Here in Britain, masks are back. Almost all Covid restrictions, including the requirement to wear masks in any setting, were lifted back in July, and it had felt like we were on a slow but sure return to blissful normality. But ‘Omicron’ has changed that, and we’re now expected to wear masks again in shops and on public transport (but not hospitality settings), at least for the next three weeks.
To readers elsewhere in the world, who have in many places been forced to mask up unrelentingly for a year and a half, it may sound churlish to complain. But if there is anything more dispiriting than a freedom curtailed, it is a freedom returned and then snatched away. The message sent is bleak. No, this isn’t over. No, it might never be over. Yes, the state is going to retain its capacity to do this kind of thing, forever – so get used to it.
Arguments over the legitimacy of government mask mandates are frustrating, because they tend to tangle up both normative and empirical assertions. Those in favour of mask wearing tend to argue that masks ‘work’ (an empirical statement), and since they do, it is legitimate for the government to make it unlawful not to wear one (a normative position). From the other corner, the riposte is often that masks ‘don’t work,’ and that since they don’t, the government has no business mandating them.
This all excludes the middle: masks may very well ‘work,’ or they may not, but that is really immaterial to the question of whether wearing them should be a legal requirement. There are plenty of things that might plausibly ‘work’ to stop people getting sick and dying – the government could ban all sales of milkshakes, marshmallows and ice cream tomorrow, for instance, and hence cut down on obesity and heart disease. It doesn’t follow that it should.
The English political philosopher, Michael Oakeshott, helps us frame the argument more clearly. For Oakeshott, there were at work in a modern society two moral systems, that can be referred to as the morality of the ‘individual’ and ‘anti-individual.’ The distinction between these two understandings really hinges on where the capacity to exercise moral choice (to decide what is right or wrong) is located. In the individual moral system, it is for individual people to make such choices as they go about their daily lives (in reference, of course, to their surrounding cultural and social mores and expectations).
Anti-individual morality, on the other hand, puts moral choice in the hands of a clerisy of experts, who themselves decide what is right or wrong and then impose their decision on the masses beneath them.
Mask mandates are the perfect illustration of the dichotomy between these two moral systems. For Oakeshott’s individual morality, it is up to every individual to decide whether wearing a mask is right or wrong. In an anti-individual moral system, on the other hand, it is not for individuals to decide, but for a small cadre of experts who ‘know’ what is right, and are therefore sure that it is legitimate to impose their decision on everybody.
For Oakeshott, anti-individual morality was a ‘moral enormity’ – it deprived individual people of the capacity to make authentic moral choices of their own, and in doing so deprived them of something that ought to be at the core of human dignity. If one is acting only in accordance with what one has been told is right, one is not really a moral agent at all, but a mere role-performer, abiding by strictures simply because they are required. Genuine moral agency can only be contingent on choice; it is only when one has the option to decide for oneself what is right or wrong, and act accordingly, that one can be said to have an authentic morality of one’s own.
There are all kinds of problems with mask mandates, but this seems to me to be the most serious of all: it reduces us all to what can only be described as amorality. We act a certain way just because we have been told that it is right, and for no other reason than that. This can only serve to enervate and infantilise us, and to cause our moral muscles to atrophy.
We increasingly turn not to our own moral compasses, but come to behave as though those moral compasses do not exist at all, other than in the hearts and minds of those who rule us. As a consequence, we come to rely, unreflectingly, on the decisions of our rulers, exercised purportedly on our behalf – a kind of moral outsourcing that will in the long run cause us to lose our willingness or capacity to make moral choices in the first place.
Whether masks work, or don’t work, in ‘stopping the spread’ is thus really beside the point. Nor is it the appropriate question to ask whether one should or should not wear one; it seems to me that either position is legitimate, and I certainly cast no aspersions towards those who choose to mask up. The real question we ought to be asking is: what do we lose when a government decides on our behalf what is morally right, and then forces that decision on us all?
Will 2022 Be the End of America-First News Outlets?
Things are looking grim for conservative and population news sites.
There’s something happening behind the scenes at several popular conservative news outlets. 2021 was bad, but 2022 is proving to be disastrous for news sites that aren’t “playing ball” with the corporate media narrative. It’s being said that advertisers are cracking down, forcing some of the biggest ad networks like Google and Yahoo to pull their inventory from sites like ours. But that narrative isn’t entirely true. It’s not the advertisers themselves who are complaining for the most part. It’s the ad networks who are “woke” and authoritarian that are actually taking down the ads.
Certain topics are anathema for the ad networks. Speaking out against vaccines or vaccine mandates is a certain path to being demonetized. Highlighting voter fraud in the 2020 and future elections is another instant advertising death penalty. Throw in truthful stories about climate change hysteria, Critical Race Theory, and the border crisis and it’s easy to understand how difficult it is for America-First news outlets to spread the facts, share conservative opinions, and still pay the bills.
Without naming names, I have been told of several news outlets who have been forced to either consolidate with larger organizations or who have backed down on covering certain topics out of fear of being “canceled” by the ad networks. I get it. This is a business for many of us and it’s not very profitable. Those of us who do this for a living are often barely squeaking by, so loss of additional revenue can often mean being forced to make cuts. That means not being able to cover the topics properly. Its a Catch-22: Tell the truth and lose the money necessary to keep telling the truth, or avoid the truth and make enough money to survive. Those who have chosen survival simply aren’t able to spread the truth properly.
We will never avoid the truth. The Lord will provide if it is His will. Our job is simply to share the facts, spread the Gospel, and educate as many Americans as possible while exposing the forces of evil.
We need help. I don’t want to say “desperately,” but the need is definitely great. If you have the means, please donate through our GivingFuel page or via PayPal. Your generosity is what keeps these sites running and allows us to get the truth to the masses. We’ve had great success in growing but we know we can do more with your assistance.
Thank you, and God Bless!
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JD Rucker – EIC