Short rebuttal needed
May 21, 2020 12:26 PM   Subscribe

Short rebuttal needed for people who claim "I don't have to wear a mask because it's a free country." I know philosophically that freedom doesn't extend to everything, but quick, precise rebuttals to that person would be nice, Particularly ones that don't incite anger.
posted by Rad_Boy to Society & Culture (66 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
You're not free to harm other people.
posted by sacrifix at 12:28 PM on May 21 [25 favorites]

Freedom to make bad choices isn't a reason to make those choices.
posted by pipeski at 12:30 PM on May 21 [15 favorites]

“And you don’t need to wipe your ass after using the bathroom, but you do it because that’s what’s best for functional society”
posted by roger ackroyd at 12:30 PM on May 21 [33 favorites]

"I hate wearing a mask too, but I think it's better for everyone if we protect each other."
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 12:33 PM on May 21 [17 favorites]

Rest in peace.
posted by ashy_sock at 12:34 PM on May 21 [9 favorites]

"The government doesn't force me to donate to the food bank either, but I do it anyway."
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 12:36 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]

"I don't have to wear a mask because it's a free country."

"Yes, it's a free country, and I am free to not allow you to come within 6 feet of me."
posted by Melismata at 12:37 PM on May 21 [7 favorites]

You could use the timeworn "you can't yell FIRE! in a crowded movie theater" as an example of limits on free speech, then make an analogy to other actions which impinge on public safety like not wearing a mask. Maybe that's not snappy enough, but it relies on a common notion that even dimwits should be familiar with.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 12:38 PM on May 21

I dont think you're going to come up with one. The person in this example is already partaking in aggressive messaging about their own ignorance.

"youre freedom is fucking it up for the rest of us, i hope you come to your senses, im moving away now, hope your granny makes it"
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:41 PM on May 21 [19 favorites]

"You have to wear pants, don't you?"
posted by LizardBreath at 12:43 PM on May 21 [27 favorites]

"My funeral won't be free, will you help pay for it?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:49 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]

"True, and they have the right to refuse you [entry into the store, service at the counter, coffee at the coffeeshop] because this is a free country. And being a reckless asshole isn't a protected class."
posted by mercredi at 12:55 PM on May 21 [14 favorites]

"You're free not to wear a mask. And the [store/bank/office] is free not to allow you inside if you're not wearing a mask."

"How right you are!" *remove your own mask and cough loudly* (probably not a good idea; it's just what I always think of in response to that.)

"You're also free to wave a knife around. And the police are free to put you in jail for that if you do so in public. If you endanger the safety of the people around you, we're allowed to take action against you."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:55 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]

"True. And I wear one because I want to protect my neighbors more than I want to do exactly what I want at all times as if I were a five year old."
posted by jessamyn at 12:56 PM on May 21 [63 favorites]

"I wear this mask to keep the old, the infirm and the unlucky free from death."

followed by "The tree of liberty is watered with the blood of patriots and now is the time for those of us who are ready to sacrifice to step up and protect this country from this stupid virus, or are you just out for yourself?"
posted by Pembquist at 12:56 PM on May 21 [12 favorites]

"Your freedom to swing your fist ends at my face."

Alternately, appeal to their sense of morality: "Could you live with yourself if you got someone killed?"
posted by suetanvil at 12:58 PM on May 21 [6 favorites]

I like this slogan posted by clew: `My mask protects you; your mask protects me.'
posted by katra at 1:07 PM on May 21 [4 favorites]

"Then why are you okay with being required to wear pants?"
posted by Automocar at 1:07 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]

Masks are like a speed limit for the germs coming out of our mouths. They make everyone safer.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 1:19 PM on May 21 [7 favorites]

Confrontational: We're doing this to protect Americans. Guess you don't love America as much as you say you do.

Less so: iIt's about being a good citizen and protecting others. You don't have to be a good citizen, but that doesn't mean other people won't object.
posted by ananci at 1:25 PM on May 21 [7 favorites]

The best reaction is no reaction. Those losers are doing that, saying that specifically to get a reaction. Don't give them one. They are fragile, they are glass, see through them. You will set a better example being a normal person about their business wearing a mask than being a potentially misinterpreted or blown out of proportion respondant to a jabroni crying out for attention and conflict.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:26 PM on May 21 [6 favorites]

I really don't want to be kind any more about this and I'd be tempted to go with "Hope you enjoy dying on a ventilator!"

