Trigger Warnings, Safe Spaces, and Fandom

Guest post by Angriff. Angriff resides in southern California, where he fursuits in the local furry scene as an imperial Prussian officer-bedecked utahraptor or eagle. He is an Army reserve officer, and his ancient Egyptian fantasy film Eye of the Bennu (trailer here, rent/buy here & here) received two awards at the 2013 PollyGrind film Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. Angriff is on Fur Affinity.

Visit some colleges today and you will see ‘trigger warnings’ on lessons, notifying students the material therein may cause flashbacks to PTSD or other emotional stress. Other professors have simply given up teaching certain subjects lest they ‘trigger’ their pupils (1)(2)(3). Entire public areas on some campuses are designated as ‘safe spaces’ where people can go to escape things that ‘trigger’ them, including arguments that they disagree with. For example, feminist Christina Hoff Sommers spoke at a college where she detailed her objections to certain schools of modern feminism. Afterwards a ‘safe space’ was set up specifically for those who felt ‘harmed’ by her mere arguments, regardless of their merit (4). Yet it is not just institutions of higher learning that are implementing trigger warnings: many websites in various fandoms are doing the same. Some furries are likewise starting to give trigger warnings online, or else informing other furries that certain material ‘triggers’ them.

Given these events, it is likely that soon we as a fandom will have to consider whether or not to put trigger warnings on subject matter at conventions, or else opt to ban certain furry content because it may trigger, or has been accused of triggering, others, in the name of creating a safe and inclusive space for all. It could be an artwork, a fursuit, panel discussion topic, or something else. I would argue, however, that we as a fandom must reject the urge to label or reject furry content on the basis of any claimed ‘trigger’ that up until now has been accepted. People advocating for shielding others from sensitive material do a disservice to the power of human resiliency. According to these advocates, people are fragile beings who are constantly exposed to trauma, and are usually affected by it adversely for the rest of their lives.

Research says otherwise (6): people exposed to severe trauma develop PTSD only about 9% of the time. There are many risk minimizing and protective factors to PTSD such as coping skills and social support that can be learned and acquired. Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men after a traumatic event, especially when it comes to sexual assault; however, of rape survivors, about half recover from PTSD within a mere 3 months of the incident – male and female. People who confront trauma make better and speedier recoveries than those who avoid reminders of the trauma, and those who likewise make their trauma a central part of their identity show less resilience and greater symptoms of PTSD.

At the same time, we find that those who constantly talk about their trauma to psychologists or grievance counselors have a harder time recuperating emotionally than those who “repress” it (7). While this seems counter-intuitive, remember that most human mental processes are subconscious; just because someone is not “expressing themselves” or “opening up” does not mean they are not psychologically processing damaging events in some way. When we do talk about our pain to others (and most people need to do it at least a little), it tends to be close family and friends, rather than grief counselors. For example, counselors were dispatched to New York after the September 11th attacks, as well as after the Asian tsumamis of 2005, but they were largely ignored by people in favor of loved ones (8). The takeaway of all this is that getting over trauma usually just involves living your life unafraid as before, neither trying to relive the events over and over by talking about them to strangers, nor hiding from anything that remotely reminds you of them. Any recovery happens in private such as at home with family or friends. The notion that one’s home should be a safe space is a reasonable one; my issue is extending it to the public sphere. In a furry fandom context, the hotel room is a safe space but the convention floor is not.

This suggests that trigger warnings and safe spaces hurt people’s long term resiliency (measured by susceptibility to PTSD or depression after difficulties, etc.) and well-being, and people who look at life through the lens of their trauma (and perhaps oppression) have a harder time of it. It’s no surprise that the people advocating the former also tend to be the latter.

Beyond the problems with the psychological assumptions underlying trigger warnings, I find them objectionable on the principle of the free exchange of information. After all, the improvement of human knowledge and personal introspection comes from entertaining all ideas and information, not just those that we feel comfortable with. In essence, you cannot have a space that is both safe and allows meaningful discussion of deep subjects to take place. In fact, topics like religion, sexuality, philosophy, and virtue are sensitive precisely because they are so important to us.

Returning to the furry fandom specifically, I think the real danger of trigger warnings and safe spaces is they would inhibit and damage the diverse aesthetics that draws so many to fandom in the first place. Furry is about the human experience filtered and processed through the symbolism of animals (both real and imagined), so any and all aspects of our existence—joyous or horrific—should be fair game. Human cultures and subcultures portray the gamut of experience precisely to integrate it into the understanding of our lives and the world around us. Even more immediate, any good story—be it a movie, comic book, or the written word—requires conflict to drive the plot, and flawed characters that improve themselves and grow. By definition, conflict (and personal growth in general) can be uncomfortable, and in fact the most compelling stories often have strikingly awful things going on. It’s one thing to not read or see art and literature that is not to one’s liking, but it should not prevent others from enjoying the same or even being able to do so without feeling like they are sinning by consuming it.

This works for fursuiting too, perhaps even moreso since fursuits (and the suiters therein) are not just abstract ideas on a page or screen but embodied symbols that are usually expressions of the owner. If anything, trigger warnings and safe spaces are especially dangerous to fursuiters for this very reason. My own fursuit has a sword; others have fake guns or are simply meant to be scary. Given that weapons or blood in the context of costumes have been accused of being triggering by some people with emotional disorders already (5), how long before even one furry finds fake blood, toy guns—or even my toy sword—to be emotionally stressful for whatever reason? At that point you have a contest of preferences: the suiter and his or her fans’ ability to enjoy the suit, and the person claiming to be triggered and their ability to enjoy the convention without feeling unsafe around a fursuit that could pop up at any time. In this case, I would still default to the suiter, not just in the interest of promoting strength of character on the part of those claiming to be triggered, but because in any large enough group, someone is bound to be made uncomfortable by something. If we banned something on the basis of one complaint, furry would be quite bland: excitement sacrificed in the name of comfort, pleasing no one by pleasing everyone.

Furry writer Phil Geusz has also noted that trigger warnings “remove one of a writer’s most profound and important literary devices—surprise—from his toolbox.” While a simple synopsis on the back cover (common to most novels) can hint at what is inside for an audience, trigger warnings would necessarily be far more in depth in what they reveal. Not only would this give away vital plot details, but also lessen the impact of unexpected (and hence profound) actions taken by the characters that help provide a deep, rewarding experience. In essence, trigger warnings would remove much of the enjoyment of consuming entertainment media.

A natural objection is that we judge a society by how it treats its weakest members, hence we must honor someone’s request to remove from a convention or furry space anything that makes even one person uncomfortable in the name of inclusion. I would argue first that there is no support for this theory of ethical inclusion, but also that treating our weakest members well includes taking steps to make them stronger. From this standpoint, fursuiters who are potentially triggering must be allowed in our fandom to help the traumatized bring themselves back to normalcy.

Another defense of trigger warnings is that they support free speech by preparing us to discuss sensitive material. Yet there is no courage in talking about a topic you were going to talk about anyway; trigger warnings only give another excuse to avoid the issue, and of course safe spaces disallow the topic or subject matter entirely. Life events do not come with warnings of their own, so it may be best to prepare individuals for such a life where they must be both mentally resilient and adaptable. Besides, in college especially, the assumption has always been that the students are mature enough to handle difficult, controversial subject matter; why else go to college?

We like to think of trauma and PTSD as something everyone has an equal chance of getting, as if we are standing under hail of arrows being let loose randomly, when in reality this is not the case. It’s also not the case that trauma survivors are forever scarred by the events they experience. The protective factors against PTSD (and their uneven distribution), lend themselves to uncomfortable implications for some in this modern age, but it also means we need not be psychological slaves to the slings and arrows that life inevitably throws at us in quantity. Rejecting trigger warnings and safe spaces to the extent they have lately been popping up in the public sphere is to ultimately help people become stronger human beings. As Nietzsche said, “that which does not kill me makes me stronger”; or if you prefer someone with a bit less edge, recall the Confucian philosopher Zhang Zai who wrote “Riches, honor, good fortune, and abundance shall enrich my life. Poverty, humble station, care, and sorrow shall discipline me to fulfillment.” Amor fati indeed.


