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March 20, 2014

#BanBossy: Professor Who Assaulted Pro-Life Protester to Take Her Sign Pleads Novel Defense: She Was Psychologically "Triggered" By Thoughts and Images She Didn't Agree With Politically

Gabe mentioned this on the podcast last night.

Volokh discusses it.

First, the assault itself, as reported by the Santa Barbara Independent:

Joan said that at around 11 a.m., Dr. Mireille Miller-Young — an associate professor with UCSB’s Feminist Studies Department — approached the demonstration site and exchanged heated words with the group, taking issue with their pro-life proselytizing and use of disturbing photographs. Joan claimed Miller-Young, accompanied by a few of her students, led the gathering crowd in a chant of “Tear down the sign! Tear down the sign!” before grabbing one of the banners and walking with it across campus.

Joan said she called 9-1-1 and Thrin started filming, and that the pair followed Miller-Young and two of her students … into nearby South Hall. As Miller-Young and the students boarded an elevator, Joan said that Thrin repeatedly blocked the door with her hand and foot and that Miller-Young continually pushed her back. Miller-Young then exited the elevator and tried to yank Thrin away from the door while the students attempted to take her smartphone. “As Thrin tried to get away, the professor’s fingernails left bloody scratches on her arms,” Joan claimed. The struggle ended when Thrin relented, Miller-Young walked off, the students rode up in the elevator, and officers arrived to interview those involved.

This video shows some of the incident, but not the beginning. The video picks up after Miller-Young has already stolen Joan's sign, and walks off with the spoils of war flanked by two Harpy Robots. But later in the video, the woman recording all this on her cell phone follows them into an elevator, and that woman is pushed out of the elevator by Miller-Young.

A police report (viewable at Volokh) explains the proposed legal defense:

At about 1500 hours, I spoke to Miller-Young by telephone. I recorded my conversation with Miller-Young on my digital voice recorder.

In essence, Miller-Young told me that she felt “triggered” by the images on the posters. Miller-Young stated that she had been walking through the Arbor to get back to South Hall. Miller-Young said she was approached by people who gave her literature about abortion. Miller-Young said that she found this literature and pictures disturbing. Miller-Young said that she found this material offensive because she teaches about women’s “reproductive rights” and is pregnant. She said an argument ensued about the graphic nature of these images.

Miller-Young said that she situation became “passionate” and that other students in the area were “triggered” in a negative way by the imagery. Miller-Young said that she and others began demanding that the images be taken down. Miller-Young said that the demonstrators refused.

We actually discussed the theory of "triggering" two weeks ago on the podcast ("triggering" was the reason we innovated the Chill Groove Infotainment Format). Apparently it has become de rigeur among the academic left to include big WARNING SIGNS on all articles or images which may "trigger" an emotional response in the highly emotional. For example, an article about the practice of cutting may "trigger" a response from someone with a history of cutting; an article about rape may "trigger" a response from a rape victim.

But even feminists are complaining that this practice has been taken too far and become oppressive, as some highly-wound students are demanding "trigger" warnings even for class syllabi.

Trigger warnings in online spaces, though, have expanded widely and become more intricate, detailed, specific and obscure. Trigger warnings, and their cousin the "content note", are now included for a whole slew of potentially offensive or upsetting content, including but not limited to: misogyny, the death penalty, calories in a food item, terrorism, drunk driving, how much a person weighs, racism, gun violence, Stand Your Ground laws, drones, homophobia, PTSD, slavery, victim-blaming, abuse, swearing, child abuse, self-injury, suicide, talk of drug use, descriptions of medical procedures, corpses, skulls, skeletons, needles, discussion of "isms," neuroatypical shaming, slurs (including "stupid" or "dumb"), kidnapping, dental trauma, discussions of sex (even consensual), death or dying, spiders, insects, snakes, vomit, pregnancy, childbirth, blood, scarification, Nazi paraphernalia, slimy things, holes and "anything that might inspire intrusive thoughts in people with OCD".

...

College, though, is different. It is not a feminist blog. It is not a social justice Tumblr.

College... is, hopefully, a space where the student is challenged and sometimes frustrated and sometimes deeply upset, a place where the student's world expands and pushes them to reach the outer edges – not a place that contracts to meet the student exactly where they are.

Which doesn't mean that individual students should not be given mental health accommodations.... But generalized trigger warnings aren't so much about helping people with PTSD as they are about a certain kind of performative feminism: they're a low-stakes way to use the right language to identify yourself as conscious of social justice issues. Even better is demanding a trigger warning – that identifies you as even more aware, even more feminist, even more solicitous than the person who failed to adequately provide such a warning.

Well, sure, it's about that; it's also simply about controlling other people, asserting a privilege which creates an obligation in other people to behave in certain way.

All these different mutations of leftwing theorizing claim different bases and chains of (such as it is) reasoning, but they all are in service of the exact same conclusions:

1. Some people are privileged and have greater rights, and also have greater levels of civic/social obligations owed to them by other people.

2. Some people are disfavored and have lesser rights, and also are owed less in terms of civic/social obligations. (Apparently you can even commit a low-level assault against them if the whim strikes you, for example.)

3. The Privileged have the right and power to use the machinery of all institutions, governmental, private, or in-between, to enforce their curious and quixotic sense of reality upon the Disfavored.

It is this last one that keeps institutions from, for example, prosecuting people for filing fake, fraudulent police reports alleging "hate crimes" of one sort or another. They're entitled to do this, you see.

All of these arguments have a very simple goal: To prove that we're not equal in the eyes of the law, or, as the man once said, some of us are more equal than others.

This is the first time, though, that I've seen this new four-legs-good-two-legs-better theory called "triggering" used to justify both a physical assault as well as an assault on someone's first amendment rights.

Updates: "#BanBossy" suggested by "Seems Legit."

Brak also notes that we don't need this new word "trigger." We already have a perfectly good word for "the reason someone commits a crime." That word is "motive."



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posted by Ace at 01:44 PM

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