Dissecting a press release pressuring you to wear a mask
When I wrote a book about the pipeline protest, one of the things I did was dissect the reporting put out by media which painted a skewed picture of what was going on.
In the past, I've been a reporter and also spent many years writing marketing copy for various blogs and websites. It is the latter which taught me how to overcome the no-nonsene approach I learned from the former. As a content marketer, I learned how to carefully choose words with just the right amount of vagueness and ambiguity to bend a pliable reader to the direction I needed them to go.
You cannot be a pliable reader any longer.
As I recently wrote, politicians and those in power use language in a tricky way. Rarely is it intended to provide information on its own, but instead, wrap it in words that provoke a certain response in the reader.
Recent high case counts in the Bismarck area have prompted the governor to create a task force, which includes the mayor of Bismarck. As is to be expected, the messaging coming out of the mayor's office is in lockstep with the governor. I don't know if a "task force" is a gubernatorial gestapo that shows up and turns mayors into puppets or if this is truly what the mayor believes.
I will write a blog post about why I don't join political parties or organizations for another day, but suffice it to say that it has much to do with expectations of loyalty superceding personal conviction.
What I want to do is basically pull apart the task force messaging that just came out, and show you how you need to start reading this stuff. First, here are the screenshots so you know I'm not making it up.
Let's get started with some of the trickier bits. I'll pose the questions you might want to ask as you read such material. Some might seem argumentative or facetious, but again, tricky language requires sharp prodding and cutting to get to the heart of it.
Opening two paragraphs announce what this press release is all about. There's some suggestive material in there (e.g. mask awareness and education is on the path to stopping the spread of a virus), but for the most part it's pretty standard.
The focus of the mask awareness and education campaign is to join together to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the community. "We can only beat this virus if we are united as a community to stop the spread of COVID-19. I invite you to mask up and join me in doing your part. It is essential to wear a mask in order to protect one another. By wearing a mask when you're in public, you protect yourself and you protect others," said Mayor Bakken.
Is beating the virus our goal? Was it the original goal? What does it look like to beat a virus? At what defined point is the virus beaten? How do we normally "beat" viruses?
The original goal was to flatten the curve and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed, not stop a virus. They have moved the goal posts and no one is calling them on it. Viruses evolve and weaken and only die out when people are no longer sickened by them because of herd immunity. They reappear when enough people who haven't been exposed to them exist. That is how viruses are "beaten," through immunity.
Immunity comes from exposure and your amazing body creating antibodies, or through a vaccine. Please put a pin in these two, because we are going to come back to these in a bit.
As usual, there is a shame/guilt aspect going on, that cajoling language that says if you do not wear a mask, you are not a team player. This threads throughout this press release.
"We're all in this together. Let's get kids back to school, preserve our local economy, and keep our community strong! Together we will overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and emerge stronger. Let's come together to keep Bismarck the safe, resilient community we know and love."
I've talked about the emotional manipulation that has been used during this pandemic through the use of slogans and hashtags. It has been used by our state health department, our governor, media, advertisers, celebrities -- the whole lot. A bizarre covid culture has been normalized through mindless repetition.
But do you see the subtle threat here? Remember, this entire press release is couched in the terms of getting everyone to wear a mask without the electoral damage of levying a likely unpopular mask mandate. So with that framing in mind, we have kids going to school, an economy, and a strong community tied to...wearing masks. There seems to be no question in the playbook of leadership that these things can happen regardless of mask usage or meaningless positive case counts. (Yes, meaningless.)
We know we'll overcome COVID-19 regardless of what we do, because the viral curve is always going to be the same. If you lockdown you flatten it temporarily, but you will always have to expect the virus to move through the population to the herd immunity point and then it wanes. It will have very little to do with masks or other political gambits.
During the pandemic response, scientists have determined wearing a mask is of benefit to you, and to those around you. There is a growing body of evidence that cloth face coverings help to prevent the person wearing the mask from spreading COVID-19 to others. The main protection individuals gain from masking occurs when others in their communities also wear face coverings.
This paragraph is a serious mind f**k. Sorry to be crude, but it really is. As you were reading, this one should have screamed at you.
What scientists? All scientists? Do doctors count? Which experts don't count and why? Do doctors who treat actual patients count? All of them? Or only some of them? Is the body of evidence only growing to support one conclusion? Is there contradictory evidence? Are contradictory experts and studies being removed from the internet? Is contradictory evidence enough to not force mandates? Does evidence of masks harming people count in this equation?
