Magic Masks

The debate around masks has been raging since the start of the corona virus experience. Public health authorities first told us that masks were not an effective means of protection from the disease and that we should not buy them. Later, these same authorities changed their stance and demanded public officials require people to wear masks while in public. Some went further and demanded that people be required to wear them in their own homes.

The contradictory advice, and the strange lack of judgement on the part of many of those same public health officials during the recent — and ongoing — riots have caused quite a bit of skepticism among the public.

The most bizarre part of the conversation has taken place in publications that serve the fields of medicine and public health. Articles that doubted the effectiveness of mask wearing among the general population as a means of preventing the spread of disease have been amended with pro-mask statements after they’re widely shared in anti-mask circles. Other articles have bypassed any question of the effectiveness of masks and moved straight into questions of propaganda. How can we convince or pressure the public to be good and wear their masks, they ask. They then move on to weighing which form of social pressure will be most effective to convince the reluctant to fall in line.

Until recently someone trying to enter a government building, a bank, a pawn shop, or most businesses wearing a mask would be turned away. The association of masks with criminal behavior is too strong for anyone to take the risk of allowing that person in. It is no coincidence that criminals like bank robbers, the KKK, or Antifa wear masks to conceal their identities during the comission of crimes. Skeptics who doubt the effectiveness of masks as a disease prevention tool and also connect them with criminal behavior are naturally going to be wary of mandates requiring that masks be worn.

Strange things going on… Why would public officials recommend a solution that is only slightly effective under ideal conditions and foist it on the general public?

Control is definitely a factor but it’s more than that. It seems more like a belief in magic.

Think about it.

There’s a witch on the loose whose name is Corona. She’s invisible and she can cause you great harm unless you wear this talisman to scare her away.

Sound far-fetched?

Suppose that Donald Trump was sold on the value of mask wearing as a way to halt the spread of the virus. Trump is shown results of studies that aren’t definitive but show that masks afford a degree of protection. He then issues an Executive Order mandating the wearing of masks — you know, what Joe Biden has promised to do when he gets into office.

But this is not Joe Biden, it’s Donald Trump so there is no doubt that the liberal outrage machine would immediately shift into high gear.

Feminists would be trotted out onto the media circuit. Rachel Maddow would look on approvingly as they made connections between submitting to the mask mandate and the indignities suffered by the female characters in Margaret Atwood’s dystopian Handmaid’s Tale. “They are using the patriarchy to further suppress women by making us cover our faces,” they’d wail. Some young, innocent feminist would make the comparison between mask mandates and burkas; but would be taken aside and told that they shouldn’t criticize their allies in “the struggle.”

Over on CNN the younger Cuomo would rail against the authoritarian nature of the Trump administration and contrast it to his big brother’s enlightened leadership of the Empire State. Don Lemon would barely be able to conceal his contempt for the Trump people as his guests, likely sociologists or anthropologists, would explain that talismans are very important for primitive people who don’t understand science. Lemon would likely barely stifle a laugh when his guest compared Trump to a witch doctor.

Across the media and academia we could expect to see these types of comparisons where primitive non-thinkers — Trump supporters — believe that their magic masks ward off the evil Corona Witch.

This counterfactual scenario is completely believeable because so much of the professional left makes decisions about what it believes by opposing what they see in mainstream society or on the right. It’s even worse if the Bad Orange Man is involved.

Recall that Trump was called a xenophobe when he restricted air travel from China. Our House Speaker denounced him as a racist and told everyone within the sound of her voice to go hug a chinaman to counter his racism. But as the spread of the virus became cause for alarm, Democrats slammed the president for not doing enough soon enough to halt the spread. President Trump also mobilized the resources of the federal governemnt to aid in fighting the pandemic but wisely left the implementation to state and local officials. This is in line with the federal structure of our form of government. Democrats now complain that he hasnt’ done enough to take control of the emergency even as — in another breath — they complain that he is an incipient autocrat out to violate the separation of powers.

And so the left is oppositional, rather than rational, especially when it comes to the policy choices of President Trump. In their process, after oppostition comes rationalization. So the masks that work when worn by professionals under controlled conditions must become a requirement for all — even when they are ineffective because of the material, ill fit, or lack of understanding of germ protocols by the lay wearer — because President Trump is against such blanket mask mandates.

To the left the mask has become a symbol. Wearing their masks they show that they are good people who care about the health of others and wouldn’t endanger them. The mask also lets them easily identify the other members of their team and boosts them in their efforts to resist the president.

Though they would deny it, magical thinking is exactly what is happening among the pro-mask left. The mask is their talisman against the evil Trump. It has the effect of keeping things from appearing to return to normal. There is no room for adults to weigh the risks and decide for themselves. Everyone must follow the shaman’s prescription to the letter or the Corona Witch will emerge from the shadows and claim more victims. In their minds there is no space to deviate from their prescriptions. Even if pressed, they would deny that they are doing this to hurt the president’s chances for re-election; they’re simply concerned for public health, don’t ya know. Inwardly some of the more cynical elements likely hope that these ongoing mandates will do just that and help get their guy into office.

There is no magic cure for the virus. The best thing most of us can do is to wash our hands regularly, stay home when sick, take our vitamins, get some sunlight each day, and be especially vigilant of the condition of the most vulnerable in our society.

Medical professionals who deal with the sick will likely find masks made to medical grade specifications a sensible precaution. They will work, unlike the ones made of household fabrics with cute patterns or corporate logos. The former is a tool used by a professional; the latter is a placebo, a talisman.

As in so many other areas in life we need more reality in our thinking. Magic won’t solve our problems, clear thinking will.

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