A random, rambling rant follows. More coherent content will resume tomorrow.
It was a modern colloquial term I never heard used in speech until I was in college the second time, but had caught glimpses of in action. Instead of the traditional good guy who rides in to take care of a very real problem, the modern term refers to people (not always male) who insist on solving a problem that either 1. only they can see, or 2. that they use to get their victim into even bigger trouble. It’s the reverse of what it ought to be, in other words. In their own minds, perhaps, they are the Good Guy on the Shining Steed.
It popped up again recently in a discussion about the people who insist on “saving” sensitive people (as they define them) from harsh language and hurtful speech. To warp an old saying: is speech still hateful if no one is around to hear it spoken? According to some people, yes, and so they (the savior-types) have a duty to keep other people from saying things that might cause offense and pain, even if the “victims” never hear it.
Which makes me scratch my head with mild puzzlement. If I never knew that someone was insulting me, why should I be bothered? I’m sure I get called uncharitable names behind my back. I work with teenagers, I was one once, and we had unflattering names and terms to describe faculty we didn’t care for. Ditto in college (“Dr. Absentia”, who overstayed summer break but sent us assignments from wherever he was, to be done before he returned a month into the semester. And then docked points when we didn’t make use of corrections that he recommended—on papers that he had not returned to us!) It doesn’t hurt me.
Incitement to riot is a different animal, but “trigger warnings” and demands for censorship are not about incitement to riot. Ben Stein, Milo, the hard-core feminists, Jordan Peterson, none of them advocate beating up minorities or burning down their homes and gathering places. Incitement to riot is never appropriate, and is not protected speech.
Suggesting that perhaps there really are biological differences between those with XX and XY chromosomes is not incitement to riot. Nor is pointing out that there are elements of certain cultures that are dysfunctional in modern society. But here come our self-proclaimed white knights, to protect the fragile from words that they didn’t hear in the first place.
Only once have I appreciated a trigger warning. It was before the term had appeared, and was at an FAA safety meeting. The fed knew who I had worked for, and pulled me aside during break to let me know that he’d be talking about a crash that involved people I knew, in a plane I’d flown. I appreciated the head’s up, so I could deflect comments and questions if other people had directed them at me. (Sad to say, I had been expecting the crash to happen, but that’s a story for a later time, if ever. Statute of limitations. . . )
As some readers know, I’ve seen some of the underside of life. I’m a survivor, not a victim, and I do not appreciate being treated like a fragile piece of decorative china by people who don’t ask first. When people keep saying “Oh my gosh, you must be hurt/ re-traumatized/ upset/ forced to relive what happened/whatever by hearing this!” it actually can make recovery harder. And what about kids who grow up hearing, ‘You poor victim! You must be protected because the world is a terrible place and you will never be more than a victim?” All too often, it comes with the sub-text of “and only I/we can protect you from the mean people, so do what we say.” That’s not a good way to raise a healthy, durable person.
Those are the well-meaning white knights. The others, the predators? Ugh. I’ve collided with a few over the years. I’m lucky—my predator detector is pretty sensitive. Even when I’m upset and down, I’m suspicious of people who rush in to “save” me. Being borderline sociopathic [thank you, high school assailants] has a few benefits. Certain political figures, among others, raise my warning flags. Likewise some activists, administrators, and “community spokesperson” types.
White knights in the bad sense don’t ask the “victim” if he or she needs rescuing. They dive in, sometimes before “the victim” knows that she’s been hurt, and “save” the offended/injured party. In the worst case, they then isolate the “victim” and hurt her very, very badly.
That’s not just icky. That’s edging from malice into evil.