Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
“Masks are a tool, useful in the right application. They’ve become a political fetish object for reasons that have nothing to do with their utility.” – Prof. Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds
I never expected to hear this much debate over masks outside of a superhero comic convention. Posts here bounce back and forth between people who wear masks and those who oppose them. Then you have people who are constantly watching for someone to not wear their mask. It’s no longer just a layer of absorbent material worn over the nose and mouth, it is a symbol of fighting against the pandemic — a literal virtue signal.
I think the word “fetish” is well-chosen. While commonly associated with people’s kinks – people deriving sexual interest from non-sexual objects like leather clothing, feet, diapers, uniforms, etc., the older meaning of fetish is related to magical talismans. In essence, medieval peasants looking to touch a saint’s toe, tribal people wearing bone charms, and the modern new-age person into crystals and dreamcatchers are all seeking objects of magical power. It’s not based on a testable proposition (experimental science like biochemistry) or inference to the best explanation (historical science like geology), it is based on belief and magical principles.
A mask is a tool. When used properly, it will reduce the number of viral particles crossing the mask filter material. Even the most virulent anti-mask person would expect their surgeon to wear a surgical mask. Thicker, more tightly woven fabric or fiber is better at stopping infectious material, but is harder to breathe through. An N95 respirator is even more effective when fit to the face. The gold standard for stopping particles is a P100 cartridge respirator, which is used for mold, lead, and asbestos remediation. Those are pricey and need to be fit to the face like a gas mask, while being rough to breathe through. I wear various masks in various circumstances and sometimes I do not wear a mask at all. When I wear the mask, I am not trying to express my devotion to the pandemic response or expecting it to be a Mask of Warding Coronavirus +3. When I don’t wear a mask, I am not trying to repel the Karen legions of Darth Gretchen or blaspheme against the false god of Progressivism. It is just a tool, useful when used properly in some circumstances and not in others.
This is something more general. Hydroxychloroquine has moved from a drug to some kind of totem of your view of Trump. Imagine if aspirin or penicillin was treated the same way, where taking a medication was not just to make you feel better, but a political statement. Guns are tools. It is just as silly to not carry a gun to show your moral superiority as it is to carry a gun to prove you are a real man or as a magical talisman to ward off criminals. When I decided to obtain a gun, I looked into what gun to carry and went with an experienced friend to practice. A gun has no morality. It is not magical. It is only a tool. The same applies to driving a Prius (nicknamed the Pious). The most conservative man I knew in grad school drove a Prius because he liked the gas mileage. It’s a tool to get around, not a sanctuary of worship for mother Earth.
Some things are meant to be symbols — like a cross or a flag. Their whole purpose is to convey a deeper meaning. For other items, we need to remind people that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.Published in