Tech Millionaire's Indecent Proposal To Woman On Plane: Remove Your Mask For $100,000!
COVID-denialism is unfortunately rampant. Researchers at Ohio State University have conducted studies showing that people who believed debunked nonsense about the pandemic were also "more likely to later report they believed that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen from Donald Trump through widespread voter fraud, which is also not true.”
So, if there's a circular Venn diagram of COVID deniers and Trump 2020 dead-enders, it would make sense that COVID deniers so often behave like assholes in public. Here's a recent example: Tech millionaire Steve Kirsch, self-proclaimed "truth-teller" and "critical thinker," has boosted unproven COVID-19 drugs and campaigned against vaccines. He's falsely claimed that the "Pfizer vaccine kills more people than it saves."
We don't know if he's a Trump-supporting election denier, but he certainly seems like an asshole. Friday, he tweeted a photo of himself with the caption, "I am on board a Delta flight right now. The person sitting next to me in first class refused $100,000 to remove her mask for the entire flight. No joke. This was after I explained they don’t work. She works for a pharma company."
The unfortunate woman seated next to Kirsch didn't ask him to wear a mask during the flight. Kirsch might insist that masks don't work — despite all known germ theory — but there's certainly no evidence that wearing a mask hurts the random asshole next to you.
But Kirsch was compelled to lecture this woman in the most insulting way possible. He first offered her $100 to remove her mask. She declined. Kirsch then graciously "pointed out that when she removed the mask for eating and drinking, she could be infected with one breath. So she had full disclosure."
COVID deniers push an all-or-nothing extremism: If you take your mask off briefly to eat or drink, then you might as well have never worn a mask at all during your hours-long flight, and unless your mask is made of the same material as Dr. Doom’s, then you’re just virtue signaling.
He continued, “She took off her mask as soon as the breakfast was served!!!! Because everyone knows you can’t get infected while you are eating!! Maybe next time I’ll sit next to someone who had an account at Silicon Valley Bank.” Hi yo!
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Kirsch treated the woman next to him like an unwilling auction item, and he kept bidding up her personal health decision even though it was never for sale. He didn’t know if she was immunocompromised or simply didn’t want to get sick.
Masks are a tool, but unlike Kirsch, they are a useful one. Dr. Bob Wachter, chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said that while he's no “longer concerned about dying or serious illness,” the virus can still knock you on your ass. What moron wants to get sick if they can avoid it? Dr. Wachter’s own wife recently recovered from a lengthy bout of long COVID. That’s not fun.
A goofy judge in Florida overturned the federal mask mandate for airplanes and public transportation last April. Kirsch has not had his face oppressed on an airplane for almost a year, but that’s not good enough for him. He has to harass a woman who probably regrets splurging on that upgrade to first class.
A Twitter user with the predictable handle "We Will Not Comply" responded to Kirsch's thread: "I often wonder if the maskers I see as I’m traveling, ever ask themselves, how are the rest of us who don’t wear masks, still alive?"
Don Draper from “Mad Men” will always have the best answer to this sort of question.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."