Barbara Koeppel Original

A Pain In the Mask: The Freedom Fighters’ Fuss

Why does a simple ordinance to protect community health make people pretend freedom is an absolute?
Demonstrators hold signs as they protest the lockdown and wearing masks Saturday, June 27, 2020, in Huntington Beach, Calif. [AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez]

By Barbara Koeppel / Original to Scheerpost

Given the clamor from the never-wear-masks folks who insist that the Democrats want to take away their freedoms, you’d think they lived on some other-worldly planet or county.  

Where does anyone live sans rules? Politicians repeatedly remind us that the U.S. is a nation of rules and laws. And, most people follow most of them. Moreover, if they broke some of the boilerplate variety, they could soon land in court or the slammer. Just as dramatic, if they ignore those set by the market — which means you have to pay to play — they’ll lose basic goods or services.

Thus, we ask how long they’d be free to:

  • Speed down a city street at 60 miles an hour in a 25-mile-an hour zone?
  • Drive while mildly or majorly drunk?
  • Smoke in smoke-free buildings or airplanes?
  • Board airplanes without passing through security checks and relinquishing water or shampoo bottles larger than three ounces?
  • Stroll naked down Main Street?
  • Marry three women—all at once?
  • Stop paying child support?
  • Falsely scream “fire” in a movie or theater?
  • Chop down a neighbor’s tree that’s blocking their view?
  • Let their dogs run free in cities with leash laws?
  • Have sex with someone under 16, 17 or 18? (the “age of consent” varies by state)
  • Make obscene phone calls?
  • Neglect to shovel the snow on the sidewalk in front of their house?
  • Threaten someone with a knife or gun?
  • Play the drums on a street corner past the city’s noise ordinance hour?
  • Steal and murder?

As for the market-based rules, do those who are so miffed about masks ignore utility bills or car loans? Doubtful, unless they’re happy to live without electricity or water (hard to do in any season, let along now, when temperatures hover over 85 in much of the country), or have their cars disappear with the tow truck?

So what’s so different about requiring people to wear masks — temporarily — until the virus has abated? It’s but one of hundreds of rules we follow daily.

We learn about rules early on. Children in nursery school and kindergarten that some behavior isn’t welcome.

We learn about rules early on. Children in nursery school and kindergarten learn that some behavior isn’t welcome. In later grades, teachers don’t use canes to win compliance, but rule breakers may find themselves in the principal’s office or expelled.

It’s obvious the mask and COVID-19 deniers are angry, as is their warrior in the White House. But the gripe about losing their freedom is bogus — a bit of sound and fury signifying well, really nothing. Those who complain the loudest might do best to seek counseling. At the least, someone should tell them their grievance is groundless.

Barbara Koeppel
Barbara Koeppel

Barbara Koeppel is an investigative reporter based in Washington, D.C., who covers social, economic, military, foreign policy and whistleblower issues.

Copyright 2020 Barbara Koeppel


  1. It is gratifying to deplore people who do things you don’t like but it only makes things worse. I would rather try to meet them and talk to them. [Edited out the rudeness; first warning]

    1. Do governments have the responsibility to place limits on individual behaviors that demonstrably put the general populace at risk?

  2. Name calling never helps. Calling people “denyers” because they question or criticize certain government mandates and the fear mongering and shaming that goes along with that doesn’t leave much room for discussion, dialogue, debate or dissent, does it?
    But maybe that’s what a lot of people, who have their heels dug in to a certain ideology or tribal loyalty want. Silence….when it comes to any other viewpoint other than their own. Or demonizing, ridiculing, dismissing and marginalizing any dissenting point of view. Fauci isn’t the only doctor out there. There are plenty of credible doctors, virologists, epidemiologists, researchers, and well-informed citizens (world-wide) who happen to see and experience things differently and happen to emphasize other valid and even proven ways of dealing with this thing. But you can’t see or hear much from most of them because the censorship is so swift and the conformity of thought is so prevalent and automatic, even at some of the best on-line progressive sites….when it comes to this particular issue.
    And how did this thing get divided down ideological/party/political lines? Does anyone think for themself anymore? Or are we just supposed to wake up every morning and check the scoreboard for what our tribe of choice or inheritance is telling us to think?
    Comparing the resistance to mandated mask wearing to murder and theft is pretty ridiculous, don’t you think?

