Home Coronavirus culture war The Emperor's New Mask
Home Coronavirus culture war The Emperor's New Mask

The Emperor's New Mask

The NFL is testing face masks, not for the fans in the stands, but for the players. Is there a face mask in the world that will stop virus particles from being inhaled when the players are inches apart and slamming into each other at high speeds? Probably not. But masks have become a cultural symbol.

That’s why masks are being deployed in environments where they’re ridiculous and useless.

A strip club in Wyoming reopened with mandatory masks. At restaurants in Atlanta, waiters wear face masks. Both are equally silly. Non-medical masks might stop large droplets, but won’t stop small ones. People interacting at close range will be producing small droplets that a cloth mask won’t stop. When everyone is inches away from each other, talking and exchanging money, the masks are just a fetish.

What a mask says is more important than what it does. That's why it's the symbol of the rioters who flock in hundreds and thousands, screaming and yelling, while wearing masks to cover their faces. It's why Governor Whitmer and Governor Murphy violated her own executive orders, marching closely with Black Lives Matter racists while wearing masks to show two types of political virtue.

Governor Andrew Cuomo claimed that masks are a symbol of “respect”. He’s partly right. Masks are a symbol, but not of respect. Cuomo, whose policies killed thousands of nursing home residents, understands that better than any of the gullible yuppie emigrants to New York who made him a hero.

Against an intangible virus and the fear it spreads, masks are a protective fetish and a badge of moral superiority. To wear a mask is to say that you are a responsible person who obeys public officials.

The mask is a badge of citizenship in a lockdown society. And is instinctively rejected by opponents of it.

Clothing retailers from the Gap to Nordstrom have jumped on the mask bandwagon. There is already a ‘Mask of the Month’ club that will send you a customized mask and a Baltimore gay leather bar is selling masks with shirtless firemen on them. Major fashion designers offer premium priced masks and Disney, which never misses a licensing opportunity, will sell you Mickey Mouse masks to stave off the virus.

Why is there such a proliferation of individualistic mask designs, many of which are actually less effective than the baseline blue surgical mask? Because the masks are part of the wearer’s identity.

Advertising for these masks doesn’t delve into the medical effectiveness of their construction.

A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases found a "wide variation in filtration efficiency" among different types of fabrics. It also noted that, "a mask made from a four-layer woven handkerchief fabric, of a sort that might be found in many homes, had 0.7% filtration efficiency for 0.3 micron size particles."

Customized brand masks, like those sold by Disney, are usually polyester and especially bad.

"Don't use a synthetic or a polyester because they've looked at the virus's ability to survive on surfaces, and spandex is the worst," Dr. Daniel Griffin, a Columbia U expert on infectious diseases had warned.

The customized mask industry is selling people the illusion of protection while actually endangering them. But the mask isn’t a medical solution. Like many politically correct products, it signals the wearer’s virtue by showing that he or she cares about other people. And is on board with current trends.

"We care a lot about you people cause we're out to save the world," Faith No More sang. "It's a dirty job but someone's gotta do it."

Social justice claims to care and to look down at those who don’t. Caring about the coronavirus is only the latest incarnation of caring about acid rain, the whales, poverty, racism, war and all the phobias. Good people care about socially relevant crises and show that they care by wearing something.

These days that’s a mask.

It’s a dirty piece of polyester choked with bacteria, but somebody’s gotta wear it to save the world.

Buying a mask that donates a percentage of sales to a charity, and then wearing this new style in public is the new t-shirt or bumper sticker. It spreads awareness and shames those who are still ‘unaware’.

The whole point of caring about things isn’t just the ego boost, it’s to look down at those who don’t. What good is gaining a higher social status by wearing a status symbol if you can’t look down at those who aren’t wearing that thing which conveys to everyone passing by that you are better than them?

Wearing a mask was initially discouraged. The public was told that masks were reserved for health care professionals. And then it was not only encouraged, but mandated. Now every urban hipster cheering vicariously for our ‘health care heroes’ can wear a mask and sneer at those who just don’t care.

The only problem is that it’s hard to sneer while wearing a mask. That’s what the customization is for.

Fetish objects of social responsibility cause more problems than the ones they claim to be solving.

Electric cars are worse for the environment than regular cars. Reusable shopping bags spread disease. And it’s not unusual to see mask wearers clustering together outside artisanal coffee shops and hip eateries, chattering in the certainty that the magic of their masked moral superiority will protect them.

Like celebrities announcing that they’re saving the planet by wearing the same tuxedo or dress to the different award shows in the different cities and on the different continents that they jet between, the mask is a meaningless fetish object that provides social approbation for a multitude of riskier behaviors.

Masked NFL players from opposing teams are not going to be protected from spreading the virus to each other by wearing masks under their helmets. Wearing masks doesn’t make a restaurant or strip club safe. But wearing masks while taking everything else off is what passes for progressive virtue.

The point is not to protect anyone, but to care.

