By J. Philip "Pip" Phillips
Published August 15, 2027
Speech Dept. Permit No. 87D005239
"Facemasks save lives."
It is difficult to believe, but public health officials once had to say such things just to get people to show good manners—before good manners were legally mandated. Wearing a facemask is, of course, the polite thing to do, just as using gender-neutral language, and using preferred pronouns, and not insisting that a tomato is a fruit, all of which now, happily, are required by federal law. Language excision has a long precedent. In the 1930s, many well-mannered people voluntarily adopted the term "flotilla leader" in place of the violent term "destroyer," which tended to elevate the blood pressure of those of fragile composure. Many of us will find it hard to believe we ever referred to embryonic pulsing by such an offensively evocative term as "fetal heartbeat."
But while still in those benighted times in 2020, our forebearers of gentility found themselves in an environment where manners often were not regarded as sufficiently authoritative in their own right. Our leaders often found it necessary, then, to tell others that bad manners would kill them. It was preposterous, of course, and even a minor breach of etiquette to utter such a silly thing. But in poorer taste still did others insist upon quoting improvident statements by some health officials to the effect that practical reasons to wear masks in public did not, in fact, exist.
For example, in early 2020, even the esteemed Dr. Anthony Fauci stated that "There's no reason to be walking around with a mask," because the only reason for wearing a mask was that it "might make people feel a little bit better." In making these unfortunate statements, Dr. Fauci was a victim of the times: of course we now know that the possibility of making people feel a little bit better is itself all the justification needed to compel good manners. But in 2020, Dr. Fauci felt manners were insufficient to arouse the compliance of Americans, many of whom, small-minded as they were, would likely insist upon strictly medical justifications. Though unbelievable to us today, these people quoted Dr. Fauci's statements as if they somehow excused the injunction imposed by good manners.
Before such misinformation could easily be rinsed from the public resource by the Google Gargle project, we only had the crude implement of "fact checkers" to correct Dr. Fauci's error. But fact-checkers usually relied on such crude tools as contradiction and refutation, which merely tended to encourage debate. And debate, as we know, only fosters bad manners.
For example, one fact checker portrayed Dr. Fauci's statements, made in early March 2020, as being the product of early and incomplete information, and quoted another health official as stating that the fact that people could spread virus without showing symptoms "was just not known at that point." (Quotation
by Speech Dept. permit no. 82F003427.) This statement simply prompted boisterous citations to the numerous studies predating Dr. Fauci's statement, thrusting the matter even deeper into controversy. Bad manners abounded.
Another example may serve to illustrate the intractability of the problem. Dr. Fauci later correctly told the public that wearing a facemask was
necessary as a "symbol" of what all Americans should be doing. (Quotation
by Speech Dept. permit no. 86D006421.) While most well-mannered Americans dutifully donned their masks, much tendentious talk persisted over the outrageous premise that requiring facemasks as a symbol of safety was somehow invalid. Such pieces as this fueled this offensive argument (quotation
by Speech Dept. permit no. 87D006824):
We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection. ... In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.
It is also clear that masks serve symbolic roles. Masks are not only tools, they are also talismans that may help increase health care workers’ perceived sense of safety, well-being, and trust in their hospitals. Although such reactions may not be strictly logical, we are all subject to fear and anxiety, especially during times of crisis. One might argue that fear and anxiety are better countered with data and education than with a marginally beneficial mask, particularly in light of the worldwide mask shortage, but it is difficult to get clinicians to hear this message in the heat of the current crisis.
[New England Journal of Medicine ***Access Restricted*** — GP#44802A.] While certainly not intended by these most excellent health officials, this piece engendered interminable chatter suggesting the existence of ugly and illegitimate controversy over the value of "perceptions." Were masks, these disputatious people insisted on knowing, effective at actually preventing illness? Were health officials, they persisted, giving medical reasons for masks, when the reasons were really based in needful social ends? Journalists and fact-checkers could only prolong distasteful public discourse, giving legitimacy to demands for medical or scientific justifications. In so doing, journalists exposed themselves to questions about their motivations and truthfulness in the process.
Very, very bad manners indeed.
Which is why the Google Gargle Project became necessary to rinse information from the public resource, information that would be used in furtherance of debate and bad manners. Improvident statements like those made by Dr. Fauci, the New England Journal of Medicine, the W.H.O., and other most high and excellent public health professionals, need no longer create discomfiting argument and bad feelings by endless consideration of the merits of ideas. Instead, by flagging offensive content on the Google Gargle app, Gargle will simply excise that content from the public record. (They remain accessible by licensed professional journalists who qualify for a permit to the requested resource.) In this way, our society can minimize the bad feelings that are occasioned by hurtful facts and unpleasant discussion.
The public record should make society feel good, about its leadership, its public health professionals, its journalists, and most importantly, about itself. That is why we Gargle any ideas that make us feel bad.
Happily, public health officials and journalists are no longer subjected to questions whether their statements are based on "objective facts," or merely a compunction to spread good manners to make society nice—once derided by the ugly term "noble lies." Good manners simply are facts, as we have long known. But now if ever a question arises about the primacy of good manners, we need no longer merely to insist upon it. Now we may simply, and politely, say: Just Gargle it.
*** If this article contains any hurtful or offensive content, please flag it using the Gargle app, or contact a Google Gargle representative to request excision or purgation. Gargling is good manners. And it is the law. ***