With cultural activities attracting people again after the 2020 Covid-19 Abyss, masks and other protocols are in the works – especially when it comes to red carpets.
Real Time host Bill Maher criticized during today’s panel segment of the show what he saw as an interruption at the Met Gala in New York this week. He showed on the screen a series of photos from the glamorous event, showing maskless guests being looked after by masked staff. Maher said this type of tableau will become common in 2021 as people steer the return to norms that feel far from normal.
“I noticed something in the gala photos,” said Maher, “that I’ve seen that I’ve been to some parties since the beginning of the pandemic, and that means the people who go to the parties don’t wear masks. But the servers wear masks. Something is not liberal to me. These are the liberal waves of the world. But when we are all vaccinated, the germs will know who the good people are ?! It seems a little wrong. “
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Panelist Dan Savage, the writer and podcaster, agreed that it seemed “a bit safety theatrical” and said, “You won’t get any resistance from me.” But he left the optics aside and took the view of the “devil’s attorney” that at least a certain amount of mask wear in group settings restricts Covid transmission.
“But ‘let’s just wear the mask for the helpers’?” Maher replied. “Is that the liberal approach?”
When Savage reiterated that a great deal of scientific research supports the idea that masks are effective at reducing the spread of viruses, Maher replied, “Yes – that’s why surgeons wear them.” He noted that the San Francisco Marathon recently decided that runners must wear masks during the race. “This is just so stupid,” he said. Maher, who was vaccinated but still had a symptom-free attack with Covid last spring, did not speak out against masks as a general safety measure on his show. But he’s often railed about it, specifically questioning its outdoor wear, including a related tear in tonight’s opening monologue.
Panelist Gillian Tett, author and Financial Times journalist, said the spectacle at the Met Gala made her remember her studies in anthropology. “I’m very interested in signals and the signals they send,” she said. “Having pictures of celebrities without masks next to servers wearing masks doesn’t send the right signal of community responsibility.”
Desperate Savage: “I wish we could criticize masks that don’t go to a place where people don’t wear them on airplanes and attack flight attendants.”
A guest at the Met Gala who was also criticized by Maher was the Democratic MP Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She wore a white dress with red letters with the slogan “Tax the Rich” on it and caused a stir by taking her political cause to a new stage. Maher grumbled that the richest 65,000 residents of New York City paid 51% of all city taxes levied last year. “You pay taxes,” he says. “It’s not that we don’t tax the rich at all.”
Savage and Tett both came back heavily on the host on this point, noting the rise in income inequality and other flaws in his reasoning. Maher held out and soon turned into a comical piece by imagining the messages other hypothetical gala attendees had printed on their clothing. (Examples were Lori Laughlin, “Get into any college – ask me how!” And Melania Trump, “Eat the poor.”)