Colson: Are we trigger-happy about hiding from the truth?
Try this: Google the phrase “trigger warnings,” and see what pops up.
For those who would rather not do their own research, I can provide a few insights into this phenomenon, which apparently began years ago in online feminist circles and has since graduated into the halls of higher learning.
Or should that be halls of higher complaining?
I’m not sure — have to get back to you won that one.
Anyways, a trigger warning, according to an array of articles, blogs and other informational items meant for public consumption, is an alert attached to a book, article, movie, play or other artistic or educational exercises, as a way of cautioning potential readers that the content they are about to see might upset them.
I can imagine that some readers, unaware of this movement among the champions of political correctness, read that statement and responded with a huffy, “What the…?!”
You read it right, I’m afraid.
The promoters of this affront to human intelligence have for some time been advocating that anything that might “trigger” an adverse reaction among readers, viewers, listeners and others, such as the Shakespeare play “Merchant of Venice” or the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel “The Great Gatsby,” ought to carry trigger warnings as part of the headline, the title or whatever it is that sits at the top of the page or picture.
Originally the warnings were intended to shield victims of rape, violence and other bad acts from anything that might reawaken feelings of trauma and fear.
Not a bad idea, you might say, but the trouble is that, once unleashed, this type of thing can easily be transformed into a broad and vicious form of censorship.
And censorship, to the dictatorially minded, is a way to keep the citizenry tranquil and obedient by removing anything that might bring shock to the mind or upset the twin applecarts of ever-expanding commerce and ever-tightening societal control.
According to the trigger-warning crowd, readers afraid of being contaminated by exposure to one of the great works of American fiction, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” can simply back away slowly and, once a sufficient distance has been achieved, turn and run like hell.
This is not the first time around this block for Huck Finn’s creator, the author Mark Twain, of course. Since the book was published, in 1885, it has been one of the most oft-censored books in American literature, making it to No. 14 on the American Library Association’s list of the 100 most banned or challenged books in the nation’s history.
Twain’s treatment of the racism rampant in the South has been pilloried by intellectually challenged, self-righteous deniers of history, who either failed utterly to comprehend the ironic and sarcastic message of the book or who simply have pretended to misunderstand as a way of promoting their own questionable agendas.
A few years ago, an outfit named NewSouth Books came out with a new edition of “Huck Finn” that excised every use of the word “nigger” and replaced it with “slave.” This is exactly the kind of whitewashing, fearful anti-intellectualism that was regularly a target of Twain’s savage wit, of course.
And a whimpy desire to rid the world of such bold, problematic ideas probably is why the book’s creator, Alan Gribben, a professor of English at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama, came up with the book’s premise.
Unfortunately for anyone interested in open, honest examination of the world, the concept of trigger warnings is expanding and has found its way into a number of universities and colleges, where students have been demanding that professors place trigger warnings on material deemed potentially harmful to someone, anyone.
Can it be that our education system has so completely failed these students that they actually believe they must be or even can be protected from any and all negativity?
Should nude statues on campus be draped with dense cloth so students are not reminded that men and women are physically different, which some twisted individuals see as nothing but an implied threat that any man is a potential rapist and any woman a potential victim?
Should we lock away the works of Lenny Bruce, the wickedly hilarious, deeply flawed comic of the 1950s and ’60s whose use of obscenity, political incorrectness and savage satire inspired most of the better comedians who came after him?
Ought censors to have forced the cast of that great ’60s musical “Hair” to put on some clothes during the controversial nude scene, thereby robbing the production of one of its most inspiring moments?
Are we truly that pathetic, timid and trigger-happy about hiding from the truth?
I, for one, hope we are not.