I have a folder packed with articles and studies that state that masks sometimes work, don't work, work only in certain usage situations, only certain materials work some of the time, are not beneficial, don't effectively stop cold and flu viruses, are only necessary for symptomatic, are only required of about 10% of the population -- there's a growing body of evidence that makes it pretty clear it's not settled. And the removal of content that goes against the mask mandates is highly problematic. We all know of the videos, websites, and articles that social media and the tech overlords have been pulling down this year. What's interesting is that some of the studies I downloaded in April that concluded masks are not unquestionably effective are now retracted. You can't find them. Neat trick, right?
What this paragraph does is shut down any slight questioning of the party line by stating: The science is concluded. No need to ask questions. If you wear it you won't get others sick because masks are about not being selfish. But also masks work best if everyone wears them.
Does that sound logically solid to you?
If a mask works so conclusively, keep prisoners in jail. If a mask works, it shouldn't matter if everyone wears them. If the science is settled, why keep pulling down the information that says otherwise? If masks work so well, why do we see cases increasing in places that wear them religiously? If the science was settled, why do you have to keep telling us that while we ALL SEE VIDEOS AND ARTICLES BEING REMOVED THAT WOULD SAY OTHERWISE.
The campaign will include[s] a series of public service announcements broadcast locally and available at blah blah blah. [Then there's a link to an article that reinforces that masks help slow the spread of the WuFlu.]
I always get a little wary when the government announces their solution, a task force, is going to focus on education. Education, re-education -- whatever you want to call it. So what this means is that we get to look forward to a barrage of slogans, shame, guilt, and peer pressure to wear masks on all of our taxpayer funded government media channels! And oh, for reference to support these statements, here's one link. See, the science is settled.
How neat. I can't wait for the billboards telling me that good folks wear masks, because I have a one-fingered gesture I'm really good at.
About the only science that's settled is gravity.
I really want to encourage you to read a recent blog post about a Yale study that is testing messaging in order to get hesitant people to take the Big Rona vaccine. You will recognize the techniques they will use to get people who are hesitant to finally agree, because they are the same techniques that have been used to pressure people to wear masks. What that tells me is that what you are seeing with masks is what you will see with a vaccine:
- Online Karens shaming and blaming those who won't wear masks.
- Sloganizing and repeated messaging by government officials, the ad council, celebrities, and media to wear down people through repetition and just accept the behavior asked of them because it's too hard to keep fighting the constant pressure, kind of like a messaging version of waterboarding or playing loud music constantly to break prisoners down for the Gitmo our country is turning into.
- Those above described people who drank the Kool Aid and have become zombies will turn towards others still trying to use their brains independantly and eat them alive until they cave.
- Negative qualities and outcomes will be associated with anyone who does not comply.
- Associating normal life with something you can now only have in exchange for a behavior they want from you, which is a super duper garbage heap that you should reject. You don't have to exchange one for the other; the government doesn't own the thing they dangle in front of you. It's your's already.
It used to be we were trying to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed. We seemed to understand what a virus does. But then non-practicing-doctor bean counter Fauci got on the cover of Vanity Fair and threw the world's worst baseball pitch and started believe his own PR, and it became about wearing masks and goggles and maybe Alan Shephard's space suit and who knows what else as if we could wrap the country in plastic and save ourselves.
So what if the cases go up? So what? I'm asking seriously. Why do we want to slow the spread? Let's get this curve peaked and on the way down as fast as we can. I look at a growing positive case count as a) a questionable count for many reasons, b) the path to herd immunity. I'm glad the younger demographics have such high case counts. They are going to get us to herd immunity and we'll all be better off. That's when we get back to normal, not by wearing fabric over our face.
The goal is to save lives, so we protect the demographic that has the slightly higher mortality rate. But the data is clear that the virus, almost a year out from when it emerged aggressively in China, is not as fatal for the majority of people. We look at case counts and send out Orwellian press releases instead of simply keeping people focused on the original goal of keeping hospitals from being overwhelmed and protecting susceptible people (e.g. nursing homes).
You know how you end a pandemic? You stop watching the news, and listening to Big Brother. You don't happily line up for a test when you don't feel sick at all, because you don't do that during flu season, do you? You stop checking the daily Pandemia Daily Death Count O' Panic! and go about your business. You live life normally, even though there's a lot of dehumanizing going on that makes it difficult.
Oh for leaders who simply would say: we have a spike in case counts. we encourage those who want to wear masks to feel free. make the best choices you can to stay healthy according to your own determination of acceptable risk. our hospitals are ready. we'll use all treatments available. the mortality rate for this disease is low. here are ways to keep your immune system healthy.
But instead we get creepy election year language salads dosed with dressing made out of double speak.
The mayor invites me to wear a mask. I respectfully decline, and refuse to comply.