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A brief history of government efforts to stop people from wearing masks (qz.com)
235 points by wei_jok 10 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 134 comments





Montreal did the same thing during student protests in 2012 [1]. It came along with another special law enacted to restrict protests[2]. Both were later contested and dropped.

In my opinion that was extremely unproductive. It galvanized protests even further and the most common chant became "la loi special on s'en calisse" (roughly "we don't give a shit about your special law") as we were defying it. In essence, it just eroded police and state authority for an entire generation. I still strongly feel that I don't have to follow laws that I find immoral or unethical. I am not sure this is good.

[1] https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/R%C3%A8glement_P-6

[2] https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loi_78_(Qu%C3%A9bec)


> I still strongly feel that I don't have to follow laws that I find immoral or unethical. I am not sure this is good.

I think that is definitely good. If everyone followed laws simply because "it's the law" then no one would ever think critically about whether those laws were morally justifiable or not, or if they did they would shrug it off because "breaking the law is wrong". But such questions are important to ask, and while it may be impractical for _everybody_ to do so, I'm glad there are people like me & you that pay attention to whether the law is actually making the world better or not.

(obviously, determining whether a law is ethical or not can be very tricky; you can't just go around breaking laws because you don't agree with them - there needs to be e.g. clear moral ground indicating that there is some collective thought that the law is immoral/unethical)


On the other hand, if everyone follows only the laws they think are moral, you're going to have to accept the civil disobedience of those that disagree with you as well.

You’ll have to accept it either way.

Healthy part of a free society!

I suppose it depends on your definition of 'good'

If I was fearless I would lean more into what is called The Duty of Civil Disobedience.


A bunch of European countries have this. Some for several decades. Germany has had it for 3 and while the law states that its punishment is up to one year of prison, states seem to have in general reduced the sentence to 500-1500 Euros. [1]

Not really arguing pro or against, but I do find there to be a bit of hypocrisy in the media coverage.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-mask_law


In germany we have also a awesome law, that forbids "passive weapons" on demonstration. Yes, sounds good. Peaceful demonstrators should not have weapons.

Only that "passive weapons" means all kinds of protections, like helmets, thick gloves and gas masks. So when he police hits you, how dare you to try to protect your head or face.


My idea for partially circumventing this is to carry a motorcycle helmet in my hands and to only put it on if the situation escalates. For other body parts, I would use protective motorcycle clothing. A gas mask is small enough for carrying in a backpack and if you find yourself in a situation where you need to put it on, I think worrying about the legalities of wearing a gas mask will be of a pretty low priority.

It is a bit disheartening to see how history is about to set itself up for a repeat of its posture in pre-world war times. If you want to know how it is possible for humans to make the same mistakes throughout history, look no further than this.

Wow. I am curious, what is the German term for that? That phrase sounds so wrong that I am wonder whether it maybe simply does not translate all that well into English. Weapons are for offense not defense!

The phrase is a literal translation. I suspect they choose this wording to misslead, to be able to implement the law.

Just like they passed a new law in recent times, that increased the punishments, when firefighters and medics etc. gets attacked during work. Sounds good as well, I mean, what asshole would attack medics and firefighters?!?

The thing is just, that the law also applied to policemen. So when you are in a demonstration, peaceful and are about to get hit by the police who decided to end the demonstration with force, and your reflexes push back - then you can get prosecuted with a law that was advertised to protect firefighters.


I see. Yeah, we also have a lot of laws / government terminology for things that are named in similar ways / for similar reasons unfortunately.

> what is the German term for that?

"Schutzwaffen", i.e. protective weapons

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schutzwaffe

This includes the thing boxers put in their mouth to protect their teeth... let that sink in. Carrying something like that to a protest already is a crime, maximum sentence is 1 year.

edit: just saw an earlier comment with more info: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21158544


> This includes the thing boxers put in their mouth to protect their teeth

FYI, the English word is "Mouthguard"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mouthguard


Another anecdote:

Greta Thunberg visited the Hambacher Forst in germany, which is occupied by activist to prevent it from being chopped down for the coal underneath. And some of the activists were masked.. so that provoked a shitstorm by media and politicians, because "nobody in our awesome country has to hide their face, unless they have to hide something". Which is somewhat hypocrite and telling, as the same politicians and journalists have no problem, posing with heavily armed and masked police forces

https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-w2DUmtmMax8/XVPmlWjt4yI/AAAAAAAA0...

