Wednesday, December 30, 2020

One Karen, Two Karens, an Army of Karens

I spent several hours on Christmas Eve watching video clips of anti-maskers behaving badly.  I regret it, it was a highly toxic experience that left me feeling lousy for a day or two, but it also helped me understand why so many people feel that watching TV news and punditry makes them feel terrible.  Usually I just watch four or five minutes of such material; five or six straight hours of it was painful.  It's also habit-forming, and I'm finding it harder than I expected to stop.

It wasn't just watching mostly middle-aged, mostly white, mostly women bullying store clerks and lower-level managers who are required by their employers to treat abusive customers with courtesy, though of course that was infuriating.  (On the other hand, getting into screaming wrestling matches with them would not be better for their peace of mind either.)  I was also bothered by the mostly amateur pundits who reposted the clips to Youtube.  There were some professionals, such as the lefty channel The Young Turks, whose Rick Strom quickly annoyed me as much as the anti-maskers did.  Strom's smirk makes me think of Rachel Maddow in a scraggly hipster beard - in fact I propose that he and his ilk should be known as Rachels hereafter.  (Or maybe Cenks, after the would-be union-busting star of The Young Turks.)  His commentary adds nothing to the clips, but I guess a guy has to earn a living.  And maybe I'm being unfair: Strom appears on the TYT Sports channel, maybe I'm taking him too seriously.

I noticed that the commentators (let alone those who commented on the videos) weren't really much smarter than the anti-maskers they derided.  The clip above, posted by a guy called Xenoshot, epitomizes the style.  It's framed by several seconds of a video game, then switches to a scene of three (or maybe four, if the person recording is one of them) stereotypical anti-maskers exercising their Freedom in a coffee shop as the young manager patiently, calmly, stands firm on the mask requirement and finally calls the police to remove them.  The invaders are equipped with the usual printouts that they claim prove their right not to wear a mask.  Whether they are from the CDC website, as they claim, should be doubted, but without seeing the printouts I can't be sure.  Their leader claims that the manager is discriminating against them, citing the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which has no bearing on the situation either.

Xenoshot's world-weary drone is about as irrelevant as Rick Strom's, but the interesting thing is that his grasp of the law is as weak as the anti-maskers'.  The leader lectures one of the cafe workers:

This is not free and equal access, which you have to comply with, that's an established law, so if you are basically treating us differently than other customers, you are violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which is a crime.  This is a crime, okay? 
Over more videogame footage, Xenoshot drawls:

Yeah, I'm sure the Civil Rights Act recognizes anti-maskers as a protected class, when are Karens gonna understand that private businesses have every right to refuse service, it's like some insane concept to them. "No shirt no shoes no service," I'm sure they've heard of that. If you don't comply with a business's rules, you're the one who's breaking the law.  They have every right to have you arrested for trespassing.

It's true that the Civil Rights Act does not protect your right to violate public health regulations by refusing to wear a mask: it states which kinds of discrimination (race, sex, religion, etc.) are prohibited and in what domains (education, hiring, public accommodations, etc.).  However, far from giving private businesses "every right to refuse service" according to their "rules," the Act restricts businesses' rights to do so.  Misconceptions about civil rights and antidiscrimination laws are as widespread on the left and in the center as they are on the right, as I've pointed out numerous times.

The sign you see posted above the cashier's station in many small businesses, "We reserve the right to refuse service for any reason" has no more legal standing than the popular Facebook posts declaring the poster's legal ownership of what he or she posts there - that is to say, none.  They can be challenged, and have been.  As for "No shirt no shoes no service", those signs are technically legal, but "their scope is limited."  These decisions are judgment calls, subject to challenge if they are abused.  Which, to avoid confusion, is not happening in this clip.

Businesses that require masks, or try to, are doing so not because of the owners' idiosyncratic disapproval of uncovered faces but to comply with state and local laws and health regulations.  They might require masks in a pandemic even without those regulations, but they can call the police in, as the manager of the cafe in this clip did, because they have law behind them.  Anti-maskers also like to claim that health regulations aren't law, but guess what?  They're wrong about that too.

I'd like to think it would be helpful if Xenoshot, Rick Strom, Karens in the Wild, Kodelyoko and other Youtube Rachels bothered to inform themselves before they post their putdowns.  The same goes for the anti-maskers and the Trump cultists trying to overturn the 2020 election, of course, but we know that.  Just because the anti-maskers are stupid, it doesn't follow that the Cenks are smart.  The Rachels are like MSNBC: they're about tone, not substance; about clicks and branding, not intelligent commentary; stroking the prejudices of their audience, just like Fox News.  If it feels good ... think again.