Pull The Trigger: The Ethics of Political Correctness – Blog Post #1 (Week 1)

So this is my first blog ever, and I feel, like, totally amazing. This is so surreal, you guys. I’m like, totally blushing dude.

Anyway *coughs out parodying Valley accent*, let’s talk about these two articles sent courtesy of my TA Dylan.

They’re both very interesting perspectives on censorship and the limits of the human capacity for harsh realities. The debate about political correctness has been going on for what feels like ever, and I find myself constantly challenged on my views whenever it comes up in discussions.

Now, I’m mainly interested in the second article: ‘How Trigger Warnings Are Hurting Mental Health On Campus’. Not to say the first regarding comics and censorship isn’t interesting. The debate between comics and politically correct audiences is an interesting topic for exploration. But I feel like the back and forth is tedious. George Carlin once said, “It’s all about the exaggeration” when it comes to jokes about serious topics like murder and rape. I say leave it at that. But then again, I do think there is something to be said about drawing a line with content. But that’s hard when you think about how different things offend different people. And different things entertain different people. For example, I find genocide jokes funny when they focus on the warped, pathetic psyches of the oppressors doing the genociding. But a bigot might find a genocide joke funny because, well, they think genocide is funny. So the line might be hard to draw. But I don’t think that means censoring every joke ever told. Comedy wouldn’t be comedy without transgression of the boundaries we have on language. Or would it? Whose to say; we’re all on an ethical Mobius strip.

This is true, too, for censorship in school. The second article focuses on trigger warnings and the idea of coddling American students rather than letting them experience the harsh world as it is. While I’m not entirely against the article, and it brings up some great ideas about group think and the ethics of the American education system, some things troubled me. Namely, this quote:

“Attempts to shield students from words, ideas, and people that might cause them emotional discomfort are bad for the students. They are bad for the workplace, which will be mired in unending litigation if student expectations of safety are carried forward. And they are bad for American democracy, which is already paralyzed by worsening partisanship.”

Sheesh, man. Harsh, much? I’m offended (kidding). But in all seriousness, this is a troubling generalization. Is trying to protect children from the vicious world really so bad, unequivocally? Surely you wouldn’t want a four year old knowing the intricacies of gang rape? Or a 12 year old to be well-versed in waterboarding? You’re killing me, smalls!

Though I understand they mean well, folk who complain about PC culture and trigger warnings often dismiss people who do not have the luxury of sitting in a classroom without worry that an image or sound will remind them of traumatic experiences. While I agree that total censorship is unproductive in teaching students about the harsh realities of our world, I don’t want to sit in a classroom and watch a video of someone being gutted. There’s a line that ought to be drawn.

I also take issue with how the article seems rather dismissive of microagressions, a facet of racism that I, along with many other people of color, face daily. I don’t like that the article suggest they aren’t legitimate enough for school organizations to take into consideration. Now, are they so extreme that they demand immediate school policies and reprimands no matter what? Not exactly, but they’re valid enough to be at the very least discussed. Language that encompasses the full spectrum of oppression and its effects on our day to day lives can be very affirming and clarifying. So being able to label something can be very encouraging in one’s path on dealing with whatever that factor is. The article seemed to doubt the gravity of microaggressions, thus doubted the validity of the experiences of people of color. And I don’t like my experiences being erased, buddy. *pokes journalist in the chest menacingly*

I’m not convinced that considering the experiences of students who have experienced trauma is so bad. The real-world does not come with trigger warnings; at least at school, they deserve some solace. Be understanding. Give the kids a break.
Roxane Gay summarily expresses my feelings on both of these articles in her piece ‘The Illusion of Safety/The Safety of Illusion’:

“I do recognize that in some spaces, we have to err on the side of safety or the illusion thereof. Trigger warnings aren’t meant for those of us who don’t believe in them just like the Bible wasn’t written for atheists. Trigger warnings are designed for the people who need them, who need that safety.”

However, Gay then writes:

“There will always be a finger on the trigger. No matter how hard we try, there’s no way to step out of the line of fire.”

And she brings up good points on both sides. So I’m not sure if we can provide an answer to either of these two articles, or to Gay’s, or to the ever-growing question: when is enough censorship TOO much?

Here’s the bottom line: I don’t think that critical thinking is hindered by trigger warnings or some sort of moderate censorship in the same way I don’t think that socially conscious comedy is dead in the water. I’ve never seen a snuff film, but I’ve learned that murder is bad regardless. A little coddling never hurt anybody.


One thought on “Pull The Trigger: The Ethics of Political Correctness – Blog Post #1 (Week 1)

  1. Hey Isaiah! Really stellar first post. (and I’m not only saying that because I got a shout out.) Your writing is clear, engaging and FUN! You engaged with both articles, made your opinion clear, critiqued the journalist, and even brought in your own outside reading. ALL of which were GREAT. I also like that you argued a side that is normally overlooked AND you made a very convincing argument. Only point: watch those typos! Aside from that AWESOME start 🙂


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