THERE is a scene in the television series The Handmaid’s Tale in which hundreds of women stand silently, their faces covered by red masks. These symbols of oppression and obedience can now be seen on every high street in Britain.
Humans are sociable animals. We are not meant to be locked away in solitary confinement and denied the sight of each other’s faces. To be forcibly separated from our loved ones damages our mental health. Masks dehumanise us and feed fear. Yet lockdowns, social isolation and masks are the weapons of choice for politicians in their lunatic ‘war’ on a virus, despite being detrimental to our health, economy and society.
My TCW colleague Will Jones recently explained that making masks mandatory is a political choice, and not a scientific one. Masks are not only useless for combating Covid-19, they can also be harmful to healthy users.
Masks act as filters, not barriers. Surgical masks are useful when visiting a hospital or a vulnerable person as long as they’re worn and disposed of appropriately. But fabric and cheap paper masks worn in other circumstances are hazardous, aiding the transmission of the virus. Masks also weaken children’s immune systems, setting them up for health issues in later life. To see a child in a mask is to witness a form of child abuse.
A mask worn in a shop functions only as a social signifier of virtue and obedience.
The numbers dying from Covid-19 – almost non-existent for the under 50s – don’t support the case for lockdowns either. Yet despite evidence that such restrictions are unnecessary and ineffective, and of their destructive impact on the economy and their cost to society, the vast majority of the public have been persuaded to sacrifice their own wellbeing and expose themselves to other, perhaps greater, health risks to ‘save our NHS’.
An imbalance in thinking persists around Covid-19 discourse. Though it’s possible to believe that this is a dangerous virus for the elderly and vulnerable and, at the same time, question the harmful effects of lockdowns and masks, to do the latter is to be accused of wanting people to die.
How are we to explain why ever more people support lockdown, even though it may well kill more people than it saves, and devastate the economy they depend on. (Ipsos MORI finds an increase in the number in the UK who claim to be following the coronavirus rules, up by 11 percentage points to 73 per cent, compared with 62per cent last month.) How curious is their non-questioning compliance with mask wearing and social isolation, and their willingness to give up everything which gives life meaning and joy. How curious their unconcern that the establishment, whether social media giants or big government, is hovering on the edges of tyranny, and will not tolerate any dissent from their narrative on Covid-19. Why are so many unthinkingly following orders dictated by a political class seemingly drunk on power? The answers to these questions lie in the work of two of the greatest social psychologists of the 20th century, Stanley Milgram and Leon Festinger, with the most grotesque mass social control experiment witnessed in modern times.