Strange what people will latch onto sometimes…

4 minute read

June 26, 2021, 10:10 AM

It’s funny what things people lock onto, take out of context, and run with in the age of the Internet.  I remember when my Code Pink photo in front of the White House became a discussion about President Obama and the 2012 election.  That made enough sense, because while it was a different context than the original one, it was still in the same vein, being anti-war and all.  More recently, though, a very old photo of mine was dusted off by a certain crowd and run in a completely different context than intended.  Remember this photo?

Photo from an Anonymous flash raid from July 2008

This photo is from an Anonymous flash raid where we were protesting the practices of the Church of Scientology.  In this photo, we were drawing attention to the fact that Scientology sent us letters the previous Monday.  Thus, unlike the normal practice of Anonymous at these sorts of things, where masks are worn by participants to prevent Scientology from identifying demonstrators, we were fully out and had proof that Scientology knew who we were.  Thus no mask necessary.  Being known also had its benefits, because it meant that if we had to attend to any legalities, such as filing protest notifications and such, I took care of it so that no one had to out themselves that didn’t want to.  And that was fine by me.  In any case, Anonymous was fun, and it ran to its logical conclusion, as the movement had more or less run its course by the end of 2011.

Now, fast forward to 2020.  COVID-19 had spread throughout the globe, and our governments had required that everyone wear masks, ostensibly to help limit the spread of the virus.  One thing that the “woke” crowd loved to do was mask-shaming, i.e. shame people who disagreed with the concept of wearing masks, allegedly to slow/stop the spread of the virus.  Among other things, someone dug up that very old photo of Heidi and me and ran it in such a way as to portray us as anti-mask demonstrators as it relates to the pandemic, rather than drawing attention to Scientology’s attempts to intimidate its critics.

Here’s some of what I found of it:

"We'll be dead soon"

Pithy commentary on it

Turned into a meme

Dumb and dumber

Classy, I know.  The gist that I got of this was, with the photo’s having been taken out of context (COVID would not be a thing for about twelve years, after all), they were pushing a narrative that anyone who questioned the use of masks was judged more or less out of hand to be a complete moron, assuming that any person with any smarts would accept masks without question.  What a lovely message, no?  Follow the herd or you will be ostracized.

The whole situation, where this old photo of me became popular again outside of its original context, left me feeling a bit uncomfortable.  On one hand, I was very much opposed to masks, social distancing, lockdowns, and all of the other alleged precautions that we were either asked or required to take on account of the pandemic.  I was of the opinion that government recommendations should have ended at “wash your hands and don’t touch your face” until a vaccine became available.  Masks and distancing and such, that should have been up to each person individually based on their own comfort level.  Recall that I made my opinions about the handling of the pandemic quite clear about a month ago in a Journal entry, so if there’s any question about where I stand on things related to that, it’s all there, in that (very long) entry.  The other thing that made me uncomfortable about this is that, while I opposed all of the measures being taken, I also couldn’t get behind the people protesting the measures, because they were either unable or unwilling to reach across the aisle and unify around a single issue.  Instead, the anti-lockdown protests came off as blatantly right-wing events, exemplified when some people were seen carrying massive guns to the events for no good reason other than to compensate for shortcomings in other places.  If you can’t keep your demonstration on message, I won’t consider participating, out of concern over being associated with all sorts of other issues that I might find abhorrent.  It also angered me very much that masks were seen as a partisan issue in the first place, when it really should not have been that way at all.  This should have been something that transcended party lines, but instead, it broke based on party affiliation for the most part.

Meanwhile, while I take issue with my being associated with this issue in quite this way via an old photo taken out of context, remember that this is not my first rodeo when it comes to such matters.  Going as far back as my appearance in Front magazine, I’ve found my likeness in so many different places, both in context (i.e. about me), and out of context, that I’m used to it.  My reaction is typically closer to, “Oh, look, there I am.”  My favorite one that I turned up as of late is an article on Business Insider called “BMW And Porsche Are Now Testing Extra Wide Cars For Fat Drivers“, and there’s the photo of me in the seat of the Harrisonburg bus from 2005.  Remind me to thank Business Insider for calling me fat in their article.

So there you are, I suppose.  Gotta love what people on the Internet will turn up and use to make a point, and the way that they twist and turn it to fit the narrative that they’re trying to push.