The video is almost too painful to watch. A woman enters a Planet Fitness facility without a mask. A security guard confronts her and insists that she put a mask on. She refuses, claiming she has a right to go maskless. Another employee also urges her to put her mask on. She argues, saying that they are “cutting into my freedom of liberty”. And declares that she has a right to violate their rules because she believes she has a right to violate their rules.
This is not the first time this particular individual has defied mask policy at a place of business. She previously filmed herself defending her “freedom of liberty” to infect people at a store and at the DMV. In each case, she not only made a video of herself being a menacing nuisance, she posted the video online. She’s damn proud of making an ass of herself in public.
In the old days, we used to just confer upon such individuals the formal label asshole. Nowadays, since so many of them are female, they’re often called Karens. A Karen is an entitled white female who believes that the world revolves around her, and that, while she doesn’t have to follow anyone else’ rules, everyone else should have to live by, or at least suffer the consequences of, her preferences.
There was a time when you could watch a video like this (assuming you had the fortitude to sit through it) and breathe a sigh of relief that she’s only one person. But these days, there is an army of Karens out there. As you’ve probably realized, men can be Karens too. (They’re often referred to as Kens.)
What is the most annoying/ disturbing thing about the behavior of these people? Is it their spoiled brat attitude? Is it the way they pride themselves on their ignorance? Is it the way they waste other people’s time and good will — such as arguing with the staff of a business about the business’s own policies? Is it the demand that everyone make an exception for them?
There are actually three major problems with the Karen Culture. First, its constituents have an air of absolute entitlement. They believe they should get their way at least one hundred percent on at least one hundred percent of the occasions. In the private sphere, this generally just makes them a pain in the ass. But when projected into the public sphere, it makes them harmful and dangerous. This woman at the gym, for instance, was quite willing to endanger the lives of countless strangers just so she didn’t have the tiny inconvenience of wearing a mask for a couple of hours.
In a mass arena it’s even worse; if a public official is a member of the Karen and Ken Cult, then he or she will have no qualms about ramming through public policy on the basis of his or her personal ideology without regard to whether anyone else approves. A Karen feels that the whole world is entitled to live by her beliefs. If she has, for example, certain religious convictions, she has no problem with making those beliefs the basis of law for everyone.
You see this manifest in the “fake news” narrative. We all have our beef with the media; and very often the dissatisfaction is justified. But right-wingers don’t really want the media to be honest or accurate. They just want it to be unflaggingly sycophantic. Because they believe they are entitled to it. And whenever a media outlet fails to support their narrative with unquestioning loyalty, they cry “media bias”.
The second problem is that they believe, in fact, that they are entitled to their own reality. Thus, they are always eager to seek out “alternative facts” to support their beliefs. And these days, there is no shortage of such “alternative facts” to seek out. It’s very easy to pull up a YouTube video that will contradict years of solid scientific research. And guess which alternative the Karens and Kens put stock in?
With regard to COVID-19, we saw an alarming instance of this when a group of quack “doctors” assembled for a “White Coat Summit” in Washington (Hey, if they wear white coats they must be authorities, right?), in which they presented themselves as brilliant, persecuted pioneers who have developed an effective treatment for the virus, but the medical establishment is censoring them — and oh yeah, masks aren’t necessary. One of these “doctors” also has claimed, among other things, that the government is controlled by interplanetary lizard people; that alien DNA is currently being used in medical research; and that gynecological problems are caused by sex with demons while you’re asleep.
Just chew on that for a minute.
And then the third thing about these people is that many of them are in positions of power and influence — or have allies who are. Karens and Kens believe they are entitled to be the majority even if they’re the minority — thus the consistent Republican practice of heavy-handed gerrymandering; and of blocking Supreme Court nominations from a Democratic president and then exercising the “nuclear option” so Democrats couldn’t do the same kind of thing.
After a partisan Supreme Court handed the presidency to George W. Bush even though he lost the popular vote, he began ramming through a radical right-wing agenda without considering how anyone outside the bubble felt about it. He even taunted Democrats that they’d have to get aboard or “be left behind”. (After his second election, he boasted that “I earned capital in this campaign, political capital, and I intend to spend it.”) The appointed vice president, Dick Cheney, brushed off questioning about the totalitarianism by saying “It’s our due.” Even though they were a minority. In fact, it doesn’t matter how small a minority they are, or whether they win an election, with or without court help. They always believe that absolute power is just their “due”.
Shortly after this “White Coat Summit”, several of its participants met with Mike Pence. And the Forty-Fifth White House Occupant himself has repeatedly touted hydroxychloroquine as a magical cure, even though there is no evidence to support this claim, and in fact the drug even appears to increase the risk of dying from COVID-19.
To the Karens and Kens, however, the facts don’t matter. All that matters is the “freedom of liberty” to live in their fantasy world. And try their best to drag everyone else into it as well. It’s just their due.