MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2020
Why weren't they wearing masks?: Last Thursday, it finally happened.
CNN's Jim Acosta descended from the heavens and walked among the mortals. He asked (at least) three Trump supporters an obvious question:
Why aren't you wearing a mask?
That's the question Acosta asked. It was a very good question!
That very day, we'd marveled telephonically about the way so many of The Others were crowding together at Trump events, risking grim Covid deaths. Also, about the way no journalists ever seemed to ask that obvious question.
In fairness, it had long been marked as a sign of weakness when mainstream journalists asked The Others what they think or believe. Within our own ridiculous tribe, we routinely criticized major news orgs which engaged in such (obvious) conduct.
Within our own failing tribe, we'd long since agreed on who The Others were—they were and are racists. With this tribal assessment in the can, what else was there to learn?
When news orgs interviewed groups of others, such orgs were treated with scorn. Now, though, Acosta had broken the rules—and he'd asked an extremely good question while sampling a very small N.
Up in Michigan, he'd accosted at least three Trump supporters concerning the absence of masks. As part of Thursday night's "cable news" program, Don Lemon set the scene:
LEMON (9/10/20): A day after the [Robert] Woodward bombshells, the president held a rally in Michigan, No social distancing. A few masks.
Our Jim Acosta caught up with some of the attendees. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Why are you guys not wearing masks?
CNN's Acosta was wearing a mark. He was also asking a very good question! Continuing directly from above, the first answer he received didn't necessarily scan:
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have one with me. It's my prerogative.
ACOSTA: But why not wear one to stay safe?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a hard time understanding people when they talk, so that's why I don't wear it.
ACOSTA: But you can hear me right now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can hear you.
That was the full exchange! This first respondent gave an answer which didn't quite seem to make sense.
Acosta refused to quit. He questioned (at least) two other people. This was the third exchange broadcast by Lemon this night:
ACOSTA: Does it worry you guys at all to be in this crowded space with all these people?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not afraid. The good Lord takes care of me. If I die, I die.
We got to get this country moving. Can't— What are you going to do, wear masks and stay inside for another year? Huh? Where will that get us?
This respondent seemed to acknowledge the risk of death while leaving it all in God's hands. This answer seemed to baffle Lemon, as such things sometimes do.
(Lemon: "OK. I, I don't want to— If you wear a— He's outside, first of all. He's not inside. He can wear a mask. Right? That's like—and he said, if I die, but what about the other people, your fellow man? He said the good Lord. Isn't it you're supposed to look out for— I don't really get it.")
Lemon "didn't really get it." In our experience, this seems to possibly be the case a fair amount of the time.
Acosta's first respondent didn't exactly make sense. This third respondent was leaving it all up to God.
(He may not know that wearing a mask is also supposed to help others. Acosta didn't inquire about that point, and we have no idea.)
We thought Acosta's second respondent gave the most striking response. A god was walking among the mortals, and one of the mortals said this:
ACOSTA: Sir, please tell me. Why are you not wearing a mask?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because there's no Covid. It's a fake pandemic created to destroy the United States of America.
ACOSTA: But the president said to Bob Woodward that there is a virus, the coronavirus, and it is deadly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's his opinion. The truth is, is that CDC said only 10,000 people die from Covid. The other 192,000 have 2.6 or 2.8 other mortalities.
This fellow was at a Trump rally, but he didn't agree with the commander on this minor point!
He said the pandemic is fake, a plot against the United States. He said that only 10,000 people have died from Covid so far.
We're prepared to grade that as a false or mistaken belief. (Others will disagree.) Concerning the CDC and the 10,000 deaths, the respondent was repeating a claim which had come to him live and direct from such sources as Pam Geller and/or the QAnon crowd.
Just last night, the commander held a crowded indoor rally in Henderson, Nevada. One major American newspaper has described the scene as shown:
MEDINA AND KARNI (9/14/20): Thousands of Trump supporters, the vast majority of them forgoing face masks, packed inside a manufacturing plant on Sunday night in a Las Vegas suburb, where President Trump brashly ignored a state directive limiting indoor gatherings to under 50 people.
There were no signs of any attempts at social distancing inside the venue. Attendees wearing red MAGA caps sat in white folding chairs crammed together on the floor of the Xtreme Manufacturing plant, which said on its website that it had “restricted meetings and gatherings to no more than 10 people in large areas.”
Out in the Vegas suburbs, there were more caps than masks! Question:
Why would so many people crowd together without wearing marks? Given the current state of the virus, why would so many people crowd together at all?
Few reporters have bothered to ask. For our money, when Acosta managed to ask three people, he moved to the head of the pack!
False and mistaken beliefs have persistently ruled our failing public discourse. This state of affairs is increasingly prevalent, but it's been the norm for decades.
(Did Al Gore say he invented the Internet? We're willing to call that claim false!)
Mistaken claims are widely sold; they're also widely purchased. And that's where the experts come in.
According to major anthropologists, it's easy for people to spot mistaken beliefs—but only when such destructive beliefs occur within The Other Tribe, especially at times of tribal war.
Why do so many go without masks? Acosta was asking a blindingly basic question. But we've seen no one ask the question in a systematic way.
"Things are in the saddle and ride mankind?" Emerson said it long ago. We aren't perfectly sure what he meant.
Emerson notwithstanding, false belief has been riding our corner of humankind for a very long time now. This may help explain why Candidate Trump is creeping up in some polls.
We'll be exploring the topic all week. We'll even start to explore the false beliefs which have been driving our own failing tribe!
Tomorrow: Douthat tried