(from satire magazin Postillon:

https://www.der-postillon.com/2019/08/hambacher-horst.html)


It goes so well with "how dare you defend yourself" against legally-sanctioned assault and kidnapping, aka obstruction of justice or interference with police business.

It would be schizophrenic though for the state to sanction physical force, but on the other hand allow defense against it?

From the theory of the monopoly of violence a clash with the police (or Army) shouldn’t be a fair fight.


The thing is, there are often protests, where a majority wants to protest peaceful, but a handful of radicals want to escalate which they sometimes manage.

Now when you only wanted to demonstrate, but are now in the middle of a clash with various things flying around, it should not be illegal, to protect your head.


Well, yeah. You choose to wear a helmet because you expect to get hit. If you didn't expect to get hit, you wouldn't feel the need to wear a helmet.

This is a de-escalation technique that functions well in advance of a potentially violent situation.

Edit: for people downvoting, I would love to read your opinions too! The down arrow isn’t a disagreement button. It’s supposed to indicate a person isn’t contributing to the conversation. Otherwise you’re just enforcing groupthink.


good point.

I wear my seatbelt everyday when I drive my car because I'm expecting a car accident. Strangely enough, it has yet to happen and I have yet to need my seatbelt. What a waste!

I think I'll just stop wearing it.


There’s an element of intent which your sarcastic response doesn’t really account for. But yes clearly everyone who wears a helmet to a protest does not intend to start a physical attack.

That doesn’t mean it’s not an effective preventative measure and de-escalating technique.


Police standards and the populace's standards of what constitutes legal gathering and protest are often quite different, as evidenced by the unnecessarily harsh deployments against protesters as seen in Hong Kong and less recently in the US. More often than not, police forces make the first move in otherwise legitimate protests either with direct oppression, false-flag tactics, or unnecessary displays of force (or potential force).

A helmet is entirely necessary in peaceful protests because the authorities resisting the demands of the protest do not play fair.


If you assume an all peaceful, restraint police who use violence only as a last mean, then yes.

But in reality, there have been plenty of peaceful protesters beaten to hospital or caught up in tear gas clouds, just because the police decided to dissolve the demonstration with force, because a handful of protestors were aggressive (sometimes not even that).

But and this is a big but! The german police in general is actually quite restraint and uses deescalation tactics. But sadly it is getting worse again.


This is interesting and I find myself on the other side now for the moment.

What about the love parade in Duisburg, and the use of kettling as a standard police tactic which resulted in deaths? I remember reading that this was intended to escalate so as to more quickly resolve issues. Time may have blurred my memory though so perhaps I’m remembering incorrectly.


Ok, well lets say the german police is restraint in comparison to other police forces. At least, thats what I heard lots of times. Also what I experienced so far. But I have also seen the BFEs in action ..

Not only are you wrong on both counts, you're also breaking the site guidelines while doing it.

Paul Graham:

I think it's ok to use the up and down arrows to express agreement. Obviously the uparrows aren't only for applauding politeness, so it seems reasonable that the downarrows aren't only for booing rudeness.

It only becomes abuse when people resort to karma bombing: downvoting a lot of comments by one user without reading them in order to subtract maximum karma. Fortunately we now have several levels of software to protect against that.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=117171

News Guidelines:

Please don't comment about the voting on comments. It never does any good, and it makes boring reading.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


While I applaud your reference to the guidelines, I find it hard to believe that asking people to write instead of clicking was the intent of that request. Nor do I particularly agree with PG on his sentiment about downvoting.

So please feel free to contribute to the conversation! Why do you disagree with my sentiment regarding thee banning of helmets at protests being a de-escalation technique?


A simpler deescalation technique is to not misappropriate public funds to pay armed thugs to attack protests in the first place.

Absolutely. For all our taxes, it’s borderline criminal how underfunded Polizei education and training is.

How dare I wear my hard hat to work at a construction site! It must mean I'm an unsafe worker, cause I expect to get hit, right?

> "passive weapons" means all kinds of protections

Please provide some reference, that sounds absurd.


Well, it's true. Here [1] is the corresponding law, here [2] is wikipedia with some expamples what counts as passive weapons (plastic film, basecaps reinforced with plastic, gasmasks, knee pads, … ) and here [3] is a case where a paramedic was sentenced for wearing a helmet.

