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Facemasks Are Not a Mere “Inconvenience”


One of the most trenchant arguments made by proponents of forced masking is some variation of “it’s just an inconvenience”, so/and/or “why do you have to make such a big deal about it”. (To be clear, this is not a legitimate scientific or factual argument for the adoption of any policy, but that is not what this article is about.) I am largely going to avoid the issues unique to masking children – what is plainly institutionalized child abuse – and for people with disabilities or past trauma, as many of the harms inflicted by masks are readily apparent and easily articulable.

On the surface, this contention seems like a morally and factually compelling argument. After all, if masks had any meaningful efficacy, wouldn’t it be a worthwhile tradeoff to endure a little discomfort to reduce the far worse suffering and death that would otherwise be inflicted by covid?

Yet this argument – “what’s the big deal” – does not square with how many people experience masks and mask mandates, including practically everyone who disagrees with masking as a policy. It is undeniable that millions of people are considerably more tormented by facemasks than what we would expect is reasonable or even possible for something that is indeed merely an “inconvenience”. People generally do not profoundly suffer from trivialities.

In other words, clearly facemasks are a considerably greater burden for many people than how they superficially appear; and yet few people are able to work out for themselves what about them is so abusive or terrible. The goal of this article is to enumerate some of the myriad harms and emotional abuses inflicted by forced masking, specifically those that are difficult to articulate or identify the connection to masking.

So what exactly is the big deal about wearing masks?

In a nutshell – as was just stated – mask wearing is to many people something that is enormously stressful, and something that evokes inordinately powerful negative emotions. This is simply the reality, irrespective of whether such feelings “make sense”.

Now, as a general rule, if someone feels powerfully about something, there’s a reason; or in other words, there is something that is provoking the strong emotions. And the source of these feelings does not have to be the thing that the feelings attach to. The only thing that matters is that the feelings exist, however misguided they may be.

This is not to say that the reality of feelings should be the dominant consideration above everything else. The current radical ‘social justice’ movement that has elevated one’s subjective “identity” as the defining characteristic of a person is the Reductio ad Absurdum of enshrining subjective feelings in place of objective reality itself.

What is true however is that the emotional distress and suffering of people is quite real. So even if you happen to be in favor of mask mandates and not at all bothered by mask wearing, that does not make the profoundly distressing experience of someone else any less real of an experience. 

The following list is not exhaustive, just a collection of some of the factors that make mask wearing, especially forced masking, so distressing to many people.

A few important things to keep in mind:

  1. Not every listed issue is true for every person who finds masks distressing.
  2. Each issue amplifies the other ones, so that the cumulative distress is far greater than the sum of its parts. It’s like the difference between 1+2+3+…10 and 1x2x3x…10 (55 vs 3,628,800).
  3. This list is not exhaustive.
  4. The short explanations are intended to give a bit more insight into how people might typically experience that particular stress. They are not intended to comprehensively define the issue.

Emotional Stresses of Mask Mandates

Deprivation of Personal Autonomy

Depriving someone of their personal autonomy is stressful and demeaning. This is amplified when it is about something that is emotionally fraught, subject to strong opinions and feelings, relates to morality/values, and/or is something that has an implication that you lack the capacity to look out for your own interest. Free will is a defining trait of being human, and the abrogation thereof is experienced as an assault on ones individuality.

A Sense of Helplessness

Being at the mercy of the arbitrary and capricious whims of others makes you feel a sense of helplessness, which is extremely stressful and grueling, and can eventually break a person mentally and emotionally, and is therefore a favored tactic used by tyrants to break the will of the population so that they are too broken to revolt (see Stalin’s reign of terror).

Invalidating Your Personal Identity

Masking is now – regardless of the factual merits – a political symbol in society. Being forced to mask is by definition being forced to yield in ones own actions – and worse, in ones public appearance – to your ideological and/or political opposition. Imagine if the government decided to make wearing a religious skullcap mandatory for everyone – you can make the same argument that is being made for masking – what’s the big deal, you barely notice it, etc – I am quite confident that atheists for instance would would feel very keenly the assault on their personal identity.

