Anti-maskers and the psychology behind them

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Sofia Christodoulelis ‘21

“If you put masking with keeping distances, and avoiding congregate settings and crowds, and trying to do things outdoors more than indoors, it makes a difference,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said. “It really, really does.”

Although Los Angeles remains one of the country’s Covid-19 hotspots, many citizens still refuse to wear a mask. This anti-mask ideology has culminated in multiple protests and store raids within Los Angeles County.

At these protests, anti-maskers gather in large groups to raid multiple stores where masked shoppers are going about their business. Protesters have loudly marched through stores during these raids, telling people to take off their masks and take their freedom back. 

One recent raid took place at the Westfield Century City Mall after LA County began requiring residents to wear masks while out in public. At the mall, protestors got into many altercations, both vocal and physical, with employees and even called one shopper a “mask Nazi” while shouting many other offensive statements.

Anti-maskers argue that being asked to wear a mask is an infringement on their freedom. In the midst of rising death tolls and high case counts, many Tologs, meanwhile, are questioning why mask use is up for debate at all. 

“People would usually stay away from others if they were sick before Covid-19 just out of common decency. It seems odd that it is hard to do when we are in a literal pandemic. You could save someone’s life if you just wear a piece of cloth on your face,” Sofia Christodoulelis ‘21 said. 

Some Tologs have noted additional benefits to mask use. 

“I love the idea and usage of masks. If it doesn’t hurt you, and it helps everyone including yourself, why not wear one? You get to customize your mask, hide your face if you’re having a bad face day, and protect people. It’s a win-win,” Nicole Bednar ‘21 said. 

Masks not only function as a way to protect the person wearing them but as a way to be polite to other people. 

“I think every person should be wearing a mask as much as possible because it is not only important to protect yourself but also to have consideration for everyone around you and people that you could potentially come into contact with. Regardless of whether or not you think you are being safe, if wearing a mask makes other people feel safe, then you should be wearing one,” Corinne Gray ‘21 said.

 Honors Psychology teacher Mr. Tom Badzey provided some insight into the thought process of anti-maskers. 

“It feels like it’s aligned mainly with political connections. I can recall hearing some people talk about how there is this sense of wanting to feel like they have something that they can point to as proof of political suppression. It fits their narrative view that they are in this group experiencing marginalization or are somehow being oppressed. The mask becomes a symbolic representation of that feeling for them,” Badzey said. 

Similarly, Badzey has found religious associations with resisting mask use.

“A family member said to me that the current Democratic government in California is anti-Christian,” Badzey said. “I was puzzled. They said it relates to mask-wearing, because it’s an example of how the government doesn’t care about their religious views and is forcing them to not attend church services. They feel like this is an easy way for the left-leaning government to further suppress or punish people who are Christian. They buy into this idea that there is a war on Christianity happening, so they become anti-mask as a way of saying they aren’t gonna be someone who subscribes to that.”

Badzey, who has gleaned some of his insights on mask use from work with his private clients as a therapist, believes that anti-maskers view face coverings as a suppression of personal freedom.

“Their ideology is that liberty is more important than safety. A client said they had a conversation with a family member in which they said that defying mask-wearing and keeping their freedom is more important to them than any safety concerns that masks help alleviate. So their overall psychology depends on what ideologies someone places at greater importance. Liberty and loyalty seem to be very high ranking in people with an anti-mask ideology rather than safety, the common good or being compassionate towards other people”

In politics, masks are up for debate. In science, they are one of the most efficient tools in slowing the spread of the virus

“Regardless of political affiliation, everyone wants the world to go back to normal and for Covid-19 to go away. Masks are a necessary tool to stop the spread and keep yourself and others safe,” Christina Costanzo ‘21 said.