[1] https://dejure.org/gesetze/VersG/17a.html

[2] https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schutzwaffe

[3] www.labournet.de/interventionen/grundrechte/grundrechte-all/demonstrationsrecht/schutz-durch-selbstschutz-demonstrationssanitaeter-wurde-wegen-vermummung-und-passivbewaffnung-verurteilt/


To [3] it is worth to add, that the civil paramedics usualy come from and are part of the (leftwing) scene, where the demonstrants are coming from, so they are not exatly like the Red Cross. So are viewed by the police as enemies as well. And that the person was freed of all charges in the next instance.

(still, it is outrageous, that he was charged in the first place)


"that sounds absurd."

I know, thats why I prefer to read the news via The Onion or similar newspapers ...


fun fact: it's illegal to wear a ski mask if a demonstration is planned that day. Otherwise it is of no concern.

I was also surprised that Europe didn't feature more prominently in the article. I believe Denmark has had anti masks law for something like 2 decades now.

It's hard to sit on our high horse in Europe on this one.


Interesting that laws against masks started popping up after governments got their hands on automated face tracking software.

The German law has existed at least as long as whatever face tracking software was state-of-the-art on AMIGA 500.

You mean... cameras

With a fully automated system it’s much easier to track someone’s movements than it is if you had people watching cameras. The spread of facial recognition software is a differentiator worth pointing out.

It seems most of these weren't passed until after 2010, whereas CCTV was widespread since at least the 80's.

Off the shelf CCTV is beyond terrible for most purposes concordant with this conspiracy theory.

In a jurisdiction I know police always come to unrest etc with a van equipped with HR cameras. Those are then manually sifted post event to identify persons


Isn't CCTV bad at identifying faces though?

CCTV just means the video feed is not broadcast publicly. Cameras can be as good as you're willing to pay.

There's no hypocrisy, but this article is skimming on the most important piece of information. This ban is enacted as a law using emergency powers (which grants the CE almost dictatorial powers), meaning it bypassed the deliberations of the legislature, and worse, enacted, nay, decreed at a time when the government in HK has next to zero support except the police force. This is not only unjust and immoral, but just plain stupid, since this will only serve to further escalate the situation. It's simply amazing that 4 months since the first reading of the extradition bill, no one has died as a direct result of confrontation yet. But this decree may change everything.

In most if not all of these countries, the police have proper, clearly marked identification on them. Not so in Hong Kong.

...identification that they remove or lose before knocking some protesters over the head. Obviously China and HK are pathological cases, but police correctness in Europe also seems to be overrated.

There was a bloodbath in Italy at the G8 summit. UK, France and Germany are better, but there's still cases of police brutality.


Look, did the police in Italy go right next to your house and tear gassed the whole residential area?

That's my personal experience last night.

I was just outside my home, not at a protest. And now I can't even put on respirators to protect myself.


The police in Philadelphia bombed an entire neighborhood.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOVE#1985_bombing


Germany does not have clearly marked identification for police officers at protests. It's an issue that is being discussed, and I believe they should have, but you're mistaken in believing that it is a thing.

The Uk police have had numbers for a very long time not sure if it doesn't go back to the peel days.

Yes they have. The question is just if it has to be their real name, or if a number (which can be tracked back to the person by authorities) is enough.

Some states in Germany have (very!) recently started to implement it, but it's not a general thing.

Here's a good overview: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kennzeichnungspflicht_f%C3%BCr...


In most, if not all, of these countries' security forces have plain clothes police officers.

Do the plain clothes wear face masks?

the plain clothes is the mask!

At its core, face mask bans pose a question about power: who gets to wield it, and who gets to place limits on it. The masked person can look but not be seen—an enormous and liberating power particularly in today’s age of surveillance. For the state and those in authority, the mask represents a threat because their power is in part drawn from knowing exactly who you are.

For many in Hong Kong, the face mask ban is a reminder of the asymmetrical balance of power that they are protesting so hard against. While citizens are now prohibited from wearing masks in public assemblies, police officers will continue to be able to conceal their identities


> The masked person can look but not be seen—an enormous and liberating power particularly in today’s age of surveillance.

It's only liberating if the masked person acts ethically. As we've seen in Portland, when masked "protesters" commit violence against civilians, it's the antithesis of "liberating". Remember that the anti-mask laws in the US south were enacted to limit the nefarious actions of the Klan.

IMO, HK has gone so far that the masks are a fake sense of security. The police will drag you off, mask and all, and know exactly who you are. Either the HK people have to accept using guerrilla tactics or they will eventually be swallowed by the CCP.


