Refusing to wear a mask is drinking the kool-aid

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Is there anything more ironic than refusing to wear a mask during the coronavirus pandemic?

While anti-maskers loudly insist that no one can tell them what to do, they are in fact doing exactly what President Trump has pressured them to do: risking their very lives to demonstrate political fealty.

We have an expression for that kind of behavior. It’s called “drinking the kool-aid.”

According to Wikipedia:

“Drinking the Kool-Aid” is an expression used to refer to a person who believes in a possibly doomed or dangerous idea because of perceived potential high rewards… In recent years it has evolved further to mean extreme dedication to a cause or purpose, so extreme that one would “drink the Kool-Aid” and die for the cause.

Refusing to wear a mask is risking death to demonstrate fealty to Donald Trump.

But why “drinking the Kool-Aid”?

The phrase originates from events in Jonestown, Guyana, on November 18, 1978, in which over 900 members of the Peoples Temple movement died. The movement’s leader Jim Jones … proposed “revolutionary suicide” by way of ingesting a powdered drink mix lethally laced with cyanide and other drugs which had been prepared by his aides.

Followers demonstrated their fealty by literally committing suicide.

Refusing to wear a mask is no different. It’s risking suicide to demonstrate fealty to Donald Trump.

It isn’t a mark of independence; it’s a mark of utter, cult-like dependence.

It’s the ultimate “power lie.”

In her fascinating new book Surviving Autocracy, journalist Masha Gessen describes the importance of the “power lie” to a demagogue.

…It is the lie of the bigger kid who took your hat and is wearing it—while denying that he took it.

…[T]he point of the lie is to assert power, to show “I can say what I want when I want to.” The power lie conjures a different reality and demands that you choose between your experience and the bully’s demands: Are you going to insist that you are wet from the rain or give in and say that the sun is shining?

The purpose of the power lie isn’t to get you to believe something that’s untrue, as is the case with ordinary lies. The goal of a power lie is to demonstrate extraordinary power over others by insisting that denying what you know to be true is proof of political fealty.

Donald Trump has deployed the power lie from the very first moments of his presidency. Claims that his inaugural had many more attendees than what everyone could see was his first presidential power lie. By forcing his press secretary Sean Spicer to lie in such an obvious way, he didn’t change the minds of the press nor did he intend to. He was demonstrating his power over Spicer by forcing him to publicly declare something the Spicer and everyone else knew to be a bald faced lie.

Power lies are outlandish lies:

Trump’s lies are outlandish because they are not amendments or embellishments to the shared reality of Americans—they have nothing to do with it. When Trump claimed that millions of people voting illegally cost him the popular vote, he was not making easily disprovable factual claims: he was asserting control over reality itself…

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in an endless stream of Trump power lies:

When, in the winter and spring of 2020, Trump claimed that the United States was prepared for the coronavirus pandemic, when he promised quickly to triumph over the virus, when he said that hospitals had the necessary equipment and people had access to tests, when he promised health and wealth to people facing illness and precarity, he was claiming the power to lie to people about their own experience.

His followers’ refusal to wear masks marks them as willing to embrace the lie to show fealty to Trump.

It isn’t a victory over reality; it is a surrender to an autocrat.

Are you going to believe your own eyes or the headlines? This is the dilemma of people who live in totalitarian societies. Trusting one’s own perceptions is a lonely lot; believing one’s own eyes and being vocal about it is dangerous. Believing the propaganda—or, rather, accepting the propaganda as one’s reality—carries the promise of a less anxious existence, in harmony with the majority of one’s fellow citizens. The path to peace of mind lies in giving one’s mind over to the regime.

Are you going to wear a mask to protect yourself, or are you going to risk your life to demonstrate fealty to Donald Trump? Are you going to believe infectious disease and public health experts or are you going to grasp at peace of mind by believing outrageous lies?

Refusing to wear a mask is drinking the Kool-Aid. It’s not brave, bold or independent. It’s pathetic!

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  • Griffin

    So this is OT, but I wanted to share a dumbass article in The Economist (June 20th 2020 edition) called Ripe for Rebirth. I thought the Economist was better than this. I’m thinking to write them a letter (they publish selected letters from their readers) but maybe it would be best if it came from a professional in the field. Are you interested, Dr. Tuteur?

