May 22, 2014

Media briefs: trigger beat-up … online news … police apology …

Beware trigger warnings, the lamest right-wing beat-up of our time. Plus other media tidbits.

Trigger warning on media beat-up. And the prize for lamest right-wing beat up goes to ... trigger warnings (trigger warning: trigger warnings). For those out of the loop, trigger warnings are a thing from the world of sexuality/gender/sex work/sexual violence discussions online, where participants warn that their posts may trigger flashbacks, trauma, etc, in those with past experience of such. They may or may not be a good or bad thing, but they're now pretty common. Groups at various American colleges have now suggested that trigger warnings apply to classic works of literature being studied, from Oedipus Rex (incest) to Mrs Dalloway (stream of consciousness) to Titus Andronicus (everything). Teh Rightz is up in arms about this new outbreak of political correctness, and the liberal-left has scrambled to define it as a potentially fatal shot to freedom. But who exactly is pulling on trigger warnings? Numerous stories cite ultra-liberal Oberlin College (alma mater of both Lena Dunham and her characters in Girls, so y'know ...) -- but the link they suggest simply feeds back to a generic "office of social equity" website. One student at UC Santa Barbara, inevitably named Bailey Loverin, started a move in the student senate to have teachers give warnings before traumatic comment -- but the example she cited was a film depicting rape, not warning: crocheting in Pride and Prejudice. Widely circulated suggestions that The Great Gatsby etc would get a trigger warning (TW: Baz Luhrmann film) came from one student newspaper article, at Rutgers. The Australian hauled itself onto the bandwagon with a Wall Street Journal reprint grateful for the distraction. The whole thing is 90% beat-up, the idea itself silly, and part of a puritan/power jag that student sexuality politics occasionally gets into. But really, it's a roll over from the commercial world -- and from bullying by the US Christian Right, which have made every movie ad and trailer one long spoiler alert (contains: murder, violence, strong language, medical procedures, mild sex scene ... OK, now I don't need to see the movie). The major studios rolled over for this, including Fox (prop: R. Murdoch) without a word of protest. But of course that was business. What the hell do movies have to do with free speech? -- Guy Rundle The evolution of newspapers online. How much has the media changed over the last decade? The Newspaper Association of America has produced a compelling infographic (click through for the full version) tracking the changes. Among the facts: mobile-exclusive users increased the overall newspaper online audience by 27% in 2012 -- and 77% of Americans now access news via social media ...

Correction of the day. A picture may be worth 1000 words, but it took only a few hundred for The Australian to apologise for a photograph that confused a police officer for a man who had been charged with stalking and indecently assaulting women ...

Australian apology

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0 thoughts on “Media briefs: trigger beat-up … online news … police apology …

  1. Gavin Moodie

    Thanx for the reminder that trigger warnings originated with the US christian right. I found amusing this trigger warned syllabus for Introduction to United States History.

    Chronicle of Higher Education

    May 20, 2014 by Jonathan Zimmerman

    My Syllabus, With Trigger Warnings
    Introduction to United States History
    Tu-Th, 2:15-3:45 pm
    J. Zimmerman

    This course will explore the main themes, trends, and dilemmas in the history of the United States. In accord with our college’s new policy on trigger warnings, I have affixed a cautionary note to each week’s topic. If the topic threatens to provoke feelings of trauma or panic in you, please inform me beforehand and I will excuse you from class. I’m looking forward to learning together in a safe environment!

    I. Puritan New England: Fair warning to Quakers and Catholics: The Puritans sometimes cut off your ears and bored out your tongues, so skip this week if you don’t want to hear or talk about that. Ditto for practitioners of Wicca, who will surely be alarmed by the trials of their sister witches at Salem.

    II. The Revolutionary War: Up to one-third of the people in the colonies remained loyal to the British Crown. Hounded mercilessly, they fled north to Canada and took up hockey. Present-day Canadians might want to sit this one out, lest they suffer still more ridicule.

    III. The War of 1812: US forces sacked York, Canada, the site of today’s Toronto. Yet another reason to alert the Canadians in the class.

    IV. The Civil War: Confederate apologists say this conflict was fought over “states’ rights” rather than slavery. In fact, it was about the rights of states to practice slavery! Some white guys in the South won’t want to hear that. Y’all have been warned.

    V. The Gilded Age and “Robber Barons”: Suppose you were the son or daughter of a filthy-rich banker, and you had to listen to a professor malign filthy-rich bankers from a century ago. How would you feel? We’ll never know, because you get a free pass this week.

    VI. Prohibition and the “Roaring Twenties”: Al Capone ran a massive crime ring before the Feds arrested him for tax evasion. Trigger alerts: Italian-Americans, accounting majors.

    VII. The Great Depression: Made famous by John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, “Oakies” made their way from the Dust Bowl to California in search of work. Today, Oklahoma is a fast-growing state with a successful pro-basketball team. So I’m giving Oklahomans (not “Oakies,” please!) a heads-up, if they don’t care to dredge up their painful past.

    VIII. World War II: No need for Germans, Italians, or Japanese—or their descendants—to show up. We won, they lost. Any questions?

    IX. The Cold War: Not a good week to be a Communist, or even someone who seems like a Communist. You know who you are.

    X. The 1960s: The peaceniks versus the hardhats. Neither had particularly attractive hair. If your own style leans towards one or the other, don’t come to class; head to the barber, instead.

    XI. The 1970s: Remember the disco hit “Stayin’ Alive”? If you’re not into that, you should think about stayin’ home. Talk about trauma!

    XII. The 1980s and the Conservative Revolution: Weaned on liberal heroes like FDR and JFK, left-leaning students have a tough time this week. They’re like, Ronald Reagan? Really?

    XIII. The Clinton Years: Let’s imagine that your dad had an affair with a younger—OK, a much younger—work associate. If you don’t want to go there, you don’t want to come to this class either. It’s pretty gross.

    XIV. George W. Bush and the War in Iraq: If you thought the US was a force for good in the world, you’re in for some shock and awe. Let’s leave it at that.

    XV. Obama and Beyond: To those who imagined that utopia was just around the corner: Sorry! And for people who still think the president was born in Indonesia, this class will make you even more bat-crazy than you already are. At least you were warned.

    Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of history and education at New York University. He is the author of Too Hot to Handle: A Global History of Sex Education, which will be published in the spring by Princeton University Press.

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