Here in France, at most protests you'd find groups of masked 'protestors' who usually have nothing to do with the protest and are just here for acts of violence against the police and random acts of degradation and looting

Don't forget masked "protesters" who are actually police infiltrators attempting to turn a protest violent.


Those people are NEVER the problem.

If 50-100 violent masked people show up and the police want to arrest them, nobody in the peaceful protest are going to get in the way.

The politicians CHOOSE to allow the violent group to discredit the entire protest.


I don't recall the use of masks being prevalent during either the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations or the Civil Rights demonstrations of the '50s and '60s.

The adoption of masks is probably driven by the digital imaging chip and the ubiquity of digital photos and videos. If the police don't image you, your friends and the media probably will.


I've seen multiple reports during the current round of Hong Kong riots of China sympathizers aggressively filming the faces of protesters. The whole "we'll get a photo of you protesting and then deal with you later" thing is a central theme in these protests.

So imaging technology can be used to facilitate inter-group conflict as well as governmental oppression.

Aggressively filming protestors? Are you sure?

https://video.h5.weibo.cn/1034:4423697482642911/442369763922...

I really don't understand why hackernews is so extremely one-sided on this issue.

Edit: yeah there we go, down voted immediately.


JPMorgan to boost security after employee punched by Hong Kong protester as tensions run high

https://www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/3031642/jpmo...

>The employee, who was not identified in a JPMorgan memo about the incident, was surrounded on Friday afternoon by photographers as well as protesters shouting “Go back to the mainland!” The banker spoke in Mandarin, at one point responding, “We are all Chinese.” As he made his way into the building lobby, one protester hit him in the face, knocking his eyeglasses off, according to a video circulated on social media. It is not clear from the video what sparked the altercation, and there is no indication it was connected to his employer.


Can someone please give some context on that video? Who's the boy? What is everyone doing? The video is creepy.

As bakuninsbart says above, yes. These are the "journalists" that produce most of the news you see regarding the protests on the streets. Go search for more live feeds to seem more of these "journalists" in general being a nuisance and aggressively filming the police to catch and report of every single mis-step. Trust me, its not the protestors that are aggressively being filmed.

And to add more context in an unbiased way. Man in white is white collar worker in central district. I don't know if he's done anything to provoke protesters as pretext.

"journalists" being a general nuisance, possibly trying to provoke him. He says something inaudible, something like "are you a journalist" or "what are you reporting on" or generally along the lines of wtf are you doing.

Journalist starts taunting him, saying he can't understand him. He leaves for the office with people swearing and shouting profanity. He turns around and says "we are all chinese people". More swearing. Some "journalist" closes the door and prevents him from entering. Some masked guy comes out of know where to hit him. Granted he wasn't looking to do serious damage but still a dick move and uncalled for. The guy goes in and someone throws an umbrella at his head. Journalists rush after him after pausing for a while probably because they don't know what else to do.

Glorious isn't it


>Trust me

Do you attend the protests and view these or other activities yourself? Or just reporting on Twitter?

Journalists are helping keep everyone safe, by filming, which discourages most from violence, on both sides. They film both police and protestors.

Just do understand that for many HKers, they believe this is a fight where losing means what happens to Uighurs and Tibetans happens to them.


I think you;ll probably need to post some links to these streams so that we can assess them.

My chinese is really terrible, the one guy in the beginning is making fun of white shirt for his accent. He's from the mainland. I don't know the rest of the context, but there have been a lot of racist attacks from the protesters lately, so I wouldn't be surprised if that was his only crime. The "journalists" are all filming him while a protester beats him up and another "journalist" makes sure he and the woman can't enter the building.

Also if you understand Cantonese, in many videos, you can see and hear the protestors shout "stop filming" and "open umbrellas" to shield criminal acts from being filmed.

I mean, the disgusting acts of protesters do not mean that the police isn't doing it, too. So there's a pretty huge flaw in your logic and I guess that is why you are getting downvoted.

Then again, I think this is one of the arguments why a ban on masks is pretty reasonable: There's real assholes hiding in the midst of the protesters who can get away with their crimes due to masks. It would btw. also make it harder for agent provocateur to stay disguised.

I do agree though that the reporting in the west has been very questionable.


They are trying to bury this unflattering video as much as possible, but there are plenty more where that came from:

https://bitbucket.org/TheCrypticMan/hong-kong-protests/wiki/...

