Political debate over face masks becomes public flashpoint powered by social media

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Americans have taken to social media to voice their frustrations and post controversial discussions around facial covers, worn to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges people to wear masks, the subject remains a controversial issue.

Twitter was used to highlight the stark differences between those who wear masks and those who do not.

Civil rights activist Danielle Muscato took to Twitter on Saturday to talk about a passionate encounter she experienced while shopping at a Kroger in Louisville, Ken.

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“I just got threatened with assault at @kroger in Louisville because I asked another customer to wear a mask, and she refused,” Muscato tweeted Friday. “I reported it to a manager, who found her and spoke to her, but refused to do more.

The Kroger Co. could not be reached for comment on the story which received more than 6,000 retweets and comments.

Her story was then shared and criticized on Twitter by Glenn Greenwald, founding editor of The Intercept, a medium that was launched in 2014, who claimed she was using social media to “humiliate” Kroger’s manager.

“Using social platforms to denounce and humiliate hourly supermarket workers in the midst of a pandemic for no reason other than sadism, a need for attention and a complete lack of empathy,” Greenwald wrote.

These social media outbursts around face masks have been rife since the lockdowns began in March.

Celebrities, politicians, health officials and the other 48 million Americans on Twitter have taken to the platform to voice their support for or against wearing a mask.

Former Major League Baseball player Aubrey Huff posted a video on Twitter in mid-June after California ordered masks to be worn in grocery stores, and said he “would rather die of the coronavirus than live the rest of my life in fear and wearing a goddamn mask. . ”

Hashtags for whether or not someone supports wearing a face mask are now used on Twitter under the #antimask or #facemask, but the phrase that was the most trending on Twitter on Saturday for coronavirus news was #TrumpsCovidCoverup.

Trump took to Twitter in late July to say the masks are “patriotic” after months of refusing to wear one in public – even though other GOP members have urged him to do so.

Senate Committee on Health, Education, Work and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Urged the president to wear a mask as coronavirus cases increase in the Sunbelt states.

“Unfortunately, this simple, life-saving practice is now part of a political debate that says: If you’re for Trump, you don’t wear a mask. If you’re against Trump, you do it, ”Alexander said at a hearing in late June.

“This is why I suggested to the president that he occasionally wear a mask, even though there aren’t many occasions where it is necessary for him to do so. The president has millions of admirers. They would follow his example, ”he added.

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Trump gave another mask endorsement during an interview with Fox News Chris Wallace.

“I believe in masks. I think the masks are good, ”Trump said. But I leave it to the governors. Many governors change. They’re more masked – they like the concept of masks, but some of them don’t agree. ”

But Trump has been back and forth over his stance on masks, defending a crowd of supporters who attended a conference in New Jersey on Friday, without wearing masks.

“You said the pandemic was going away, but we lost 6,000 Americans this week and in this room alone you have dozens of people not following guidelines in New Jersey,” one asked. reporter to the president as the crowd booed him.

“You are wrong because this is political activity,” Trump argued. “And it’s also a peaceful demonstration. To me, almost all of them seem to have masks. ”

The exchange was shared on Twitter with responses in favor of the president’s rhetoric as well as against.

People have come to rely on Twitter to vent their frustrations or to discuss the importance of wearing masks during the coronavirus pandemic.

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A Pew Research poll found that about 22% of the US population actually uses Twitter, compared to 77% of the population who use at least one form of social media.

The poll also found that Twitter users tend to identify in the extreme, politically speaking, and that 80% of all tweets come from just 10% of all Twitter users.

The CDC has suggested that the public take breaks from news and social media platforms to help with mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.

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