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Mask wearing wasn’t disputed in previous crises – so why is it so hotly contested today?

How the pandemic is reported by the media can influence people’s behaviour.



Men wearing masks outside a military hospital in New York during the 1918 influenza pandemic. /Shutterstock

Across western countries, people are polarised over wearing masks. While some support wearing them as an effective counter to the virus, others believe having to mask up is a contravention of their human rights.

Our interdisciplinary team is currently exploring the role the media plays in influencing the British public’s thoughts and decisions on mask wearing. We’ve found that these polarised opinions have been reflected and reinforced by the media, where a clear divide has appeared.

Pro-mask messages are more present in mainstream media, including in public health adverts and on TV. Conversely, anti-mask wearing sentiments are more common in personalised sources like social media.

Here, mask wearing is often associated with the historical commands of authoritarian governments. Some have even compared mask mandates to the Nazi policy of forcing Jews to wear distinguishing yellow stars.

This split in attitudes is a relatively new development. People were more cooperative when asked to wear masks in response to earlier health epidemics and other dangers in the 20th century.

Indeed, a 2021 study outlines how approval rates for face coverings during earlier crises were far more collectively positive. During influenza in 1918, the Blitz in Britain in 1941, and the smog outbreaks that occurred in the UK from the 1930s to the 1960s, masks weren’t contested like today. What explains this change?

The tangibility of past crises

The coronavirus is invisible to the human eye, and its worst effects aren’t seen publicly – they occur at home or in hospital wards away from people’s gaze.

Smog, on the other hand, could be seen. Similarly, the threat of a Nazi attack in the 1940s was manifested in smoke, debris and dust in the air after German bombing, as well as physical destruction and rubble. Even influenza in 1918, despite its symptoms being very similar to COVID’s, had arguably more publicly visual characteristics (such as vomiting and diarrhoea) that allowed it to resist public scepticism.

It may be that the actual visibility of these earlier crises made them seem more threatening, and so wearing a mask seem more necessary. Indeed, in a bid to make the dangers posed by COVID appear more tangible, politicians and the media have invoked the language of war when discussing COVID, or used images of people on ventilators to materialise the threat.

But such tactics have yielded significant debates among health professionals and linguists, as these produce questionable implications, such as potentially identifying infected people as “enemies” who bear and spread the virus.

Variety of the media

A second factor is that formerly, media was restricted to channels controlled or influenced by government, and these all gave positive depictions of masks. Today, however, there are many other channels, which allow for resistance.

During earlier crises, the media promoted mask wearing as a patriotic act. However, the media’s scope in the first half of the 20th century was far more limited than it is today. Promotion of mask wearing was mainly limited to government-approved posters and newsprint in the 1910s.

Mainstream radio didn’t exist until a decade later. And TV was only introduced in the 1930s but wasn’t widespread until much later. Radio, print and newsreels were the main sources of public information during past eras of mask wearing.

By contrast, today’s media landscape – especially social media – allows for individual and personalised voices to be heard to an extent unthinkable in earlier decades. Media has become a way of denigrating as well as endorsing mask wearing.

Even music videos provide an opportunity for people to speak out against masks, providing a stark contrast to the propaganda films of the 1940s. For example, in the video for Living the Dream by US rock band Five Finger Death Punch, mask wearing is depicted as a way of enforcing people’s compliance in an authoritarian reimagining of America. Eventually, though, the public rebel, and are shown ripping their masks off as they head into battle against their hypocritical unmasked leader.

Pressure to wear a surgical mask

Although public information from the NHS and UK government specifically promotes the use of any “face coverings” (including bandannas, scarves, old clothes and so on), such messages are nearly always accompanied by images of surgical masks. Graphics that represent the need to wear a face covering nearly always depict a surgical mask.

And when looking at a database of British newspaper reporting from the COVID pandemic, it’s also clear that journalists refer to “masks” more often than to “face coverings”. Despite official guidance only requiring proper masks to be used in medical settings, the way they are spoken about and depicted suggests other forms of face covering aren’t as broadly acceptable.