Other examples:

Smashing small shops and restaurants, threatening the cowering staff inside https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUpmTSGSSjw

Menacing some fishmongers inside their shop https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gACHVcOA1xc

What happened to a guy who yelled “Hong Kong add gas” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFwGqF3QlVc

Attacking an unconscious man https://twitter.com/SaveManMedia/status/1175578024332447744

Attacking a senior citizen who isn’t defending himself https://twitter.com/SaveManMedia/status/1175466827151040517

Most of these hundreds of incidents have not been covered by news media in the west. I suggest that everyone do their own research before jumping to conclusions.


Are you actually here or are you doing your own research based on Twitter? I agree with your point people should do their own research, but in the age of social media manipulation, I'm not sure social media will get you a clear picture.

If you are here, I recommend you go see them yourself. Wear not blue and not all black, and stay on the outskirts.

In my experience its very safe as an outsider, and I have seen no looting, which is nothing like American protests, where I am from.


Social media can be manipulated, but without it, would not see videos like this one:

https://twitter.com/CarlZha/status/1180131706994491392

Showing students in their own lecture halls and classrooms being screamed at and bullied by black clad "protestors" (these days behaving more like cultural revolution Maoists).


Estonia has had a mask ban since around 2008 I think, after the Bronze Night riots. [1]

This does produce ridiculous results occasionally. My friend was briefly detained by the police for wearing a ski mask on a long winter walk. It was -25°C outside.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bronze_Night


In Denmark police will video record demonstrators face really close by, some suspect they use it for feeding facedetection from Palantir.

Disguising your face is also illegal in Denmark.


Yeah, it's not weird that the laws are coming now that the police (and by extension the government) have the technology to actually use our faces.

The protestors in Hong Kong really do have a reason to protect their identities from China, so do (peaceful) protestors from any state. Freedom of speech should be allowed for anonymous persons as well.


HK protesters are peaceful?

Exceptionally so, especially when compared to some "protests" seen in the US and some other "First World" countries, and the stakes of those protests are also usually quite low compared to HK. I've actually been extremely surprised at the restraint shown.

I don't see how this is true at all. HKers are regularly brawling with police. I haven't seen that happen at a protest in the United States in my lifetime. If you do that here you get shot.

It started out peaceful but has since turned violent.

The police have shown a lot of restraint for sure.


pointblank gunshot to a kids chest doesnt seem very restrained to me


> Undercover officer petrol bombed

That is literally the video of the off duty cop shooting a 14 year old in the leg. The mob that attacked him with sticks and petrol bombs were in response to him discharging a firearm in an area that crowded, and hitting a young teenager. What kind of misinformation are you trying to spread? Do you post Twitter instead of news because you are afraid of people hearing the whole story?

https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/10/04/breaking-man-shot-off-...


Sounds like you're justifying the mob's response, which is the attempted murder of a police officer.

Nobody knows yet, at least no reports of, why the firearm was discharged. Maybe it was accidental. Maybe it was deliberate. Mob justice is not the answer.

By the way, you link to Hong Kong Free Press - give me a break. I wouldn't call them Fake News but they are very biased.

They are similar to the NY Times who literally are fake news. The NY Times had the audacity to claim an 18 year old who was shot a few days ago was unarmed.

https://twitter.com/maodunzedong/status/1179797585638445057

Well everyone here on HackerNews can use their own eyes and see what the NY Times failed to see. An armed protestor (with the blue board) beating an officer on the ground and getting shot after he struck another officer who had his weapon drawn.

https://twitter.com/qingqingparis/status/1179736413534744576


It sounds like you're justifying the attempted murder of a child.

HKFP might be biased towards democracy and freedom of the press, but not as biased as posting shill Twitter accounts.

The NYT uses unarmed in the American sense of the word - the 18 year old was not carrying a firearm.

I can scroll through Reddit and find 10s of examples of police doing the same to protestors, and yet as someone that has actually gone, the real HK police seem very professional in the face of a difficult job. Other police and gang members that are enlisted to help during the night on the other hand...

Are you up posting from 2AM-6AM because of insomnia, or because you post from an armchair in a different timezone?

It seems to me like if it were your country, and you had no $$ or foreign passport to hide, you would have a different opinion.



Yes, throwaway account for obvious reasons, as others know when they get downvoted for going against the narrative.