    “The pandemic is making America rethink its shunning of midwifery
    The quest for safe childbirth

    In a normal year, Robina Khalid might take on 70-80 clients at her midwifery practice in New York City. But 2020 has not been a normal year. She got around 150 calls in the first half of March alone. Some enquiring women were already late in their third trimester, she says, but were terrified of having their babies in a hospital for fear of contracting covid-19. Ms Khalid’s practice was not the only one inundated by calls from women entertaining the idea of a home birth. As the virus spread, so too did interest in alternative birthing options.

    Even in cities at first less hard-hit than New York, many expectant mothers avoided hospitals where they could. Nancy Gaba, chair of obstetrics and gynaecology at the George Washington University Hospital in Washington, dc, noticed an initial uptick in unplanned home births around the time the World Health Organisation (who) declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.

    In the past, midwives have tended to be marginalised in America. Licensing rules vary across states, and insurance coverage for midwifery services is patchy. By contrast, Sweden has a 300-year-old tradition of professional midwifery. When a hospital in London recently went into partnership with a football stadium to give women a safe place for their prenatal check-ups during the pandemic, midwives were among the staff immediately brought in to help. In poorer countries, too, midwives are essential to maternal and public health.

    Beyond the pandemic, American women face two problems that licensed midwives can help with. First, America is one of only 13 countries where the maternal mortality rate increased between 2000 and 2017, putting it in the august company of Venezuela and Syria. The risk of dying during childbirth can be exacerbated by a lack of trust between patients and health workers. In America that is especially true for black women, who die from pregnancy-related complications at more than three times the rate that white women do. Midwives cannot perform complex surgery or deliver babies for women with certain chronic health problems. But they can support low-risk women through labour. That frees doctors to do the harder stuff.

    Second, because midwives’ calling-card is not intervening in labour, collaboration between midwives and obstetricians has been shown to lower the number of Caesarean sections. Nearly a third of babies born in America each year are delivered by c-section. But the who reckons that the necessary rate hovers between 10% and 15%. Caesarian deliveries can be life-saving for new-born babies and mothers, but they are major surgeries. They increase the risk of infection, haemorrhages and blood clots. George Washington University Hospital introduced midwifery services a decade ago, and has since seen its c-section rate drop by nearly 6%.

    Will the interest in midwifery outlast the pandemic? It seems likely. The practice was growing even before the virus started to spread. And collaboration between doctors and midwives can prove effective. “Our doctors were willing to learn from our midwife colleagues,” says Dr Gaba. “If other places could do something like that, I think women would really benefit.””

    • rational thinker

      The thing about low-risk is you are until you aren’t, and most of the time that low risk status can change to high risk real fast like ten seconds fast. They should have been honest about that in this article. They also should be honest about the chances of catching covid in the hospital, because in any hospital the labor and delivery unit is isolated from all other departments and usually isolated to its own floor at that.

      • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

        I am rewatching Call the Midwife and one thing I liked was they showed the downside of delivering at home. And I understand that in that time and place,(just barely post WW2 Britain) community nurse/midwives were a great resource. And possibly could be still in some circumstances. But even with that said when something happened like retained placenta or eclampsia, the situations in the show could turn from joyous to tragic in minutes, sometimes after having called and while waiting for the OB Flying squad and a ambulance.

    • What they never talk about is if you lower the C-section rate, you have a higher infant mortality and morbidity rate. Now, to me, I’d rather see higher C-section rate and lower amount of deaths and injuries, but maybe The Economist isn’t on the same page?

      • rational thinker

        If I ever got pregnant again and had a choice of 2 different hospitals (as an example), one of them having a 40% section rate and the other has a 20% section rate, I know which one I would be going to and which one I would run away from. I will happily take the 40%.
        The NCB industry has brainwashed women with lies about sections. They make it sound dangerous because they can’t do one only a real doctor can. If they can’t scare some women then they try to make them feel like they are not “real women”. Sadly that does work and these women are guilted into a vaginal birth even if it is dangerous for mom,baby or both.

        When I had my son they would not do one unless it was an emergency and it almost was. That hospital was shifting to some woo and trying to get the BFHI certification. i think my Ob was pressured by the hospital to push for more vaginal births because out of every Ob in town he actually had the most sections.

