A Mask Too Far

Conservatives and Republicans slavishly follow government mandates on just about everything. So why are they freaking out over being asked to wear a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic?

8 Comments. Leave new

  • Nailed it, Ted ! Beautiful !…


  • Nice, Ted.

  • alex_the_tired
    July 29, 2020 9:41 AM

    This is a really good question. What, specifically, about wearing a mask triggers them? I’d hazard a guess that it relates to that whole mix of masculinity and aggression. Perhaps it is because, lacking facial expression, making eye contact is unnerving to them?

  • There is this apparent contradiction between:
    panel 4: the intrepid North American (male) who owns-their-own lawnmower
    panel 1-3: a society of push-overs constantly getting fleeced (by city planners, telecoms, real-estate…)

    At the risk of ruining this beautifully illustrated contradiction, after living a couple of years in Ontario I eventually came to understand that those are really two sides of the same coin: the extreme individualism/atomization of the society.

    In panels 1-3 the individually-strong-but-communally-unorganized person is confronted by a social environment designed specifically to make people fall in line. And they do so seamlessly, hence the contrast to

    panel 4, inn which the individual is supposed to make their own choice – wear a mask – in the absence of a concerted campaign. Now they want to decide for their own benefit like the very model of the neo-liberal individual.

    Btw there have been extremely successful public health campaigns before: the state largely made people stop smoking in public in an extremely short period of time. And like in panels 1-3 people said “yes, sir!” – lest they be confused for a sketchy poor person.

    As much as I detest smoking (it has been killing more people than all wars combined…) this really freaked me out. In many European countries, sections of the public reacted *communally* like the person in panel 4, which at least slowed down the phasing out (or off-shoring abroad) of tobacco smoking.

    So in some ways even this stupid intransigence – that will add to the death toll – is a somewhat positive sign that people are done being push-overs (albeit disorganized and disoriented).

    • People in all frames of the cartoon deal with the self consciousness of an internal dual skepticism of a split in consciousness in arguing both sides of the question.

      The authoritarian personality needs to surrender to one side or another in order to silence the internal and painful conflict of a dual skepticism in conflict within their own consciousness.

      The surrender to a uniform authority, whether to nationalism or religion, allows the calm acceptance in the surrender of personal responsibility to an authority that makes a choice for them.

      The charismatic leader, whether of a religion or of a nationalism, relieves the authoritarian personality of the personal responsibility for making a personal decision or of a needy “compulsion to do something, anything” without being hindered by nagging doubt.

      Trump and the medical authorities present two differing options, thus leaving the option of a blind obedient surrender unavailable to the authoritarian personality.

      Even in the guise of rugged individualism there remains the need to express individuality in a conforming manner.

      • That’s an interesting perspective to take, and I think nicely complements the original point.

        It is telling that the internal decision making process is quite plausible reduced to conflicting authoritarian impulses playing themselves out.

        A friendlier culture would (also) rely on explanations and call upon the ego as well as our better natures.

        When I visited the U.S. as a child it made a strong impression that signs saying “buckle up – it’s the law” were plastered all over the highways. In Europe, the equivalent sign would say “seat-belts save lives.” (including but not limited to the driver’s own).

        A similar point holds with mask-wearing which was held forth as a gesture of solidarity first and self-preservation second (in more “civilized” countries at least).

        This also applies to alex’s point below – as threats need to be backed up by actual violence at some point – lest people will ignore them.

  • alex_the_tired
    July 30, 2020 3:40 AM

    No. Wait. I figured it out. A good night’s sleep was all I needed (well, as much as I get before the cats claw me awake to feed them).
    In Ted’s first example (airport searches) the government set up its requirement and backed it with immediate and severe reprisals. Telling a TSA goon to screw themselves may be satisfying, but it will end with you not being allowed to board the plane and quite possibly being arrested.
    The second example? Running a traffic light? You can end up with a traffic ticket. Again. Severe reprisals — first the ticket, then your insurance. The traffic light, however, is a unique case of Mutually Assured Destruction. If everyone did it, it would become impossible to drive, and it would become so almost immediately. No one (yet) has advanced a “free market” notion of rugged individualism on the roads, with cars going through shopping malls and playgrounds at 60 mph, etc. The COVID-19? No one catches it instantly and falls over dead without a mask. The gap between action and reprisal differentiates it from TSA cavity searches to keep us all free forever and Gestapo cops slapping tickets on you.
    The draft is a special case in that only a limp-wristed pansy wouldn’t want to go off to some foreign country and murder a bunch of civilians, thus, compliance reinforces masculine prowess. Look at the repercussions for My Lai: none. William Calley came out of that pretty much unscathed. Certainly far better off than the soldiers who put a stop to it. (Do the Google.)

    • To Alex,

      Indeed, the rebelliousness of the radical reich-wing against any given policy is inversely proportional to the level to which the policy is enforced. (Note the symmetry with Dem congresspersons who write their best bills when the GOP has incontrovertible control of the legislative process.)

      I would note:
      1) the last person drafted was about 45 years ago, so panel 3 doesn’t specifically fit but does sum up the “we can’t get enough authoritarianism” mindset of way damn too many ‘Murcans.
      2) in Oregon, automatic weapons-toting, perennial “tyranny”*** -sniffers marched on the state capitol protesting masks BUT when real tyranny sets down in Portland they are nowhere to be seen. Presumably professional weapons-toters are sufficient “enforcement.”
      *** consistently defined as one’s tax payments being spent for anything that may assist fellow citizens like: food stamps, Medicare for all, Social Security. Their own financing of tyranny (i.e. perpetual economic, biological, digital and military) war against the rest of the world is NOT a problem.

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