Trigger Warnings Take Our Wits Away

By David Daintree
David Daintree
David Daintree
David Daintree is director of the Christopher Dawson Centre for Cultural Studies in Tasmania, Australia. He has a background in Classics and teaches Late and Medieval Latin. Daintree was a visiting professor at the universities of Siena and Venice, and a visiting scholar at the University of Manitoba. He served as President of Campion College from 2008 to 2012. In 2017, he was made a Member of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
January 31, 2022Updated: January 31, 2022


“The protesters falsely claimed that vaccines do not work.”

So stated the reporter on last night’s TV news.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m homing in on that little weasel word “falsely.” Without it, the sentence would have read well enough—the protesters made a claim, which might be right or wrong.

But to seed the phrase with “falsely” is to slide from the reasonable task of reporting into the realm of opinion, and beyond that into sheer propaganda.

It happens so often that we hardly notice any more. That small word “falsely” is in fact a trigger warning, something routinely added to news reports of claims that are deemed to be contrary to the public interest or that run counter to the prevailing narrative. It alerts us that what we are about to hear is completely untrue.

Strange, isn’t it, that the formative opinion-makers of our world, so subjective and narcissistic, so opposed to any notion of objective truth, can be so absolutely certain that opinions they don’t like are absolutely wrong!

It would be funny if it were not scary. Little things like that actually scare me more than big, brazen, overt acts of bullying. Big Brother is frightening when he shouts at you, but even more dangerous when he drops a hint or quietly whispers in your ear—and you sometimes don’t even notice.

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Spectators watch the fourth round singles match between Ashleigh Barty of Australia and Amanda Anisimova of United States during day seven of the 2022 Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia, on Jan. 23, 2022. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

It’s now several years since I’ve worked in a university environment. The changes since I’ve left have been so great that I would probably be appalled if I were to return.

Those who have lived through those changes have by and large succumbed to the daily imposition of more and more absurd restrictions on their freedom to speak and even think against the trend.

When even a tenured full professor, such as Jordan Peterson, finds his position unsustainable, what are contract lecturers to do when their job security depends on silent assent to the increasing quantity of garbage being discharged over their heads by a tsunami of wokeness?

So far, I’ve been talking about falsely—one small, embedded trigger warning, so gently persuasive, a subtle nudge to alert you to error. But grosser examples are out there in the tens of thousands.

The University of Nottingham (UK) cautions students (who were adults when I last checked) about the dangers of reading George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” What a delicious irony that is!

And who would dare put Shakespeare’s “Othello” on any reading list nowadays?

Additionally Bard College (New York state) has initiated a “decolonisation” of its curriculum and requires “athletic staff” to undergo mandatory antiracism training.

And, of course, poor J.K. Rowling is in trouble everywhere. Though apart from abuse on Twitter and de-platforming, they can’t really stop her because she is successfully self-employed. Few are that fortunate.

The tide will turn, but things will get a lot worse before it does. Social media platforms such as Facebook and TikTok are breeding an inane culture of subjectivism among youth. For many of these young people, sexual fluidity has now become an enticing pseudo-reality, while the science-based notion that male and female are distinct is regarded as being simply false.

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Activists rally to support transgenders on the steps of the City Hall, in New York, on Oct. 24, 2018. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The alienation of the young and their estrangement from the factual world is accelerated by changes in educational practice—so much social theory, so much identitarian posturing, so little disciplined thinking, so little history.

I said the tide will turn, but am I dreaming? The proportion of reactive commentary in the print media is slowly mounting, I reckon.

Some of the de-platformed have been platformed again, as Jordan Peterson was when the University of Cambridge bravely overturned a previous ban and allowed him to speak (to a capacity audience) in the teeth of strenuous opposition from a hostile minority.

But the biggest problem we all have to face is cowardice. People are too frightened to call out stupidity. This is understandable when they know that their jobs would be at risk if they blow the whistle, or that their lives would be made wretched by online abuse from usually invisible enemies.

We can all sympathise with that kind of fear and hope that in the same circumstances we’d be bold enough to hold out against it.

But when we’re driven by mere anxiety over the possibility of losing friendships, standing out from the crowd, being brow-beaten or bullied in the nasty schoolyard of daily life, we are worthy only of contempt.

Who needs the kind of friends who would strip you of their friendship if you dared to disagree with them?

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.