Hey: Tim is doing a book club on To Paradise. You should join! It’s right here!
1. Mask Wars
I’m not really interested in litigating the airplane mask mandate. I’m sure there are good-ish arguments on both sides.
What I worry about more is what the mask wars have done to us as human beings. Let me spin a scenario for you:
You board a cross-country flight. It’s full. Some people are wearing masks. Most aren’t. You aren’t wearing one because you’re double-vaxxed and boosted and basically feeling like Wolverine. You take your middle seat and there’s a little old lady next to you. She politely says some version of, “Hi. I know this is annoying, but would you mind wearing a mask for the flight? I’m immunocompromised and I’m trying to be extra cautious. I know it’s an inconvenience. But would you consider doing it as a favor to a stranger?”
(B) Try to explain to her that, between the plane’s air filtration system, your vaccination status, and her KN-95, there is no reason for her to be concerned, and that you adding a mask would be overkill without providing her additional meaningful protection.
(C) Smile and say, “Sure thing; no worries.”
So you have your answer. Now, what do you think the answer would be from the general public? I think the breakdown would be something like this:
And in that 45 percent “Decline,” I suspect about a quarter of those would be people who would not decline . . . politely.
Is all of this new?
How many times have you entered someone’s home and they’ve politely asked you to take your shoes off? Lots of times, I’m guessing.
Now maybe you’re a shoes-off person in your own home.
Or maybe you always keep your shoes on.
But have you ever seen someone refuse to take their shoes off when asked? Have you ever seen someone argue that, Actually, the dirt tracked in by the sole of a shoe is less harmful to carpeting than the oils secreted by the sole of a bare foot, so it’s better for the flooring if people keep their shoes on.
Me neither. Instead, even if people think that the shoes-off request is goofy—even if it seems like an obnoxious inconvenience—people just do it. Not because we’re sheeple, but because our experience in the world depends on often forbearing with others and understanding that others will be forbearing with us.
We don’t really have a “shoes-off” relationship on the issue of masks, do we?
My question: Do we have a shoes-off relationship to anything anymore?
This is only a tentative conclusion, but: I don’t think so. (Agree or disagree with me in the comments. I’d like to be argued out of this.)
If you are somewhere minding your own business and someone asks for a favor—one that entails a minor inconvenience—do people generally smile and grant the favor? Or bristle about their rights?
Another flight metaphor: You have an aisle seat on the exit row. It’s a great seat. But a dad traveling with a 10-year-old and an 8-year-old has their seating broken up. A flight attendant asks if you’d be willing to take a middle seat in steerage so the family could sit together.
My guess is that 20 years ago, 90 percent of us would have said yes without hesitation, but that today that percentage would be much, much lower.
My working theory is that our experience in the real world is now modeled on our anonymous experiences in the digital world.
2. Bad Faith
I saw two things yesterday that did not compute. The first was a guy posting a story about how he was on a flight when the pilot came over the intercom to announce the end of the mask mandate and declare that the plane was now in “MAGA airspace.”
And then, the same guy posts a screenshot of a DM he received from a reporter from the New York Times asking about his story.
The point of the second tweet from this conservative gentleman was to show the world how stupid and gullible the NYT reporter was because his original tweet was satire. So based!
But there does seem to be an alternate reading here that escaped pretty much everyone:
Man posts a (literally) incredible-sounding first-person story. A journalist, instead of accepting the story at face-value, tries to do some reporting to see whether or not the tale was true.
Isn’t that exactly what conservatives always say they want from the media? And yet, here we are: Conservatives take the behavior they say they want from journalists and publicly ridicule it as evidence of how gullible they are for even asking.
It’s almost like conservatives are setting up a heads-they-win, tails-you-lose situation.
Here’s the other bad-faith weirdness: Yesterday’s Big Twitter Story was that the