On Triggers and Bullies

Scott Alexander has a interesting post on triggers and safe spaces (h/t: Jim), in which he writes:

The rationalist community is a safe space for people who obsessively focus on reason and argument even when it is socially unacceptable to do so.

If you are the sort of person with the relevant mental quirk, living in a society of people who don’t do this is a terrifying an alienating experience. Finding people who are like you is an amazing, liberating experience. It is, in every sense of the word, a safe space.

If you want a community that is respectful to the triggers of people who don’t want to talk about controversial ideas, the Internet is full of them. Although I know it’s not true, sometimes it seems to me that half the Internet is made up of social justice people talking about how little they will tolerate people who are not entirely on board with social justice ideas and norms. Certainly this has been my impression of Tumblr, and of many (very good) blogs I read (Alas, A Blog comes to mind, proving that my brain sorts in alphabetical order). There is no shortage of very high-IQ communities that will fulfill your needs.

But you say you’re interested in and attracted to the rationalist community, that it would provide something these other communities don’t. Maybe you are one of those people with that weird mental quirk of caring more about truth and evidence than about things it is socially acceptable to care about, and you feel like the rationalist community would be a good fit for that part of you. If so, we would love to have you!

But if you want to join communities specifically because they are based around dispassionate debate and ignoring social consequences, but your condition for joining is that they stop having dispassionate debate and take social consequences into account, well, then you’re one of those people – like Groucho Marx – who refuses to belong to any club that would accept you as a member.

This would be a good time to admit that I am massively, massively triggered by social justice.

I know exactly why this started. There was an incident in college when I was editing my college newspaper, I tried to include a piece of anti-racist humor, and it got misinterpreted as a piece of pro-racist humor. The college’s various social-justice-related-clubs decided to make an example out of me. I handled it poorly (“BUT GUYS! THE EVIDENCE DOESN’T SUPPORT WHAT YOU’RE DOING!”) and as a result spent a couple of weeks having everyone in the college hold rallies against me followed by equally horrifying counter-rallies for me. I received a couple of death threats, a few people tried to have me expelled, and then everyone got bored and found some other target who was even more fun to harass. Meantime, I was seriously considering suicide.

But it wasn’t just that one incident. Ever since, I have been sensitive to how much a lot of social justice argumentation resembles exactly the bullying I want a safe space from – the “aspie”, the “nerd”, that kind of thing. Just when I thought I had reached an age where it was no longer cool to call people “nerds”, someone had the bright idea of calling them “nerdy white guys” instead, and so transforming themselves from schoolyard bully to brave social justice crusader. This was the criticism I remember most from my massive Consequentialism FAQ – he’s a nerdy white dude – and it’s one I have come to expect any time I do anything more intellectual than watch American Idol, and usually from a social justicer.

Scott hovers around a good point and gives it a light jab or two, but doesn’t go for the throat, so I will.

Bullying is not a regrettable by-product of social justice, social justice does not resemble bullying, rather:

Social justice is bullying.

The purpose of social justice is, was, and always will be bullying. Social justice warriors are bullies, nothing more, attempting to use social, economic, and, occasionally, physical force to enforce group conformity in favour of their ‘one true faith’ of ‘equality’.

SJ is the attempt of the weak and vile to force their abnormalities and disorders on the rest of us to make us as broken as they are. When we are all as pathetic as they are, we will all be equal.

To put it in social justice terms, the purpose of the non-normative discourse is to colonize and occupy white male space.


This is why you never give the SJW’s an inch. These are not simply well-meaning but broken people who need a bit of respect. These are not simply sensitive people who should be given a bit of compassion out of politeness. In normal life some minor accommodations to those naturally predisposed to sensitivity driven discourse is simple politeness, but SJW’s are not these types of people and they should not be given even the smallest of accommodations.

How can you tell that the SJW’s are bullies, rather than simply broken, but well-meaning people?

Simple, they seek to enter where they don’t belong. They purposefully seek out things to feel victimized.

A normal person who is sensitive to something (and might be worthy of some accommodation) generally seeks to avoid that something. As a trite personal example, I find emotional outbursts and certain forms of strong emotionalism uncomfortable; it could be fairly said, I am ‘sensitive’ to them. Because of this I tend to try to avoid situations where they occur and I avoid the type of people who are prone to them. It’s basic common sense.

The SJW, on the other hand, purposefully goes out of her way to intrude in other people’s spaces where she knows she will be uncomfortable and condemn them for making her uncomfortable.

We can see that in Scott’s example above: an SJW tries to enter a rationalist community devoted to a safe space for dispassionate discourse and demands that everybody stop with the dispassionate discourse.

You can see it in all the women offended by RoK or Matt Forney. They intrude on a male space dedicated to masculine discussion, where they know they will be offended and feel ‘victimized’.  We can see this with SRS on Reddit, who intrude into RPR and act offended.

In real life, the colonization of male space can be exemplified by the current concerns of the military; the SJW types demand women be allowed into the military, then whine when the military doesn’t bend over backwards to cater to their every whim.