7. “One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture Is Eroding Self-Reliance”, Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel, St. Martins Griffin Press, 2006
8. Ibid.

Editor’s note: comments have been closed on this article for the time being. Several comments have also been deleted at request of the original commenter.


66 thoughts on “Trigger Warnings, Safe Spaces, and Fandom

  1. No trigger warnings! Trigger warnings and safe spaces make me worry about the future of society. If people want their safe spaces that badly they can have them. In padded rooms. Away from any sharp objects.

    Does no one else see parallels between the current strain of “liberalism” and Daesh (ISIS)? Both only allow one viewpoint to be expressed and anyone with a different viewpoint must be silenced. Both want to remove history and landmarks that they find offensive. Both cultivate an “us vs them” mindset that doesn’t allow nuance, compromise or discussion.The only plus side is that one of them is mostly non-violent.

    1. I can’t agree with this parallel, nor do i agree with the core content of this article. I think it’s telling that this article was given the okay to be posted in the first place. Articles like these bombard us every day. We’ve seen the original Atlantic article when it was published months before this.

      There is no silencing going on. To make make that claim especially after something that I see bandied about so much in neoconservative echo chambers being presented here tells you: “If you want to show you have an opinion, and present it, and the writing quality is decent enough, Adjective Species will publish it.”

      I think this author could have made stronger points without severe jumps to how accommodating people is indirectly hurting them. Trigger warnings sometimes make otherwise rejected material accessible to those who would ignore the core content. Because content isn’t presented in a vacuum.

      1. “There is no silencing going on.”

        I think you just need to look at the stories of people being uninvited to speak at universities or protests over people being invited to speak to see that’s not true.

        There was an article about attempts to remove a statue dedicated to one of the past US presidents because he was racist. It made the, rather good, point that modern discourse seems unable to accommodate complex ideas. Either someone is good or bad, there is no space for moral complexity. People have good and bad points and honouring the positive contributions of someone does not mean you condone or support the bad things they’ve done. It just means that the world is more than black and white.

        1. “Not being given a podium to preach at” is not the same as being silenced. Being silenced means you are arrested or hauled off because people don’t like what you have to say. Demanding that you be given the audience and the physical space to present at is not tantamount to silencing. We have youtube. We have free radio. We have independent publishing. We have /twitter/ for goodness sake.

          Being honored at an institution of higher learning isn’t the same as a constitutional right to say what you want without being thrown in jail. I’ve had a tons of otherwise idiotic speakers who I felt shouldn’t be at my university– particularly speakers who don’t believe that evolution should be taught.

          And usually when these people are refused a podium to preech at because of their own reputation and content, we have people screaming about “the downgrade of complex thought.” Being a contrarian doesn’t mean you’re inviting intelligent debate. It just means you like to argue.

          1. There are some debatable issues about podiums but that’s also not what this about. I’m talking about people that have been invited but who were then uninvited after others put pressure on organisers because they didn’t like the invited speakers opinions.

            When group A invites a speaker and group B kicks up a fuss because they don’t agree with what the speaker has to say and force them to be uninvited or disrupt the speech then that is silencing.

          2. Actually, I would say that college is a perfect place for a creationism-evolution debate. I recall there were some at my college, along with all sorts of religious, political and social debates (there’s always plenty of room at colleges after all). My issue is when an unpopular idea isn’t even given a chance to be aired, much less a chance for its arguments to be challenged, simply because it makes people feel uncomfortable or frustrated.

            The problem with you dismissing people as ‘contrarian’ is that you are assuming their ideas have no merit to begin with, or that the person cannot debate well. Many sides of a topic can be eloquently argued for, even if only one of them is true. Of course everyone thinks their position is correct – it’s why they believe that position in the first place. The reason we have open exchange of ideas is to argue for the merits of our case and let others decide. I have no problem with this, even for issues you or anyone else may consider “settled”.

    2. Does no one else see parallels between the current strain of “liberalism” and Daesh (ISIS)? Both only allow one viewpoint to be expressed and anyone with a different viewpoint must be silenced.

      If you see that parallel, you are are trying to pretend that the difference between debate and decapitation is merely a matter of degree. That attitude is, if you will forgive my use of some precise academic language, disingenuous bullshit.

      Look: it’s worth having a debate over, say, whether colleges should be rescinding speaking invitations based on student complaints, but it needs to be at a deeper level than “kids today, I tell you” followed by clutching of pearls and waving of canes. Whether or not you disagree with a college disinviting Bill Maher after an outcry from a sizable minority of students who find him Islamophobic, you know what? The man still has a weekly show on HBO. He’ll probably play a comedy club in the same city in a few months and mock the college. His free speech has not been materially harmed.

      And shockingly, “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” are not the same thing. A trigger warning is a label. Again, there’s a worthwhile debate over how useful they are even for their intended purpose, and certainly a worthwhile debate over how broad they should be. But there are a lot of steps — a lot of steps — to get from putting “Warning: sexual violence may be uncomfortable for some readers” on the back of a book to banning all work with sexual violence. We’ve been labeling movies for four decades and TV shows for two, and somehow Game of Thrones and Quentin Tarantino are both still a thing.

      It’s like claiming that labeling food products for allergens or spice labels materially harms chefs, and that protecting their creativity is worth making a few diners barf, and besides, isn’t it the diner’s responsibility to avoid stuff they’re really allergic to on their own? Why, yes, it is, which is why we have the label. Without it, the only “responsibility” the diner can take is to keep constantly asking people for the information they’d have gotten from the label, or just stop going out to eat.

      And that last one is why I consider this “labeling is silencing” line of thought far more worrying than the reverse. If we insist that all labeling is censorship and follow that to its logical extreme, the outcome isn’t exposing people to challenging views that they might not otherwise have seen — the outcome is a whole bunch of people being taught not to engage at all. They’re being told, “Our concerns trump your concerns, and if you don’t see that, just sit down and shut up.” Eventually, they will. That’s a lot more chilling to me than the worry that their concerns are going to be ones I don’t share (or maybe just don’t understand yet).

      As exasperated as I get with the “nothing is so innocuous we cannot be offended by it” mindset (which is absolutely real, but neither new nor exclusively liberal), I’m far more tired of this myth of Social Justice Warriors relentlessly marching forward, forcing Right-Thinking, Freedom-Loving Americans to labor in the meme gulag at Tumblr. Between telling people I find what you’re saying problematic for reasons you find peculiar and twee and telling them oh, shut up about your concerns already, one of them sounds a whole lot more like “silencing” to me than the other.

      1. I am not a libertarian, and you will notice I did not emphasize ‘rights’ or ‘freedoms’ in my argument, but rather exchange of ideas and resilience. I have argued with Tea Party types as much as social justice types. I also don’t pinpoint trigger warnings or safe spaces as the province of just college students. I’m not hating on millennials either (my husband is one!)

        I discussed both trigger warnings and safe spaces because they arise from a common root. That is, the claim that adults cannot emotionally handle contrary points of view or even the smallest reminders of past discomfort or trauma. I have demonstrated why I think this is an overly pessimistic view of human resilience.

        My issue with trigger warnings is that a trigger can be almost anything to some people, and I have seen many innocuous things like exercising being claimed as a trigger. If you then put a trigger warning on everything, it loses any sense of importance. Plus in order to say what IS triggering, requires revealing the trigger. If it was just “Rated R for adult situations and violence” it would not be an issue; it’s the expansion of them to cover dissenting viewpoints, and everyday situations that someone, somewhere, found uncomfortable.