For example, there were protests with what looked to be a couple thousand people very near me recently. Public utilities like trash bins, road signs, street lights (it is not a busy intersection) were vandalized. No damage was done to any private business or property. Vehicles parked on the side of the road were completely intact.

Contrast with America, where as soon as you get that many people "rioting", cars are flipped and set on fire, local businesses are broken into and looted, etc.

It's completely different from American riots or even what the French yellow vest demonstrators do.


Since 1997? Yeah. Since mainland China spazzed out and decided it wanted to assert illegitimate authority over Hong Kong? Not so much.

They were for quite awhile until they got sick of being hit.

What will they use it for? Making connections between protesters and other things? I assume in Denmark you have a right to protest and assemble.

We do have a right to protest and assemble, for now it is unclear what they use it for.

Keep in mind that facial recognition is probably only one part of a modern identification pipeline. There's every reason to think that some sort of gait signature, history of clothing purchases, and cellular data could be combined to identify a person with some level of confidence, to say nothing of simply blanketing a city with enough cameras to "rewind" back to when the person didn't have the mask on.

Gait detection not likely to be useful in a massive crowd. Clothes are not custom, change over time, and can't be used to identify someone because they aren't linked to an identity (Joe buys John a shirt as a gift; John buys his son a shirt; etc.). I suppose rewinding is possible but the computational cost of doing this for thousands of people is probably immense.

Not with eye in the sky tech.

The Netherlands has introduced a ban on face-covering masks this year, but the ban is restricted to public places like public transport, schools and governmental institutions.

Although the current interest is probably related to HK, the ban in The Netherlands seems to be related to the introduction of the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burqa in the public domain.


Probably still better than Ticino in Switzerland, which banned face-coverings in public to apparently target burqas but instead of making setting-dependent exceptions, made exceptions for health and safety (reasonable) as well as local festivals (i.e. protecting some traditions but not others).

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/ticino-burka-ban-hits-football-...


There's been a lot of talk in the U.S. of anti-mask legislation because of antifascists. A federal bill: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/6054...

There's also been a lot of talk at local levels.


The article makes good pro-mask points. But--as is not mentioned in the article--some such laws have been passed to stop violence from groups like the Ku Klux Klan.

This particular point was very uncompelling and lazy (to be clear, I'm pointing the finger at the article, not you).

The Klan didn't get away with horrific acts of violence because they were legally allowed to wear masks—they got away with it because it was socially acceptable to terrorize, beat up, lynch, and kill people who were not WASPs. The police and other civic leaders were often members, and even when they weren't, they had tacit and sometimes direct alliances with Klan members. This led to law enforcement looking the other way when violent acts occurred, and they simply did not enforce plenty of existing laws that made the Klan's violent behaviors already illegal. Plenty of violence occurred without masks on. And even when the masks were on, law enforcement had more than enough cause to arrest people and unmask them.

Arresting, prosecuting, and convicting individuals who engaged in already-illegal acts of racially motivated violence is what stopped Klan violence. Beyond that, brave infiltration efforts to expose their inner workings and publicizing membership lists contributed further. An endless stream of newspaper articles documenting and decrying Klan activity as un-American helped, too.

Yes, the anonymity provided by the hoods emboldened horrible people to threaten and intimidate others, as well as commit horrific acts of violence. But the violence happened because it was allowed. Suggesting anti-mask laws stopped the Klan only whitewashes the past—and absolves political leaders, law enforcement, and American society itself, of their central role in allowing that violence to happen for decades. Klan violence didn't stop because masks became illegal—it stopped when people refused to continue looking the other way. And it took way too long for that to happen.


That's mostly true, but I think you're going a little too hard against the role of the anti-mask laws. Nobody is saying they were the main weapon against the Klan or were essential or anything like that. They were a useful weapon against them though.

I don't have solid sources on this, but I'm pretty sure the masks were most useful for Plausible Deniability. Local officials didn't really want to fight the Klan, true. They still had to answer to State and Federal officials and out-of-state newspapers though. Klan members wearing masks allow them to claim to anybody asking tough questions that they can't do anything more against those people because they don't know who they are. (And allow them to deny some of them are infact members)

It's often tough to discuss logistics issues like this on boards. Everybody wants to find One Big Reason for something, and declare every other reason irrelevant. In reality, most large efforts to solve large issues require lots of different tactics. Often, no one tactic is "key" or "essential", but they all help out a little to achieve a goal. Taking away any one won't doom you or anything, but it will make things take a little longer and go a little harder.


