply because they might find it disturbing. If it's a recommendation by a therapist or psychologist or whatever, by all means, the university should accommodate it.

Carlington wrote:I don't think a university-wide list, strictly approved, list of triggers, or list of potentially triggering books should be how we do this.


I agree completely. But that's what people have been advocating for, so here we are.

Carlington wrote:There should be a short-list, maybe, of the most prevalent and common triggers, things like rape, things like gore, things like excessive violence or torture or suicide or graphic depictions of warzones or disaster zones and things like dead bodies and so on, all of which can be worked out before the policy is implemented by dialogue between administration and students.


As usual, the faculty who actually will have to implement these things and whose academic freedom is actually affect by any potential censorship, get no say. Par for the course in the corporate university.

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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby EMTP » Sat May 24, 2014 9:41 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
I think one can infer from your later posts that you don't really think this is about people with PTSD: It's about content you find offensive, but can't ban outright.
How can you infer that from any of my posts, pray tell? I have never said I advocate warnings for anything non-traumatic, and I haven't even weighed in on whether things like racism and immigration can count as traumatic. I have also never said anything about things being offensive, and in fact don't give any shits about whether someone is offended by material in class. I've only ever been talking about triggers, which have a pretty specific meaning in this context.

So... what? Did you mistake me for some completely other person? Or are you just making shit up and imagining I said it? Or what?


For example, this:

Why does someone need to be officially diagnosed in order to get the minuscule consideration of trigger warnings? I could see wanting a diagnosis before you bend over backwards to come up with some completely different assignment (though I would also think a professor was suffering from a profound lack of imagination if they couldn't think of any accommodations that didn't involve bending over backwards), but people should have access to content warnings even if that content doesn't literally trigger diagnosable panic attacks.


A while back you suggested crowdsourcing, which I would have no problem with. In my own proposal, I point out that in the vast majority of cases, the syllabus is available on the first day of class.

So the people who believe in trigger warnings are welcome to register triggerwarnings.com or what have you, and students can take responsibility for managing their own reactions to the material.

Professors should not be required to sew the scarlet "TW" on their shirts. Oberlin's draft policy illustrates where such a policy can lead:

The policy said that “anything could be a trigger,” and advised professors to “[r]emove triggering material when it does not contribute directly to the course learning goals.”
Last edited by EMTP on Sun May 25, 2014 8:23 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby gmalivuk » Sun May 25, 2014 12:20 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:Security theater is like the sign on the door of the laser lab. It doesn't actually do shit to protect you. It's primary purpose is to protect the lab from you--protect the lab from getting sued. A well-designed lab doesn't need the sign--you're safe regardless of its existence; a poorly designed lab is unsafe regardless of the sign. The sign itself makes no difference; it only creates the illusion of security.

Are you being serious right now? Warning signs about potentially dangerous things do literally nothing to increase safety?

I'm pretty sure you're not the one who should be demanding citations for things right now.
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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby morriswalters » Sun May 25, 2014 3:47 am UTC

I don't know about nothing, but it's close. After a while you become blind to them. They don't register. Or people choose to ignore them. When safety is important, devices like lockouts, failsafes, and and really good locks are what provide safety.

Warning Labels
A warning label is a label attached to an item, or contained in an item's instruction manual, warning the user about risks associated with the use of the item, and may include restrictions by the manufacturer or seller on certain intended uses.[1] Most of them are placed to limit civil liability in lawsuits against the item's manufacturer or seller.[2][3] That sometimes results in labels which for some people seem to state the obvious.

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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby cjmcjmcjmcjm » Sun May 25, 2014 4:14 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:I don't know about nothing, but it's close. After a while you become blind to them. They don't register. Or people choose to ignore them. When safety is important, devices like lockouts, failsafes, and and really good locks are what provide safety.

Warning Labels
A warning label is a label attached to an item, or contained in an item's instruction manual, warning the user about risks associated with the use of the item, and may include restrictions by the manufacturer or seller on certain intended uses.[1] Most of them are placed to limit civil liability in lawsuits against the item's manufacturer or seller.[2][3] That sometimes results in labels which for some people seem to state the obvious.

WARNING: Coffee may be hot.

(Actually, that is a bad example, since Mc D's used to serve its drive-through coffee near boiling temperature under the assumption that the average order of drive-through coffee would not be consumed until about 15 minutes after it was served, so they served it excessively hot so that it would be pleasantly hot and not lukewarm once it was actually consumed)
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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby gmalivuk » Sun May 25, 2014 4:23 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:I don't know about nothing, but it's close. After a while you become blind to them. They don't register. Or people choose to ignore them. When safety is important, devices like lockouts, failsafes, and and really good locks are what provide safety.

Warning Labels
A warning label is a label attached to an item, or contained in an item's instruction manual, warning the user about risks associated with the use of the item, and may include restrictions by the manufacturer or seller on certain intended uses.[1] Most of them are placed to limit civil liability in lawsuits against the item's manufacturer or seller.[2][3] That sometimes results in labels which for some people seem to state the obvious.

