A century ago, during the Spanish flu pandemic, authorities in many cities in this country passed mandatory mask ordinances, just like the ones we have now. Many Americans accepted them, but many others did not. In California, citizens rebelled. In January of 1919, 5,000 members of the newly formed Anti-Mask League of San Francisco gathered to call for the mayor’s resignation if he didn’t repeal his mask order. Five days later, the mayor complied. Science vindicated that decision in the end. A year later, a study found that compulsory mask use likely had no effect on curbing the Spanish flu.
We live in a very different time. American society, of course, is far less cohesive than it was one hundred years ago, and Americans seem far more passive. Those who disagree with the prevailing orthodoxy have less power than they’ve ever had. Mass communications are now controlled by a tiny number of people, all of whom have identical agendas. There is no modern Anti-Mask League. There couldn’t be a modern Anti-Mask League. Facebook and Google would shut it down the first day. The governors of Michigan and New Jersey would indict its leaders.