We Need to Do a Better Job of Selling Masks

Kevin Warn/ZUMA

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones’ newsletters.The picture above, from my neighboring city of Huntington Beach, shows a typical protest against COVID-19 lockdowns. As you can see, nobody is wearing masks. Of course not! Live free or die!
Some of these people are just nuts and there’s nothing we can do about them. But I wonder if some of them are just misinformed? Hear me out on this. Your typical tea partier feels like the government should leave them alone: if they want to risk getting sick, then that’s their right. But that’s not what masks are for. They’re to keep you from getting other people sick—which can happen even if you’re feeling fine and don’t think you’re infected with the coronavirus. I think it’s possible that knowing this would actually motivate them to be good citizens more effectively.
I know this sounds kind of weird, and maybe I’m totally off base. But in general—and especially for libertarian-inflected tea party activists—I think people are more likely to do the right thing if they believe it helps other people. Conversely, if it only helps themselves, they figure it should be solely up to them since it doesn’t hurt anyone else if they go maskless.¹
We shouldn’t underestimate how difficult it is to get everyone into masks. They’re uncomfortable. They feel kind of stupid. President Trump is pretty unenthusiastic about them. But they’re also cheap and probably fairly effective. We really need to do a better job of selling them.
¹This isn’t right, but it’s probably too complicated to explain to most people. KISS.