I don't give a shit about "most of them", though. The claim I was responding to implied that none of them were helpful.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby addams » Sun May 25, 2014 4:55 am UTC

EMTP wrote:
The policy said that “anything could be a trigger,” and advised professors to “[r]emove triggering material when it does not contribute directly to the course learning goals.”

That seems very close to the standard I was accustomed to.
What is wrong with it?

If the material does not contribute to Course Learning Goals, then Don't Do It!
Sure; University Students have Four To Ten years for Fun Fun Fun. Still...

It was expected that when we were exposed to material it would be directly related to the Goals of the Program.
If it wasn't there was Trouble. We did not have time to waste.

Until someone got the Bright Idea that we needed to be Rounder.
Then I had to take some stupid Art Class and Piano.
(sniff-sniff) It was hard.

It is stupid to argue about Trigger Warnings at University.
Responsible instructors are currently coddling their broods.
Responsible instructors always have.
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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby Carlington » Sun May 25, 2014 4:58 am UTC

LaserGuy, only the first paragraph of my post was intended as a rebuttal to your asking for citations. The rest of it was presenting my own argument, and was not necessarily an attack on your stance. I'm not sure how well that came across, it's possible I didn't split my post up enough to make that clear.
LaserGuy wrote:
Carlington wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:
Trigger warnings can help prevent panic attacks.

Citation needed. Show me evidence. I've given you lots.
Trigger warnings are literally a warning that there is content that might trigger a panic attack. Hence the name. They can help prevent panic attacks in the same way that a sign saying "Warning: High-intensity Lasers" can prevent blindness. You can choose to avoid the room with the lasers (or the book with the warning) or you can make sure you're properly prepared (whether that's eye protection to stop the lasers or self-care and coping techniques to mitigate the distress symptoms). But if there's no sign, and someone walks into that room and looks the wrong way, they'll be blinded. If there's no warning, and somebody reads the book in the wrong mental state, whilst unprepared, they'll have a panic attack. I'm not sure what part of that line of logic requires citation. Being blindsided has ill-effects. Being warned gives you time to prepare, and helps to prevent those ill-effects.

I'm well aware of what trigger warnings are, and what people say they're supposed to do. I''m interested in whether they actually work.

I think the problem is that you're confusing security withe security theater. Security theater is like the sign on the door of the laser lab. It doesn't actually do shit to protect you. It's primary purpose is to protect the lab from you--protect the lab from getting sued. A well-designed lab doesn't need the sign--you're safe regardless of its existence; a poorly designed lab is unsafe regardless of the sign. The sign itself makes no difference; it only creates the illusion of security.

In terms of trigger warnings, again, what I am seeing is that professionals who actually work with PTSD seem unconvinced of any benefits. This leads me to believe that advocates of trigger warnings are grossly overstating what they can actually accomplish.
I read the article you linked a few posts ago, which was provided as a source that trigger warnings can be detrimental. It was an interesting, if not particularly authoritative, read. I read through the thread before I first posted here, but I haven't re-read the entire thing before this post, so if you've given any other citation for that before now then I apologise, but I'm afraid that you'll need a little bit more than a link to an opinion piece to convince me that trigger warnings are never helpful and cause harm.

morriswalters wrote:I don't know about nothing, but it's close. After a while you become blind to them. They don't register. Or people choose to ignore them. When safety is important, devices like lockouts, failsafes, and and really good locks are what provide safety.

Warning Labels
A warning label is a label attached to an item, or contained in an item's instruction manual, warning the user about risks associated with the use of the item, and may include restrictions by the manufacturer or seller on certain intended uses.[1] Most of them are placed to limit civil liability in lawsuits against the item's manufacturer or seller.[2][3] That sometimes results in labels which for some people seem to state the obvious.
morriswalters here provides a decent source that warning signs don't help, but unfortunately I don't have access to either of the citations provided in the Wikipedia article linked, so I have no way of checking their accuracy or validity.

Carlington wrote:Now, to implementation. A trigger warning or a content warning can take many forms. People have brought up classifications on movies and video games repeatedly, so that's an example which we're all quite familiar with. Another possibility is to take the route taken by many television shows, with a warning prior to the content that says something like "Due to the graphic nature of this content, viewer discretion is advised."
And the classifications on movies and video games are a highly politicized, inconsistent, poorly-designed process. It's exactly the type of system that I would be deeply concerned about if it showed up in a university setting.
Okay, but that was only one example of a possible form that a trigger warning can take. I wasn't literally saying that this was or should be the only way to implement a trigger warning system. I'm not really sure what you wanted to achieve by attacking this.

Carlington wrote:Nonetheless, my brother evidently wasn't sure how I'd react to some of the scenes in the show, so he took literally five seconds to let me know that I should be prepared for anything I might otherwise have difficulty handling. It's really that simple.