    1. Good job! Thanks for your well worded comments, you’ve made important points!

    2. There appears to be a significant overlap between those opposed to masks or who reject outright any danger from COVID and those who reject the majority position regarding AGW. It is difficult not to consider the possibility that said rejection is, in both cases, driven by an ideological mindset, rather than a dispassionate weighing out of the scientific evidence at hand. If nothing else, the spiking of COVID in conservative states in recent months is supportive of the hypothesis that not only was COVID a serious threat but that an ideologically-driven rejection of it – something highly and repeatedly praised by Trump and right-wing media (let us not forget the “Democratic Hoax”) – led to the catastrophic impact currently being experienced by states like Arizona, Texas and Louisiana. Indeed, of the 12 states with the highest incidents of cases per capita, 9 (including the top 4) voted for him in 2016. The two significantly Democratic/”liberal” states in that group, New York and New Jersey, peaked during the first part of the pandemic but have both seen a marked decrease in cases over the last several months. While it is understandable that some might see this issue as an ideological teeter-totter it is not unreasonable to consider that the the primary reason why many red states are being hit so hard is because their ideological casting of this crisis was tragically in error.

      1. While I wear masks, the science is more nuanced as is social policy. A recent Lancet article noted that medical care workers, presumably with better personal protective equipment (PPE) than the general population, are infected at 3-fold higher rates than the general population. SARS-COV2 is probably the most infectious lethal virus in our lifetimes. Masks should reduce the inoculum, offering some protection, but are not totally protective.
        We still don’t know if Sweden was the correct nation but will know within a year. A nice dissenting summary from a Head Immunologist:
        It is disturbing that anyone would use NY/NJ as paragons of virtue for the pandemic, as the MSM seems to be doing. Those two states had over 48,000 deaths. They probably have memory T cell-mediated immunity in the harder hit areas NOW, but their “lockdowns” were inept and their people fleeing from the North East seeded the virus through hotspots throughout the country (NY Times, May 7).
        We will see, and can only hope for the best with the three most populous US states where the virus is finally spreading — California, Texas and Florida (which has more of the aged population which is the viral target, 94-97% of covid-19 deaths occur in people over age 60. )
        Alaska and Hawaii closed their borders, which was the ” Asian Model” and obviously are doing great, easily controlling whatever gets in. Possibly the vaccine will work well, and they will skip the epidemic (and most deaths). The opposite approach, no real lockdown, as deliberately in Sweden and inadvertently in NY/NJ, results in more deaths quicker (since the vulnerable seem difficult to protect) but may ultimately may provide the elusive (mythical?) herd immunity through memory T cells rather than antibodies alone.
        The data are still coming in, and we have no certainties yet.

      2. New York and New Jersey were referenced because of how they effectively addressed the virus. As I stated, they peaked early when the world was first developing strategies, often apparently by trial-and-error, to combat it. Initially, its seriousness and its probable means of propagation were unknown. Likewise, there was a widespread shortage of PPE and ventilators, not that either problem has been fully resolved, contrary to what issues forth from the Oval Office. Both states were hit hard, eventually implemented viable strategies, and brought transmission down to an addressable level. New York went from 10,000 cases per diem in mid-April to approximately 800 since the beginning of June. Though numbers in New Jersey are reduced the graph of daily cases is quite similar (I’m sorry I can’t include the graphs – I don’t believe the site is set up for images – but my data is accessible through Worldometer. This is in contrast to states like Texas and Florida which show a low and flat rate of incidence until the beginning of June, at which time infections increase dramatically and stay high for the next 2 months. This pattern is also apparent in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, as. well as other “red” states as well. Had these last states learned from the tragedy that befell New York and New Jersey it is reasonable to assume that their rates of infection would have been significantly reduced; my thought is that they were precluded from doing so because of ideological bias but if you have a counterproposal why they were impacted as they were I am interested in hearing it.

        Sweden is an interesting country to consider: considering deaths per mission worldwide they have the eighth highest rate. Considering two of the countries ahead of them are San Marino and Andorra they are definitely very close to the top. FWIW, America comes in at tenth place on the same list.

        I appreciate the quality of your response, Michael. I trust in the end we desire the same thing, which is the end of this pandemic. To that end, I will be quite content if your side of the argument turns out to be right.

      3. The comments section sucks…

        Stadler states “So: Sars-Cov-2 isn’t all that new, but merely a seasonal cold virus that mutated and disappears in summer, as all cold viruses do — which is what we’re observing globally right now. This was initially posted June 10; I wonder if he would agree now, considering world case load has trebled since then. While he acknowledges that it is the elderly who are at high risk, it is possible that he was not aware that many younger people have been manifesting symptoms that persist for several months. In short, what may have appeared reasonable at the beginning of June has perhaps morphed into a different reality toward the end of August.

      4. I don’t understand how “conservative” states deserve criticism for their peaks while “liberal” states that peaked earlier–and higher–get a pass.