    3. While I appreciate your agreement, I view trigger warnings and safe spaces as much less of a threat than Daesh. The two are not even in the same category. It is certainly possible to believe that society would be better off without trigger warnings and safe spaces, and take issue with shouting people down or censoring them…while acknowledging that violent terrorists who behead opponents are magnitudes worse.

      ~ Angriff

  2. Safe spaces as this article is addressing germinated out of a good idea (decals identifying LGBT-positive teachers in schools, say) that has been distorted to absurd proportions – students are now clamoring to be censored where they once fought fiercely against any form of censorship. The undergraduate education meant to foster liberally educated young men and women to be leaders is now a comfortable experience focused customer satisfaction rather than mind-expanding.

    1. I am a gay man and have always been keen to debate anti-gay viewpoints in a respectful manner in public. I never shied away or felt unsafe from someone merely because they disagreed with the morality of homosexuality or gay marriage. I even know many people in fandom who are still against gay marriage. A few are even acquaintances of mine, with whom I have good talks! While I appreciate that fandom allowed me to be gay without worrying about being beaten up, I also think it should be a place where the anti-gay furries can speak their mind as well.

  3. You mixed the abuse of the concepts up with their intended function.

    Trigger warnings are not meant to enable avoidance of difficult subjects. Trigger warnings are a heads-up, so you can be ready.

    Safe spaces are just that: places where people can go when they have reason to fear for their safety.

    Some people twist and distort their intended function to serve as a shield against anything that bothers them, and it is a real and growing problem in social progressive spaces. A better article might have recognized this and talked about how we went from one to the other, instead of lumping them together and acting like they never serve a worthwhile purpose.

    1. I think Kye hit the nail on the head here. There’s nothing new being brought to the table about discussing actual abuse that exists in safe spaces, or brought up the concept of Kyriarchy where oppressed peoples have some leverage of privilege in their own hierarchies of power and use it to oppress other folks less privileged than them.

      There’s not much being discussed in the article aside from a lot of simplifications and generalizations supporting the notion that /lacking a filter/ or rejecting content labels inherently makes society stronger. That we should strive to make areas of learning more openly aggressive and that every piece of information deserves equal analysis when we know that’s the opposite of what higher education does: it teaches you how to filter out information that isn’t useful or is unfounded. Research skills paired with critical thinking skills.

      Not everybody works the same under stress, and we don’t need to be introducing stressors that are just objectively meant to belittle or demean others,

      1. Two small points.

        Kye’s clarification would be the subject of a different essay. In certain situations you need to choose if you’re addressing the use of a term and how it has changed from it’s original meaning or if you’re going to address how a term is used. This essay is about how the words are actually used, not about how their use differs from the original use.

        Secondly, the issue isn’t about filtering information. If it was about filtering then they just wouldn’t listen or attend the talks. The issue here is that it’s about not allowing differing opinions to be expressed and complaining if someone dares to challenge your ideas. That’s not even opening the other can of worms about who should be protected and at which point victims become oppressors. If it was obvious to everyone who was right there wouldn’t even be a discussion. The issues that this affects are usually related to ethics, a subject which is not fixed by any objective standard. While our conception of ethics changes taking the position that anyone who has racist views, for example, should not be allowed to speak is no different than someone from a hundred years ago banning speech of those asking for racial equality.

        1. It shouldn’t be the subject of a different essay. Trigger Warnings is part of the title. That’s the /problem/ here.

          1. I discussed both trigger warnings and safe spaces because they arise from a common root. That is, the claim that adults cannot emotionally handle contrary points of view or even the smallest reminders of past discomfort or trauma. One is a disclaimer (that I feel is superfluous) and the other is censorious (which is even worse). I have also demonstrated why I think the underlying justification for both is an overly pessimistic view of human resilience.

      2. There is nothing ‘aggressive’ about allowing everyone to express and attempt to justify a viewpoint, even if you personally consider the issue to be settled. There a reasonable arguments for all sides of modern controversial issues, and the work of critical thinking is to expose one’s self to all of them and judge where the truth lies.

        If someone cannot handle the stress of an opposing viewpoint, even one they feel is settled, they have no business in higher learning or engaging in reasoned debate until they become more resilient. Their insecurities are not our problems.

        1. You’re absolutely missing critical points about how much damage rhetorical debate on settled issues like Evolution and Vaccine safety can cause.

          Jenny McCarthy popularized the debate on whether or not vaccines caused autism despite there being no scientific backing on the subject aside from a redacted study from the scientific journal The Lancelet. Her fervent belief that vaccine safety was a controversy for public health made her force her way into places of higher learning (along with general audiences) where she convinced a massive amount of people that giving their children vaccines was unsafe.

          Handing her a podium, since we’re not mincing words now, was one of the most stupid and reckless things we could have done. Now measles, which had been eradicated in the united states, is back because we lost our herd immunity to suppressed. Because people believed Jenny McCarthy, and because enough people gave her attention and a platform to speak on this particular issue that she knew fuck all about.

          Evolution is the overall change of alleles in a population’s distribution over time. This is demonstrably true, and just because (as you so eloquently put it) some people can’t deal with reality and had their feelings are hurt, that doesn’t mean creationism is a worthy of examination. (Because hey, aren’t we forgetting all the other creation myths in the world if we actually want to be fair about a ridiculous premise?)

          Also, safe spaces are not about avoiding contrary points of view– usually they’re a resource center or a place to study in quiet.

          Trigger warnings on the other hand are content warnings.

          And no– if you’re intentionally making somebody uncomfortable on purpose that’s not the person’s fault. The problem with assuming the whole “if you’re offended, just deal with it” mentality is that it is based on a completely arbitrary standard of acceptability. You can say make jokes about fat people that some might find cruel, but then they might call you a sociopathic prick, and hey, whoa, that’s not an acceptable form of behavior, is it?

          The point is: we all have not so nice things that we can say that are baseless and that can hurt people in ways we might not intentionally intend. Bullying is not something we all feel that we need to conquer and embrace. “Sticks and Stones” does not always work, nor should a person be forced to employ it as a survival tactic. Not all of us deign to fight fire with fire, and that’s simply a different way of handling problems.

          1. I may disagree with anti-vaxxers and creationists, but I still don’t mind giving them a platform. If anything, that exposes the weaknesses in their arguments, such as when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited the US and claimed there were no gay people in Iran; people laughed. Debating creationists and anti-vaxxers in public also allows us to defuse their arguments – arguments which many people believe anyway due to their own personal internet pages. Retreating from public debate does not make these things go away.

            The safe spaces I am talking about are public spaces where points of view or expression are excluded based on hurt feelings or offense. For example, the UC Irvine student council recently voted to take down the American flag on campus because it was ‘triggering’ for some people. The Regents reinstated the flag, but this shows the lengths to where safe spaces are taken. At Mizzou, the student report was removed from the public quad for taking pictures of a protest in the name of ‘safe space’. We’re not talking specialized resource centers or meditation rooms here. Especially in fandom, the public places are open to all people of all viewpoints and with all sorts of props. It’s not endemic by any means – and I want it to stay that way.

            Not all content warnings are created equal. I’m not talking the generalized stuff we see on movie or TV ratings. Specific things that are innocuous are nothing to warn over, and people should not step on eggshells beyond basic “hey we got sex and violence here”.

            I never mentioned bullying. Throughout my replies and my article I have been championing the ability to have conversations about different points of view, even if controversial, or have fursuits that express the wide range of archetypes even if some may find a toy sword or US flag to be ‘problematic’. Just because someone’s opinion or portrayal offends you or is disagreeable does not mean they said it with the intent to bully or harass you. Even then, if someone called me a sociopathic prick for expressing an opinion, I would not mind; it’s only words. Arguments happen. People can be jerks. Mature adults agree to disagree and part company or ignore the haters. If they are followed around, that’s harassment and already covered by existing law and policy.