        My son should have been a section they knew how big he was too. After having 4th degree tears and my perenium is one big scar.

      • Griffin

        I read The Economist (a British weekly magazine) because it gives a really good overview on the politics of countries all over the world but this piece sucked. Here’s the letter I am going to send them (part of it was based on Dr. Tueur’s many posts on the subject 🙂 )

        “Sir/Madam,

        Your recent article (“Ripe for rebirth”, June 20th) repeats the WHO edict that “the necessary caesarean section rates hovers between 10% and 15%”, insinuates that average caesarean section (CS) rates of 33% in the US are bad, and comments that CS is a perilous surgery that increases the risk of infection, haemorrhage, and blood clots.

        This poorly researched piece parrots the insidious demonization of CSs that has led to untold pain and suffering for many women and babies over the past few decades. The WHO has long been criticised for simply making up their “necessary” range on ideological grounds rather than on science: in 2009, it admitted that “there is no empirical evidence for an optimum percentage”. By contrast, there is considerable evidence that CS rates below 20% associate with excess maternal and neonatal mortality whereas CS rates as high as 55% do not. Moreover, on comparing elective CS to attempted vaginal birth (a significant proportion of which turn into unexpected emergency CSs, which must be conducted under suboptimal conditions with at-risk patients), CS is actually much safer for babies; moreover, if long-term complications of (attempted) vaginal birth such as pelvic floor disorders, sexual dysfunction, and post-traumatic stress disorder are considered along with short-term complications, elective CS is just as safe (if not safer) for women.

        The ideology against CS is partly driven by midwives, who cannot perform CSs and thus lose market share. In addition, in the US, midwifery is often poorly regulated: many women have found to their cost (sometimes their lives and/or their babies’ lives) that midwives who have attended a mere 20 births along with a short ‘natural-birthing’ course cannot adequately replace extensively trained obstetricians in hospitals containing foetal heart monitors and operating tables.

        Until recently, the birthing model of the Netherlands was to shuffle all ‘low-risk’ women into midwife-led care and homebirth. This model has since been abandoned by large swathes of the population because they finally realized that the economics (let alone duty of care) don’t stack up: there is still no way to be 100% certain that a pregnant woman will not develop deadly complications while giving birth. Consequently, the hidden cost of the midwife-led homebirth model was grievously borne by the babies and mothers. In addition, childbirth is often agonisingly painful and midwives are not qualified to provide adequate pain relief. This societal realization has also contributed to the wholesale abandonment of the midwife-led homebirth model by the Dutch.

        There is a reason why the first most dangerous day in your life is the day of your birth (the next most dangerous day is when you enter your 90th year): childbirth is an inherently deadly process. CS is an essential tool that helps babies and mothers safely through this period. It should not be demonized. I hope that that The Economist will research this area more fully before it writes on this topic again.”

        • rational thinker

          That is a great response letter, very informative.

          • Griffin

            Thank you! I changed it a bit, so I edited my previous post. It’s sent off now, lets see if they respond.

  • Stella

    I really can’t understand what the argument is against having to wear a mask. Traditional Libertarian arguments against the Nanny State telling you to Eat Your Vegetables goes something like this:

    – If you’re not harming anyone else, you should be able to take whatever risks you like with your own body.
    – In cases where your actions *might* harm someone else (e.g. drink driving – though AFAIK only really hardcore Libertarians support repealing drink-drive laws) it should be down to individuals to balance risks and benefits of taking one course of action against those of the alternatives; should your actions harm a third party, said third party can always sue you for fair compensation.

    Option 1 is out since the point of wearing a mask is to stop you from spreading the virus, so this isn’t a case of “The only person I’m hurting is myself.” As for Option 2: I can think of circumstances where drink driving might be the lesser of a number of evils – it might be necessary to escape severe, immediate and unforeseeable danger to oneself. Of course it’s almost always a stupid and incredibly risky thing to do, but it’s possible that someone might find themselves in a situation where the risks of staying put and waiting for alternative transport or the police to arrive are greater.

    But I can’t think of any situation where the risks of not wearing a face mask are greater than the risks of wearing one – aside from breathing difficulties, which are already grounds for exemption (in the UK, don’t know about the US). So I don’t see what these people are basing their objections on.

