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Fingers on the Triggers

Trigger warning: This New Oxford Note contains information that may be triggering to survivors of various conditions, sensitivities, traumatic experiences, paranoias, and/or phobias. Potential triggers include brief mentions or descriptions of war, sexual assault, sexism, cissexism, racism, ableism, misogyny, overeating, gender dis­criminatory restrooms, the use of metaphors for guns, and the word “violate.”

It is becoming increasingly difficult to discern real headlines from those put out by the satirists at The Onion. Headlines that would have once been dismissed as obviously fake are now just the stuff of everyday news. (Example: “Harvard law students complain rape law too traumatizing to study.” Luckily for us, there’s now no shortage of material for our News You May Have Missed column.) Consequently, there’s a whole lot of head scratching going on, especially when it comes to controversies incubating on college campuses.

Those of us of a certain age often find it difficult to relate to social-media natives whose vindictive protectiveness borders on the dystopic. These over-coddled millennials — you know, the college kids who now expect smoothies on demand, monthly pedicures, and an all-night burrito bar in their dorm lounge — are taking up “sensitivity causes” that ought to be the envy of The Onion and other geniuses of social satire. Truth, it has been said, is stranger than fiction.

Take for example the “trigger warning” movement, prominently featured in recent months in The Spectator, The New York Times, and Vox. Godchild to the hyperbolic, politically correct expurgation trend that sought to eliminate all hints of sexism from hateful words such as he, him, and history (“herstory” was actually the acceptable PC term when your associate editor was in grad school in the 1990s), this latest sensitivity movement seeks to scrub campuses clean of words and ideas that might cause discomfort, hurt feelings, or negative thoughts. Students, typically those with strong political leanings to the left, believe they have the right not to be offended. The problem, however, is that pretty much anything and everything has the potential to be offensive — at least to those whose sensitivities are driving the movement.

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