Assaulting Your Sense of Morality / Making You Feel Like You’re Immoral and Selfish

Mask mandates force people opposed to internalize that they are acting immorally and selfishly for two reasons. The first is that society is enshrining into law that how you act is immoral and selfish, which is a public declaration to the world that you are immoral and selfish. The second is that how you act outwardly always exerts influence in how you fell and identify internally, so constantly wearing a mask eats away at your internal convictions – even if you can withstand this, it creates some degree of cognitive dissonance internally. No one likes to feel like they are evil or selfish.

Deprives / Ruins Human Interactions

The quality and nature of social interactions is greatly reduced. Every interaction behind masks is fundamentally different. Interacting in this way can feel sad, despondent, isolating, cold, and/or cruel, among other things.

Over Time Changes Your Personality

Facemasks are a radical and unnatural impingement on normal mental and emotional functioning. Over time, this can change your personality – such as making you less social, less outgoing, more suspicious, decreased tendency or desire to be kind and so on.

Turns Other People Into Abusive Tyrants

This is meant to capture the phenomenon of a subset of people who have turned into cruel and vicious individuals, and abuse people whom they have power over. 

A General Feeling of Being Trapped in a Nightmare

Many people feel a clear and distinct sense of being trapped in some sort of perverse nightmare as a result of covid policies, which is an extremely distressing experience, especially when there feels like there is no end in sight.

Elementary Lack of Fairness 

People are very sensitive to fairness, and can feel enormous stress and distress when treated unfairly, especially when the unfair treatment is egregious. Mask policies are literally imposing on some people so other people can feel safer – a grotesquely unequal treatment, that in order to help the emotional health of the scared-to-death-of-covid pro-maskers, everyone else’s mental & emotional health will be trampled on by forced masking. Moreover, mask mandates preferentially enshrines the political, moral, and ideological views and sensibilities of one segment of society without any justification.

Repeated Experience of “Losing” in Public Policy Decisions

The experience of losing again, and again, and again in substantial, significant public policy decisions is itself very distressing. This happens to be one of the more prominent animating forces that drove Trump’s voter base – that they felt they always lost again and again and again and again. Covid policy for a substantial portion of the population has been a series of devastating losses as practically every policy choice cuts against them.

Feeling That Other People Matter While I Don’t

This is a distinct distress in addition to the lack of fairness – that “I don’t matter”; this is amplified considerably when “other people matter”. This is what people who are systematically disregarded tend to feel, and it is very painful.

And this is especially pronounced in racial minorities who already feel this way from previous history — mostly white liberal elites are forcing their preferences on blacks and other minorities.

The Stress of Difficulty Communicating

The frustration that comes from difficulty communicating is underappreciated, and tends to leave people feeling annoyed, frustrated and stressed. 

The Damage From Failed Communication

This particular harm also has another, more tangible dimension – often, people having a hard time communicating simply give up, and giving up is itself an added stress factor that leaves people frazzled. If you’re talking to your doctor and you “give up” instead of making sure you understood what he was trying to tell you – especially older people who psychologically tend to both give up faster and have more innate difficulty physically hearing to begin with – that could be a big problem.

The Distress of Constant Harassment

Mask mandates are a constant intrusion into people’s personal lives that leaves people feeling exasperated – “just leave me alone already” / “just let me live in peace”. It is a basic human need to not be constantly harassed by others.

Living In Constant State of Worry, Fear, and Anger

Knowing that you have to submit to the mask mandates in many places where you need to go leaves you always feeling a variety of negative and unhealthy emotions about it.

Saps the Joy From Many Different Activities

Take shopping, for instance. For many people, shopping is a leisure activity that can be an effective emotional detox from life stresses… but not when you have to wear a mask to do it.

Living In Perpetual Stress From Social Enforcers

Inevitably, people opposed to mask mandates will not be particularly zealous about following them to a “T”, whether it be letting the mask slide down your face, taking it off for a few minutes here and there, or just munching on a bag of peanuts for 3 hours. There is always a baseline stress of constantly having to be alert for the “mask police” (whether they are actual police or just really annoying Karens).

Public Humiliation

The aforementioned “mask police” are often extremely zealous – unhinged, really – a non-masking-compliant person getting dressed down in public is a common occurrence. Public humiliation can be a traumatic experience.

Emotional Abuse

Mask mandates leave many people feeling emotionally abused. This is both from the masking being forced upon people despite all the mental and emotional distress it causes – in other words, abuse – and from the constant manipulation that is characteristic of abusers that is part and parcel of mask mandates.

