Public masking as a symbol of obedience: a philosophic analysis of Peter J. Pitts’ editorial “Please, New Yorkers, just let it slide! We’re masking ourselves into fits”

Here is a link to the full editorial, Please, New Yorkers, just let it slide! We’re masking ourselves into fits, published in the New York Post on March 8, 2022. Below are quotes from the editorial, followed by my analysis. Embedded links within the quotes are retained from the original.

“I live on the Upper West Side. I am a former Food and Drug Administration associate commissioner, run a not-for-profit public-health policy institute and am a visiting professor at the University of Paris Medical School. Despite my bona fides, I can’t get my neighbors or dog-park acquaintances to relax and unmask themselves.

Translation: I’m a government health bureaucrat, so I can speak for “the science,” yet the mortals aren’t obeying me.

“Welcome to my world, where wearing a surgical mask has replaced wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt as a social-justice signal in post-pandemic America.”

Now we have a clue as to the otherwise unintelligible motivation of the outdoor surgical mask wearers (apart from those who have been conditioned to become hypochondriacs or the others who are conforming to the behavior of the people around them to avoid social disapproval). Rather than managing obviously non-existent health risks, they are publicly signaling their support for the replacement of individual rights with collective, government-enforced obligations, as has happened on a massive scale since the creation of the COVID-19 virus. Justice, to this mentality, is social, i.e., applies to groups, not individuals, and their model of a just society is collectivist Cuba (of which Che Guevara is a symbol), not individualist America. In Socialist Cuba, the rich were sacrificed to the poor by forcibly depriving them of their property; in post-pandemic America, the healthy were sacrificed to the sick by forcibly depriving them of their livelihoods (among many other things). In both cases, “social justice” is a euphemism for altruism and collectivism: the sacrifice of a group of “haves” to a group of “have-nots.”

“My ZIP code is deep blue. “Science is back!” we rejoiced when President Biden was elected.”

Translation: now two unelected government bureaucrats, Fauci and Walensky, will have direct control over what is allowed to constitute “the science,” and indirect control over policy and law.

“Alas, that doesn’t seem to be true when the science doesn’t match what many of my friends and neighbors want to believe. 

Despite very clear guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gov. Hochul and Mayor Adams, many of my neighbors want to keep their masks on…” 

“Guidance” is a euphemism for decrees issued according to the whims of politicians Hochul and Adams and backed by force.

“…  (which is certainly their privilege),…

For a collectivist, individual choice is a privilege, not a right.

… but they don’t want me to take mine off either. And they’re aggressive about it. Withering stares and cutting comments.

This is not the behavior of thinking individuals concerned with their personal health; this is the faux-outrage of a collectivist tribe attempting to control any individuals who dare not to conform to the tribe’s professed beliefs and proscribed behaviors.

“My wife and I are triple-vaccinated and self-test regularly. We live in a low-infection/high-injection zone. Very green by the CDC’s new standard. And yet many in my hood remain wedded to the way things were, as though removing one’s mask is somehow an acknowledgment of victory for anti-science, anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers.

This is the conflict of a collectivist tribe forced to choose between obedience to their authority’s decrees vs. obedience to their tribe’s customs, made more acute when a new decree is passed that superficially aligns with the ideas and behavior of their tribe’s enemies.

The author, as the spokesman for the tribe, defines those enemies as “anti,” meaning anti-rational. Rationality, in the view of the author, means obeying authority by putting on a mask when told to do so, taking it off when told to do so, and injecting whatever drug you are ordered to inject into your body when told to do so.

“There’s a real public-health risk brewing. If we can’t support our friends and neighbors who want to take off their masks when such actions are strongly supported by science, how are we going to get them to put their masks back on should the situation call for it in the future?” 

So the real problem that the author disapproves of isn’t the irrationality of the masking-forever virtue-signalers, it’s that they are insufficiently obedient to the authorities now, and so may also be so in the future.

And so we come to the fundamental issue, according to the author. Our authorities—whether health bureaucrats or politicians—must be obeyed 100% of the time and on principle.

Obedience, in this context, is both cognitive: you must think what you’re told to think by the health bureaucrats—and existential: you must do what you’re told to do by the politicians.

“‘I’m still doing my research’ was a lame excuse for not getting vaccinated, and it’s a bad excuse for insisting we all keep our masks on.”

Translation: Independent thought and action based thereon is not a justification for disobedience to authority.