        According to World-O-Meter, the top five states with the highest per capita infection rates are Louisiana, Florida, Arizona, Mississippi, and New York. Two have Democratic governors. The next five states down the list also include two Democratic governors. Who the states’ inhabitants voted for in the presidential race is irrelevant; Covid response policies are determined by the governors of those states. And as far as case peaks go, those are largely driven by the amount of tests performed (you can’t have a case without a confirmed test), which obviously vary from state to state.

        Incidentally, the six US states that did not lock down—Arkansas, Iowa, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, and Nebraska, all governed by Republicans—all rank in the lower half of US states in percentage of deaths compared to population. That may not prove them correct any more than a red state case surge proves them incorrect, but the notion that conservative leadership has led to catastrophic results is a stretch, to put it mildly. Covid-19’s numbers do not appear to conform much to either state and party lines.

      5. I’m not giving anybody a pass, Jeff. However, there is an important difference between peaking early – prior to knowing how to address COVID (let alone having the equipment to do so) – and peaking several months into the pandemic, when we had gained the necessary skills to fight it. That states like Texas and Florida openly and repeatedly minimized the risk can not be ignored. Likewise, they opened up too early, again because of their minimization of the crisis. Perhaps there wasn’t an ideological basis for their decision making process but if so I have yet to hear it. Currently, we are seeing school systems and colleges closing down following spikes in cases; on whose advice did they open their doors in the first place?

        My comment used which states voted for Trump as a rubric. You might consider that self-serving but at the same time those states, were one to look at representation in Congress, would yield a 77 to 46 lead for Republicans in the House (and with an overall Democratic majority at that) and a 16 to 4 lead for Republicans in the Senate. Only Nevada had Democratic majorities in both chambers, with Arizona the only other state with a Democratic majority in the House. I consider that a fairly significant weighting toward the Republican camp.

        How would you address the pandemic?

      6. You lost me in the second paragraph of your reply. I don’t see the point of forecasting how the Covid-19 carnage will reshuffle congressional seats. Despite some things I pointed out in my last post, I try to remain apolitical on this topic.

        As far as handling the pandemic, I wouldn’t have locked down the entire population–which, by the way, was not done in recent pandemics despite the unknowns at the outset of each. Sweden comes up a lot in discussions. At first glance, their data isn’t that praiseworthy: their overall IFR is 8% higher than the US. But when you take nursing facilities out of the equation (75% of their fatalities were in nursing homes) their fatality rate in the general population is HALF what it is in the US.

        Other non-lockdown countries–South Korea, Japan, Belarus (apart from its political turmoil)–have fared as well or much better. Numerous variables, of course, affect those outcomes, but the data proving the effectiveness of lockdowns alone is weak. Part of the reason the US death rate is higher has to be the poor general health of the American population, which have some of the worst health indexes among advanced nations when it comes to diabetes, obesity, heart disease, etc. (And co-morbidities play a decisive role with Covid-19 outcomes.)

        Covid-19 is not the plague, and imploding the economy with shutdowns as a countermeasure was out of proportion with the actual threat. The massive collateral damage–delayed medical procedures for other illnesses, social breakdown and suicides, and lost livelihoods (including mine)–will leave a horrendous trail of its own once the accounting is done.

      7. Glad the comments are real-time…

        I wasn’t forecasting, I was showing the current party representation in Congress for the states in question. Again, my point was that there is an apparent correlation between party affiliation and the course of COVID in the top 12 states. Unfortunately, WordPress appears to be unfriendly to us including graphics (I do miss Disqus…); being able to post graphs of daily infection rates would save a lot of effort.

        This isn’t a partisanship issue for me either – I’m to the left of AOC and most assuredly not a Democrat.

        I appreciate your comments. TNX.

  3. I left a semi-lengthy comment on this post this morning.
    Any particular reason why it’s not shown?

    1. It is up now. Currently, comments are an experiment and are curated; I am approving them by hand, so I just get to it a few times a day. So far, I have rejected almost none, but I am willing to, and do take out abusive statements or spammy links in otherwise cogent comments.

      Currently, the comments are set to where if you have one comment approved with an email address, your next comments should appear WITHOUT needing approval. However, I haven’t tested it to see if it works…

      – Chris S.

      1. I wish you would give us Disqus like in the good old days on Truthdig. It is much more interesting when the readers are able to talk to each other. A forum is more democratic than a lecture room.

      2. I don’t know who Paul is. In the interest of transparency, I will say that preliminary investigation of Disqus seems to show they inject a lot of Trojan horse code into their product, which can slow the site experience for all users and even put commenters privacy at further risk. One thing that I, as a reader, found with this creative group’s previous site was that it was slow, full of ads and privacy-violating script running in the background. We will never have ads here, and will in general try to keep things simple and clean.

