Trigger warnings, Debian’s CoC, and all that
Several times I have written about recent developments within the Debian community. Today, in light of the recent months of repeated discussions, bans, proposals, I am reminded of the apparent spread of “trigger warning” necessity.
Let me start with a great quote from this web page about trigger warnings:
Common sense is barely a speed bump for the steamroller of political correctness.
And indeed, the same crazyness that triggers the spread of trigger warnings, is also gaining momentum in Debian and spreading the so called “Code of Conduct”.
But let us start slowly … for those who don’t know what “trigger warnings” are: They are these cute warnings at the beginning of article stating for example:
The following text contains explicit descriptions of apartheid.
The were originally used to warn that the articles contain disturbing themes that may trigger traumatic memories for sufferers [see Trauma triggers], in particular related to sexual abuse. After that they have spread to include and warn of any kind of non-comfortable material. Slavery, war, racism, whatever comes to your mind.
The premise is that we need to protect sensitive people from having a rehearsal of traumatic experiences. Well, I don’t go into details how this looks like when teaching history, or literature (“no, we cannot read this book, it contains the description of rape!” – think Lolita, Article in the New Yorker). There are many links to discussion of this topic, see the end of this article for a selection.
What does this have to to with Debian and the Code of Conduct? The idea of the CoC was to give a general guidance of how we should be have on Debian’s media (mailing lists, IRC channels, etc). But the consequences to which the CoC lead, and I have warned before the acceptance of the CoC on this many times, is that nowadays bans are spreading out, in the last months the number of bans is steadily increasing. Often with very lame arguments, in particular: off-topic and inflammatory.
This is Debian’s new hammer. Dare to speak a word against systemd on a mailing list, and you might get banned because it is off-topic and inflammatory.
Another argument, and here is the connection to trigger warnings, is that
we want people to feel welcomed and comfortable
Which means, anything that might hurt the feeling of someone else, like “foobar is crap” is now forbidden. Welcome to the marshmallow pinkish new world of Debian’s communication channel.
Or better, welcome to the new boring, technocratic, emotionless Debian – Debian Company Inc, no jokes allowed. But you will feel comfortable, you will feel cared for. Welcome to 1984!
- Feminists definition of trigger warning Geek Feminism Wiki – Trigger warning (I thought feminism died out many years ago?)
- A very interesting article from a writers point of view The New Yorker – Trigger Warnings and the Novelist’s Mind
- funny post on extreme triggers The New Yorker – Triggers
- One of the most referenced ones: New York Times – Warning: The Literary Canon Could Make Students Squirm
- response to the previous article: Huffington Post – What’s Really Important About ‘Trigger Warnings’
- New Republic – Trigger Happy – The “trigger warning” has spread from blogs to college classes. Can it be stopped?
- NPR – Grappling With Trigger Warnings And Trauma On Campus
- The Guardian – We’ve gone too far with ‘trigger warnings’
- BuzzFeed – How The “Trigger Warning” Took Over The Internet
- Reason.com – Campus Trigger Warnings Threaten Speech and Treat Students Like Children