Bullying Plain and Simple

Mask mandates are forced coercion jammed down the throats of those who strongly resent them. This is vicious bullying. No one enjoys feeling bullied, or having someone else’s will imposed on them against their own will. 

The Distress of Being Under the Control of Someone You Loathe

Think of it this way: Imagine two ppl vying for the same promotion who hate each others guts, and then the winner is made the boss of the loser. This is an added, separate affront to the loser. Same idea here – the anti- mask people are being specifically dictated to by the very opponents they despise, and on the very issue that they’re fighting over. This isn’t just at a national level – this is more true about local county or school board fights, and this is a reliable recipe for bad blood and lasting enmity to boot.

The “Tax” of Buying Masks that are Less Unpleasant 

Many people choose to buy fancier masks than the nasty surgical masks widely available everywhere, because they are far less unpleasant (and far more sanitary and subject to manufacturing standards and quality control). This itself is a further indignity – if the government wants to impose a draconian mandate on us, the least the government can do is to make comfortable masks available, especially considering the government is throwing cash everywhere because of covid – it’s an added insult and disrespecting of the people being imposed upon, in the sense that it’s just plain coldhearted to act this way to someone else, at least have a little sensitivity and try to make your own mandates as tolerable as possible on the people you’re imposing on.

Irrational Government Actions Breed A Sense of Fear and Instability

Watching the government act in such a factually irrational manner is itself very stressful to many people, as is living under an irrational regime. One’s sense of stability and trust in the world is rooted by necessity in the belief that rationality is a limiting principle at some point upon what government and people/institutions with power in society are able and willing to do. 

Makes People Doubt Their Sense of Reality

The very fact of making a crazy policy is itself deeply destructive to people’s sense of reality. In other words, there is tremendous cognitive dissonance of on the one hand knowing that masking is nuts, but on the other hand, watching the government make mask mandates – it is very hard to have a genuine emotional conviction that essentially the entire medical community and all of society’s institutions have gone stark raving mad. Such cognitive dissonance is very damaging psychologically to your sense of self and your sense of reality, and is also mentally and emotionally exhausting.

Destroys People’s Sense of Trust & Stability

Being forced to do irrational and insane things erodes a person’s sense of confidence that there is a baseline rationality in society — something that provides people with a sense of stability and security in life generally. It is distressing to feel like there is absolutely no rational limiting principle on government actions or policies, since this by definition means that there is nothing that you can trust is sacred and beyond government (or someone else) coming and destroying. (This also actively erodes the social fabric that relies upon people being rational.)

Destructive of People’s Humanity and Dignity

Being forced to act irrationally causes you to lose your sense of dignity as a human being with an intellectual faculty that distinguishes man from animals. In other words, the more you are suppressed from acting in accordance with intelligence, the less you feel the unique transcendence of being a human being – treating people like animals makes them feel like animals.

Dehumanization Through Forced Anonymity

The face is the most visibly manifest characteristic that sets you apart as a unique individual. Masks, by covering your face, strip you to some degree of your sense of being a unique individual and instead makes you feel more like a number than a person. It also distorts your sense of the humanity of others, as you inevitably become trained to perceive other people as lacking human-ness.

They’re so Darn Uncomfortable

Masks can be extremely uncomfortable to wear, especially for long stretches at a time. They can also be quite gross to wear – if you sneeze into the mask, well……

Pragmatic Harms of Mask Mandates

Promotes Authoritarianism and Fascism

This is true as written – the ascendance of authoritarian and tyrannical governance has been as shocking as it was swift. Mask mandates – which are objectively draconian and authoritarian regardless of whether they are scientifically warranted – internalize in people that authoritarian governance is normal, acceptable, and not evil. This is a problem. Every genocidal regime started this way. This by itself is sufficient justification to fight mask mandates “to the death”.

On a more relatable level, mask mandates accustom government officials to acting like tyrants, and enjoying their newfound dictatorial powers, a ‘perk’ they are very unlikely to part with willingly. 

Promotes Religious Cultism

Masks have become a religious symbol of virtuosity of a fanatical cult of irrational beliefs that has completely forsaken thinking for the cult members (like lone drivers wearing masks in their cars). Cults have committed some of the most horrific and bizarre atrocities over the past century.