I’ll leave you with some quick thoughts:

— I wasn’t searching for one big reason, and I wasn’t declaring all other reasons irrelevant. I provided several reasons that are exceedingly well documented in Klan-focused histories for the decline of Klan violence (seriously, go read some histories and see how prominently mask laws play in the events).

— Alabama passed the first anti-mask law in the South in 1949—roughly 20 years after the national (2nd) Klan and its violent activities had been exposed and its membership severely dwindled (turning the Klan into a splintered group of uncoordinated and smaller local and state groups).

— The post-WW2 (3rd) Klan had alliances all the way up the local, county, and state-level political and legal ladder. They had direct alliances with governors. Local officials weren’t having to deny anything, because there was rarely anyone to answer to higher up the chain. In the states this occurred, hooded Klansmen weren’t really a thing like the 2nd Klan, and the violence continued without masks. The feds didn’t get involved until way late—FBI and the like cared about chasing communists more than they did Klan violence when it mattered.

— The 3rd Klan became a notable and present force of violence and intimidation throughout the South after the Alabama anti-mask law (and the other state laws that followed)

— The Klan robes and hoods most people envision were a staple of the 2nd Klan, and basically copied the costumes in Birth of a Nation—that is, 20+ years before mask laws (when they might have been helpful; at that time Klan membership numbered 3M-6M).

— The first and second Klan were organized and national. The third Klan was local and state specific, and never reached the membership levels of the former—yet mask laws didn’t stop Klan violence during this period.

— Alabama is a funny example—it passed the first Southern mask law thanks to a Klan-hating governor, and it later had a Klan-allied governor.

By the way, this period and the issues society struggled with was pretty much the focus of my graduate school work, and years of study since.


Well that's a lot of interesting detail, thanks! If they were indeed passed after the fall of the generation of the Klan that liked to use masks, then why did anyone bother to pass them? Had it gotten to the point of just virtue-signaling how against the Klan they were?

It’s complicated? I don’t think it’d be fair to call it virtue-signaling in a blanket fashion, no. Despite the overwhelming decline of 2nd Klan membership across the country, racism was still deeply entrenched in American society. Most Americans in heavily racist areas saw this as normal. A minority disagreed, and some were in positions of power to act on those convictions.

I believe it’s more than fair to interpret the mask laws as being fueled by recognition (by some) that times were changing, and a desire to avoid returning to the hooded times of the 2nd Klan. They were likely interested in preventing hooded Klan marches and intimidation acts—for example, Georgia’s 1951 mask law came a couple years after a group of hooded Klansmen stood outside a polling place to deter black citizens from voting, iirc.

I also think it’s wise to keep that interpretation balanced by recognizing that while perhaps not quite virtue-signaling, the mask laws—when viewed alongside the horrible racist violence allowed in the states that had mask laws—were passed by some people who wanted to unmask the Klan, and others who realized it was politically expedient to be seen doing so. In some cases—notably those states who allowed post-1954 Civil Rights-era violence and allied with local Klans—it provided an appearance of doing something, while then turning a blind eye toward the mask-free violence occurring in their states, and forging alliances with local Klan members.

Ultimately, to understand the period, its actors, and their motivations, we’re left digging through whatever records exist of public arguments made at the time for the mask laws, and looking carefully at who made the arguments, and how those arguments square with their actions in their states. Sadly, I’m not sure if there are many publicly available records online of that sort for someone to dig through.


Governments want to secure their ability to remove your eyeballs with the help of 40mm grenade launchers that shoot "non lethal" rubber projectiles.

one of my favorite historical antecedents is a document from the 12th century in london in which local businessmen and authorities are complaining about the hooded apprentices who get off work, get drunk, and start trouble in the streets.

Some things are truly eternal.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1584317/Hoodies-were...


From the article: "Does heavy make-up count as a mask?"

Near-future: "Does a full-facial e-ink tattoo, dynamically reconfigurable, count as a mask?"


Facial paint is included in the loose definition of "facial covering" for the HK anti-mask law

Thus, my question about tattoos. :-)

If you tattooed your whole face you are basically making yourself more easily identifiable. You can't take it off so you are now the guy with the full face tattoo.

But I doubt they could outlaw your face. What are they going to do? Cut your face off?


