The News You May Have Missed: May 2023
A study has found that people are less likely to wear facemasks to prevent COVID-19 if they think of themselves as good-looking (National Public Radio, Feb. 28). Researchers asked 1,030 participants how attractive they deem themselves, how likely they are to wear a mask, and if certain situations, such as a job interview or walking the dog, would impact their willingness to wear one. The more attractive people perceive themselves to be, the less likely they are to wear masks, as they believe masks make them less attractive. Inversely, the less attractive people consider themselves, the more likely they are to mask. “Our findings suggest that mask-wearing can shift from being a self-protection measure during the COVID-19 pandemic to a self-presentation tactic in the post-pandemic era,” the researchers write. For mundane activities such as walking a dog, people are less likely to care about their looks and thus less motivated to wear a mask. But those who see themselves as attractive are still more likely to feel the need to make a good impression.
Scary Tales for Sensitive Tots
Horror author R.L. Stine has accused his publisher of sanitizing his classic Goosebumps kids’ books behind his back to “appease the woke” (New York Post, March 8). Scholastic confirmed making changes to the series to “keep the language current and avoid imagery that could negatively impact a young person’s view of themselves today, with a particular focus on mental health.” Characters Stine described as “plump” are now “cheerful,” and those who were “overweight” are now merely “huge,” including one with “at least six chins” now being “at least six feet six.” Numerous instances of “crazy” have been replaced with “silly,” “scary,” and “stressed,” and “a real nut” is now “a real wild one.” Something dismissed as “girl’s stuff” is now just “not interesting.” The changes come after politically correct edits to Roald Dahl’s classic kids’ books and ahead of similar changes to Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. Stine, who didn’t authorize the changes, called it “Orwellian” to “alter published works to conform to ever-shifting standards.”
If It Looks Like a Duck…
A Thai man was sentenced to two years in prison for selling calendars featuring cartoons of yellow ducks that a court said mocked the country’s monarch (Associated Press, March 8). Bangkok’s Criminal Court ruled that the ducks in Narathorn Chotmankongsin’s 2021 calendar resemble and ridicule King Maha Vajiralongkorn. Yellow rubber ducks were a tongue-in-cheek symbol of Thailand’s pro-democracy protest movement that year. Chotmankongsin, 26, was charged under Thailand’s lèse-majesté law, which calls for imprisonment for anyone who defames, insults, or threatens the king, the queen, the heir apparent, or the regent. The law has long drawn criticism for its harshness and a provision that anyone can file a complaint, allowing abuse for partisan political purposes. Since November 2020, approximately 230 people have been charged under the lèse-majesté law. Before that, prosecutions had been informally suspended, but they were revived as the pro-democracy movement gained strength.
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