The Phoney War Over Trigger Warnings

Joanna Williams writes in Spiked Online on the phenomenon of trigger warnings.

Academics deny they exist, but use them constantly.

Trigger warnings are old news. The idea that lecturers should warn students about potentially distressing content – perhaps rape for those studying law, the crucifixion on theology courses, or just about any work of literature – first emerged in the US around 2013, and received widespread media coverage back in 2014. 

Since then, ‘trigger warning’ has become a potent symbol of the campus culture wars – the pitching of ‘snowflake’ students and ‘social-justice warrior’ lecturers against ‘right-wing’ commentators and belligerent academics, stuffed full of white male privilege and unable to recognise trauma even if it slapped them on the face. 

Today, ‘trigger warning’ is a lazy shorthand used to conjure up images of overly sensitive and easily outraged students who, along with their woke lecturers, convulse in horror at the prospect of discussing topics previous generations took in their stride.

Continue Reading in Spiked Online.


  1. It's no wonder there's such an increase in the number of children/teenagers reporting more anxiety and depressive episodes.
    On parts of the west and north-eastern coasts of the US suicide rates for girls are reported to have risen an incredible 70% since the start of the millennium.

    It's thought that comparative social pressures, because of new media, plays a part as does an over-protective helicoptering style of parenting. It sadly seems, this type of cossetting has now been extended to the centres of further education also.

    It's a grave mistake. The function of both parenting and education is to prepare the young for the real world; a world which is sometimes unjust, sometimes unfair and often dangerous.
    Humans are antifragile; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors.

    Here's an old adage I was reminded of yesterday as I listened to a lecture given by the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt; 'Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child!'

  2. HJ,

    This morning after reading TPQ/Spiked piece I watched a debate on youtube The Battle Over Free Speech: Are Trigger Warnings, Safe Spaces & No-Platforming Harming Young Minds? worth a listen/watch (it is 1hr 25mis)

    It was chaired by Emily Matlis and Jonathan Haidt is on the panel and he gets my vote..He makes point that all this snowflake, generation 'Z' whatever reared it's head in the early to mid 90's...Rabbi Sachs beside him makes the same points and thinks Uni should be for freedom of expression and not stifling views that some may find offensive but openly challenged to let ideas either stand or fall on its merits..

    The two moppets (that's what they are) to the left of Matlis need a slap around the head and dragged into the 21st century...