Masking Is Becoming a Rarity, But Mask Panic Is Still a Thing

Oh boy. Mark your calendars and get your popcorn ready. The anti-maskers are coming to Burlington!

Yeah, not sure what they’re so upset about. The city’s indoor mask mandate expired more than a year ago, and masking is rapidly becoming a fringe activity. I’m still being cautious, but I recently attended an indoor event and was the only person to wear a mask in an crowd of about 30.

But anyway, here it comes, “The Vermont Emergency Forum to Assess the Respiratory Hazards of Masks” on Friday, May 12 in the Contois Auditorium. You could probably guess who’s behind it, but I won’t keep you in suspense. The sponsors are the Vermont Institute for Human Flourishing, the nonprofit plaything of conservative megadonor Lenore Broughton and her new bestie, former VTGOP chair Deb Billado, and Vermont Stands Up, a wannabe statewide organization of the anti-mask, anti-vax crowd.

And then there’s the “facilitator” of the all-day event: “Dr.” Rob WIlliams, once best known for the Second Vermont Republic organization that was once kinda respectable on the left but turned out to be Confederate-adjacent at the very least, and now host of “V-TV,’ an online interview show that’s been booted from YouTube but can still be seen on Vimeo if you must.

Oh, and you’ll also get the chance to bump elbows with the Desautels Family, who’ll be getting a “BREATHING CHAMPIONS AWARD” (caps theirs). Paterfamilias Mike Desautels, you may recall, was stripped of his UPS Store franchise in 2021 for refusing to abide by the state’s indoor mask mandate.

As for the scheduled speakers, they’re from the tribe of Anti-Mask Traveling Snake Oil Peddlers who’re still trying to whomp up the Mask Panic because otherwise they’d have to get themselves real jobs. Let’s get to know them — a very little bit — shall we?

First up is Dr. Christina Parks, who does have a real doctorate in cellular and molecular biology but turned away from academia and into science education for Christian home schoolers. She’s not only an anti-masker, but she also pushes debunked theories about vaccines causing autism and the benefits of hydroxychloroquine as a Covid-19 treatment.

Next we have Megan Mansell, a “former district education director” who speaks and writes about the alleged health hazards of masks She’s a regular contributor at the Brownstone Institute, a conservative/libertarian organization that describes the pandemic response as “a failed experiment in full social and economic control.”

In the three-spot is Tammy Clark, executive director of Stand Up Michigan, “an organic grassroots movement made up of We The People,” not to be confused with Up With People. The first entry on SUM’s “News” page is a link to “Rise of the Fourth Reich,” a book that will tell you that “COVID-19 fascism was the worst tyranny in American history.” Take that, slavery! Take that, Native American genocide!

Finally, batting cleanup us Kristin Meghan Kelly, a self-described “exposure scientist” and running buddy of Tammy Clark who made an ass of herself back in April 2021 by trying to enter a mask-mandated public meeting unmasked, claiming she had a “medically recognized” disability that prevented her from wearing a mask… while recording the entire confrontation on her smartphone. Also in 2021, Kelly launched a GoFundMe appeal (sorry, I won’t do a link) to raise $20,000 toward the costs of a lawsuit against Delta Airlines over its mask requirement. Sadly, her effort stalled out less than halfway to her goal.

Oh, and Kelly also failed on a separate fundraising goal on GiveSendGo, the Christian version of GoFundMe. She wanted to raise $30,000 for a lawsuit against The Daily Beast over the article linked in the previous paragraph. She raised only $3,266, and her suit was eventually dismissed because, well, the court found that the article told the truth about Kelly.

So there’s your All-Star lineup of conspiracy theorists and self-described experts, at least three of whom hail from my home state of Michigan and I can’t tell you how proud I am about that.

I’ve said before that it’s a good thing Broughton has no idea how to effectively spend her money. Instead, she keeps squandering it on nonstarters like True North Reports, the VIHF, the doomed campaign against Proposition 5, and now this conference. She could have some actual impact if only she had a clue about how to do politics in Vermont. Instead, she’s underwriting far-right convocations about irrelevant conspiracy theories.

And if you want an image capture of where the Vermont Republican Party finds itself, here’s the biggest conservative donor in the state partnering with the former party chair and making common cause with “Dr.” Rob Williams to sponsor an anti-mask, anti-vax, pro-quackery Conspiracy Fest on an issue that nobody’s paying attention to anymore. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so damn sad.


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