Now that mandates around the country are being lifted, an increasing number of Americans are free to move about in public without a mask. Not everyone is happy about it, though. If some of the nation’s left-wing media pundits are to be believed – which is usually not advisable but, for argument’s sake, let’s go with it – then a great many Americans might be loath to discard their masks and once again expose their noses and mouths to the air.
Over at MSNBC – where the shows are not filmed before a live studio audience, or any audience at all – some folks are concerned that certain people will find it psychologically damaging to interact with a maskless world once again. MSNBC correspondent Alex Seitz-Wald recently got to the heart of the matter, saying the quiet part out loud, if you will, when he pointed out that Democrat governors were in for a difficult time getting rid of mask mandates:
“For the past two years, so much of the identity of what it meant to be a Democrat, to follow the science, was tied up in masking and following these rules and regulations and, if you didn’t do that, you were a bad person – you were Ron DeSantis. You were a denier.”
The Mask of Sorrow
Seitz-Wald is spot on. Mask-wearing – as quite a lot of people on the right suspected – has, indeed, become little more than a symbol of one’s political alignment. Many left-wingers, who are often erroneously referred to as “liberals,” have come to almost enjoy wearing their masks. It is the ultimate signal of virtue; they are morally superior, so they believe, to those who choose not to wear one. They do it for show; to make a statement. After all, the number of photographs and video clips of prominent Democrats and left-leaning celebrities dining, drinking, and partying mask-less – even indoors among dense crowds – are almost too numerous to count. Clearly, they do not really believe masks are an effective form of protection. But, still, they insist that everyone else wear one, which appears to prove they simply enjoy the power of the mandate.
And an exaggerated fear of COVID-19, spread mostly by the media, proved to be even more infectious than the virus itself. There can be little doubt that a lot of regular Americans still wearing masks everywhere they go today do so because they really believe that without it, they could be exposed to an illness that will likely kill them or make them critically ill. Statistically, the chances of that happening are very small, but whatever media outlets they get their news from never told them that.
This writer combed the internet over the course of several months, attempting to find a credible, peer-reviewed scientific study – one not magically produced by a government agency – concluding that mask mandates could effectively stop or even significantly slow the spread of a respiratory virus. That search was a failure, and it appears that no such study exists. Certainly, there is no sound science behind the idea that cloth masks can prevent the passage of microscopic droplets. Surgical masks, as any honest health care worker will attest, were designed for an entirely different purpose. Only an airtight mask containing a breathing filter would be any good at all, and even then, there is no guarantee that transmission of such a virus would be prevented. In fact, nothing short of a full-body HAZMAT suit and strict decontamination protocols would totally protect one from COVID-19.
Naked and Afraid
Dr. Ashish Jha, who is the dean of Brown University School of Public Health, recently attempted to reassure the hosts of CBS Mornings that it was in fact time to move in the direction of normal; that forcing everyone to wear a mask was no longer necessary. Tony Dokoupil, Nate Burleson, and Michelle Miller were having none of it. But wait, isn’t Dr. Jha an expert? Isn’t he talking science? There’s the rub; the more health experts and scientists talk about lifting restrictions, the more those very same people who shrieked “trust the science” will abandon the science in favor of politics.
“But what’s happening here, Dr. Jha, is a lot of people are still emotionally – they’re fearful, right?” Dokoupil challenged. “They hear about removing these restrictions, and their body says, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, we remember how bad this was.’” And then Dokoupil had an unconscious epiphany. Apparently without even realizing it, he suddenly stumbled upon the reality; for leftists, it really isn’t about science, but emotion. “So what do you say to people who believe in the science – like you – think you’re an authority, but are like, ‘I’m just uncomfortable, something triggers me’?” There it was. Hallelujah. The admission that the advice of experts will be discarded once that advice “triggers” an emotion.
And yet, these are the people who spent the last two years berating those “science-deniers” who chose to go with their gut and not comply with mandates.
NBC Today co-host Savannah Guthrie told Jha, “There are some places where I think I might wear a mask forever now, such as the subway.” The View co-host Joy Behar, commenting about the newly emerging guidelines, said, “Personally, I listen to the little voice in my head that doesn’t really follow 100% what they tell me because they keep changing it.” Oh really, Joy, you’re just now realizing they keep changing the rules? And now you’re going to listen to a little voice in your head because it is presumably more knowledgeable than the scientists? How very interesting. And are there any other little voices in your head? Asking for a friend.
Behar also says she will probably continue to mask-up indefinitely – which may be a blessing in disguise, for the rest of us.
And so, the lines have been drawn and everyone knows where they stand. The ones who insisted we trust the science no longer want to trust the science and the COVID-19 pandemic will live on in a sort of twilight zone, remaining a scourge in the minds of some while not existing at all for others. A sort of Schrödinger’s virus, one might say. Perhaps this is as close to normality as we will ever again come.
~ Read more from Graham J. Noble.