Political division is a primary purpose for masking.
That’s a very big claim that requires evidence. We’re going to show you that evidence. But first, let’s get something out of the way…
This column is not an argument for or against masks. That’s been debated and covered elsewhere. Here, we’re more interested in the fact that both partisan teams view mask wearing as an important social signal. Indeed, on the pro-mask side, there’s the sudden, ironic urge to “question the science” after the CDC Director says something responsible…
People who’ve been vaccinated are safe without masks. At the same time, she won’t promise safety for the people who have not been vaccinated.
Finally, the government is practicing a measure of Human Respect — returning to the state where individuals can make and determine the personal risks they’re willing to accept or prevent. But the reaction of the pro-mask crowd demonstrates that there was something bigger than science at work here.
As you’ll see below, masks served as a helpful signal. Wearing one meant you were virtuous. Even more important, if someone was spotted NOT donning the sacred fabric, then you knew that they were… thoughtless, anti-science, and even evil.
A little piece of fabric told them all of that.
On that note, we turn to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, who both admits to mixed feelings over the announcement and to acceptance of the CDC Director’s guidance.
An ‘A’ for consistency
To be fair, Maddow deserves a high grade for being consistent. She’s an authoritarian — and that’s not a rude ad hominem statement. It simply means that she believes science is what the authorities say it is, and that we must follow the science as reported by those authorities.
It’s a valid point of view. Here’s why…
First, it’s overwhelmingly common that what people claim is “Science” turns out to be something they were told by some authority. The people advocating a given claim by a scientist didn’t conduct the experiment themselves. Heck, they didn’t even read the study they’re citing. They remember a headline from somewhere or a tweet published by a public figure they trust.
Second, most scientific research gets funded with taxpayer dollars. The established authorities control what questions are researched and even how they’re investigated. Because scientific authorities are human beings, they will have biases. Socially adept grant writers will avoid making a political blunder so that their research can be funded. As a result, science is quite commonly a political matter.
All of this is okay from an authoritarian point of view. Science is sacred and should be handled by established political authorities. The authoritarian believes that the alternatives are horrible: Science could be funded by greedy corporate powers absent government oversight, and the results might be corrupt or distasteful.
Therefore, when the head of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, says that everyone vaccinated can take off masks, Rachel Maddow sticks to her worldview. It’s okay to remove masks because the authorities say so.
The opposite perspective is…
There’s risk in everything. Each person acts to increase their happiness, and sometimes these activities include the possibility of peril. Driving a car involves risk, and drivers who wear seat belts tend to go faster.
In the present case before us, the default decision to mask or not would be made by individuals.
Likewise, our personal decision to associate with non-wearers or wearers would be a powerful regulator of human activity.
Socially, we respect other human beings because we want our humanity respected. But there’s a social principle at work that functions like the law of gravity. If someone uses coercion to interfere with the natural choices you would make, they pull down your happiness. That’s the Principle of Human Respect. Indeed, you can count on the reliability of cause-and-effect every time threats, backed by violence, are used to coerce human beings.
The Human Respect approach doesn’t tell you whether to wear a mask or not. It doesn’t tell you to take public transportation instead of driving yourself. But it does say let other peaceful persons pursue their happiness.
In this way, we can avoid the Conflict Machine.
The Conflict Machine is a better, more descriptive name for politics. The regime media plays a special role in the Machine, broadcasting narratives of conflict and division. The result is that neighbor is pitted against neighbor — we’re propagandized to see each other as enemies as well as to believe that the political class must save us.
But to the partisan teams playing inside the Conflict Machine, the mask was an important signal.
An ‘A’ for honesty
Now, we get to the evidence for the claim that the real value of masking was political division. And here, one has to give Maddow credit for her candor. When she finished interviewing Walensky, she delved into her personal concerns.
“Part of it is that I feel like I’m gonna have to rewire myself, so that when I see somebody out in the world without wearing a mask, I don’t instantly think, ‘You are a threat.’ Or ‘You are selfish.’ Or ‘You are a COVID-denier, and you definitely haven’t been vaccinated’ I mean, we’re going to have to rewire the way we look at each other because the CDC’s guidance, which she just told me, ‘We are sure,’ is that if you’re vaccinated, you don’t need to wear a mask…”
Let’s be honest and fair about Maddow’s position. She truly believes masks helped prevent the spread of COVID. To her credit, she’s consistently accepting the CDC’s statement. But she cannot help feeling strange about it. The masks told her these other things and now she won’t have that.
Rage for the Machine
Now, if you think we’re being too hard on Maddow, then you should see the tweets from her audience. These representative statements leave no ambiguity.
Tweet: But therein lies the problem, Rachel. We won’t know… who is going to know if a person is vaccinated or just a maskless jerk.
Tweet: I’m worried because there’s a bunch of unvaccinated people out there who have spent months broadcasting loudly how much they don’t care about others… Now they’ll still be that way and blend in.
Tweet: The unmasked person next to you in public may be a GOP Anti-vaxxer.
But let’s be consistent and fair: Republicans love the Conflict Machine division too.
Tweet: The nice thing is it will be easier to tell the Dems from the Republicans now. The Dems will still be the ones wearing masks out of fear from the constant brainwashing.
We invite everyone to leave the Conflict Machine behind, and to stop seeking symbolic signals of political heresy. You should be able to pursue your happiness. Your neighbor should be able to, as well. Human Respect will increase social harmony.
Jim Babka is the host of The Exit Network. Joanna Blaine edits this piece. Our website is Coming Soon!