Ritual Practices of a New Religion: The Latent Function of Masks and Vaccines

I wasn’t the only one who saw masks for what they were back in the spring of 2020. In the above video, an interview with Lisa Brousseau, ScD, expert on infectious diseases, University of Illinois at Chicago, conducted by Infectious Control Today, was conducted in April 2020, Brousseau tells the interviewer, “The idea that cloth masks will protect anybody from contracting COVID-19 is magical thinking.” Surgical masks won’t help, either. You need respirators if you want any real level of protection.

Dr. Brousseau understands that SARS-CoV-2 is aerosolized and very small. How small? At less than 100 nanometers, it cannot be seen with a light microscope at the highest possible power. While masks do not stop the spread of the virus, they do spread a false sense of security. People confident that they are protected are more likely be out and about contracting and sharing the viruses. This is not a problem for most people, since the viruses is really only dangerous to specific groups in the population. But to those for whom the virus does pose a significant risk, confidence in masks can be dangerous.

If masks are not protective, then why did the CDC push them? Why did so many governments mandate them? Dr. Brousseau answers the question in a roundabout way. In her view, we should have all stayed home. I don’t agree with that since a large portion of the population catching the virus early on would have brought the pandemic to an end sooner. However, you can see how everybody staying home would paralyze the economy. The lockdowns and panic were already bad enough economically-speaking. So to get people to go to work—especially essential workers—authorities told us masks would protect us. They lied in order to keep those workers considered expendable from staying home.

Did you uncritically share this meme?
How about this one?

If you shared the first meme without criticism, then you have zero understanding of science. You should be embarrassed to have shared such a bad analogy. Don’t even begin to think you have the intellect to challenge other opinions on this subject if you are sharing memes like this. But the second illustration is hardly more useful. What are these numbers based on? They can’t possibly be based on scientific research. So where did they come from? Frankly, from the rectum of an authoritarian-minded meme-maker.

From a World Health Organization report issued December 2020: “A large randomized community-based trial in which 4862 healthy participants were divided into a group wearing medical/surgical masks and a control group found no difference in infection with SARS-CoV-2.” More science: “A recent systematic review found nine trials (of which eight were cluster-randomized controlled trials in which clusters of people, versus individuals, were randomized) comparing medical/surgical masks versus no masks to prevent the spread of viral respiratory illness. Two trials were with healthcare workers and seven in the community.” Conclusion: “The review concluded that wearing a mask may make little or no difference to the prevention of influenza-like illness.”

On my blog, I have shared the insights of industrial hygienists on the efficacy of masks (see my essay Masks and COVID-19: Are You Really Protected?) Wear two masks. Wear three. It doesn’t matter. Wearing a mask is magical thinking. It may reduce your anxiety, which is the function of rituals anyway, but it does not protect you or others from SARS-CoV-2. Nor will social distancing. You might as well wear an amulet blessed by a shaman around your neck.

Ritual masks

Which brings us to vaccines. We know vaccines spread the virus. This became obvious early on. As with masks, those who are vaccinated and believe themselves safe to self and others go out into the world where they catch and spread the virus. And because the vaccines offer some protection from severe illness, the infected can walk around spreading more virulent mutants. Because of the magical belief that the vaccine protects them, they go to work and school sick or infected but not knowing they are sick.

I don’t mean to embarrass folks even more, or to sound ethnocentric (a nonsense term created by academic and cosmopolitan types), but this is the same reason the shaman is out on the beach doing his crazy dance moves and uttering incomprehensible incantations while the fishers are fishing near the reef in choppy waters. If the fishers believe the sea demons who disturb the sea are kept calm by the shaman’s spells and rituals, then they will get in the boat and risk their health and lives to procure food for the village. Great But are they objectively safer? No.

The point of magic and ritual, its latent function, as sociologist Robert Merton put it, is to reduce the anxiety of uncertainty in high-stakes and stressful circumstances where there is a high risk of choking or running away in fear. To put this in stark terms, the corporate state has been running a vast psychological operations project on the masses. They first scare the wits out of them by constructing a mythology and then instruct them on ritual practices to ward off the contagion. And while one would have hoped the people had evolved beyond primitive fishers who need superstition and magic to get through life, it is clear they haven’t. This also explains the Inquisition-like attack on doctors and scientist, i.e., heretics, who challenge the narrative, i.e., doctrine.

* * *

Here’s another bit of irrational thinking. Cigarette smoking causes one of every five deaths in the United States each year. That’s roughly half a million deaths annually (eight million worldwide). That a far greater number of deaths than deaths associated with COVID-19. “But people choose to smoke.” Sure. And people choose not to be vaccinated or wear a mask or go to parties. Those are choices that endanger one’s own life. So let the people who choose not to be vaccinated, etc., risk their lives like those who choose to smoke cigarettes.

“What about me?” You’re vaccinated, right? “But you can still get COVID-19, if you are vaccinated.” Can you get it from another vaccinated person? “Yes.” Then what’s the point of vaccination? “A vaccinated person won’t get as sick.” Okay, so you changed the argument. Still, so? What does that have to do with the unvaccinated? “They take up hospital beds.” So do smokers. “But COVID-19 is driving up health care costs.” So are cigarettes. Why aren’t we banning smoking? Why aren’t we fining smokers? “We demand smokers not smoke around us.” But a vaccinated person with COVID-19 is blowing smoke in your face. Think about it, your workplace allows the vaccinated to be around you even though they may be sick and contagious. Infected people vaccinated or not shouldn’t be around other people.

The authoritarian argument makes no sense. If we punish people who don’t get vaccinated but not those who smoke cigarettes then the action is an arbitrary exercise of public and private power. Canada, Europe, Australia—all these countries are mandating vaccines. Some are locking people up. All these countries allow smoking. Why do they allow smoking? It’s deadlier than COVID-19—by millions. Smoking tobacco is a known risk factor for severe disease and death from many respiratory conditions and infections. Heart attack. Stroke. Do smokers have a better prognosis than nonsmokers if they contract COVID-19? Most people who have died from COVID-19 have comorbidities that, if not present, mean that the person likely would not have died. Many suffer from metabolic disorder caused by obesity. They are hypertensive, etc. Why aren’t we punishing people for what they eat and for not exercising? Why aren’t we regimenting ourselves in military fashion?

* * *

A new Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey shows us how pandemic panic is changing attitudes with respect to democracy and freedom along partisan lines. The survey shows how fascistic Democrats as a group have become. “Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Democratic voters would favor a government policy requiring that citizens remain confined to their homes at all times, except for emergencies, if they refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine.” Such a measure is opposed by 79% of Republicans and 71% of unaffiliated voters. The poll also found that 78% of Democratic voters support the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate plan (only 22% of Republicans and 41% of unaffiliated voters support the vaccine mandate). “And many Democrats would support even harsher measures, including fines for Americans who won’t get the COVID-19 vaccine and criminal punishment for vaccine critics.”

I spend a lot of time on Freedom and Reason worrying about the negation of the Enlightenment. However, I am aware that the Enlightenment never got hold of a lot of people. This is especially true of some of the most arrogant and smartest people in the room. Unfortunately, they happen also to be the most powerful. And they are overrepresented in academia, the administrative state, corporate media, and the culture industry. Bizarrely, a disproportionate number of these authoritarians identify as on the political left. That the corporate state enjoys supporters with Stalinist attitudes does not make this a socialist moment. The label that applies here is fascism.

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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