Some companies, like Walmart and CVS, decided several weeks ago to require anyone who enters their stores to wear masks, regardless of local or state rules. This seemed both extreme (masks, unlike clothing, cause genuine discomfort) and unnecessary (if you’re sick, stay home; if you’re not sick, the mask isn’t going to do anything).

However, many of these stores have just reversed course. They didn’t establish their policies based on reason, and so it wasn’t reason that changed their minds, but something else. The Daily Wire reports the story:

Walmart, Home Depot Won’t Enforce Face Mask Rules Following Violent Confrontations

The confrontations have turned deadly. A security guard at a Family Dollar store in Michigan was shot dead in May after he told a customer to wear a mask.

Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, CVS, and Walgreens, along with other nationwide retailers, say they’ll serve customers even if they violate mask mandates, according to CNN. The retailers simply want to avoid confrontations between angry customers and employees.

Social media exploded last week when Dr. Anthony Fauci, an immunologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who serves on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, was seen with his mask down while sitting shoulder to shoulder with two people after having thrown out the first pitch at a Major League Baseball game.

There are a few important lessons to be learned here, and one of them isn’t a good one. I’ll start with that one: when reason and debate get shut down, violence becomes an effective way of fixing problems. I’m not endorsing violence here. On the contrary, I’m pointing out that these stores have just endorsed violence as the only way to meaningfully effect their store policies if you disagree with them. That’s a dangerous and stupid precedent that didn’t need to happen.

Another lesson is the importance of the masks in the minds of the owners of these companies. If masks are truly the key to ending this crisis (rather than, as I believe, ending the fear) then it would be wrong to change the policy just to avoid these confrontations. But if, on the other hand, masks are more of a political and social tool than a medical one, this change makes a lot of sense.

While I’m more cynical of governors, who I think are using mask mandates to cover up their bad policies and shift blame, I don’t think that’s the political or social motivation for mask mandates initiated by CEO’s and company boards. I think instead that these companies are strongly averse to risk – especially risks that are magnified daily by our news media – and that they want to appear to be doing what everyone considers to be the right thing to do. I still don’t think this wise – if our main concern should be hysteria and fear, masks only make things worse and give a false sense of control – but it’s not quite as sinister.

Even still, it does reveal the hypocrisy of our culture in that we consider the mere appearance of a thing more important than its substance.

The last lesson comes from that last bit about Fauci. Combine this bit with the news out of Washington DC that peasants will be charged $1000 for not wearing a mask, while their political elites are free to disregard the order.

The last lesson is that the elites in government and business know full well masks aren’t effective. They don’t take the mask orders seriously. Rather, the public has been so thoroughly terrorized by their leaders that they believe they have to do something to help. And so politicians have demanded that the medicine obey fear. The cause of the mask mandates is a shift in politics, not medical knowledge. The World Health Organization admitted as much.