It would be like me going to an Emotions Anonymous (I was only mildly surprised that existed) meeting and demanding they all stop being so weepy and emotional. It would be simply wrong. It’s not my place to be there and, if I am there as a newcomer or guest, it’s not my place to demand they change for me.

This is who you can know the SJW’s are bullies. They refuse to live and let live; they barge into other’s spaces and demand that these spaces change for them.

Never accommodate them.


I’ve outlined a number of ways they attempt to bully their allies (and others) into conformity, but of all these, the trigger warning is the most insidious attempt at colonization.

Not only does the SJW demand you kowtow to her will in her own spaces, she demands you kowtow to her will in your own space.


As an aside, Scott, if you end up following the backlink and reading this, I know I still haven’t got around to addressing your response to my response to the antireactionary FAQ. I still plan to. Hopefully, eventually.

10 responses to “On Triggers and Bullies

  • seriouslypleasedropit

    “How can you tell that the SJW’s are bullies, rather than simply broken, but well-meaning people?

    Simple, they seek to enter where they don’t belong. They purposefully seek out things to feel victimized.”

    That was valuable. Thank you.

  • Handle

    That cracked article was awful – just full of obvious lies. Alas, also typical.

  • slatestarcodex

    I considered using that sort of thing as my thesis, but after some thought I decided it wasn’t true.

    While there is certainly some social justice that is like this, you would have to play a game with definitions to say this is the essence of ALL social justice. There do seem to be large sections of social justice that are about things like “don’t rape women”, “don’t sexually harass women”, and “don’t use racist slurs against black people”, which are legitimate preferences often born of personal experience and personal grief. The very fact that I am triggered by feminism proves that triggering is a real thing people can reasonably seek to avoid.

    I am also particularly against your condemnation of trigger warnings. Trigger warnings seem not only like a very innocuous form of social justice, but also like one that prevents more malignant forms from being necessary. IF APPLIED CONSISTENTLY, they’re a quick and painless way to delineate whose safe space something is and prevent easily triggered people from seeing something while allowing everyone else to discuss in piece.

    For example, I find gay porn kind of gross. Most people, when linking to gay porn, will say something like (NSFW: GAY PORN) and then I won’t accidentally click the link and have to see it (not to mention how useful that is if I am actually at work). Sometimes I’m not in the mood to read angry feminist rants – if people trigger-warned feminism, I could just totally avoid that. For a while, when I was writing in a community where I knew there were a couple of people who were extremely depressed about not having a romantic relationship, I would trigger-warning all my gooey “I LOVE MY GIRLFRIEND SO MUCH WE HAD SUCH A GOOD DATE LAST NIGHT” type posts so they wouldn’t have to read them. This seems like common courtesy.

    Likewise, if I put “trigger warning: discussion of rape” on an article that discusses rape, and if everyone has decent social norms around trigger warnings, then no one who has PTSD about rape can read that article, freak out, and then yell at me for being insensitive. Good fences make good neighbors, and trigger warnings are basically ideological fences telling certain groups this isn’t their safe space.

    Where trigger warnings become malicious is when they are selectively applied and become political footballs – “You have to trigger warning me because my problems are valid, but I don’t have to trigger warning you because you’re just butthurt”. I try to solve this by using Ozy’s preferred term “content warning” instead of trigger warning in order to avoid debate over what is or isn’t a real trigger, and using them on anything I know a lot of people dislike no matter what side of the political spectrum they’re on.

  • Linkage for a snowy mid-January Sunday afternoon | Patriactionary

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  • The Karamazov Idea

    My dream is to be independently employed where I have the ability to live and speak as I am. Corporations have strident policies on speech/association often ghost-written by GLAAD, NOW, ADL and NAACP (etc.) advocacy groups. If you’re straight, white, male, and Christian, you’re muzzled. Your most milquetoast moderate beliefs are declared hate while their most radical ones are called “courageous.”

    Coming out as far-right, or even right-of-center is perilous. You’re hounded by people who are either unemployed and have all the time in the world to hunt you or by people whose employment is protected by law as part of a victim class and can spend their time as they please.

    Possibly the most disgusting thing that they do is refuse to limit their petty vendettas to you yourself. They harass your family as well, when they can. The justification they give is “well it’s your choice to continue this way and if you really cared about your family you would stop,” and “they obviously raised you wrong or tolerate your bigotry and need to be feel the consequences of their association with you.” If my employment was protected and I only had to mind my own safety (I’m never unarmed anywhere I go), I could tolerate that. What I can’t tolerate is the endangerment and endless harassment of my family.

    And they know this and utilize this. Progressives use the reactionary values against people who hold them. Family loyalty and cohesion is important in a reactionary society. In a progressive society, favoring your kin above the village is heresy. It takes a village to raise a child, so surrender yours.

    When you take into account how far many of these people take it, I think bullies is a generous term. They’re progressive lynch mobs*.

    *Having recently read Radish 2.1, I must admit the metaphor is even more powerful as most lynchings didn’t result in death and less powerful in that lynchings usually involved a perpetrator who did measurable harm to somebody and escaped legal justice as opposed to somebody who did no harm to anybody and was convicted by either the law in civil courts in the US (Colorado Cake Baker forced to make LGBT cake comes to mind) or de facto by losing their livelihoods.

