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Allen Johnson: 'Daily Show' unmasks willful ignorance (again) in N.C.
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Allen Johnson: 'Daily Show' unmasks willful ignorance (again) in N.C.

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North Carolina, long known for its luscious beaches, mist-draped mountains and gentle climate, now can add being a punch line to the list.

We’ve got a million of ’em.

That may be why “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” keeps coming back.

Most recently, a “Daily Show” correspondent came to interview school-masking opponents in Johnston County. Fortunately for him, if not for our state’s national image, they gave him plenty of material.

The correspondent, Jordan Klepper, marched with the protesters to a Sept. 14 school board meeting, where they voiced opposition to the local school board’s mask requirement as a precaution against COVID-19.

Among other things, these outraged parents fumed that:

Masks force children to breathe in toxins.

Masks cause acne.

You can tell that masks are unhealthy from the “funk” masks generate.

And masks and social distancing are Satanist rituals.

“I’ve discovered in my research, also, that Satanists stand 6 feet apart,” one woman told Klepper. “They wear masks during the ritual.”

At one point, Klepper asks a protester that if masks are so bad for you, “How do surgeons do it?”

“That’s a good question,” the protester responds.

North Carolina has become a reliable stop for “The Daily Show.”

For instance, an August 2020 segment on voter suppression featured three interviews from the Tarheel state, including an N.C. A&T undergrad who explained how Republicans had sliced A&T into two congressional districts to dilute Black students’ vote.

In September 2016 the Comedy Central series sent Roy Wood Jr. to Raleigh to spoof the state’s anti-LGBTQ “bathroom bill,” HB 2, by setting up a fake barbecue truck that refused service to gay customers.

As for the anti-maskers, no props were necessary.

Some North Carolinians are just plain embarrassed by the segment, which is now enjoying an active afterlife on the web. That it is not who we are, they’ve rushed to explain on Twitter. Well, yes it is. At least some of us.

Others have taken exception to what they see as “The Daily Show” merely seeking to entertain viewers at the expense of stereotypically ignorant Southerners.

At the risk of sounding hard-hearted: Give. Me. A. Break.

We are still in the midst of a pandemic and adults who should know better by now are trying to force school districts to endanger students and teachers.

What we are seeing at school board meetings throughout the state is not merely well-intentioned people who simply happen to be misinformed.

We are seeing bullies and hearing violent threats.

In Johnston County, the public was screened for weapons before being allowed to enter the meeting Sept. 14. A glass door was shattered at a Sept. 15 Iredell-Statesville school board meeting, which anti-mask protesters repeatedly interrupted. And in June in Guilford County, protesters outside a school board meeting rattled both windows and some school board members, who said they feared for their safety.

Superintendent Sharon Contreras and some school board members also were targeted with hateful voicemails, emails and social media posts.

Now, aided and abetted by politicians who know better, but don’t care, this ongoing offensive of offensiveness has become its own viral COVID variant in this state.

State Board of Education Chairman Eric Davis, Vice Chairman Alan Duncan of Greensboro and state Superintendent Catherine Truitt expressed their concern in a joint statement last week about the “increased hostility and threats of force that we have seen across the state.”

And yet some lawmakers see nothing wrong with it.

So, a law GOP state legislators passed that requires school boards to meet monthly to renew mask mandates will stand, despite the fact that it invites potential violence.

The state House last week rebuffed an attempt to end the requirement, almost exclusively along party lines.

“It’s important for parents to continue to have their say over policies that impact students’ educational experience,” House Speaker Tim Moore said.

“For the parents to have more opportunity to tell the school board just what they think about it is a good thing, not a bad thing,” said Rep. Larry Pittman, a Cabarrus County Republican who also once compared Abraham Lincoln to Hitler.

So here we find ourselves in Bizarro Land, where up is down and some people prefer to believe internet celebrities over public health experts and common sense.

Where willful ignorance rules and even some health care workers have been taunted and heckled.

And where COVID is no big deal but critical race theory is a harbinger of Armageddon.

So, if “The Daily Show” gets a few cheap laughs at these protesters’ expense, I won’t lose any sleep over it.

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