Governor Cuomo, who lectures non-mask wearers on respect, cares. Not enough to protect the 5% of New York’s nursing home population who died of the coronavirus when he ordered these facilities to accept coronavirus patients. But he cares enough to constantly talk about how much he cares.

And that, like a stripper in a mask, is what progressive virtue looks like. It’s naked, but covered in a false face. The emperor wears no clothes, except for the façade of caring concealing his true face.

“Virtue has a veil, vice a mask,” Victor Hugo once wrote.

Wearing a mask is about appearing to be a better person without being a better person. That is what the fetishes of social responsibility, whether it’s farm-to-table food or flying on carbon credits, are about.

Social responsibility has always been about putting on masks of political correctness, of environmental concern, or benevolence toward the lower classes that conceal the real face of the leftist. Now the masks have stopped being a metaphor. And the metaphor is something you buy and wear outside.

The masks may be real, but the virtues of social responsibility they represent are just as hollow.

Being a good person is hard work, but anyone can put on a mask.

Daniel Greenfield is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This article previously appeared at the Center's Front Page Magazine.

Thank you for reading.


  1. Masks will mean a lot of time out .You can't breathe thru them very long under heavy physical activity. Just means more commercials. F#ck all sports, shut them down.

  2. Anonymous10/6/20

    Symbols and Virtue Signals; how easily, thoroughly
    we are being deceived! Our face expressed our joy,
    sorrow, earnest intent, and identity. Only bandits
    would cover up. An open and direct society.

    Muslim females, Muslim male killers, Antifa
    arrogantly masked up before Covid. Now, it’s
    Virtuous. Violent thugs, politicians, miscreants
    are even more indistinguishable (if possible).

    Stylish masks, lapel pins for vegan, Volvo, Prius,
    LGBT, Apple and Coexist festoon poseurs like gaudy
    merit badge stalactites. If you see such specimens,
    they are the enemy; treat them as such.


  3. Anonymous10/6/20

    The faceless, mindless, muzzled, "all in this together" hordes of perpetual victims and virtue-signaling poseurs with no moral compass and zero common sense. This is our society, and such society has zero chances of long-term survival. A.S.

  4. Pretty sure I've already had the China Virus, so I just wear the same paper mask over and over...because it's still required by places I want to go. It's on the passenger seat of my car, at the ready should I want to stop anywhere.

    Look, If you're OLD and/or SICK...sure wear a mask. If you're not, just stop it. When they said we need to develop "herd immunity" they didn't mean you have to act like sheep for heaven's sake. Around here, you see people alone in their cars, with masks on. Seriously? Are they hysterical, lazy or crazy?

  5. I have posted this a number of places since all this insanity about Wuhan & masks & social distancing started. Frequently it is taken down.
    Please feel free to add to my list. Feel free also to correct any grammar or unclear questions. My questions are not intended to give any of the petty tyrants any ideas.

    1) If indeed the masks &/or gloves were trapping the virus supposedly in the air, then why are there no Red Hazardous waste bins all over for mask &/or glove proper hazardous waste disposal?

    2) Also logic should tell anyone (with half a brain) that if virus were in the air it would not just land selectively on the mask &/or gloves. Therefore clothes & exposed skin & hair would be contaminated (wear a burka). Doesn’t that mean that if one does not disrobe before entering their house & hose off with hot water & disinfectant then burn clothing, they are brining virus into the home?

    3) Purchase items on your outing? Shouldn’t they be disinfected before taking in your home & your vehicle completely disinfected?

    4) Also if one might become infected during a trip to WM or anyplace else then why are we not told to self quarantine for 14 days after each time we venture out?

    5) If #4 is true then you must not come in contact with your house mates for 14 days?

    Just a few questions that should be ask of anyone advocating for the silly mask & glove routine.
    “Keeping an actually sick person at home is quarantine. Keeping a healthy person at home is tyranny!”

  6. Anonymous11/6/20

    Masks interfere with respiration. Football players in masks?

    We are being trained to be docile. Wear a mask, follow the arrows on the supermarket floor, stay 6' away from the next person. In fact, just stay home. And while the nice people are cowering in their homes, the anarchists can run freely thru the streets.

  7. Anonymous11/6/20

    D.M.: your comments remind me of the Boy in the Bubble. The person who follows your very logical suggestions will be without a functioning immune system. The minute they get the 'all clear' from the authorities and step outside, maskless, ungloved, clothes threadbare from all the laundering ~ they are doomed.


  8. Anonymous13/6/20

    What about accessibility? Those of us who are hearing impaired have huge difficulties communicating with those wearing masks.

  9. Anonymous13/6/20

    Virtue signaling progressives seemed shocked and confused on TV when they were forced to hunkering down inside their shops and beg being spared. ‘We are on your side’ they shouted as bricks and petrol bombs were hurled at them. I’ll explain for them. When you deny being racist you are being even guiltier. How dare you complain, this is not looting is reparations, bro. Last stage is confessing your crimes and thanking for being executed. Welcome to the USSA (one S goes for soviet, in case you hadn't guessed)


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