An NHS poster telling people to 'wash hands, cover face, make space'
A typical NHS poster from during the pandemic, with its face covering depicted as a surgical mask.

While there’s good reason for this – surgical masks have been shown to be more effective than other forms of face covering – in the mind of the public, this may limit the scope of what is proper to wear. This may then lower people’s willingness to wear a mask, as it’s known that people are more likely to accept doing something if they perceive that there is choice involved.

Yet in the past, the same pressure didn’t exist. During the influenza and smog outbreaks, attitudes towards alternative face coverings were more permissive, with non-standard masks even being celebrated among the fashion-conscious cultures of London and Manchester that were impacted by the smog epidemic. Surgical masks of the day would also not have so widely available. The leeway this offered may also have led to a less controversial response to mask mandates compared to today.

Nathan Abrams, Thora Tenbrink, Anaïs Augé and Maciej Nowakowski receive funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

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“The Omicron Variant” – Magic Pills, Or Solving The Africa Problem?

"The Omicron Variant" – Magic Pills, Or Solving The Africa Problem?

Authored by Kit Knightly via,

Yesterday the WHO labelled the sars-cov-2 variant B.1.1.529 as a “variant of concern” and officially named it “Omicron”.




"The Omicron Variant" – Magic Pills, Or Solving The Africa Problem?

Authored by Kit Knightly via,

Yesterday the WHO labelled the sars-cov-2 variant B.1.1.529 as a “variant of concern” and officially named it “Omicron”.

This was as entirely predictable as it is completely meaningless. The “variants” are just tools to stretch the story out and keep people on their toes.

If you want to know exactly how the Omicron variant is going to affect the narrative, well The Guardian has done a handy “here’s all the bullshit we’re gonna sell you over the next couple of weeks” guide:

  • The Omicron variant is more transmissable, but they don’t know if it’s more dangerous yet (keeping their options open)

  • It originated in Africa, possible mutating in an “untreated AIDS patient” (sick people are breeding grounds for dangerous “mutations”)

  • “it has more than double the mutations of Delta…scientists anticipate that the virus will be more likely to infect – or reinfect – people who have immunity to earlier variants. (undermining natural immunity, selling more boosters, keeping the scarefest going)

  • “Scientists are concerned” that current vaccines may not be as effective against the new strain, they may need to be “tweaked” (get your boosters, and the new booster we haven’t invented yet)

  • “Scientists expect that recently approved antiviral drugs, such as Merck’s pill, will work as effectively against the new variant” (more on this later)

  • It’s already spreading around the world, and travel bans may be needed to prevent the need for another lockdown

We’re already seeing preparations for more “public health measures”, with the press breathlessly quoting “concerned” public health officials. We’re being told that a new lockdown won’t be necessary…as long as we remember to get boosted and wear masks and blah blah blah.

Generally speaking, it’s all fairly boilerplate scary nonsense. Although it is quite funny that the Biden administration has already put a bunch of African nations on a travel ban list, when Biden called Trump a racist for doing the same thing in 2020.


It’s interesting that the new variant has allegedly come from Africa, perhaps “mutating in the body of an AIDS patient”, since Africa has been the biggest hole in the Covid narrative for well over a year.

Africa is by far the poorest continent, it is densely populated, malnourishment and extreme poverty are endemic across many African nations, and it is home to more AIDS patients than the entire rest of the world combined. And yet, no Covid crisis.

This is a weak point in the story, and always has been.

Last Summer, the UK’s virus modeller-in-chief Neil Ferguson attempted to explain it by arguing that African nations have, on average, younger populations than the rest of the world, and Covid is only a threat to the elderly. But five minutes of common sense debunks that idea.

The reason Africa has a younger population, on average, is that – on average – they are much sicker.

There are diseases endemic to large parts of Africa that are all but wiped out in most of the Western world. Cholera, typhus, yellow fever, tuberculosis, malaria. Access to clean water, and healthcare are also much more limited.