    2. I discussed both trigger warnings and safe spaces because they arise from a common root. That is, the claim that adults cannot emotionally handle contrary points of view or even the smallest reminders of past discomfort or trauma.

      A trigger can be almost anything to some people, and I have seen many innocuous things like exercising being claimed as a trigger. If you then put a trigger warning on everything, it loses any sense of importance. Plus in order to say what IS triggering, requires revealing the trigger anyway. People are better served by learning to take unexpected surprises.

      Too often safe spaces are used to justify shielding someone from a viewpoint that makes them feel comfortable even if their own physical safety is not at risk. Those are the examples I gave and those are the safe spaces I am addressing. I also pointed out that one’s room or home should be a safe space; my issue is when public spaces are colonized as ‘safe’ in that regard. In fandom, all spaces should be physically safe for attendees, which is why we have things like convention security.

  4. Author has no idea what a trigger warning is or what it is used for, despite somehow managing to write several pages about them?

    This article is so grossly misinformed that its somewhere in the realm of “the furry fandom is clearly just a front for bestiality,” where there are so many wrong assumptions layered on false assumptions that, ultimately, there’s no point to even try to discuss how wrong it is outside of pointing and saying “haha that guy’s wrong.”

    1. I am sorry you feel that way.

      FWIW, I often educate people that fandom is not about bestiality or fursuit sex. My efforts are usually successful.

  5. Here is a widely circulated article and one of the few counter-voices in the institutional discussion on “safe space” and “trigger warnings”:

    I can assure everyone that trigger warnings and safe spaces are not a left-wing feminist conspiracy to bring about a matriarchal dictatorship that enslaves the straight, white men. No, they are imperfect tools for historically marginalized individuals and groups to exist within institutions.

    I find the continued hysteria regarding trigger warnings and safe spaces on intellectual freedom is tiring. Not to mention the death of US intellectualism comes at the hands of politicians and corporations, not the students asking for the warnings that were already shoved down their throats for the last eighteen or so years. There is no magic switch for transitioning from child to adult.

    Not every fight can be won through violent confrontation. Some people love to jump right into a freezing (<80 degrees Fahrenheit) body of water, others prefer to acclimate slowly, maybe stick a toe in, or maybe just quietly observe. Safe spaces and trigger warnings are us finally acknowledging the incredible mental baggage individuals can carry and that they have the equal right to be in the room.

    1. So long as I’m not only hearing tales like this one…

      …but also watching videotaped “activists” pulling out civil, polite speakers’ mike cords not only without consequence but to the sound of applause and pressuring universities not to even allow certain viewpoints to be heard, I’m going to be deeply concerned about the future of free speech in the West. (And even _more_ concerned about the future of common civility.) As someone else has already pointed out, it’s an entirely different kettle of fish when the protesters are calling for censorship instead of expanded freedoms.

      But… As someone else has also correctly pointed out, trigger warnings are a different subject entirely. Yes, I’m firmly against _requiring_ them as well– also on the grounds of free speech. But the two subjects are at best only tangentially related and ought rightly to be argued separately. Or so I think.

      1. I discussed both trigger warnings and safe spaces because they arise from a common root. That is, the claim that adults cannot emotionally handle contrary points of view or even the smallest reminders of past discomfort or trauma. I have demonstrated why I think this is an overly pessimistic view of human resilience.

        A trigger can be almost anything to some people, and I have seen many innocuous things like exercising being claimed as a trigger. If you then put a trigger warning on everything, it loses any sense of importance. Plus in order to say what IS triggering, requires revealing the trigger.

        ~ Angriff

    2. Just because you think certain entities are stifling critical thought is no reason to close off debate or expression at colleges or fandoms. In fact, full and open debate is the cure. Likewise, if someone feels marginalized, the best defense is to explain themselves and why they feel they are being treated unjustly, and to stand firm in the face of disagreement. As a gay man, that’s what I always did when confronted with anti-gay attitudes in fandom or elsewhere. Yet I still approve of their ability to speak their mind even if it made me sour.

      If someone needs emotional space, that is for their home or room or friends in a private spot. My criticism of safe spaces and trigger warnings pertain to public space in fandom, in the interest of enabling everyone to express their opinion and furry experience. If a person lacks resilience, that is no one else’ problem but their own, even if they don the mantle of the oppressed.

  6. “I may disagree with anti-vaxxers and creationists, but I still don’t mind giving them a platform.” I have already demonstrated to you why this position is disastrous. Rhetoric works because we use it to appeal to modes of persuasion: ethos, pathos and logos. You’re assuming that every grown adult makes assumptions based purely on logic, but what might seem logical in somebody’s head can be based on an unfounded or uneducated premise.

    And that’s not even considering how many adults make major decisions based on emotions rather than logic. Humans aren’t inherently logical nor do they elect to follow sound procedure for making every decision. Otherwise we wouldn’t have a threat of Measels, Whooping Cough, Tuberculosis and many other public health problems on the rise which are otherwise easily preventable. Your argument that allowing these platforms to have equal, designated press and space is demonstrably not a sound one.

    “I’m not talking the generalized stuff we see on movie or TV ratings. Specific things that are innocuous are nothing to warn over, and people should not step on eggshells beyond basic ‘hey we got sex and violence here’.”

    We can’t cherry pick which triggers we do or do not find meaningful because, again, that’s digging from the arbitrary mound of bullshit mountain. We can’t talk about “bored teens on tumblr who think the color purple is a trigger,” being the norm, here, because it’s a straw man. Sure these people exist, and they are always the example when it comes to the newest hot take grouching and grousing about what we find to be meaningful protest on a college campus.

    We had a pro-life group come to a university show graphic images of holocaust victims and dead fetuses and a massive banner nearly 8 feet tall, comparing the two, trying to shame young women who may have had abortions or may get abortions just for the sake of being shitty. We’ve seen this attitude both assault women psychologically and physically, especially when we take into account the recent shootings and bombings that took place at planned parenthood. This isn’t coincidence. This isn’t adults who need to grow up. It’s the language and the normalization of violence and hatred.

    We live in a world where language is supreme. Ignoring it and pretending it doesn’t matter doesn’t stop the rise of political fascism. It doesn’t stop bullying and methods of controlling your fellow man through passive control on what is acceptable for a group of 5 men to say to one passing women in a college cafeteria.

    We are living in a violent society. We are not living in a metropolis of rugged individualism where insults are baseless. We have black churches massacred. We have school shootings so frequently that we are almost numb to the next new one being announced. We have bombings at planned parenthood. We have trans suicide and teen suicide skyrocketing.

    Hard love and “get over it, we’re adults” clearly isn’t working. Trigger warnings aren’t going away and they’ve existed long before either of us were born. If we’re so sensitive, as you put it, to where seeing trigger warnings and safe spaces gives us the incessant need to try to fix society in a way that we /can’t/, perhaps we need to realize what aspects of this “helping culture” is actually making /us/ uncomfortable, genuinely.

    1. Just because many people don’t use proper critical thinking does not mean we should therefore block them from trying to speak their views. Countering them in public is the best way to show them as folly. It’s also far too problematic to decide what topics or positions on said topics are acceptable to speak about and what is not, or who should decide, so we should default to allowing all to speak. The incidents I have listed are indeed in the minority, and I want them to remain episodic. Even then, infringements on the ability to speak are always bad, even if they are single cases. So these are not straw man arguments I am using.

