Trigger warnings are presented as a gesture of empathy, but the irony is they lead only to more solipsism, an over-preoccupation with one’s own feelings—much to the detriment of society as a whole. Structuring public life around the most fragile personal sensitivities will only restrict all of our horizons. Engaging with ideas involves risk, and slapping warnings on them only undermines the principle of intellectual exploration. We cannot anticipate every potential trigger—the world, like the Internet, is too large and unwieldy. But even if we could, why would we want to? Bending the world to accommodate our personal frailties does not help us overcome them.
Many at the time missed the point of Lasch’s dark, brooding analysis, which applied psychoanalytic theory to the broader cultural setting of American life, arguing not so much that Americans had grown self-involved during the so-called “Me Decade” as that the modern institutions of what he called the “therapeutic state” and of consumer capitalism had infantilized them. The term “narcissism” meant more than simply self-involvement for Lasch: it indicated a frail sense of self, weak ties to one’s community and feelings of despair. The result, Lasch suggested, was a population of clinical narcissists, oscillating between outsized fantasies of their own grandiosity—dreaming of their own celebrity—and recurring anxieties about even getting by.
I just found it amusing to read these articles in direct succession.