Wearing Masks: The Tale of Two COVID19 Graphics

Propaganda 101 – Here is a little lesson about propaganda that can be seen in what I will call “The Tale of Two COVID19 Graphics.”

Let’s say you are starting out with the goal of wanting to convince people that the CDC and people like Dr. Fauci are lying to us about how bad COVID19 is because you either want to convince people or you want to be convinced yourself that it is okay to lift the COVID19 restrictions and fully open up our economy.

You can’t just say the CDC and Dr. Fauci are lying; you have to provide “evidence” that makes it appear they are lying about one or more things related to COVID19 so you can get people to believe the CDC and Dr. Fauci are lying about other things related to COVID19. Once you convince people to think the CDC and Fauci are lying about a few things, it is relatively easy through propaganda to persuade people to think they are lying about everything and that their guidance for how to respond to COVID19 ought to be ignored.

Graphic #1

Take a look at the first of the two graphics provided as an example of how this works. I noticed this graphic on the social media profile of someone I know who has been incessantly making the argument that we need to open everything back up, quickly develop herd immunity, and take back our lives and our economy. The first graphic shows that COVID19 is smaller than the pores in almost any protective mask we could wear, so the intended take-away of the graphic is that we should conclude that masks could not possibly be effective in slowing the spread of the virus.

The first graphic is basically being used to convey that if the CDC and Fauci are lying to us about the effectiveness of masks, then they might be and probably are lying to us about many other things, so let’s liberate the states and free America from these lying bureaucratic technocrats who want to control us and take away our freedoms and livelihoods. See how it works? If you are only seeing the first picture, and you are already prone to want to believe that the virus is a political hoax or some power grab by the government, this graphic can be very compelling.

But here is the deal; the graphic, while conveying bits of true information in and of itself, is being used to perpetuate a lie that masks are ineffective in curbing the spread of the virus. See the second graphic and notice what purposely is left off the propagandized version.

Graphic #2

Although it may be the case that the virus itself is smaller than the pores of the masks, it is also true that the virus mostly travels on droplets from breathing, talking, coughing, or sneezing that are larger than the pores in the mask; so the masks actually do have a positive effect in keeping fewer droplets conveying the virus from getting into the environment, and the N95 masks actually do have a positive impact, especially when combined with other precautions, on protecting our health workers and others in high risk frontline positions. The CDC and Fauci are telling the truth, and if we understand they are telling us the truth about this, then we become more open to realize that they are telling us the truth about other aspects of this virus and how we should be responding to it.

But the propagandists who want you to believe that our response to the virus has been a “success story” and who want to get “the economy rocking again by July” don’t want you to believe the CDC and Fauci. They want you to believe that masks are basically worthless and that the people telling you otherwise cannot be trusted. That is why they show you half the story with Graphic #1 and don’t show you the more complete story of Graphic #2. They are lying to you. It is understandable that many want to believe this lie, but it does not change the fact that it is a lie – a very dangerous and deadly lie.

About Mark Y. A. Davies

Mark Davies is the Wimberly Professor of Social and Ecological Ethics and Director of the World House Institute for Social and Ecological Responsibility at Oklahoma City University. He is the Executive Director of the Leadership, Education, and Development (LEaD) Hub North America of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church and an Oklahoma Humanities State Scholar. Mark has published in the areas of Boston personalism, process philosophy and ethics, and ecological ethics. Dr. Davies serves on the United Methodist University Senate, which is “an elected body of professionals in higher education created by the General Conference to determine which schools, colleges, universities, and theological schools meet the criteria for listing as institutions affiliated with The United Methodist Church.” He and his wife Kristin live in Edmond, OK in the United States, and they have two daughters. The views expressed by the author in this blog do not necessarily represent the views of Oklahoma City University or the United Methodist Church.
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