The Anti-Maskers Emerge

Spotted on a Montpelier bulletin board

It was inevitable, but it’s still disappointing.

“Citizen scientists.” Really.

Impartial seekers of the truth, putting out a one-sided “survey” in a transparent effort to gin up some “evidence” to support their preconceived notion. This is, must I say it, a disgrace.

And to judge from the rhetoric and approach, I’ll bet you a shiny new quarter that the Venn Diagram of “Mask Survey” and “Anti-Vaxxers” is a single circle.

But I have to credit the bravery of the “citizen scientists” behind this flyer. They’re right up front owning their beliefs and accepting the conseq— oh wait, sorry. They actually provide no identifying information or means of two-way contact; only a gmail address and, on its website, a P.O. box in Marshfield.

Nowhere on flyer or website do they cite any of the “research” that “shows there are likely to be disadvantages” to wearing masks. I like the qualifiers: “likely” meaning “fuzzy and unproven,” “disadvantages” in place of “hazards” or “dangers.” In plain English, “undisclosed research that shows a possibility of inconveniences in wearing masks.”

Of course there are “disadvantages.” Masks are a little annoying, they make my glasses fog up, people can’t see your facial expressions, it is a little harder to communicate. The rest of it is bullshit of a particular type — the conspiracy-minded worried-well contingent that makes up most of the anti-vaxxer movement.

And now they’re coming after masks.

As if we don’t have enough trouble with Trumpists and faux freedom-fighters who don’t balk at “No shirt, no shoes, no service” but think mandatory mask-wearing is a heart punch to the Constitution.

Neither flyer nor website directly comments on the seriousness of the pandemic. But underlying its argument is a fundamental doubt about Covid-19. After all, if you think mask-wearing is bad because of vaguely defined, subjective “disadvantages,” then you can’t possibly see Covid-19 as a threat to public health. Because if you did, you’d find the most comfortable mask available and wear the damn thing.

Just to be sure that I’ve seen this song and dance before, I took a brief, refreshing plunge into the sludgy waters of anti-vaxxism. The Facebook page of the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice is, indeed, full of Covid denialism as well as the customary vaccine nonsense. The lead item on its website begins with the juicy assertion, “Vermont remains under police power,” warns of a plot to impose mask mandates, and lists a handful of cherry-picked articles that back their claims.

(One link takes you to a study that finds cloth masks are inadequate for medical personnel. Which is true, but says nothing about the usefulness of masks by the rest of us.)

I can hardly wait until the day we have a Covid-19 vaccine, and these schmoes start their yapping again.

Postscript. The VCVC website has an “Election 2020” page, which includes information about anti-vaxxer and anti-vax-friendly politicians. They’ve been trying to get candidates to respond to a comically one-sided “survey,” on which the first question is “Vaccination choice is a human right — yes/no.”

In the absence of survey responses, the group has posted some information about key legislative votes — and a scant offering about the candidates for governor:

So they’ve got Democrat Rebecca Holcombe as an Enemy Of The People, and Republican John Klar as an ally. True dat. What’s interesting is that their only reference to Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman references his 2015 vote against a bill that would have ended the philosophical exemption to vaccinations, a stance that Zuckerman has tried to distance himself from — without completely untying the knot.

His current stance on vaccination: “I think everyone should get vaccines unless it is medically contraindicated.”

Which sounds airtight… but of course, the likes of VCVC robustly question the medical science behind vaccines. Zuckerman’s statement could be interpreted as a dog whistle to the anti-vaxxers.

I’m sure he would object to that characterization. But whether or not Zuckerman really wants to provide a legal escape hatch for anti-vaxxers, it must be said that Vermont’s main anti-vax group is leading its members to vote for him as the better choice in the Democratic primary.

Maybe he should make his stance crystal clear to the anti-vax crowd, and disavow their support?

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