Once again, I'd say this is more security theater than anything else. He didn't actually know, or tell you, what content you might find disturbing. It's a useless, blanket warning designed primarily to absolve him of responsibility if you did find some content bothered you. Not that being bothered/disturbed by something is in any way the same as a PTSD-related trigger anyway. In an academic setting, I see no reason to excuse people from engaging in material simply because they might find it disturbing. If it's a recommendation by a therapist or psychologist or whatever, by all means, the university should accommodate it.
You're quite right that being mildly bothered by something isn't the same as a PTSD-related trigger, I wasn't trying to make that comparison and I'm sorry if it came off that way. The intent of that particular example was to demonstrate that these warnings can be relatively informal, and I chose it because it was a recent conversation that jumped to mind as being particularly applicable.
All that said, I find it quite interesting that you have such a lack of faith in people. Why do you assume that warning somebody of something is inherently self-serving, and always an attempt to protect oneself? Isn't it equally possible that these warnings are intended to protect somebody else? You seem very fixated on this idea that people only ever provide a warning in the interest of insuring against any repercussions for not doing so, and it seems oddly cynical.

Carlington wrote:I don't think a university-wide list, strictly approved, list of triggers, or list of potentially triggering books should be how we do this.

I agree completely. But that's what people have been advocating for, so here we are.
Okay, but I don't know what you want me to do about that. I can only really argue about my own argument.

Carlington wrote:There should be a short-list, maybe, of the most prevalent and common triggers, things like rape, things like gore, things like excessive violence or torture or suicide or graphic depictions of warzones or disaster zones and things like dead bodies and so on, all of which can be worked out before the policy is implemented by dialogue between administration and students.

As usual, the faculty who actually will have to implement these things and whose academic freedom is actually affect by any potential censorship, get no say. Par for the course in the corporate university.
I was including faculty under the banner of administration, that's my bad. I'm not saying that this should be an unequivocal handing-down of strict laws, and if that's what you're understanding from my post then either I'm really bad at explaining or you're not understanding.

I also want to take a moment to talk about this point:
EMTP wrote:So the people who believe in trigger warnings are welcome to register triggerwarnings.com or what have you, and students can take responsibility for managing their own reactions to the material.
Isn't this unfair to those students, though? Placing an extra burden on them because of something outside of their control is textbook discrimination. Students suffering from PTSD should be provided with access to materials that is just as unrestricted as the access given to students without PTSD. Anything else is unfair.
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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby gmalivuk » Sun May 25, 2014 5:18 am UTC

Also, regarding movie and game ratings, the main negative consequence of their being politicized is, by my understanding, the restrictions that places on who can buy them where. I'm not aware of actual mislabeling going on. Like, if there's violence or sex, the rating will say there's violence or sex. It will just ridiculously often come with a more restrictive rating for the sex than for the violence, because it's more okay to see a woman blown up than to see her portraying sexual pleasure.
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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby addams » Sun May 25, 2014 5:20 am UTC

I think there may be a bit of a mix up in the minds of many people about who receives value from warnings.

It is not those of us that have been through it.
Of course, I can not speak for all others.

The sweet souls that have never imagined such things are at risk.
The Warnings are more for them than those of us that Know the road.

This may contribute to understanding.
There are circumstances where people that have experienced some StessFull Shit are at an advantage.
Those people are often steady Under Fire. That does not mean we Like getting shot at!

Or; Talking about it, much with idiots that think it might be fun.
Or; Reading a lot about it. Reading it either rings true or not.
Or; Watching it on a Screen.

When people that have never been underfire watch that stuff, it is seen as Entertainment.
Or; It is seen as Horribly Violet and Stressful.

A Warning on an open road is a good idea.
For those of us that Know the road, we sometimes forget. The Warning is nice.
For those that have never passed this way before, it can save a great deal of trouble.
Life is, just, an exchange of electrons; It is up to us to give it meaning.

We are all in The Gutter.
Some of us see The Gutter.
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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby morriswalters » Sun May 25, 2014 12:13 pm UTC

What no one has yet shown is evidence that the problem is worthy of a solution. How often does the problem arise? How severe do the symptoms need to be?.

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Re: [Trigger warning: classic literature]

Postby addams » Mon May 26, 2014 1:06 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:What no one has yet shown is evidence that the problem is worthy of a solution. How often does the problem arise? How severe do the symptoms need to be?.

Pretend I am writing real Slow.
Warnings are a good idea.

Road Signs are one example.
There are others.

Any person that is not a Callous AssHole may find Warnings useful.
I know. I know.

We walked five miles, up hill, though the snow; Both ways.
We faced Frankenstein and Count Dracula and Sesame Street's Count Countula without any warnings at all.

A warning for Everyone will not undo what has happened to me and others like me.
It will protect others that Do need to understand and Do Not need to be shocked.

Some people will slow down when the Warnings are given.
Other people will Hurry Up. (shrug) Like Road Signs.
Life is, just, an exchange of electrons; It is up to us to give it meaning.

We are all in The Gutter.
Some of us see The Gutter.
Some of us see The Stars.
by mr. Oscar Wilde.

Those that want to Know; Know.
Those that do not Know; Don't tell them.
They do terrible things to people that Tell Them.


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