This past February when the right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak at the University of California, Berkeley, hundreds of protesters showed up with their faces covered by masks and bandannas hiding their identities.
The crowd turned violent setting fires breaking windows and destroying vehicles. Due to their faces being covered, the police were not able to identify those that actually caused the damage.
Meanwhile at Auburn University in Alabama, before a speech by the white nationalist Richard Spencer, police stopped protesters prior to their entering the area and ordered them to remove masks. The result was zero violence and property damage. The main difference in these two scenarios was the removal of false courage generated by the anonymity.
California has a law to prevent “Evasion of Identification.” If a man committing an illegal act wishes to avoid identification, the man simply covers his face with a mask or bandanna so that he can not be identified later. However, in California the act of evading identification is equivalent to resisting an officer which is a Felony: “California Penal Code Section 185 PC makes it illegal to Wear a Mask Or Disguise to evade Police, however for what ever reason the local authorities chose not to enforce the law. Thirteen states, including California have variations of this basic law.
The majority of the southern states enacted anti-mask laws to combat another violent, lawless mob that also sought to hide their ID by using the white hoods of the KKK.
North Carolina has two statutes governing the of wearing masks. No person or persons shall, in this state, while wearing any mask, hood or device whereby the person, face or voice is disguised so as to conceal the identity of the wearer, enter, or appear upon or within the public property of any municipality or county of the state, or of the State of North Carolina. And § 14-12.7. Wearing of masks, hoods, etc., on public ways. No person or persons at least 16 years of age shall, while wearing any mask, hood or device whereby the person, face or voice is disguised so as to conceal the identity of the wearer, enter, be or appear upon any lane, walkway, alley, street, road, highway or other public way in this State.
The 2015 Freddy Gray riot in Baltimore, Maryland, and the Michael Brown riots in Ferguson, Missouri were also conducted by many wearing masks. Unfortunately neither Maryland nor Missouri have laws controlling the misuse of masks.
Having your identification even partially hidden has been proven to temporally alter the personality of many individuals. This change in one’s personality is commonly referred to as the Jekyll and Hyde syndrome or professionally known as deindividuation. For example: A law abiding, kind, and courteous citizen, the kind that holds the door for others and permits those with greater needs to take their place in line—that is until he gets into his car.
Then all of a sudden Jekyll undergoes a personality transformation, becoming Mr. Hyde, a reckless, selfish, “uncontrollable tyrant.” Wrapped in the “personal camouflage,” of his automobile,” Mr. Hyde screams at other motorists, flies off the handle at the slightest provocation, while feeling anonymous to others. At that moment Mr. Hyde is suffering from a sometimes fatal condition referred to as “Road Rage.”
One last area that has recently become a hot bed of controversy is the internet. Hiding behind a computer monitor provides a retreat with complete anonymity and this media seems to be growing by leaps and bounds.
Have you noticed how those using the internet will not only attack another’s opinion without offering a viable alternative, but when challenged to support their views with facts and data the opposing individual will almost immediately degrade the debate to a personal level. This usually results in detrimental statements that would have never been made face to face. It’s similar to going out at night in a costume with a mask to cover your face, that sense of disconnect from normality promotes bold, reckless behavior. Some may even consider their online behavior as part of an online alter ego.
Part of the problem has to do with what psychologists call a hostile disassociation from reality or instead of yesterday’s “Road Rage” we are now confronted with “Internet Rage.”
The words themselves indicate a loss of self-control and individual accountability. This can happen in several different scenarios such as, when your identity is partially obscured by a computer monitor, steering wheel, telephone or even a mask.
So before we treat others as if we were wearing masks that allow us to say and do with anonymity just remember this old saying,”You can run but you can’t hide.”
Mark Schenck is chairman of the Scotland County Republican Party