      3. As the comment section for this site currently functions, it is exceedingly slow, to the point that the ability to have meaningful dialogue is strained. Likewise, there doesn’t seem to be a means of posting images nor the ability to edit comments. These latter issues may be nothing more than my level of ignorance but with Disqus these problems didn’t arise.

        Regardless, I am quite grateful for this site; the power grab at Truthdig cratered much of my daily existence.

      4. Robert, I have just changed a setting. Everybody should now be able to have post show immediately if they have had at least one post approved. Please test!

  4. it is fascinating that in many nations where martial law was not declared and masks r not required covid attributed fatalities r far fewer than in the USA…in Europe and south amerika it is the communists and anarchists that protest against covid fascism—in the USA it is the “conservatives”

    1. In Germany, the fascists just had a huge rally against pandemic measures. Marital law was not declared in the United States, if that is the implication. Covid fatalities are extremely variable by population demographics, health and elder care systems, culture, poverty, overall health and diet, pollution, etc. Masks are only a small part of any strategy to stop, slow or harm reduce the pandemic. The countries which absolutely stamped this out were generally some combination of extremely aggressive in scientific/public health counter-measures (i.e., South Korea), used science/ph AND central command and severe restrictions on civil liberties (i.e, China), can easily limit ingress/egress (New Zealand, Iceland, Cuba), have cultural/social homogeniety (many of the above), or may have simply been lucky, so far. Don’t compare apples and chicken fingers.

      1. obviously false—both Russian and German media reports that the demonstrations in Berlin r comprised of communists/anarchists from Fridericksberg—-one can identify a German fascist merely by identifying their shoelaces…do u believe everything CNN reports?

      2. Citations?

        Here’s from BBC: “The BBC’s Damien McGuinness said some participants were from the far right and some were conspiracy theorists who do not believe Covid-19 exists, but others were ordinary people who simply object to the government’s approach to the pandemic.”

      3. “some”? what is some—1%?
        I do not believe fake anglophone media. I have Geman communist friends that live in Berlin…covid is rare in Berlin…it is Bavaria, Frankfurt that is most effected….u claim “fascists” with out evidence—read the German media…what do they report?

      4. I can’t speak German, nor can many of our readers. If you provide a link, though, we can run it through a translator…

  5. It is nice to see perceptive comments here. It is a shame the commenting system is so cumbersome and dysfunctional.

  6. As someone who has voted Progressive for several elections, my opposition to masks stems less from ideology than from science. A Covid-19 virion particle measures .1 micron, which from my reading is over 1,000 times smaller than the pores of a typical cotton mask. I’ve bookmarked numerous studies–from the WHO, the BMJ, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, and others–that concluded masks were ineffective at stopping the spread of respiratory viruses, including Covid-19. (By contrast, the CDC’s initial recommendations on masks were issued without without a single scientific paper to buttress the guidance.)

    Some of those entities have since backpedaled, or cleared their throats and issued clarifications. The WHO, which initially stated there is “no evidence” that masks prevent infection, issued updated Interim Guidance on June 5. They now suggest wearing at least three-layer masks, since their own data shows that a single layer of “t-shirt” thickness only filters 5% of particles. Elsewhere in that same document, they cite 12-16 layers as optimal for non-medical masks.

    Recently, major media have cited a meta study in the Lancet that says face mask use “could result in a large reduction in risk of infection”–but neglect to mention that this conclusion refers primarily to N95 medical masks compared with disposable surgical masks or “reusable 12–16-layer cotton masks,” and even then the evidence comes with “low certainty.” Who is going to wear a 12-layer mask?

    So, the picture is muddier than one may think. But even so, “What’s the harm of wearing one?” Well, breathing in your CO2–as well as other waste products your body is trying to expel through respiration–can’t be healthy, especially for workers who must wear them all day long. Restricting your airway raises cortisol, a stress hormone, and over time may depress your immune system. Cloth masks also tend to retain moisture and are easily contaminated when handling, which makes them Petri dishes.

    “Anti-masker” is just another convenient reactionary label flung around and reinforced by a hive mentality. In some cases it’s justified, since there are many flag-waving folks who simply don’t like the taste of this, never mind the science. But when I see, multiple times a day, drivers wearing masks when they are the sole occupant of their vehicle, I’ve come to conclude that there is craziness on both sides of the debate.

    1. There are some issues on which Liberals are often deranged. Number 1 is Vote For Biden or we will (kill, shoot, punch. burn, jail, hate,destroy) you.

  7. By the way, my initial comments are posting without paragraph breaks. Are you seeing it on your end, or should I try again?

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