However, I avoid all humans so so far it hasn't been an issue where I have had to talk to someone.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:29 PM on May 21

Talking Points Memo just published an article where ADA lawyers point out that stores can sure as shit refuse you service if you aren't wearing a mask, regardless what Fox News says.
posted by sideshow at 1:35 PM on May 21 [9 favorites]

You could use the timeworn "you can't yell FIRE! in a crowded movie theater" as an example of limits on free speech

Yeah but even a lesser keyboard free speech warrior knows that Oliver Wendell Homes's argument was bullshit even in context it was originally made (it was fine to send a dude to prison of writing flyers about how perhaps a draft for WWI was a bad idea. "War is bad" is the literal phase that in considered "fire" in that phrase.), and that even the original ruling was overruled just over 50 years ago in 1969. Using that phrase is likely a surefire way to undermine whatever argument you are about to make.
posted by sideshow at 1:47 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]

The people who use the "free country" pretext don't really mean that. They're using their lack of mask as a sort of misvirtue-signalling. So call them on it. Tell them they're liars, and they're not wearing a mask so everyone else will know they're contemptuous of civil society.
posted by adamrice at 1:48 PM on May 21 [6 favorites]

“ And yet I can see neither your toenails nor your nipples” ( Check for sandals first)
posted by jacy at 1:49 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]

"People who talk like that would not have turned off their lights during the Blitz."
posted by Alison at 1:56 PM on May 21 [6 favorites]

Several rebuttals come to mind, depending on the circumstances...

"Maybe not, but it's the right thing to do for the country/community/whatever."


"Being required to wear a mask in public accommodations doesn't infringe on your liberty any more than being required to refrain from smoking in public accommodations."


"Okay. But businesses can also refuse you entry without one because it's a free country."


"Grow up. Wearing a mask during a pandemic isn't infringing on your freedom."
posted by slkinsey at 2:21 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]

"It's a free country and we should all help to make it virus-free as well."
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:25 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]

(in America, change directions for other areas) "You're free to drive on the left side of the road on your own property, but when you're out on public streets we all agree to drive on the right side because it's safer that way for everyone."

Hopefully this will bring to mind the same kind of reckless endangerment and criminal action that comes to mind when you see someone driving like an idiot. You're not Paul Revere, you're that guy.
posted by spelunkingplato at 2:31 PM on May 21 [4 favorites]

I’m in Canada, Ontario specifically, where it’s legal to go topless, and I’m old, so I’ve decided if I come across this situation I may just remove my top and bra. Which trust me, would be a deterrent at this point. :)
posted by warriorqueen at 2:48 PM on May 21 [14 favorites]

You're also free to (choose as many as you like from the list below, or create your own), but you haven't, because it would probably make your life and the lives of people you care about worse. Why is mask-wearing different?

1. Write the word "FART" on your forehead with Sharpie.
2. Stop taking showers.
3. Name all of your children Pork Steak I, Pork Steak II, Pork Steak III, etc.
4. Eat nothing but Cheetohs.
5. Sell your vehicle and become a unicycle commuter.
6. Quit your job and become a professional (slam poet/ mukbang YouTuber / road comic / rodeo clown / whatever-might-sound-sort-of-appealling-but-mostly-kind-of-awful-to-this-person).
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 2:49 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]

Free to do anything?
posted by SLC Mom at 3:05 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]

There's a pithy saying often attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes (but see here for a more thorough tracing) that says
My right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins.
Seems apropos here.
posted by number9dream at 3:24 PM on May 21

As others have posted upthread, they aren't arguing in good faith. If you want to continue to maintain the veneer of civility here, however, I'd recommend going oblique rather than meeting them head on.

Maybe make an argument in favor of facial masks hiding your identity from CCTV/facial monitoring software? You know these people hate Big Brother so ostensibly this is PROTECTING their freedoms.
posted by queensissy at 3:30 PM on May 21

"I don't have to wear a mask because it's a free country."

"Doesn't that negate all laws, rules, and norms?"

From the trivial to the deadly? I'm free to shit on the tables at Applebees and I'm also free to drive 120 MPH and I'm free to shoot endangered sea birds and I'm free to go pantsless into Target?

It's hard because it is such a bad faith argument. It circumvents logic, which makes it hard to use logic to defuse it. Thing about people who reject logic is they are impossible to argue with, because they aren't playing by the same rules.

They're essentially trolling.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:30 PM on May 21 [10 favorites]

This is an exercise in wasted neural activity and energy that is better expended on a contemptuous look and a few steps to remove yourself from their presence.
posted by GeeEmm at 3:33 PM on May 21 [5 favorites]

Not going to work and not short, but from the Supreme Court:
Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905): "There are manifold restraints to which every person is necessarily subject for the common good. On any other basis organized society could not exist with safety to its members."
posted by WCityMike at 3:36 PM on May 21 [4 favorites]

You don't have to. It's just common courtesy.
posted by AteYourLembas at 4:28 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]

*shrug* Eh, it’s your funeral.
(And yes, I know the mask is also there to protect other people but that argument won’t work with a person like this, they’ve already proven their rights are more important than other people’s health so the only other way to convince them is to make it clear that they’ll pay the price for their selfishness.)
posted by Jubey at 4:30 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]

"Not wearing a mask right now is gross. You're free to be disgusting if you want, but people are free to think less of you."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:30 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]

There are laws about harming other people, and regardless of the law in this case, that's what you're doing.
posted by amtho at 5:07 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]

“Well, bless your heart.” And walk away.