And while it has been nailed into the public mind that being elderly is the biggest risk factor for Covid, that is inaccurate. In fact, the biggest risk factor for dying “of Covid” is, and always has been, already dying of something else.

The truth is that any REAL dangerous respiratory virus would have cut a bloody swath across the entire continent.

Instead, as recently as last week, we were getting articles about how Africa “escaped Covid”, and the continent’s low covid deaths with only 6% of people vaccinated is “mystifying” and “baffling” scientists.

Politically, African nations have shown themselves far less likely to buy into the “pandemic” narrative than their European, Asian or American counterparts. At least two “Covid denying” African presidents – Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi and John Magufuli of Tanzania – have died suddenly in the last year, and seen their successors immediately reverse their covid policies.

So maybe the Omicron Variant is a way of trying to fold Africa into the covid narrative that the other continents have already fully embraced. That will become clear as the story develops.

Of course, it’s also true that being “African” is media shorthand for being scary, relying on the deeply-seated xenophobia of Western audiences. See: “Africanized killer bees”.

But, either way, Africa is the long game. There’s a more obvious, and more cynical, short term agenda here.


Let’s go back to the Guardian’s “Omicron” bullet points, above:

  • Scientists are concerned by the number of mutations and the fact some of them have already been linked to an ability to evade existing [vaccine-created] immune protection.

  • Scientists expect that recently approved antiviral drugs, such as Merck’s pill, [will work effectively] against the new variant

The “new variant” is already being described as potentially resistant to the vaccines, but NOT the new anti-viral medications.

Pharmaceutical giants Merck and Pfizer are both working on “Covid pills”, which as recently as three days ago, were being hyped up in the press:

US may have a ‘game changer’ new Covid pill soon, but its success will hinge on rapid testing

In the US, an emergency use authorisation can only be issued if there is no effective medication or treatment already available, so the vaccines not being proof against Omicron would be vital to rushing the pills onto the US market, at least.

If Omicron is found to be “resistant to the vaccines”, but NOT the pills, that will give governments an excuse to rush through approving the pills on an EUA, just as they did with the vaccines.

So, you bet your ass that testing is gonna be “rapid”. Super rapid. Blink-and-you’ll-miss-it rapid. Rapid to the point you’re not even sure it definitely happened. And now they have an excuse.

Really, it’s all just more of the same.

A scare before the new year. An excuse to make people believe their Christmas could be in peril. An exercise in flexing their control muscles a bit, milking even more money out of the double-jabbed and boosted crowd, now newly terrified of the Omicron variant, and a nice holiday bump to Pfizer’s ever-inflating stock price.

At this point either you can see the pattern, or you can’t. You’re free of the fear machinery, or you’re not.

There is one potential silver lining here: It feels rushed and frantic. Discovered on Tuesday, named on Friday, travel bans on Saturday. It is hurried, and maybe that’s a reaction to feeling like the “pandemic” is losing its grip on the public mind.

Hopefully, as the narrative becomes more and more absurd, more and more people will wake up to reality.

It has been pointed out that “Omicron” is an anagram of “moronic”.

One wonders if that’s deliberate and they’re making fun of us.

Tyler Durden Sat, 11/27/2021 - 23:45

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Israel Moves To Ban All Foreigners From Entry Amid Omicron Variant Fears

Israel Moves To Ban All Foreigners From Entry Amid Omicron Variant Fears

Israel’s Knesset is set to hold a special emergency "coronavirus cabinet" late Saturday night where government officials will vote on enacting a complete closure of…



Israel Moves To Ban All Foreigners From Entry Amid Omicron Variant Fears

Israel's Knesset is set to hold a special emergency "coronavirus cabinet" late Saturday night where government officials will vote on enacting a complete closure of the country to foreign travel. The ban will tentatively be in effect for the next two weeks.

Already Israel has banned all foreigners arriving from the majority of African countries in recent days on fears that the highly-mutated Omicron coronavirus variant, which first emerged in South Africa, could be the next deadly wave - and with the vaccine possibly doing little to stop it.