      I don’t care who is emotionally hurt by simply being exposed to differing opinions, or having verbal debate, or artistic expression in a public forum. If someone cannot handle it, they must seek therapy or excuse themselves. I would prefer this all happen with civility and calm voices of course, but if you think ‘verbal violence’ can exist even in a civil discussion just because someone’s jimmies are rustled, then I approve of this verbal violence and seek to perpetuate it (as I am doing here with your help). I also respect anti-abortion protesters just as much as I do radical feminists. Let them both show shocking images and speak into bullhorns in public. The only way marginalized groups earned recognition was by speaking their mind unafraid. I faced down angry anti-gay speakers with words of my own despite being told I was going to hell (at an age where I still believed the possibility).

      I disagree with your false equivocation of speech that someone disagrees with, and real world violence, or even the causal chain. A person can have an opinion yet not want to physically attack someone his opinion is against, and the purpose of debate is to provide a verbal outlet rather than a violent one. It’s not like you can’t find arguments for and against pretty much everything out there. If someone hears an opinion and decides to hurt someone over it, it is their fault and not the fault of the speaker (unless there is a specific incitement to violence).

      1. “I would prefer this all happen with civility and calm voices of course, but if you think ‘verbal violence’ can exist even in a civil discussion just because someone’s jimmies are rustled, then I approve of this verbal violence and seek to perpetuate it.”

        What makes this statement any different from a thousand edgy posts I can find a dime a dozen on the front page of Reddit? If you seek to perpetuate language that leads to violence and are so very cavalier about it, perhaps ask yourself “do I really think I’m sincerely helping?”

        You managed to write several pages on a topic that’s clearly out of your depth.

        1. I’m not being “edgy” or “out of my depth” simply because you find the implications of my viewpoint distressing. Of course we disagree. I am fully honest in what I am saying, and I truly believe and internalize it. I may not be “helping” in your view, but given our divergent values, I probably do not want to “help” (from your perspective) in the first place. I may be “part of the problem” but I’m all right with that, since I cannot please everyone.

          What I am simply saying is that I find your causal linkage of opinions and physical violence to be weak and that the locus of agency between those who say things and those who commit violence is mismatched. I also admit that I value the potential resilience, mutual understanding, and knowledge arising from the free exchange of ideas, expression and information, MORE than I do the hurt feelings of some people who may find such exchanges offensive or even emotionally harmful.

          1. I don’t find your viewpoints distressing more than I find them just demonstrably wrong. You don’t know what a trigger warning means. You don’t know what censorship means. You don’t think that language can lead to violence at all. You suggest that if a victim is not resilient enough against their harassers, they deserved to die. You are ignoring that one of the measures for evolutionary fitness of a population is cooperation and care for the weak. You think that rescinding an invitation to a university means the death of free speech. You seem to think that speaking at a university is the only effective way of relaying respect and information. You think that if every voice is given an equal podium, that humans will choose the most right and logically sound answer and dismiss the flawed ones.

            And it just piles on itself. It’s like layers upon layers of thoroughly short-sighted views based on the false correlation of: “since PTSD victims who face their problems recover more quickly, this gives us permission to force that recovery process on them with our own intrusive loud voices.” Except that robs the victims of their agency to face their problem. A trigger warning will let them PREPARE to face that problem head on, and it can help them recover on their own volition. It is not your job, nor society’s job, to force a person to recover in the rudest possible way.

          2. Georgesquares: The value to the evolutionary fitness of a society from new knowledge and cultural enrichment gained by allowing all viewpoints, is equal to or greater than the value of treating its weakest members with kid gloves in the specific context of such exchanges. There will always be weak members of a society, and while the West is certainly a “fit” society overall, people like yourself tend to accuse it of being “oppressive” anyway, which contradicts your assertion. Fandom is also thriving because of our open forum for ideas and images, which is why I want it to remain a haven for such.

            I do in fact consider it problematic for a speaker to be barred or canceled from a university just because some people don’t like their views, even if it does not fit a strict definition of censorship. If we are to allow exchange of ideas anywhere, it must be the universities, and all viewpoints should have equal access. I also think this applies to fandom.

            You commit a straw man when you claim I think people who kill themselves on the basis of harassment deserve to die. I have been very clear that exchanges of viewpoints and debates, even mere criticism, are not harassment. To conflate the two is false equivocation. I also do not remember saying anyone deserves to die after hearing distressing opinions; in fact such people have preexisting issues that would have resulted in suicide anyway – usually alienation from any sort of social support, or mental illness that is beyond the scope of laymen or safe spaces to treat.

      2. Just because a person has a view doesn’t mean the whole world is entitled to hear it. Thoughtful, rational responses require more effort to create and disseminate than trash, and if everyone has a voice and is entitled to a platform, then the noise wins.

        1. That is a risk we must be willing to take for the sake of allowing everyone the equal opportunity to have their voice heard, and the equal opportunity for us to listen, even if we do not end up agreeing.

          The issue at that point is HOW the viewpoint is voiced, not whether or not the viewpoint should be voiced to begin with. Yet a loud, boorish and uninformed person usually ends up harming their own argument in the eyes of others. Ideally, an exchange of ideas would mean others could inform him of his factual and rhetorical errors.

        2. Exactly this. If you don’t trust an institution of learning to filter out noise, then why are you paying to be there? I would hope that experts in their field could actually be discerning when it comes to choosing speakers and enriching the experience of their students.

          1. The problem is, most speakers at Universities who have been canceled have come not from professors or researchers, but from student outcry or administrators not versed in the subjects.

            We must also contend with professors with an ideological bent, since even the best of professors can be biased. This goes for the right as well as the left: I would love for say, Liberty University, to host an honest creation-evolution debate.

    2. Your comment already shows the problem with your position.

      “Rhetoric works because we use it to appeal to modes of persuasion: ethos, pathos and logos. You’re assuming that every grown adult makes assumptions based purely on logic, but what might seem logical in somebody’s head can be based on an unfounded or uneducated premise. ”

      If that is true then your own conclusions, which seem logical to you, could be based on unfounded premises or through illogical and motivated reasoning. If that is the case then it doesn’t make sense to say that you should be decided which views are permissible because your own could be wrong and the ones that you oppose may be right,

      The alternative is that you are, unlike all other humans, immune to logical fallacies and possess perfect reasoning and absolute knowledge. If that’s the case then we should let you (or someone who would fit that description) decide which views should be promoted. But you’ll probably agree that no one fits that description and since everyone thinks they are right to choose which views are acceptable is not possible.

      Furthermore your own position (and of course everyone else’s) is grounded in our own ideas of morality and the assumption that everyone that recognises one truth will reach the same conclusion. I recognise that animals are able to suffer and so became a vegetarian. Presumably other people recognise that too as we look poorly upon animal abuse and even have laws against it, yet they do not mind killing animals to eat. It’s the same starting point but different people will use it a different way.

      You might look at the evidence that vaccines prevent diseases and conclude that they should be mandatory. Others could agree that vaccines prevent disease but disagree that they should be mandatory because they favour freedom of choice and personal determination. In that case there is no disagreement about the facts, just a different frame of reference through which they are interpreted.

      1. The big sticking point in all of the cases you mentioned seems to be the individual ranking of values. There’s probably no objectively correct ranking in the end. Still, I think allowing everyone to debate their values, or the practical merits of whatever position they hold on a subject, is the best starting point in arriving at a consensus or at least understanding the values of others. Even then, it is an ongoing process.

        1. This comment, and several others in this thread, has been deleted at the request of the commenter.

          1. I don’t think he wrote an article claiming his values are objectively “correct”. Just “better” or perhaps “more practical” or “might create a better society”.

