Safety, Fear and Propaganda

You can see the signs everywhere now. If you ask the people who put them up, they will tell you the signs are supposed to keep you safe. Be that as it may because we will have a hard time proving this claim anyway. What these signs are producing is not safety but fear. And not only fear but propaganda.

I took these images on a single afternoon. I did not have to look hard. Instead of photographic notes I provided a translation. I opted for a very literal translation to capture the language used. There are no arguments today. Just a conveyance of a feeling or mood.


covid warning sign mask warning sign
“Keep distance. 1.5m minimum. Entry with mouth and nose protection only. Protect yourself and others. Thanks. ” I am always shocked by the expressionless head. It looks clinical and dehumanized.
mask warning sign
“Please wear mouth protection”. This symbol of a human head has no eyes as to be better protected from the truth.

Every time we see a sign with a mask symbol it reminds us of an invisible danger that could lurk everywhere. The person behind you in line at the bakery could be a “positive”. What was the the actual number of new cases this week?

mask warning sign
“Entry with mouth protection only” and “please use back entrance”. This symbol does not even have a human head but just the outline of a face straining against the fabric. Like a horror movie.

Every time we see a sign telling us to keep our distance it makes us instinctively draw away from our fellow humans. Maybe out of fear for oneself or maybe out of fear of infecting others without knowing it. We used to keep distance and wave our hands instead of shaking them when we felt sick. Now we could always and at any point be a danger for others. Better keep away.

door warning mask warning
1. “Warning” Door opens automatically” 2. “Wear face and nose protection” 3. “Please keep 2 m distance” Automatic doors are a good idea for the eyeless and masked populace.

Every time we see a sign urging or demanding us to test ourselves we make being part of society conditional on being a “negative”. Each time we want to partake in society and this means even going to the store we need to provide a proof of validation either being “negative” or being vaccinated. We fear people without a test. And what if the test says positive? We have to imprison ourselves at home until we get retested.

covid test advertisement
A billboard selling you corona tests. Get validated. Pay to have you overblown fears assuaged for a while. Comply with the rules. Get your papers allowing you to travel or shop.

Every time a whole class of school children gets tested someone might be “positive”. How might this feel for the child? Maybe he or she gets scolded for being too stupid to wear a mask properly. Maybe the others get angry because it means quarantine for the whole class again? Maybe they fear the infectious child and are afraid of bringing the virus home.

corona test sign
A billboard for free corona tests. Pretty shitty of the city to deprive cunning entrepreneurs of their fear derived income. If the city demands us to be negative at least they can pay for the test.

This is how fear works. Constant reminders that there is some danger around. Constant calls for vigilance. New and changing rules that keep us safe. Like little magical rituals. Like people counting things lest something terrible happens.

mask warning sign please wash hands sign
1. “Mask Duty” 2. “Please wash hands” 3. “Please disinfect hands while entering or exiting”. Again the dehumanized head, the spread out hand stopping you and a manual on how to properly disinfect your hands. The religion of complete safety requires the adherence to ever more complex rituals.

This is also how propaganda works. Not by argument. But by speaking to emotions as to weaken a person’s capacity for reasoning. And if this does not work, propaganda works by repetition. It even works when you know it is wrong. Being constantly bombarded by signs, case numbers, death stories and doomsday scenarios makes keeping up your reason, hope and defenses exhausting. At some point you might just go along with it because it is convenient, because you are tired or because you do not want to be an outcast. And sometimes you might even believe it yourself after a while.

propaganda poster
“We handle catastrophes together. Crisis too” This image does not inspire trust but fear. A uniformed, helmeted and masked person. The aesthetics and styling remind me very much of military propaganda from the Second World War.
covid test center
Welcome to Gattaca where people get tested all the time to make sure they are all valid. Maybe untested people are no longer allowed to shop, to work or to send their kids to school. But some people resent this testing regime and they built a fence and added some video surveillance. A sign that not everyone has gone mad.

I am tired and exhausted. But I am not giving up. Our society is pathologically sick and deranged at the moment. It is the world of Gattaca and the propaganda of the socialist era thrown together. I wonder why sickness is no longer the providence of doctors and nurses but of politicians and social scientists trying to control people’s behavior.

Use reason. Stay calm. Don’t be afraid. People warning you of impending doom never tell the truth. People maniacally urging you to do something are often driven by their own interests or fears and not your well-being. Make reasoned decisions. Decide on the risk for yourself. Be free, be considerate and do not let fear or propaganda control your life. You might only have this one.

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