Mask Craziness

The petty tyranny of the Covid panic has gone from a genuine response to a public health concern to just another aspect of post-sanity America. People now wear all sorts of silly face coverings when going about their day for the same reason they wear pants or shoes. It’s just another thing that is required. Soon, it will be custom, like not wearing white before Memorial Day. The ever changing rules issued from local tyrants are now taken in stride like, the weather or earthquakes in California.

The mask issue is another great example of how American politics is just a morality play with the same roles every time. The Official Left strutted onto the stage warning about the great monster and how the democracy was at risk. Their solution was mandatory mask wearing like their sponsors in China use. The Official Right tried to minimize the issue and resisted for a while, but the Official Left whipped up their partisans in the crowd and the Official Right eventually relented.

Meanwhile, out in the crowd, the partisans of the Left now feel emboldened to harass people on the streets about masks, distancing and so forth. Normal people, of course, are still stuck in the world of facts and reason, but they are adjusting to life in a past-sanity world. A similar pattern happened with homosexual marriage. Normal people still think it is ridiculous, just as they think men in sundresses is absurd, but they navigate around it and the crazies that support it.

Unlike homosexual marriage and drag queens, the petty tyranny has a moral signifier to it that makes it tougher to navigate. The mask is the most obvious one. Spend time in a public setting and you can see the believers versus the compliant. The believers make sure their face muffler is firmly attached and is clean and new. They make sure it is on before they leave the car and they wear it all the way to the car. Normal people stick theirs on just before they enter a store.

The same is true of other aspects of this performance. At places that offer hand sanitizer, the faithful queue up, making sure to keep their distance, then make a big show of rubbing themselves down with sanitizer. Normals feel pressured to do it, but they look a bit out of place. It’s like the C&E Catholics taking communion. They just assume everyone knows they are going through the motions. Others, of course, just ignore it and go about their business.

What makes all of this more compelling, from an anthropological and sociological perspective, is no one knows if these measures have any impact. The people who say they are effective almost always have no math or science. They would not know the first step in thinking about how to test the effectiveness of these measures. The other side of the debate does not exist, at least not publicly. Those strongly opposed to these measures base their arguments in the law, not science.

The truth is, there is no reason to think any of these measures have a positive impact on the progress of the pandemic. That’s the first important thing to know if you want to think about a pandemic. It is a process. Assuming the new bug is not 100% lethal to those exposed and humans can develop an immunity to it over time, a pandemic follows a predictable pattern. There is the initial outbreak, where the most vulnerable succumb, then it spreads through the population and eventually burns out.

A pandemic burns out because eventually there is a critical mass of people who are immune to the virus. Maybe they have a natural immunity or they have developed one, but over time, the ability of the virus to find a new host diminishes and it can no longer spread to new victims. Of course, in the extreme, the virus just kills all those vulnerable to it and the rest survive. Some researchers think this could have happened in Philadelphia during the Spanish Flu outbreak.

The theory behind these counter measures was to slow the spread, so hospitals would have time to gear up for patients. The fact that the spread was not impeded in the slightest is a pretty good real-world test of the measures. Maybe in theory they could work, but we don’t live in theory. In reality, months of social distancing and mask wearing have had no impact on the course of the disease. In fact, in places like New York, their policies probably made it worse.

It is possible that all of these measures are bad idea. Take the mandatory mask wearing business as an example. Wearing a surgical mask in a medial setting as part of a protocol to maintain a germ-free environment is well established. Hospitals have very lengthy procedures for the staff, as well as regular training by people who are tasked with maintaining a clean environment. The mask is just one small part of a larger process to maintain a safe environment in the hospital.

In the regular world, where no such procedures are in place and no one is trained in the proper use of masks, or even using proper masks, the mask may be a bad idea. If you watch people in the wild, they are endlessly fiddling with their masks. We know a primary vector for a virus is people touching their face and eyes. A policy that increasing face touching is not a good idea in a pandemic. In other words, mask wearing may increase the spread of the virus in the real world.

The efficacy of mask wearing does not matter, as it is now just another amulet people can wear in public to express their adherence to a particular cult. In the case of the scolds yelling at people about their masks, they believe their mask loyalty is a license to harass the world. Social misfits at the bottom of the social hierarchy now use the mask issue to attack the normal people for not liking the mask policy. The mask is now just another part of the general madness of this age.