  • Omega Man

    One of the great misconceptions of what constitutes left-wind (i.e. the Social Justice crowd) and the right-wing (liberty and freedom) is that the left are proponents of group rights. The right-wing on the other hand are champions of individual rights.

    When you look at group rights, it is almost always an ideology of victimology. For example the communists championed the rights of the proletariat against the rights of the bourgeoisie, the Nazis the rights of the German Volk against the Jews and Mao, the rights of the peasants against the aristocracy. The salient point is that one group must be defeated so that the oppressed class can thrive. Stalin, Hitler and Mao have been responsible for the deaths of something like a hundred million people.

    If you look at societies which champion the rights of the individual which was the United States before Obozzo, then who is oppressing you? As an individual, you yourself are responsible for getting up off your derriere and helping yourself. Couple a belief in individual rights with equality before the law and you have a society which flourishes.

    The alternative is mass murder.

  • Free Northerner

    @ SSC: Just because they may make a social justice campaign that, on the surface level, seems reasonable, does not mean they are not bullies.

    At one point, you may have had a point, but at this point in time, the SJW’s have all reasonable institutional power,, and a lot of unreasonable power, on their side. Every reasonable measure to counteract slurs, rape, or sexual harassment has already been taken. Any further demands are simply demands for bullying.

    Even many of their ‘reasonable’ demands have been bullying. They have intruded where they were not needed or wanted and then demand the entire culture of the organization change for them.

    Sexual harassment laws, for example; SJW’s demanded entrance into the workplace, then demanded that the entire workplace culture be overturned for their needs, using law and power to bully people into submission.

    As for trigger warnings, any demand which makes other random people responsible for protecting your emotional well-being is unreasonable. You, and you alone, are responsible for your own emotions. The expectation that other people should protect your emotions sets a dangerous precedent.

  • Shenpen


    No Alex, it is not. One thing curiously missing from your worldview is the idea that to what extent are people responsible for their own emotions? In the sense that: to what extent it is the responsibility of people to teach themselves to feel good about things that are objectively good, feel bad about things that are objectively bad? Isn’t it a part of Rationalism: that people ought to learn to like what is true? And the other side of the coin is: to what extent do you have to or want to conform your speech to the subjective feelings of others, as opposed to conform to objectively defined rules of what is right or wrong?

    At what point can you say “Fuck it, what I said uis not objectively wrong, so it is YOUR job to make yourself feel at least neutral about it, not mine to care about your feelings?” Isn’t it what a Rationalist would do?

    Having a loving relationship is objectively not bad. Wanting to tell your friends and acquantainces about your happiness is not bad, as friends are supposed and expected to be happy that you are happy and even healthy strangers tend to like to see others strangers happy.

    Therefore it is objectively not wrong to tell the world about your happy relationship, and if anyone feels bad about it, it is THEIR job to change their feelings, not yours to respect their WRONG feelings as a misguided courtesy.

    Do you believe, like the SJW people believe, that people have no power over their feelings, that they cannot be changed? This, to me seems to be the craziest idea ever. I was influenced by Buddhism enough to know that the sentence “you made me feel bad” makes no sort of sense whatsoever: it is always my mind, the habits of my own mind that determine how I react to, how I feel about a given input.

    We are NOT responsible for the feelings of others, we are responsible for doing what is objectively good, and they are responsible for learning to feel good about good things and bad about bad things.

    Shit, if it was not an American forum, I wouldn’t even have to say this. E.g. the Germans, Dutch etc. despite them being generally to the left of yourself politically, understand this perfectly. They are so blunt, they don’t even think you are not really supposed to notice if a friend of yours got a little fatter.

  • slatestarcodex

    FN: Obvious direct actions have generally already been taken, and I think many social justice people would agree with you. There remains poorly organized background nastiness in the form of harassment/rape by individuals, stereotyping, bullying, et cetera, The social justice project – and it’s not one I’m fully on board with, but it seems to be a theory people can reasonably believe – is to hack culture to make these things less common. For example, trying to make media portrayal of women more positive to make stereotyping of women less common/mentally available. I don’t think this will work, but it seems like a reasonable goal distinct from bullying.

    As for trigger warnings, in your statement “any demand which makes other random people responsible for protecting your emotional well-being is unreasonable”, your hostile phrasing is doing most of the work – see argument 8 here. How about “a polite request that other people respect your emotional well-being”? Compare to polite things we do to protect other people’s well-being all the time, like offering a seat in the bus to an elderly person – which is both compassionate, and self-interested since one day we will be elderly and expect other people to offer their seats to us.

  • Opus

    It reminds me very much of the two overtly homosexual men who sued a couple – Xtians – who ran a B&B but refused the Homosexuals lodging. The Xtians lost. The Xtians had clearly been targeted. Similar behaviour happens in Public Houses when women begin demanding special treatment even as they seek to colonise what is de facto male space. Examples from the world of work are of course too many to enumerate including those concerning myself personally – I trust I never again work in the same space as a non-man.

    Linking such entitled behaviour with bullying seems to me to be perceptive.

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