    • Grey Sweater

      If masks allow us to get back to some kind of normal, improve the economy and be able to see our families, it is absolutely unfathomable to me that anyone would resent something so simple.

    • Alia

      I’m uncomfortable wearing a mask, so it must be a bad thing – at least that’s the attitude I see in people around me (my mother-in-law complains all the time about it). And some people add pseudo-scientific arguments of dangerous levels of carbon dioxide or risk of fungal infection in the lungs, because humidity (I kid you not!).

      • Stella

        CO2 poisoning? I’d still roll my eyes and facepalm, but I’d be able to forgive these people’s dumb and paranoid but understandable concern for the health of their lungs. I’m betting they’d claim that they’re more likely to contract a fungal infection from wearing a mask than they are to contract Covid-19 from *not* wearing one; I’d also be willing to leave the fact that this is wrong aside for a moment.

        But, when it comes to stuff that’ll damage your lungs, isn’t the dear orange-haired leader of these morons in favour of repealing bans on white asbestos because he’s fallen for the industry propaganda that “Chrysotile is OK, in fact the body can get rid of small amounts of chrysotile on its own. It’s the Amosite and Crocidolite that caused all those deaths and diseases.”

        • PeggySue

          Some ever-so-superior being posted on Twitter a series of photos of people in masks, connected to a machine that showed huge numbers purporting to show lethal levels of CO2. That, the poster said, was proof of what the government wasn’t telling us. Many problems here, but the first was that all the masked people in the photos were bright, alert, awake, with no sign of illness. Which is not what people tend to look like when their CO2 level is lethal. I said, I don’t know what that machine is showing, but it isn’t what you say it is. Poster arrogantly responded that the photos came “from a professional,” and accused me of a “classic case of confirmation bias.” You can’t fix stupid.

          • rational thinker

            If this did come from a professional it was most likely a professional PHOTOGRAPHER. She is demonstrating appeal to authority to make it look credible which shows that it is not credible.

            You are absolutely right, you can’t fix stupid. If the poster was being truthful you would expect all the people in those photos to be some shade of gray/blue.

          • PeggySue

            Yes, I was a hospice chaplain for ten years and saw plenty of gray/blue, and the patients weren’t sitting up looking all chipper either. Strange how that works. The humor in hospice can be very dark, and sometimes when going to ask a nurse to assess a patient, we who were not medical would say, “Could you assess the patient in room X, they look a little D-E-A-D to me.”

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      Speaking as someone rather more than not inclined towards the libertarian bent, there’s also just plain common courtesy and respect.
      To preface, I wear a mask everywhere anyway. It’s the polite thing to do at this point, and needless to say, I don’t want to get anyone sick if I happen to be asymptomatic and therefore unaware that I’m caring the damn thing. However, if a business asks me to wear one to come in their business, you’d better believe I wear it, and would even if I didn’t otherwise. Why? Because their business, their building, their rules, and if I don’t like ’em, I’d shop elsewhere. Period.

  • Mel

    A common complaint made of all political parties is that politicians motivate voters on various issues, then fail to do much of anything about that issue once in power.

    Trump seemed especially good at motivating various working-class white people while gutting various services that those constituents needed.

    Now he seems to be hell-bent on seeing how many of his potential voters he can kill off prior to the 2020 election. Cynical me can see how a politician can keep loyalty while screwing his voters over – but I feel like killing the voters may make reelection much harder……

    • Killing voters historically isn’t an impediment in Chicago, but Trump hasn’t carried Illinois.

  • rational thinker

    I have a friend that is constantly praising Trump and complains about having to wear a mask. She said one time that she wishes she would just catch corona virus already so she can just take Hydroxychloroquine for 3 days and get better then have a natural immunity. Why does she believe this? If you ask her she will say “cause Trump said so”. I told her that because a lot of people have been taking this drug in the hope that they will either prevent catching the virus themselves or cure themselves of the virus and because of this Lupus patients are having trouble getting their medication or not getting it all. Their lives depend on taking this drug. Her response “So? what, who cares about them,oh well”.

    This is that friend I post about on here sometimes. It’s funny how she will risk the lives and heath of her children but when she found out I never breastfed and only gave formula to my kids she said, ” Why did you have kids if you not breastfeed? If you are just going to neglect them like that then just don’t have them”.