            Any statement that values are objective and eternal smacks of religiously- or politically-derived absolutism– I’ve never, _ever_ seen such a statement ultimately rooted in anything else. To me, values are entirely individual and pragmatic, and therefore _must_ be revisited on a daily, situational basis. (People tend to be nice because they _like_ to be nice, and to live in a nice world. _I_ like to be nice. But there’s nothing inherently or absolutely “better” about being nice beyond irrational (yet statistically common) human emotional preferences that find cooperation, increased general prosperity and conflict-avoidance more pleasant and rewarding than the alternative. We punish criminals– inherently a very nasty thing to do another human being– because pragmatically it’s the best way we’ve found to to preserve that “nice” world that’s so (purely emotionally) important to us. This is also frequently why we fight even-nastier wars. But I digress.) Which is why I so value open, energetic debate from all comers and get so _terribly_ riled up when one side or another isn’t respected and valued, or when a debate is declared to be “over”. (What arrant nonsense! There are _always_ new voices to be heard, new datums to evaluate, and new circumstances that arise!


            At a certain level I find this debate in all its innumerable aspects amusing. As I’ve said elsewhere in another semi-public forum, I’m watching all the same tools mis-employed to silence civil rights and Vietnam War protesters during my youth being mis-employed with equally fascistic ardor by the protesters’ own intellectual descendants to suppress their own opponents and ‘purify’ what they consider to be an equally ‘sick’ culture. What utterly incorrigible and short-sighted fools we mortals be!

          2. Just as humans jockey with each other for power, so too do our ideas and value orderings. Human society works in part by people trying to get their ideas heard and adopted by others, but also by reaching consensus wherein multiple parties are at least partially satisfied. Of course if we don’t have debates with people, we cannot know their values in the first place.

            There are also other topics to debate than moral values. For example we can argue whether phenomena X leads to phenomena Y; values come into play when we argue what that means to us, and often what we should do about it.

          3. I just noticed this now but you misrepresented me. I said there is likely no objectively correct RANKING of values. People share many values, but we order them differently, and that ordering can change with life events, introspection or convincing from others. This is true whether or not there is a correct order. I just think people should have the equal opportunity in public to make the case for their value rankings (and other non-moral questions), even if you or I believe they are wrong. It’s not that they won’t stop holding that view just because others ignore them or prevent them from speaking.

      2. Rakuen, you have already compared disagreement of opinion with decapitation so you’re already going to be struggling with that award winning commentary.

        Also: “anybody’s conclusions might be illogical because ionno, subjectivity exists!” is nothing short of lazy.

        1. (And the cherry on top, of course: herd immunity doesn’t work if enough of the population isn’t vaccinated. I am just amazed at these comments.)

        2. Way to not even address his comments.

          I’ve seen otherwise reasonable people make the arguments against vaccination that Rakuen indicates on the basis of personal freedom. The point is that, like it or not, people disagree passionately on pretty much everything, including numerous fundamental issues, while at the same time believing they are objectively correct (which is why they believe what they do in the first place). There is no human gatekeeper as to who is right when it comes to these topics for public discussions so we must allow everyone a chance to speak (which is different than say, implementing that view into policy or official textbooks). If someone says “we shouldn’t debate this because I am right”, it is itself a debating statement and hence circular logic.

          1. Corgi W.-

            The only way to demonstrate someone is incorrect in their views or morals (through errors of logic, premises, evidence, etc.) is to do so through debating them. Everyone believes their arguments are valid.

            Even if people hold views they believe are subjective, debate is necessary to reach consensus or approach them through other means like pragmatism. My criticism of ‘safe spaces’ comes mainly from people objecting to exchange of ideas based on emotional reactions, not their validity via reason and evidence.

        3. “Rakuen, you have already compared disagreement of opinion with decapitation so you’re already going to be struggling with that award winning commentary. ”

          You might want to look back because I never made such a comparison. If you think that I did then you have misread.

          “Also: “anybody’s conclusions might be illogical because ionno, subjectivity exists!” is nothing short of lazy.”

          How is it lazy? Or, more importantly, how is it incorrect?

  7. A person who does not believe in objective morals can still debate moral issues by putting forth reasons why they think such morals do not exist. It may end that particular debate if he is successful, but so be it.

    The same person can also debate others if they share a common position and simply differ over how that position is to be implemented or how it compares to other priorities on which they differ.

    Or they can just debate for their amusement.

    1. I don’t assume moral conflicts can ever be fully resolved. Still, people can and do come to an agreement that meets the other person halfway, or convinces the other to change sides. Even if I disagree with someone, I’d like to know why.

      If two people have radically different values there probably is no reasonable expectation of productive debate. Probably why the Nazis were only defeated by war. Of course, Nazis felt they were bettering Europe and Germany, maybe even the world, by their actions. So we could certainly debate a modern day Nazi over whether or not our shared values (“Europe” and “Germany” or even “the World”) really were helped by their conquest and the Holocaust, as well as the facts over their conspiracy theories regarding the Jews.

      Yet this is all moot. I am a furry and subjectively value furry fandom. I assume everyone here subjectively values that same fandom to some extent. So there’s our starting point. From there, my intent was only to argue why overly expansive trigger warnings, and disallowing free exchange of ideas and artistic expression in public areas of fandom in the name of emotional safety, is not in the best interest of fandom or its fans. It does not matter if fandom is a value anyone should objectively hold, or if other people outside of fandom do not care.

      1. Corgi W.-

        I think efforts like consensus (reducing intra-group conflict), exchange of ideas (promoting group knowledge and arriving at decisions), and artistic expression can be “good” on the basis of pragmatism, insomuch as they can help social groups, in this case furry fandom. It may also be that these things harm furry fandom while not harming other groups (which is a subject for debate). Yet the only moral rubric here is “what is best for fandom?” which is simply valuing one’s group (furry fandom), and their interests. That can certainly be subjective: I don’t care about anime fandom, and I don’t expect anime fans to care about furry. What they do with safe spaces is their business.

        Just because a moral (or non-moral) issue is acted on does not mean everyone will agree with the results. I’m speaking only of disagreement itself, not eventual policy.

      2. Just for fun I’ll also point out that “what is best for the fandom” is also a subjective value. Some value keeping the fandom small and intimate, others want to grow it. That happened with Eurofurence and it’s a reason why one of the founders is no longer involved with Eurofurence. Some might think the inclusivity of the fandom is best while others will be more interested in it’s appearance to others. So FA banning cub could be bad for the fandom in making it less tolerant or inclusive but it could be good in raising it’s broader appeal.

  8. I see “morals” mainly as nothing more than internal rules or value rankings in a group that are seen to benefits its interests. The nature of human psychology and social groups accounts for some similarities, but there will never be 100% agreement. What system would you consider this?

    For the purposes of open debate, there IS nothing better or worse about advocating for or against anti-semitism (like the KKK) or school shootings (edgelords?) – or anything else – in and of itself. It does not mean we need to implement those policies or even agree with them.

    1. I don’t believe morality as you define it exists at all. I was making a positive statement about human behavior and what we apply the word ‘moral’ to, not a normative one. People can value something, but that does not mean its a moral statement. It just means they value it, for whatever reason.

      1. Corgi W. –

        I consider moral statements to have no meaning at all, and none of mine are intended to be couched as “moral”. Anyway, this tangent has gone on long enough and has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

  9. @Angriff

    “The problem is, most speakers at Universities who have been canceled have come not from professors or researchers, but from student outcry or administrators not versed in the subjects.

    We must also contend with professors with an ideological bent, since even the best of professors can be biased. This goes for the right as well as the left: I would love for say, Liberty University, to host an honest creation-evolution debate.”

    I write this response as a mathematician, academic, and researcher in good standing at a major public research university.

    There are a number of things in the world today that I feel are threats to academic freedom, the free exchange of ideas, or the general health of academic life. Here are a couple of them.

    – The general anti-intellectual culture of modern America, especially modern political America.

    – Governments preventing scientists from speaking freely to the press, as was the policy of the previous Canadian government.