I suggested a full-face e-ink tattoo, dynamically reconfigurable. A programmable tattoo. Turn it on. Turn it off. Raise your cheekbones. Add a third eye. Or wrinkles and freckles and a bruise. Turn on some lip gloss and eye shadow. Change your skin tone. Confound image processing. Have some fun.

> If you tattooed your whole face you are basically making yourself more easily identifiable.

Turn it on and off and configure it as desired. E-pigment sits under your skin. Unlike a mask, it's part of you but only when you want it to be. I think this could reduce identifiability.


E-ink tattoos are as real as my girlfriend.

Tattoo your face with Mickey Mouse. Disney's copyright lawyers will then keep you out of facial recognition databases.

Tattoo your face with Winnie the Pooh. I suspect that won't go over well in China.


Wow, I can't imagine that going over here in Japan. Nearly the entire population wears masks when sick or when trying to avoid getting sick. They're sold in every convenience store, all different kinds, paper, cloth, foam, with or without various medicinal stuff added.

They are also a problem for anyone who has an iPhone with FaceID


If your goal is to evade biometric recognition by your local oppressive government: try makeup:) I work in the field and can tell you that 1) it’s cheap and easy 2) no presents sensor technology can detect it 3) detection algorithms will be spoofed and confused 99% of the time if well done. And it’s not a mask ;)

Gas masks deal with CS gas (I find it ironic that CS gas is banned by the Geneva conventions, but using it against civilians is fine).

Goggles reduce the chances of eye injury due to debris, rubber bullets, police batons, etc. A decent face mask extends this protection to the rest of the face.


As are dum dum bullets - which is even weirder

Soft, expanding bullets stop more easily when they hit something. Full metal jacket military bullets penetrate things like auto bodies, walls, etc, and pose a greater threat to innocent bystanders.

Plus, the real reason is that in war, wounding the other side is better than killing, since the wounded have to be treated, evacuated, supported, etc., and their presence is demoralizing to the enemy.


Its an offence against the Geneva convention, NATO militaries are worried they will be accused of war crimes if they introduce bullets that could be considered dum dums

Actually the 1899 Hague Convention, and the US is not a signatory. The US reserves the right to use expanding bullets when there is a clear military necessity. Until 2010 the prohibition only applied to warfare between military units, not to combat with irregular or civilians units. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expanding_bullet

Noticeably absent from this discussion: Anti-mask laws as a method to combat terrorism from the Ku Klux Klan. Presumably no one is talking about it because it complicates the simple protestors-good/government-bad story.

> Many anti-mask laws date back to the mid-20th century when states and municipalities, passed them to stop the violent activities of the Ku Klux Klan, whose members typically wore hoods of white linen to conceal their identities....

> A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld a New York law on the ground that wearing a Ku Klux Klan mask did not convey a protected message beyond that conveyed by wearing a hood and robe.[2] Other courts have struck down anti-mask laws. For example, Tennessee and Florida state laws have been invalidated on the grounds that they were unconstitutionally broad.[10] An ordinance in Goshen, Indiana, was struck down based on First Amendment doctrine that specifically protects anonymous speech and anonymous association, especially for unpopular groups like the KKK.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-mask_law

> In 1845 New York made it illegal to appear “disguised and armed.” Most anti-mask laws [in the US] were passed, however, in response to the Ku Klux Klan, whose members used masks to hide their identities as they terrorized their victims.

https://www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/1169/anti-mask-...

> In the United States, anti-mask laws were first passed in the 19th century to combat various threats of violence—among them, the killing of Hudson Valley landlords by tenant farmers who dressed up as American Indians, and also the growing violence of the Ku Klux Klan.

http://jtl.columbia.edu/the-inexorable-anti-mask-movement/

Here's a serious analysis of how one might tailor an anti-mask law while avoiding the most serious free-speech issues, at least in the narrow sense of passing constitutional muster in the US.

https://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=30...


This rarely gets mentioned, same as the racist history of gun control.

One bit of this that I've always found interesting is that it makes it just a little bit harder to suppress dissent in cities in colder climates.

Of course, cold tends to have a literal "chilling effect" on activity as well (see: crime rates in summer)!


The UK police have been able to do this for a while. I haven't been involved in activism for years now, but if I remember correctly they used to be able to make people remove face masks within a particular area during demonstrations.

A bit lacking, Bans on masks started in renaissance Europe , with people only being allowed to wear them during carnival.

The Republic of Venice restricted the use of masks in the 18th century. Nothing new here.

Just wear a burqa instead, they wouldn't dare complaining about it...



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