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[TRIGGER WARNING: This column contains paranoiac material, traces of surveillance nanites and content that may be triggering to those who can’t handle the truth.]
Ah, free speech. My two favourite words in the English language. Weeks of radio silence and I once more get to drop truth bombs. But as much as I would like to tell you about how celebrity nude pics are leaked every time tissue sales are down, I, like all writers, am monitored by some sensitivity-NSA, so I must employ that most loathsome of tags, the trigger warning. Which, being the meta-guy that I am, is the topic of this week’s column.
Trigger warnings were created with sensitivity to those with ‘trauma triggers’, such as those with posttraumatic stress disorder. These have a basis in the school of psychology of behaviourism: that inward thought processes manifest outwardly as physical reactions. Mentions of sensitive topics like abuse in conversation or writing can lead to panic attacks or self-harm, and act as a preventative measure to ensure wellbeing.
Trigger warnings are a hotly disputed concept, namely in that they infringe on free speech. Some see them as censorship, or that they reduce a work to its most base salacious content without considering what the work’s overall purpose is. We have ratings before our TV shows for a reason, but some of us do watch Game of Thrones for the plot.
Part of these feelings come from a typical reaction of a sort of liberal overreach, the idea of increasing sensitivity being misinterpreted as political correctness to silence various powerful groups who up until now didn’t have to monitor themselves. Triggers also tend to be very individualistic, and there is no way to account for everyone’s individual triggers; like comic-book stores, we all have our issues. For instance, my triggers include surveillance, Illuminati pyramids and Tony Abbott, but I couldn’t remain informed without them. There’s even an idea in the conspiracy community that we should be more sensitive to people and start investigating more ‘positive’ conspiracies like ‘chemtrails are good for your complexion’ or ‘the Moon landing was faked to give us something to believe in’ to alleviate this.
But I don’t see trigger warnings as entirely pointless. It’s a reflection of our increased focus on mental health and wellbeing in this solar minimum. As the internet aims to keep us informed, we ultimately decide what kind of thoughts we allow to be entertained in our own heads, the last place where we aren’t being spied on or regularly monitored (yet). The last place where we are guaranteed safety. Trigger warnings, while contested, do represent a much greater need for sensitivity in our stressed-out and sensationalising society. Don’t forget, dear readers: if the world gets tough, there is no shame in watching cat videos or buying chocolate on a shitty day. Do what keeps you sane.