AFP/Getty Images

The greatly tightened travel and tourist restrictions are expected to be announced late Saturday night or early Sunday. It's expected to also include a new mandatory quarantine of three days or more for vaccinated Israeli citizens who've returned from traveling abroad. For unvaccinated inbound Israeli citizens the quarantine will be a week.

The fresh travel rules come as authorities scramble to do contact tracing on exposures related to at least one confirmed Omicron case:

Authorities are scrambling to locate 800 Israelis who may have been exposed to the new Omicron variant of COVID-19, a defense official said Saturday.

The Health Ministry confirmed one case of the new variant in Israel, and said there were seven other suspected cases who were awaiting test results.

Four of the suspected cases returned to Israel recently from international travel, and three had not traveled, raising fears of community transmission in Israel.

Prime Minister Bennett ahead of the vote said the government is "preparing for any scenario." And concerning the new still somewhat mysterious variant, the country's interior minister said, "It looks like it might be more infectious, so we’re taking action as fast as possible."

Just days ago the health minister Nitzan Horowitz announced that Israelis will likely have to get a fourth shot, also as children between the ages of 5 to 11 have begun receiving the jab. Ironically the foreign tourist ban is now being re-imposed for one of the most highly vaxxed nations on earth.

At least 80% of all Israelis 16 and older are now considered fully vaccinated.

Tyler Durden Sat, 11/27/2021 - 23:15

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Mexican Authorities List Conditions To Reboot “Remain In Mexico” Program

Mexican Authorities List Conditions To Reboot "Remain In Mexico" Program

Authored by Tom Ozimek via The Epoch Times,

Mexican authorities have laid out a series of conditions for reviving the “Remain in Mexico” program, the Trump-era…



Mexican Authorities List Conditions To Reboot "Remain In Mexico" Program

Authored by Tom Ozimek via The Epoch Times,

Mexican authorities have laid out a series of conditions for reviving the “Remain in Mexico” program, the Trump-era framework under which asylum-seekers were returned to Mexico to await the processing of their claims, with the development coming in context of the Biden administration’s plans to reinstate the policy following a court order.

Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said in a Nov. 26 announcement that talks have “intensified” with the United States on rebooting the program, known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), but that Mexican authorities are waiting for a formal response from the Biden administration on a number of concerns.

“The government of Mexico … has raised various concerns of a humanitarian nature regarding the asylum procedure in the United States,” the ministry said, adding that it has “highlighted the need to improve conditions for migrants and asylum seekers, so that they have better legal advice” regarding the processing of their clams, which Mexico said, “must be carried out as expeditiously as possible.”

One of the conditions is for the United States to accelerate development programs for southern Mexico and Central America in order to address the root causes of migration.

Another is for Washington to offer individuals deported under the MPP program medical care and vaccination against COVID-19 “to protect their right to health and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in communities on both sides of the border.”

Mexico has also requested that the United States respect designated return points, taking into account local security conditions and the capacity of Mexican authorities “to provide adequate care to migrants.”

Another “essential” request is for Washington to provide funding for shelters and non-government organizations “in order to improve conditions for migrants and asylum seekers in a substantive way.”

The demands come as talks between the two countries continue on reimplementing the MPP program after a court in August ordered that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reverse its June decision to halt the policy.

“In compliance with the court order, we are working to reimplement MPP as promptly as possible,” DHS spokesperson Marsha Espinosa told Axios.

”We cannot do so until we have the independent agreement from the Government of Mexico to accept those we seek to enroll in MPP,” Espinosa added.

“We will communicate to the court, and to the public, the timing of reimplementation when we are prepared to do so.”

The Biden administration is facing an unprecedented surge in illegal immigration that critics say is fostered by its lax enforcement policies, including halting MPP and curtailing the use of Title 42, which is used to expel illegal immigrants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tyler Durden Sat, 11/27/2021 - 16:45

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