One and Only “Trigger Warning”

The following just arrived in my mailbox from FIRE (The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), which I admire and support:

Today, FIRE presents a timely new video featuring Brookings Institution senior fellow Jonathan Rauch. In the wake of last week’s horrifying attack on Charlie Hebdo in France, Americans and Europeans are rediscovering the importance of unfettered expression. In the interview, which was taped last year but not released until now, Rauch explains how the Salman Rushdie affair of the 1980s and the West’s “watery, weak” response to it inspired him to write his landmark book, Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought. Rauch also sheds light on the damage hate speech laws (which are common in Europe, including in France) can do to minorities, and he argues that free speech is their best weapon against oppression.

Because I teach in an American university, I have been very concerned about the infringements on free expression embodied in campus speech codes (according to FIRE my own Towson University is not too bad in this respect) and bothered by the idea that I should have “trigger warnings” on any possibly offensive (to somebody, somehow) content in my courses.

Accordingly, I find the first 0:46 of the video refreshing and affirming. If you have forty-six seconds, watch and enjoy it. I’m not sure anything more needs to be said about freedom of expression on college campuses.

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