The Atlantic

Facebook’s Pandemic Feuds Are Getting Ugly

Two North Carolina groups are locked in a battle full of name-calling, conspiracy theories, and morbid memes.
Source: Adam Maida

A disposable face mask is burning in the bottom of a cake pan. It’s a controlled blaze, the perfect size for roasting a hot dog—which someone is doing, holding it above the flame on a metal skewer. A tinny recording of “The Star-Spangled Banner” plays in the background, building to its familiar end just as the hot dog appears to be fully roasted.

The comments beneath the 30-second video, posted to Facebook in June as part of the “Burn Your Mask Challenge,” run the gamut from mirth to disdain to a swelling of patriotic pride. “LOVE THIS!” with three laugh-crying emoji. A smattering of sober warnings not to eat a hot dog that has been roasted in the fumes of incinerated fabric.

The “Burn Your Mask Challenge” started in a private Facebook group called Reopen NC, which was created in early April, not long after North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, announced a statewide stay-at-home order. The 81,000 members of the group generally believe that state measures to control the spread of the coronavirus infringe on their personal rights. When Cooper announced a mask mandate last month, they started a petition against it, which has so far accrued about 5,500 signatures. A mock-up of a face mask reading This mask is as useless as our governor is still shared regularly.

The pandemic has opened up a new front in the American culture wars. There have been protests against masks and lockdowns in , , , , and

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