That’s the appropriate, pithy, plausibly-deniably-polite response anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line. It translates (context-dependent) to anything from “I can see why you would think that, but no” to “You’re a fuckin’ idiot”. In this case, it would definitely be the latter. If they are from the South, they will understand your meaning. But it’s so sweetly worded that it won’t incite anger, and will throw them off balance for just long enough that they won’t have a quick comeback.
posted by snowmentality at 5:29 PM on May 21 [13 favorites]

"Freedom isn’t free. The price is responsibility."

This is an argument you’ll frequently get from that sort of person on other topics, so they should at least be able to hear it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:14 PM on May 21 [8 favorites]

The pants/responsibility responses are good for people who you have a personal reason to think you might be able to reach, but honestly this is deliberate antisocial, shitty behavior, and the people doing it are doing it because they want to get a rise out of other people and feed on their outrage. There is no way to convince someone rolling coal that what they're doing is bad for the world and their own health, they know and don't care. Rolling Stone identifies this behavior a few years ago as “Owning the libs” in its current form — i.e. blatant self-sabotage for dumb political reasons." You can protect yourself from people who are doing this, you can call the cops on them if you have reason, but I don't think you can talk to them and expect them to listen.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 6:49 PM on May 21 [5 favorites]

"Why do you stop at red lights then?"
posted by orangesky4 at 7:05 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]

"I don't have to wear a mask because it's a free country."

“...but medical care isn’t free in this ‘free’ country, is it?”
posted by honey-barbara at 7:37 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]

"Your freedom ends when you start putting innocent people at risk. You have never had the freedom to potentially harm people around you."
posted by Amy93 at 8:23 PM on May 21

"Yes, and the rest of us are free to feel you're an asshole."
posted by notsnot at 8:35 PM on May 21

[snort] Good for you. Keep fighting the power by doing exactly what they want you to.
posted by willnot at 9:14 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]

"... a simple scream of rage is sufficient. You scream and you leap."
--Larry Niven, Ringworld
posted by sourcequench at 9:32 PM on May 21

"I understand that masks are annoying, but wearing one is one small thing we can do to try to protect each other."
posted by kinddieserzeit at 11:15 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]

"Hello I have tested positive for C19 / I have tested positive for antibodies and have recovered / I am waiting for a test / I have a cough / I don't feel good - and you might want to keep your distance or wear a mask!"

(probably don't do this)
posted by loquacious at 11:33 PM on May 21

If the government asked people to cover their mouths when sneezing, would you stop doing it?
posted by trig at 12:00 AM on May 22

"I truly do not understand. What do you mean when you say "free country"?"
then keep asking questions....
posted by Sophont at 1:18 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]

"And yet here you are, wearing pants. And underwear. Why is that, in this 'free country' you speak of?"
posted by TrishaU at 3:37 AM on May 22

The issue of masks is a little complex because the Right Thinkers told us for the first month that (1) wearing a mask was unnecessary and that (2) doing so was depriving health workers of essential protections. Then they changed the directions.

I was thinking about this in the context of the fact that our state prohibited indoor dining in restaurants for, roughly, April and May, which is of course a limitation on the freedoms of diners and restaurant owners alike. But no one is entitled to uncurtailed freedom. We are entitled to be free from unreasonable curtailments. Speed limits are curtailments on our freedom, imposed for reasons that we all can appreciate.

These curtailments are more like the special speed limits set by large orange signs in construction zones: they are imposed for a particularized reason and they will be temporary impositions.
posted by yclipse at 4:02 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]

"This is one small way we can serve our right country"

- I like it because it's non-confrontational and lets them save face - they won't look like they lost if they later put the mask on.
posted by M. at 4:32 AM on May 22 [3 favorites]

"Why do you hate America? Would you have insisted in WWII on ignoring blackouts?"
posted by at at 6:25 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]

"Quit fucking with me."
posted by atchafalaya at 7:49 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]

People like this think that the concept of sacrifice is a scam and that everyone is secretly always out for themselves, so you have to make it about their interests. And personalizing the narrative always helps to drive home a message.

Lately I have said things like, "COVID put my ex, a thirty-something marathon runner, on her back for weeks. There's no guarantee about what it will be like to get so I'm trying to be as careful as possible." to people who are skeptical, although I haven't the precise encounter you describe.
posted by Kwine at 9:41 AM on May 22

"Do you really not care if you expose me to the virus that could kill my friends?"
posted by amtho at 12:17 PM on May 22

'Donald Trump wears a face mask' (via The Guardian)
posted by katra at 2:33 PM on May 22

I just read this elsewhere and thought it was an appropriate comeback for your situation;

“If you don’t like the mask, you’re going to hate the ventilator!”
posted by Jubey at 12:49 AM on May 23 [6 favorites]

I agree with those who say it is just trolling. I haven't had any confrontations yet but I don't think there is anything that will change their stand, maybe just suggest loudly that it wouldn't be so bad if they would just brush their teeth. Obviously better if there are others present.
posted by InkaLomax at 2:00 PM on May 23 [2 favorites]

"Freedom isn't free."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:20 AM on May 24

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