    – Governments restricting access to funding on politically contentious topics merely because the results of the studies may not support their policy positions, as is the current case for gun research in the United States.

    – Donors to universities interfering in the academic process, as was the case for Steven Salaita.

    – The poor conditions under which many adjuncts and graduate students work.

    – The “publish or perish” mentality.

    – Academic publishers overcharging libraries for access to research.

    – The lack of incentives for retesting scientific results.

    – Universities cutting non-STEM fields because “they are not practical.”

    I could go on. But the point I wish to make is that all of the issues listed here are vastly greater concerns to me than trigger warnings or safe spaces will ever be. I have few to no problems with either. In fact, as someone who also suffers from acute hemophobia (fear of blood), I rather dislike the line of argument opposing trigger warnings that people should have a right to fling things in my face which could cause me to have seizures.

    I can think of something that is a vastly greater threat to academic freedom than trigger warnings and safe spaces, and it is the attitude implicit in several of your posts that universities should encourage (in particular by inviting speakers) the discussion of absolutely any opinion.

    No. No. Please no.


    Because of crap.

    It is easy, it is so easy, to make crap. It is multiple orders of magnitude more difficult to refute it.

    I am lucky. I am so lucky that I do not work in evolutionary biology. I am so lucky that I do not work in climatology. I am lucky that in my field, the crap tends to be constrained to Cantor cranks writing that they have disproved the mean value theorem (they haven’t), or to 20-page arguments on the WoW forums over whether point-nine-repeating equals one (it does), or to people who haven’t even taken a course in proofs asking me to vet their 90-page proof of the Riemann hypothesis (which they made a massive error on in the first paragraph).

    I don’t want my university to invite that Cantor crank to campus, because more people are likely to see his bogus claims than my or any other mathematicians refutations of those claims. And most people who see him probably aren’t going to have the background to see the gaps in his argument in the first place. Inviting him would not improve the overall mathematical knowledge of the university or contribute to the academic environment. It would in fact harm both.

    Likewise, I don’t enjoy “creation versus evolution” debates, because I see them largely as making the job of my friends in evolutionary biology even harder. I don’t want to see such debates forcibly shut down or banned, but neither do I want to see them be supported by universities. Besides, there are plenty of other places where these debates can be held more productively, in the pages of journals, at conferences, and so on.

    1. I have spoken to many professors who say student fears of being ‘triggered” or “safe spaces” or “microaggressions” have inhibited their ability to talk about important topics, and they are concerned. Of course, I think all the threats to academic freedom should be taken on: all of what you mentioned and the emerging ones. It’s not a zero sum game.

      Cranks will show up at student clubs (my school’s christian club hosted a creationist speaker), publicly speak in the quad, talk to people on the street, write editorials, hand out pamphlets, and such whether or not you want to debate them. If you think its a waste of time, you cede ground to them; if you want them to be forced out of the public sphere, you make them martyrs and such tactics can be easily turned on anyone else.

      You are talking about hard science issues: evolution, immunology, math. Yet most contentious issues are not so settled. Even someone who thinks vaccines should not be mandatory on the basis of individual liberty is making a philosophical statement, not a scientific one. The topics I am referring to, whose speakers may get shouted down or canceled due to student outcry, are over emotionally charged issues of politics and society. Or even the poems of Ovid, which were taken from the curriculum at one school because it was ‘triggering’. Speaking of evolution, the field of evolutionary psychology comes under fire for findings that do not settle well with gender studies academics who believe that gender is entirely a social construct. Yet we give (and should continue to give) both a voice.

    2. One reason he feels that way is perhaps because historically– and quite recently at that– universities saw presenting the maximum diversity of opinion as one of their major missions and goals. For example, during the Iran hostage crisis I personally attended a meeting of the Islamic Student Association held in a large university gymnasium (because a Muslim friend invited me). The ISA was directly linked to the student-group that kidnapped the hostages, and took the opportunity to show films of flags burning, fists raised, and generally pretty much what you’d expect. Even more, they did so at a time when general American feelings– all across the spectrum; keep in mind that a liberal Democrat president attempted an armed rescue mission. The meeting was, in my opinion, a deliberate– and successful!– effort to inflict psychic pain as widely as possible on the mostly-American student body. Certainly, it accomplished little else.

      Yet at _no_ point did I ever for _one_ minute hear _anyone_ claim that the ISA had no right to hold their meeting in what society then considered to be a “safe” place for free and open debate. Not _one_ person complained, in the most rural part of Northwest Missouri in (I think) 1981.


      Because we as a society then felt that this was in large part what universities were _for_. They were meant to be “safe places” of an entirely different kind– “safe places” where freedom of speech was as absolute as it could pragmatically be made, and where free and open debate was the highest value of all. In other words…

      Part of why there’s so much emotion and strident opposition to the current movement is (I suspect) becasue so many of us were taught to expect and cherish above all things the _exact opposite_ (e.g. people screaming unwelcome or even disgusting opinions in your face and stuffing undesired leaflets into your hands– it certainly happened to me more than once) on campus of what’s being demanded today. Part of college’s mission– perhaps the most important part– was to expose students to a wide variety of cultures, peoples and ideas, and even more to teach them to cherish the _value_ of such exposure, even when it’s unpleasant or even repulsive.

      No matter how hard I try, I’m incapable of wrapping my head around what’s so unbearable about having to interact and go to class with someone who expresses undesired, unwelcome opinions that I feel/felt have no redeeming merit whatsoever. I did so every day, and so did every last one of my classmates. In fact, we were taught to _support_ this, and rightly so I still think to this day. We had obnoxious Nazis and Communists both– so what? If someone had spoken up about the merits of reintroducing slavery and espoused outright white supremacy, we wouldn’t have _agreed_ with him. But we also wouldn’t have unplugged his mike or tried to drown out his words. (Trust me– if the Islamic Student Association didn’t receive that kind of treatment then/there, no one else on earth was going to either. _No one_.)

      Obviously _I_ learned to value tolerance and free debate above all other things. Or I wouldn’t be wasting my all-too-brief hours like this. And I still like my way better.

      1. I recall at the Further Confusion 2014 and 2015 feminist panels, I offered opinions that were against most of current thrust feminism as studied by many of the attendees and the moderator. Yet no one shouted me (or anyone else) down, nor did anyone feel “triggered” and leave. I even had a good talk with the moderator afterwards, and read her master’s thesis. A friend of mine says I am his favorite person to disagree with (this after I defended what he felt was cultural appropriation in fandom). I’m not sure any of these incidents would have gone over as well in some colleges.

        Do you think that denying the ability of someone to speak in public, based on the offense taken, or emotional hurt felt, by some people is likely to occur in furry fandom? Or does furry culture have variables that prevent such things from happening beyond mere isolated incidents?

        1. I’ve seen people “slip up” in the fandom and momentarily attempt to stifle debate, then correct themselves and (usually) apologize. Everyone gets carried away now and again, myself absolutely included. But so far, thank heavens, I’ve witnessed only remarkably small amounts of truly intolerant and unrepentant nastiness of that nature unfold within furrydom. As to why… I’d want to think long and hard before speculating in a public forum. Or even in private, really. It’s a complex topic, and therefore one not to be undertaken lightly.

          1. Fair enough. Feel free to Skype me (user name is ‘akhetnu’) or ask JM for my email.

            I suspect that furry has a few protective factors against stifling debate and artistic expression. For one, furry is vastly diverse in the opinions of its fans. It also is centered around exploring the totality of the human experience, warts and all, through all sorts of animal lenses (real and imaginary), across all sorts of media (suits, art, writing, etc.). This means that allowing everyone the full opportunity to express themselves may be functionally “built in” to the very premise of fandom itself. So if furry is a ‘safe space’ it’s a safe space to be a furry across every permutation.

