'It's just a piece of fabric': Misinformation, media distrust fuelling anti-mask movement, Sask. professor says
REGINA -- A distrust of mainstream media and reliance on social media for news is fueling the anti-mask movement, according to a professor at the University of Regina.
"The answer seems to be that people are getting junk information, basically, and probably from social media and that’s driving a lot of what’s going on," Gordon Pennycook, a behavioural science associate professor at the University of Regina, said.
The anti-mask movement has grown in Saskatchewan over the past few months, despite push back from the Premier and the province’s Chief Medical Health Officer.
"There should be no stigma as to whether someone is wearing a mask or isn’t wearing a mask," Premier Scott Moe said on Wednesday.
Moe proclaimed the COVID-19 pandemic "is real" during Tuesday’s COVID-19 provincial update, seven months into the fight against the virus.
Anti-mask protests have become common in cities across Saskatchewan in recent months. The No Masks Saskatchewan Facebook group has grown to more than 2,900 members since it was created a month ago.
Pennycook said people joining this group aren’t willing to listen to facts about masks.
"There’s room for reasonable behaviour, but that’s different than joining a Facebook group that’s specifically associated with not liking masks, which is kind of a weird thing to care about, it’s just a piece of fabric over your face," he said.
CTV News reached out to the creator of the Facebook group for comment, but didn’t receive a response.
Pennycook added Saskatchewan avoiding being hard hit by the initial wave of COVID-19 compared to other parts of Canada and the United States is contributing to people not taking the virus seriously.
"The extent to which people think it’s a serious problem is going to have a huge impact on whether they think masks are effective," he said.
While the anti-mask movement is vocal, Pennycook doesn’t believe it will spread out of its small portion of the population.
"It’s a pretty small portion of the population that actually has these views," he said. "The average person is fairly reasonable, they know it’s a mask, there’s a pandemic, it’s not a big deal."