Refusing to wear a mask is drinking the kool-aid


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!