  10. “Better” can and usually is subjective. Is peanut butter and banana better than peanut butter and jelly? From there, things just get worse. Take a theoretical case in car paint, for example. Assume one type provides measurably better protection against rust, while the other is generally regarded as more attractive. Which is “better”?

    “Moral Realism” might have secular support… But is it politically motivated/related? Note that I said absolutist statements come from _both_ places; Communism is as much an ethical system as a moral one, for example. I stand by what I’ve said; I’ve _never_ seen any absolutist ethical statements that can’t be traced to one form of fanatacism or another. Though I suppose, on reflection, I’d add blatant blithering illogic to that list. But note that I’m adding it merely for the sake of completeness– not to accuse anyone here.

    Yes, 2+2 does always equal four, and for that matter A is always A whether someone is a Randite or not. But once you leave the realm of pure mathematics/logic, things muddy up _real_ fast.

    Beyond that– You’re right, and that’s why we’ll never agree about anything substantive on this subject. I _don’t_ believe there’s any objective right or wrong in the ethical/moral sense, just what makes the majority happiest at any given moment. And what that is changes by the day, if not sometimes the minute. I support open debate because it’s the best means I know of for establishing exactly what the “right” thing for maximized happy-making is. It’s as useless as anything else for establishing right and wrong, because in the purely objective sense there isn’t any.

  11. “@Angriff: But don’t you see the issue with that? You would be saying that there is nothing wrong with school-masacres, and there is nothing “better” about the way we think about Jews today compared to the way a concentration camp comandante would.”

    No, there’s nothing innately superior about how we think of Jews today, in the purely rational sense. Lots of human cultures do and have done Really Terrible things to other people and not felt a trace of guilt over it– indeed, applauded it and demanded more!– because they thought it all right and proper.

    Do I need to cite the Mongols here? Last time I checked, some experts were estimating they wiped out 20% of the total population of the world, and Genghis Khan was such a successful serial rapist that roughly– I’m working from memory here– 10-15% of the human race is now descended from him. Not only did the Mongol people then consider this to be the morally-correct and for that matter consensually happy-making thing to do–they worshipped Genghis practically like a god for the power and wealth he brought them, not to mention the to-them thoroughly wholesome rape– but the Mongol people _even today_ treat him as a national hero, a George Washington sort of figure. If you’d been born then-there, you’d have have smiled as you shouldered your bow, sacked cities and helped slaughter their populaces by the tens of thousands too. And declared as smugly as they did that it was all morally right and proper– the strong have the absolute right to subjugate the weak without mercy, and if the gods didn’t like it they wouldn’t let it happen. Do you think you’re _better_ than the Mongols? I don’t– that’s cultural relativism talking. If you say you’re “better” than them… Are you “better” than every other group whose values you disagree with as well?

    It’s not _just_ ethnocentrism, of course. It’s human compassion as well, which our culture values and nourishes enormously. Don’t get me wrong– I feel that way too. (Though I wouldn’t if I were an Empire-era Mongol, I bet.) We’re built that way, or most of us are at least. That’s why we attempt to reason from utterly illogical premises, like preferring living to not-living (I’ve never been able to find a purely rational reason) or pleasure to pain (it’s all in the mind, and therefore purely subjective). But… I don’t confuse my _drives_ , _feelings_ and _acculturation_ with reason and logic. Even more, I actively work at not mis-attributing the roots of my irrational desires. Or at least I _try_ not to mix emotion and logic– no one ever succeeds entirely.

    I’m not going to comment further along this line of debate, simply because this thread is supposed to be about trigger warnings. If I ever meet you at a con and you’d like to continue over a friendly drink, I’m all about it.

    1. Just because cultures disagree about ethics doesn’t make them subjective? This is the hinge of a major part of our argument– to me there’s no higher court to appeal to than culture, on this subject at least. I was taught in anthropology 101 (back in 1981– if it’s changed since then it’s news to me) that the _definition_ of culture is the matrix of beliefs, attitudes and practices by which a human society projects meaning on and derives meaning from the surrounding universe. (Which clearly encompasses ethics.) This was one of the key learnings of my entire life– it taught me not to judge, for my own relationship with objective reality is equally as rooted in sand as everyone else’s and none of us are objectively sane.

      We’re taking about _ethics_ here, not matters of demonstrable fact like what astronomical body revolves around what. Ethics are wholly human creations sprung from wholly human minds, instincts and innate psychological prejudices and therefore cannot be any more perfect, objective, rational or absolute than the (demonstrably and seriously) flawed minds and perceptions they sprang from. Math is the nearest thing humanity knows to pure reason and may in fact _be_ pure reason; I certainly agree that absolute statements can be made in regard to it. The same is said to be true of other purely logic- and math-based disciplines and sciences. Though I’m not qualified to hold an opinion on the more esoteric aspects of the matter, I therefore don’t question the objectivity of fields like physics or chemistry either. But the moment you go beyond that and dip so much as a single toe into the humanities… I mean, get real here! What equation or logical argument properly describes the delight of a child splashing his adoring mother while sitting in a wading pool? What objective, numerical value can you assign to a glorious summer’s day? And if you _could_, where would you find a human society capable of deriving meaning and satisfaction from it?

      There are not and cannot be objective ethics becasue we who create them are not ourselves objective creatures outside the realm of mathematics. If you study humans in depth and who and what they are, it soon becomes painfully obvious that as imperfect beings we’re incapable of generating an absolute, all-encompassing formula of (humanities-related, not mathlike) morality– just relative, subjective makeshift ones that suit our temporary needs. Unless you go in through the back door and invoke the god-thing, of course. But that’s another argument entirely.

      And as for your last statement… Who says I have a high respect for morality? Quite the opposite, actually. For either morality _or_ the law, for that matter. Because, you see, I understand all too well how both cultural institutions came into being and exactly who it was that made them happen. Therefore, in the absence of meaningful higher authority I live my life precisely as I choose to live it, doing whatever allows me to derive the greatest possible meaning and satisfaction from the universe surrounding me. In practice this entails caring for, cooperating with and respecting others, as a general rule. The rest is all baseless (if usually well-meant) claptrap, to be obeyed if and when purely for pragmatic purposes.

  12. Corgi–

    I have a life to live and things to accomplish, and am not going to spend more of my limited lifetime arguing with you; one of the beauties of my ethical system is that it engenders no obligation whatsoever to either care what anyone else thinks or seek converts to my cause. If what you think makes you happy, more power to you. My argument is neither circular nor flawed for quite obvious reasons involving apples and oranges that I’ve already both explained and illustrated in depth– I leave the rest of the solution as an exercise for the student. And yes, I see the whole study of ethics– and pretty much philosophy as a whole as well– in much the same light as I do that of theology– a bunch of grown men and women sitting around arguing over how many theoretical angels can dance on the head of a pin that never has and probably never will exist. Like theology, many good men with good minds spend a lot of time playing at philosophy, and even seem to enjoy it. But that’s all either field ultimately is, in my opinion at least–theoretical games that’re all talk and no relevance. They each in their very different ways promise capital-T Truth but in the end are equally anchored in nothing– like the human race itself– and offer little to no real-world relevance. Theology ceased impressing me at age eleven, and philosophy by my late twenties. The last I heard the determinists and the free-willers were tied 0-0 in the bottom of the seventh with two out and the bottom of the determinist’s order up at bat– if that changes any and either side should by some miracle stumble across a random bit of Truth, please let me know? Though more likely they’ll spend the rest of eternity bogged down in an epistemological argument over the designated hitter rule…

    My advice to you is, go take some– or more of them, if you already have– psych and anthropology classes taught by excellent professors. I may be wrong, but I suspect it’ll both rattle your perception of the universe (and your place in it) and do you some serious good.

    If I ever see you at a con, would love to sit down and talk some more. But until then, sadly, I have life to live.

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