Socially Conditions the Citizenry to Be Docile and Unthinking

Authoritarian mandates that are based only upon the word of people (the “experts”), especially in stark contradiction to facts and common sense, conditions people to be docile, and to not think about anything (as their intellects and opinions are scorned and said to be of too poor quality to be legitimate sources of knowledge for anyone, including themselves). This destroys the vibrancy and energy of the society, and conditions people to not think of themselves as individually capable beings who have the potential to achieve greatness, a critical driving force necessary to impel people to make something of themselves.

Balkanizes Society

Mask mandates help to further sow division and enmity between the factions of society by oppressing one faction while also giving the other faction the moral grounds to claim that the anti-mask faction by not going along with the mandate policies are in violation of the law, and are acting immorally as defined by societal approbation of mask mandates as a crucial health measure.

All-Encompassing Harms of Mask Mandates


The most obvious general harm of mask mandates is stress. Stress is known to be aggressively destructive to your health, and something that significantly exacerbates every known medical condition. Everything listed above causes the people afflicted to be stressed. 

Breach of the Social Compact

When part of society is so wantonly destructive towards another part of society, the society loses its legitimacy in the eyes of the oppressed, and the rule of law is incorrigibly eroded, since one side simply inflicts their will upon the other side regardless of the laws, conventions, and norms of society; and without any limiting principle. “Rule of law for thee but not for me” is not rule of law, and has no moral legitimacy for the “thee” to respect or comply.

Indefinite Nature of the Suffering

The indefinite-ness of the situation is itself a source of considerable suffering, or a powerful amplification of the suffering one is already experiencing. It is infinitely easier and more bearable to handle suffering that you can see its end, when it will pass, versus suffering that seems inescapable and endless. (The feeling that the suffering is inescapable is a ubiquitous factor that leads people to commit suicide.)

C’mon, most of these are silly?

The ultimate refuge of someone trapped by the facts is scorn and mockery. Human nature drives a person to feel and act derisive about something that requires depth to grasp. Human nature also strongly tends towards not just denying but mocking anything that challenges the morality and prudence of your opinions and actions. Thus people are told that their experiences and suffering from mask mandates is not real and makes no sense – one of the most insidious and abhorrent forms of abusive manipulation.

It is very difficult to gain an appreciation and understanding of most of the things on this list. On the other hand, it is far easier to destroy any sense of comprehension and emotional awareness of these – all that is necessary is one pithy line scorning this whole notion as delusional. Such is the power of mockery, that one witty zinger can completely vanquish the awareness gained from many hours of thoughtfulness and introspection.

So no, these are not silly, and feeling these does not make you a baby. This accusation is nothing more than the panicked derision that is the last defense of someone who can’t debate the actual facts.

The Manipulative Nature of an Abusive Relationship

One of the textbook tactics utilized by abusers to maintain control in an abusive relationship is to define the context and facts of anything related to the relationship so as to get in the victim’s head so to speak and distort their sense of reality so that they are unable to articulate – even to themselves – the fact of their abuse and victimization. 

As we all can see, the constant claims of “facemasks are not a big deal”, “there’s no conceivable reason for anyone to think that masks can be harmful”, etc, accomplished this quite effectively. The goal of this article was to unwind this pernicious and abusive lie in order to re-empower victims of forced masking against the proponents of mask policies who are abusive and manipulative. (Sometimes mask policies are reluctantly put in place in order to accommodate political or legal realities where masking is the least destructive option.)

This can be summed up as one more type of emotional distress inflicted by mask mandate proponents:

The contention that “facemasks are just an inconvenience” amounts to abusive manipulation that steals the ability of the victims of forced masking to identify and articulate the suffering and harm they experience from forced mask wearing.

To conclude, the quote at the top of this article from DA Henderson – widely credited with the eradication of smallpox – is very revealing:

“Experience has shown that communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events respond best and with the least anxiety when the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted”

It is hard to imagine a greater disruption to normal living than the highly visible and symbolic masks ubiquitously worn everywhere.

Republished from the author’s substack.

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
For reprints, please set the canonical link back to the original Brownstone Institute Article and Author.


  • Aaron Hertzberg

    Aaron Hertzberg is a writer on all aspects of the pandemic response. You can find more of his writing at his Substack: Resisting the Intellectual Illiteratti.

    View all posts

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