It’s nothing new for political religions to produce radicals that develop their own sects or cults. This time around, rigid devotion to enforcing mask compliance has produced runaway fanaticism based on nothing but blind faith that more mask-wearing is always better. Even the public health experts, whom these followers all promoted as great prophets just months ago, can’t tame their fervor.
That’s a problem, because a return to normalcy will require subduing radical factions that agitate for oppression. Restrictions such as mask mandates are like oxygen to followers of radical fundamentalist Covidianism — the abiding belief that only lockdowns, social distancing, and masks can deliver us from the deadly pandemic. The longer mandates stay in place and experts continue promoting mask use — “My mask protects you! Your mask protects me!” — the stronger and more widespread the extremism will grow, and the less influence experts will have over their behavior.
The evidence is abundant, but consider these three cases of radical Covidianism and how they trace back to an abandonment of the scientific standards necessary to maintain public health and a functioning society.
1. Ignore the Dangers of Masking While Exercising
First, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order last week requiring all nonprofessional sports players to wear masks. Athletes, except for swimmers, must wear masks while “training for, practicing for, or competing in an organized sport” if they cannot “consistently maintain 6 feet of distance.” There are no age-specific exceptions in the requirement, so it appears Whitmer’s mask mandate for children five years old and over applies.
Not only does this order contradict guidance from so-called experts, who say that people exercising should not wear masks because sweat can clog the mask fibers and make breathing difficult as well as “promote the growth of microorganisms,” but it overwrites Whitmer’s own order specifying that masks do not have to be worn during exercise “when wearing a face covering would interfere with the activity.”
How football, basketball, tennis, soccer, lacrosse, and other sports that aren’t golf or bowling don’t qualify as exercise that a mask “would interfere with” is beyond rationality. The science of sweat droplets clogging up mask fibers doesn’t change if a person is exercising by himself or in a competitive setting, yet one can see in these orders the progression away from science and toward the fanatical desire to control people’s behavior, regardless of the danger. While Whitmer says masks allow sports to resume, her requirement will likely mean exactly the opposite, as playing creates a health risk instead of a health benefit.
2. Mask the Babies
Second, a WestJet flight was canceled last week because a 19-month-old could not keep her mask on, despite the fact that infants and toddlers simply aren’t spreading the virus. The father, Safwan Choudhry, called it “horrific and dehumanizing treatment.” You can see what appear to be WestJet crew members harassing the poor family here:
Earlier today my family endure the most horrific & dehumanizing treatment onboard @WestJet plane. My wife was threatening to be arrested & forcibly removed unless my daughters, 3 yrs & 19 months would wear a mask. While my 3yrs wore her mask, the 19 months old was hysterical. pic.twitter.com/MHnaTnKgCU
— Safwan Choudhry (@SafwanChoudhry) September 9, 2020
Transport Canada’s official guidance for travelers says explicitly, “The following people should not wear a mask … children under 2 years old.” Yet WestJest crew members, according to Choudhry, wrongly cited the guidance as requiring his infant to wear a mask. Official rules are apparently no hindrance to the mask crusaders, who will defend their universal masking standard to the point of canceling a flight.
3. Wear a Mask When You’re Alone
Not to be outdone in anti-science zeal for total conformity, however, the third example is the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which has asked agency employees to wear masks while teleconferencing from home. Natural Resources Secretary Preston Cole said in a July 31 email that in order to set a “safety example” showing that employees “care about the safety and health of others,” they should wear a mask while participating in virtual meetings “that involve being seen.”
The medical director of infection control at UW Health, Nasia Safdar, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that beyond protecting oneself from somebody else in the house with COVID-19, “there’s no reason to routinely wear a mask in your home if the risk isn’t there.”
This is what happens, however, when scientific standards are abandoned for political goals only loosely tied to public health: Pseudo-scientific fanaticism develops, and its followers are obsessed with gaining compliance, not saving lives. One can draw a straight line from the initial departure from scientific evidence on lockdowns to the current coronavirus extremism, which only increases in intensity as deaths and hospitalizations decline.
Mask Fanatics Are the Real Science Deniers
Lockdowns were once called an “unproven” hypothesis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, its models of efficacy being invalidated by “empirical data.” The World Health Organization called forced isolation and quarantine “ineffective and impractical.” Yet despite the devastating effects of banning “nonessential” businesses and social activities, countries around the world locked down.
Groupthink on non-pharmaceutical interventions spurred an uncontrolled drift away from scientific justifications toward hasty generalized rules predicated on an “abundance of caution” and straight-up fear. Fear quickly turned into a tool for maintaining political power and an opportunity for self-righteous snitches to exercise control over their fellow countrymen. Snitch-level devotion to harsh government mandates devolved into a religion in its own right, and now we must suffer oppression not just from authorities, but from private companies and our fellow citizens.
One can draw numerous examples of Covidian jihad from any given week of these hellish past six months, but the progression is obvious. In April, a father was arrested for playing softball with his family in an open field in compliance with state orders. In July, a woman was berated by a fanatical old lady at the superstore for not masking her children, who are a risk approaching zero for spreading the virus.
Now heading into fall, some people are being asked to wear masks alone in their own homes, out in open parks, and while exercising. They’re supposed to strap them onto infants and toddlers, who are essentially at zero risk for spreading the Wuhan virus, and they aren’t ever supposed to complain about dental problems, headaches, or dizziness while mask-wearing — because every good COVID Karen knows masks are harmless.
This is our world in 2020. Ironically, not even the experts can keep pro-lockdown, pro-mask fanatics from harassing and endangering others. If you want to prevent this reality from becoming permanent, stand up to the bullies and stand firm on the science — including voting out politicians who’ve abandoned science and recalling those who aren’t up for re-election in November.
Georgi is a Senior Contributor at The Federalist, host of The 180 Cast, and coauthor of Clocking Out Early: The Ultimate Guide to Early Retirement.