In Europe, an anti-mask movement is driven by an “anti-system imagination”

As the Covid-19 epidemic recovers in Europe in mid-summer, protesters have rallied across the continent for weeks to protest wearing the obligatory mask. According to specialists, this anti-mask movement illustrates a feeling of distrust of the state.

Madrid, Brussels, Berlin … In several European cities, demonstrations have gathered for several weeks hundreds of opponents to wear masks. The appearance of these gatherings coincides with the establishment, in several countries, of wearing the obligatory mask for the emergence of the Covid-19 epidemic.

According to their American and Quebec colleagues, the European anti-worms first met on social networks, especially via Facebook groups such as “Hang on the go” in Belgium or even “Mandatory anti-worm” in France.

On August 20, the first had almost 8,200 members and the second more than 6,700. In these groups there are, for example, publications that convey the words of Dr. Didier Raoult, others that defend the controversial YouTubers, Thierry Casasnovas and Silvano Trotta or even memes talks funny about the usefulness of wearing a mask.

Examples of memes that reject the obligation to wear a mask, published August 20, 2020 on the Facebook page “Anti-mask, the revolt begins here”. © Facebook screenshot

From social networks to the streets

If the exchange was originally only virtual, these Internet users now meet on social networks before taking to the streets.

Hundreds of those who shouted the word “Freedom” gathered on Sunday 16 August in Madrid, in Colon Square, in the center of the Spanish capital. On their signs one could especially read: “The virus does not exist”, “the worm kills” or “we are not afraid”.

On the same day, in Brussels, several hundred protesters gathered. Although wearing a mask restricts their individual freedoms, some protesters noticed signs that read: “Corona circus” or “it’s my body, it’s my choice”.

These meetings took place a few days after the tightening of health measures in several European countries. The mask has really become mandatory on 12 August throughout the territory of the Brussels region. Opponents of the aumasques had gathered in Madrid two days after the government announced the closure of nightclubs and the ban on smoking when it is impossible to stand within two meters of each other.

These demonstrations have since provided ideas for the refractory on the French side. They plan to meet again on August 29 in Paris, where it is mandatory to wear a mask in certain areas. On Facebook, the participants organize themselves through a private event, created by Stéphane C, 39, also around the Facebook group “Anti-mask, the revolt begins here”.

“A resilience”

Stéphane C, interviewed by France 24, defends himself from being a “conspirator”, explaining that these public health measures go too far for his liking. “Wearing a mask in public places is an attack on our rights and our freedoms”, he condemns and also believes that “wearing a mask in transport makes no sense”.

“Whether there is a Covid-19 epidemic or not, public transport is a nest for bacteria,” continues the organizer of the event, who says he was fined “about fifteen” for refusing to wear the Mask.

According to Stéphane C, his distrust also stems from a contradictory speech from the state. “At the beginning of the crisis, the government said the mask was useless. Today it says it is necessary to wear it. It is not clear,” he said.

Whether they are developed in Spain, Belgium or France, the arguments of the anti-masks coincide in several aspects. Marie Peltier, a conspiracy specialist and author of “Obsessions: Behind the Scenes of the Conspiracy Story” (Inculte, 2018) contacted by France 24 (Inculte, 2018) explains that this movement is driven by an “anti-system imaginary” that transcends borders. -European.

“The mask is presented by these groups as an element introduced by the political and media system. Not wearing the mask is therefore, for them, a resilience,” explains the Belgian researcher.

A “conspiracy logic”

Marie Peltier explains that these movements are political, “strongly structured by right-wing networks and will also provoke some radical left-wing movements”. There are also people who are less politicized. “Some people end up in this group because they were just abducted by this kind of talk,” she says.

An analysis shared by Jocelyn Raude, a teacher-researcher in social psychology at the School of Advanced Studies in Public Health. The anti-masks are “much more present among the voters of the parties from the extreme right or the extreme extreme left”. “There is a way in this attitude to disobey a government that they do not approve of or express a relationship of broader distrust of the state and the authority in general,” he points out. the newspaper La Croix.

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Although it seems to have a certain homogeneity, this movement also covers different realities. Some, for example, simply oppose the obligation to wear a worm, while others reject the very idea of ​​the presence of coronavirus.

For Marie Peltier, these differences represent the hallmark of “conspiracy logic”. “This political imagination permeates the population to varying degrees. There are nuances in this society. But the most important common position is still to reject the system,” the teacher specifies.

If the anti-mask movement, like the conspiracy movement, gains momentum in Europe, the specialist emphasizes that the latter will remain “marginal”. “The vast majority of people wear the mask and do not discuss it. Due to the fear of the virus, they generally remain reasonable and respect the sanitation instructions.” According toa YouGov survey According to the Huffington Post, 84% of French people surveyed say they are ready to wear a mask outdoors.