    • She probably won’t learn anything, but this is not a mild illness. People are sick for weeks or months and can have permanent lung damage. Houston, TX is up to 97% ICU occupancy because of this, with the pandemic just starting to really ramp up. Below are comments from people who’ve survived Covid-19 infections that range from moderate to severe; even the “moderate” cases sound horrific.

      https://imgur.com/gallery/nQt4JtO

      • rational thinker

        You’re right she won’t learn anything until its too late. The thing that really scares me is that she is working in the homes of several elderly people. She said her kids will be fine because she gives them spinach and kale smoothies every morning. I don’t know if she is blissfully ignorant or just plain stupid.

        The other day she tried to “explain’ to me that there are not really over 100,000 people dead from the virus, and that the real number is about 3,000. She claimed that the democratic party is putting cause of death on death certificates as covid 19 to try to get Trump to lose the election. Clearly she doesn’t know shit about how death certificates work.

        • Sarah

          Or that the US isn’t the only country in the world. Maybe, just maybe the Democrats could somehow convince coroners in the US to falsely declare COVID as the cause of death, but that doesn’t explain the hundreds of thousands of deaths in other countries.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Exactly. 2020 is not an election year in Italy, for example.

          • Grey Sweater

            I’m fascinated by these particular conspiracy theorists. Imagine the coordination, cooperation and cleverness it would take for leaders world over to pull off such a scam when many of them can’t even manage to get their citizens to wear masks.

          • StephanieJR

            Anyone who’s ever worked in a group project knows just how damn impossible it is to get anyone to work together on time.

        • Yea, that’s right, all the MEs in the US, including in right-leaning states like TX, FL, and GA, are willing to commit fraud and professional misconduct that would cost them their licenses in order to … make the POTUS look bad? How the … ? What the … ? That just doesn’t even begin to make any sense.

        • Grey Sweater

          I also have a friend who worships at the altar of healthy food and everything “natural”. Doesn’t vaccinate her five (!) kids because their lifestyles will protect them from wildly contagious and disfiguring viruses apparently. It’s impossible to break through sadly.

    • Griffin

      Cripes, what a dreadful person! The only reason I’d be around such a person is anthropological curiosity!

      • rational thinker

        LOL, I do have to admit I am always curious about what crazy shit she will say next. Lately I just keep getting more and more disgusted by her comments and her perceived superiority.

  • Griffin

    Honestly, whenever I read about people or communities refusing to wear masks, I send them a mental Darwin Award.

    • MaineJen

      For real…sometimes these problems solve themselves

  • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

    Sorry to derail the conversation but many of the victims at Jonestown were not suicides, they were murdered, also Jim Jones armed security people had the compound/people surrounded and had weapons.

    “The first news reports made it sound like those who died in Jonestown did so by mass suicide, drinking cyanide-laced drinks (hence the offensive expression). It’s not true. The first murdered at Jonestown were senior citizens, children and babies; the poison was squirted into their mouths. Others thought they were participating in a drill.”

    “Some ran into the jungle, others hid under beds, but most were intimidated into drinking the poison.”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/11/18/the-phrase-drank-the-koolaid-is-completely-offensive-we-should-stop-saying-it-immediately/

    • KQ Not Signed In

      Thanks for posting this, I was about to say the same. There are also audio recordings of that day, and they are utterly horrific.

      Also, it was Flavor-Aid. That one’s a nitpick though and doesn’t change the existent idiom.

      • Christine O’Hare

        I was totally going to mention it being Flavor-Aid! Cuz lets face it, cults are known for their brand loyalty.

    • StephanieJR

      In that case, I suppose the people who are vulnerable – the elderly, immune compromised, etc – are stand ins for these victims; the unwilling who die anyway because of the cult leader’s goals.

    • Grey Sweater

      Thanks for adding this context. The real story is even more upsetting than what is commonly referenced.

    • If my memory serves, they previously did drills with un-poisoned beverages.

      • MaineJen

        Yes, they had been woken up in the early morning hours for these “drills” several times. Many did not realize it was actual poison this time until the children started dying…then it was a matter of, fight your way past the armed guards into a world in which you have killed your baby, or take the poison yourself. Horrific.