Over the months there have been a number of anti-mask demonstrations, most of them fairly small, and certainly well on the fringes of public opinion about the Covid-19 pandemic.
On 29 August that shifted up a notch. A number of larger demonstrations were held in Europe. In London, several thousand of people, at least, crowded into Trafalgar Square to hear speakers including David Icke and Piers Corbyn.
As Levente Zékány reported in Solidarity 561 there is a crossover between these demos and the wider-ranging QAnon and “Save our Children” demonstrations. Within the milieu are people committed to the idea that the pandemic is fake, or wildly exaggerated, or caused by 5G, and that the public is being lied to in order to lever more mandatory vaccinations and the suspension of many civil liberties.
Solidarity’s 'Diary of a Tube Worker' has reported similar ideas given credence in a relatively unionised workplace. In my own Tube station I have been approached by someone claiming to be a “nutritional doctor” and advising me on the dangers of “breathing in your own CO2”.
We also see a convergence of sections of “wellness” and “new age” thought with anti-mask thinking. People who already believe that many ailments are caused by unidentified toxins in your body have been caught up alongside organisations like Stand UpX who reject the lockdown as “authoritarian control” and a mass SARS-Cov-2 vaccination programme as only benefiting big pharma and Bill Gates.
A poll of French anti-mask protesters shows that a majority distrust the powerful and consider themselves free thinkers.
Distrust and free thought are also necessary to build a mass socialist movement. But here we have a valid distrust congealing into a worldview where it is impossible to know the truth and scientific research is no better than the last post you read on social media. Science comes to be seen as something not to be widely understood, something for a privileged few.
Such attitudes have been promoted over the decades by sections of capital for their own reasons, for example to deflect scientific findings on smoking and on climate change.
Socialists have a lot to do to break down these attitudes. We should try to “pre-bunk” rather than “de-bunk” the theories. And understand why people are drawn to them in the first place.