“We cannot [only choose to] “follow the science” when it is convenient or suits our politics or personal belief systems. That leads to bad places.”

Translation: The pronouncements of bureaucrats like Fauci and Walensky must supersede our reasoned understanding (what the author calls our “personal belief systems”), and the decrees of politicians like Hochul and Adams must supersede our rights (what the author calls “our politics”). Otherwise, disobedience will lead us to a “bad place”: a society where each individual has the right to think independently and to act on his understanding, including his understanding of who is or is not a qualified source of specialized knowledge and guidance. For a collectivist, this cognitive and existential independence from the tribe and its leaders is unacceptable.

“Removing your mask (where appropriate) and explaining why you are doing so to your friends and neighbors (in a polite and nonjudgmental way), is just as important as explaining the value and urgency of getting vaccinated. It’s supporting science. It’s doing the right thing”. 

No, by your standards that would be appealing to their reason, asking them to think independently, and allowing them to act on their understanding. By your standards, that’s the opposite of “following the science,” i.e., obeying the authorities.

“It’s helping us all get comfortable with reality. 

Remember reality?”

I never left it, and you’ll never find it.

Daily COVID-19 deaths in NYC hit 0. Want to celebrate? Make sure it’s without life, music, dance…

Ten days ago, New York City’s Department of Health website began displaying an empty space for the number of daily deaths from COVID-19 on August 27th, presumably indicating that for the first time since the start of the pandemic daily deaths have begun measuring at zero.

Source: (Screenshot taken 9/10/20, callouts added by the author; that the empty space present for the last 10 days indicates 0 is the author’s presumption.)
Continue reading “Daily COVID-19 deaths in NYC hit 0. Want to celebrate? Make sure it’s without life, music, dance…”

Has New York City achieved herd immunity?

There is very good news regarding the worry of catching COVID-19 in NYC. Deaths are down from nearly 600-a-day in April to 2-a-day as of August 18 (and likely zero by now). Most people I know attribute this to a combination of the lockdown and the use of masks and social distancing. I attribute it to NYC having achieved herd immunity. Below is the evidence that supports my belief.

Continue reading “Has New York City achieved herd immunity?”

My testimony at the 2020 NYS Senate Manhattan State Budget Forum

Here’s the 2-minute oral testimony I gave at the 2020 NYS Senate Manhattan State Budget Forum to Senators Robert Jackson, Liz Krueger, Brian Benjamin, Brad Hoylman, Brian Kavanagh, and Jose Serrano regarding the various bills they are currently supporting that would reclassify many or all current independent contractors as employers or employees. (All were present except for Senator Jackson, who left before I spoke.)

Continue reading “My testimony at the 2020 NYS Senate Manhattan State Budget Forum”

Customer Satisfaction: New York subway vs. Uber

Re: MTA has more happy riders — but still lags behind D.C., Chicago:

Only a government monopoly such as the MTA could brag about an “almost” 50% customer satisfaction rate.

And yet no one is willing to ask the most obvious of questions: why should the government, which is a coercive monopoly by its very nature, be involved in the transportation business at all? Why shouldn’t our filthy, crumbling, rat-infested, utterly unreliable subway system be sold off to a private entity to take over, modernize, and run efficiently and cost-effectively? And why should New York City and New York State be allowed to cripple, with unending and ever-increasing fees and regulations, the competitiveness of private ride-sharing companies like Uber that have a 97% customer satisfaction rate?

New laws will kill my livelihood

(Published in New York Daily News)

Re “A tough ‘gig’ in Albany” (Jan. 28): Lost in your amplification of the talking points of the politicians and union leaders pushing this legislation are the voices of the people whose lives will actually be affected by it. I run two freelance businesses that have taken me 30 years to build successfully — one as a jazz bandleader, another as a freelance graphic designer.

As a bandleader, I am hired by ever-changing clients in many different contexts. It would not be practical or possible for any of them to hire me full-time. If this law passes, they will not hire me at all. And my sidemen are many and ever-changing. I cannot hire any of them full-time and if forced to do so, will not be able to employ them under any circumstances. As a freelance graphic designer, my clients are many and ever-changing. Not one of them would hire me full-time merely to design, say, a website or a PowerPoint presentation.

I am 60-years old, and so am unemployable full-time. Even if I was to give up my independent businesses (as I will be forced to do), there will be no alternative but to face permanent unemployment, or to leave the state. For independent contractors older than me, the consequences will be more dire.