Many Republicans are rightfully gleeful over the masks dysphoria being suffered by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, the excessive TV priestess of the institution left.

However as they ridicule her for masks neurosis, I ponder in the event that they’ve blocked from their very own reminiscences that “mushroom cloud” argument for the institution Republican battle in Iraq. The mushroom cloud, like immediately’s COVID-19 masks which might be usually sodden and clutched like spiritual relics, was a logo. And such symbols are used within the politics of worry.

Maddow not too long ago admitted she was disoriented and confused after the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention’s abrupt announcement that totally vaccinated People not wanted to put on masks:

“I really feel like I’m going to must rewire myself in order that after I see somebody out on the earth not sporting a masks, I don’t immediately assume, ‘You’re a menace, or you might be egocentric or you’re a COVID denier and also you positively haven’t been vaccinated.’ I imply, we’re going to must rewire the way in which we have a look at one another.”

I’ve mocked Maddow prior to now, however her feedback right here had been stunningly refreshing of their honesty.

Considerate folks of excellent will on each the left and the suitable perceive the politics of worry. So do the manipulative cynics looking for to take advantage of it.

In blue states usually, the masks throughout COVID-19 shutdowns grew to become a totem of that worry, and of political fealty within the Democratic marketing campaign to topple former President Donald Trump.

To the liberal left, those that wouldn’t put on masks had been — and nonetheless are — seen as if they’re witches to be burned.

But early on within the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci instructed People that these fabric and paper masks we’d purchase in shops had been ineffective.

He zigzagged for months on the problem of mask-wearing.

“Every time you’ve the specter of a transmissible an infection,” Fauci mentioned, “there are various levels from comprehensible to outlandish extrapolations of worry.”

However he did get the worry factor proper, didn’t he? And regardless of the science, the masks got here to be a political image. By sporting one, you signaled that you just’re not some immoral, harmful, self-absorbed conservative, a heretic in want of purging.

President Joe Biden in April mentioned it was our patriotic responsibility to put on masks.

However now, after months of demonizing conservatives and casting them as anti-science Neanderthals, he asks that these Neanderthals present sensitivity to those that defy CDC science and preserve their masks on. Defying science is now OK and we ought to be good about it.

“ … please deal with them with kindness and respect,” Biden mentioned.

Even liberal information websites just like the Atlantic are publishing items questioning why some can’t let go of shutdown insurance policies and mask-wearing. From the article, headlined “The Liberals Who Can’t Give up Lockdown”:

“For this subset, diligence towards COVID-19 stays an expression of political identification — even when which means overestimating the illness’s dangers or setting limits much more strict than what public-health tips allow.”

I choose to name this Democratic Masks Neurosis. However what of that Republican mushroom cloud used to take us to battle?

The mushroom cloud wasn’t a bodily object, an icon, just like the masks. It was a mantra calling People to spill their blood and treasure on the sands of Iraq. And President George W. Bush’s as soon as “humble” international coverage was reworked in ways in which destabilized the Center East, even to immediately.

We had been instructed battle with Iraq would make us and the world protected from Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and unfold democracy via the area. It might flourish amongst all these budding Patrick Henrys and Alexander Hamiltons in Iraq, Afghanistan, and ultimately, Syria and past.

But it surely didn’t occur that approach, did it?

In early September 2002, then-Vice President Dick Cheney — father of U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney — appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” to falsely accuse Iraq of growing nuclear weapons so as to add to its chemical and organic stockpiles — these weapons of mass destruction that had been by no means discovered.

Condoleezza Rice, the nationwide safety adviser to Bush, appeared on CNN and mentioned the administration couldn’t decide with absolute certainty that Iraq was near acquiring nuclear weapons. However she added: “We don’t need the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

She made headlines the world over. Her remark served the politics of worry that made approach for a radical international coverage agenda of perpetual battle. Going to battle to remodel the world is as radical as you may get. And we’re nonetheless dwelling with it immediately.

Many people bit down on that one initially. I did, to my disgrace. However I realized a lesson about how individuals are herded, via politics and media and the skilled use of worry.

And I promised myself then that I’d always remember it, or how that the politics of worry usually are adopted by damaging authorities energy.

Like these generational wars. Just like the lack of privateness and the rise of the surveillance state after the 9/11 terrorist assaults. Just like the sporadic and at occasions nonsensical suspension of civil liberties throughout the pandemic: You might protest within the streets maskless however couldn’t go to church.

Worry is used to push insurance policies the American folks wouldn’t in any other case settle for.

As soon as we wed ourselves to the totems of worry, we’re simply herded like cattle towards the chutes. Too many prefer it that approach.

John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. His e-mail tackle is


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