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Noem Exploits Teens to Amp Up Peer Pressure Against Masks

In an NBC report on the factors behind North Dakota’s and South Dakota’s declining coronavirus rates (primarily, a critical mass of people seeing friends and neighbors and grannies die and hospitals maxed out and realizing denial and inaction were no longer viable), South Dakota’s Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon burbles out the usual bluff about how South Dakota “empowered” people to make their own decisions about pandemic safety.

I don’t feel terribly empowered when I’m acting in response to an exploding crisis not simply left unchecked but made worse by my government’s actions. I feel more empowered when my government uses the authority I have given it to provide early and consistent public support for measures to prevent the crisis from exploding.

The administration Secretary Malsam-Rysdon serves has “empowered” only irresponsible decisions. Consider Governor Kristi Noem’s repeated use of Legislative pages for propaganda photos from the Governor’s mansion:

Gov. Kristi Noem, tweet, 2021.01.20.
Gov. Kristi Noem, tweet, 2021.01.20.
Gov. Kristi Noem, tweet, 2021.02.09.
Gov. Kristi Noem, tweet, 2021.02.09.

In each of these photos, the Governor assembles teenagers on her staircase for a photo. In each photo, one brave student wears a mask, against the example of the Governor, her spouse, and everyone else in the frame. The Governor broadcasts each photo, setting the example she prefers for the entire state: gather together with people in close quarters, don’t socially distance, and don’t wear masks. Go about your affairs as if there is no pandemic and no risk to yourself or the people you meet or the people they care about.

Empowerment involves helping people make hard choices. Instead, the Governor spreads photos that show the mask wearer as the odd person out, the sole practitioner of health precautions that everyone else finds unnecessary. These photos disempower folks who would choose to take precautions by portraying them as a minority among an overwhelmingly large, smiling, and carefree majority.

Governor Noem does not want to empower us South Dakotans with information to make our own choices. She wants us to affirm and follow her choices. And she’ll use teens and propagandized peer pressure to secure that following.


  1. DaveFN 2021-02-11

    Empowering irresponsibility in the name of personal freedom.

  2. Norma Wilson 2021-02-11

    More evidence that Kristi Noem has no conscience!

  3. leslie 2021-02-11


  4. Donald Pay 2021-02-11

    What a disgusting, immoral person she is. If I was still on the Rapid City school board I would vote to ban her from school property. She’s a loaded weapon pointed at those kids.

  5. kj trailer trash 2021-02-11

    You know, I really have zero seconds for any rightwing opinions, but if they’re occasionally correct, I’ll tell them they are and that I’m wrong. What chaps my bony old man ass the most about Noem is her absolute certainty that her completely braindead way is the only way. She’s so pigheaded, narrow-minded, and absolutely Trumpian in her stupidity that she wouldn’t even frickin’ DREAM of there being another point of view. It’s not just her thin skin that makes her whine about KELO and others asking legitimate questions of her; it’s also that she’s too stupid to grasp that there is a fact that there are viewpoints other than hers, and of course way too stupid to understand the other points of view or see any gray areas in anything. She is the opposite of a critical thinker and the worst possible example of a role model for kids, especially for girls.

  6. Mike Livingston 2021-02-11

    Manipulating young people like props, what a shrew.

  7. Jenny 2021-02-11

    Living in SD would not be good for my mental health with leaders like this.

  8. John C 2021-02-11

    Wasn’t the Secy. of Health shown recently in a large group photo op with Kristi and other bureaucrats?
    That alone removes her from any shred of scientific credibility. Ghastly Grim Reapers all!

  9. Loren 2021-02-11

    What KJ said… !!

  10. leslie 2021-02-11

    Rep Ted Liu just showed 5 Republican governors’ videos that Kristi should watch to learn, at this VERY late hour in her career, how to be a patriotic governor.

  11. Chad 2021-02-11


    One of the characteristics of leadership that I was taught in officer candidate school was critical thinking. It is evident to me every day that this characteristic is absent in many of our state and national leadership. Thinking outside of the box in order to achieve mission goals or the best possible outcome for your constituency should be at the forefront, not marching mindlessly in lockstep to keep the status quo and your power/money/job.

  12. Bill 2021-02-11

    Charles Kesler a Senior Fellow of the Claremont Institute, in a forthcoming Winter 2020/2021 issue of the Claremont Review of Books, said the following: “Even minus a new platform, the Republican National Convention put on an admirable show of fresh, attractive political talent last year, all within the Trump ambit: Tim Scott, Tom Cotton, Mike Pompeo, Kristi Noem, and others.” In my opinion, if Noem is among the best of the fresh Republican talent, the party is in trouble.

  13. Arlo Blundt 2021-02-11

    Ignorant is as ignorant does….dumb, gullible and infectious

  14. Porter Lansing 2021-02-11

    Governor Noem didn’t know what to do so she did nothing and labeled it “protecting small government”.
    She learned that tactic from her time in Pierre.
    Her response reflects South Dakota’s “bottom of the pile” rating for “innovation skills”.
    New ideas are ridiculed and serve to drive the “best and brightest” away, almost immediately.
    The SD Ex-Pats here in Colorado are pretty disappointed in what’s become of your state.
    BTW … Did the Covid get Anne Beal?

  15. james 2021-02-11

    Noem should be sued. This is ridiculously irresponsible and reckless. No, most of those young people will not get seriously sick, much less die. But what about those around them? What about their parents and grandparents? Their friends’ parents and grandparents?

    As a governor, she knows better. If someone gets seriously sick or dies from this… sue her for everything she has. At least that would make politicians like her think twice. There is no excuse for this.

  16. grudznick 2021-02-11

    You should sue her, Mr. james. Do not be a whiner, be a doer.

  17. Mike Livingston 2021-02-11

    kj trailer trash: really summed it up. good on ya! u remind me of the posey pounder.

  18. leslie 2021-02-12

    Kids must not have trapped all the pelts on Rapid Creek for Kristi. I walked beneath a Bald Eagle today, hunting the riparian area and gliding across W. St. Joe up towards Hangman’s Hill. Very sweet, rare observation.

  19. james 2021-02-12

    I hope the national media picks up that picture. The governor hosting a covid party with a group of young people? I know, it may make her even more popular with the psychopath wing of the Republican base but I would like history to record this insanity.

  20. RST Tribal Member at 57572 2021-02-12

    Unfortunate Pages. Families proudly send them to Pierre to get a life long experience and good civil lessons. But as shown in the campaign picture published by Noem something else is in store for them. As in the past an elected person in Pierre attempts or does take advantage of the young unschooled Pages. Some elected people acts have proven to be criminal, others stupid, now deadly can an be added to the page’s experiences. Thankfully two Pages have strong family support and sound upbringing to with stand peer and adult pressures to fall in line with the group. Pity the other unfortunate Pages and their families for the risky behavior of elected people.

  21. SD is 20 per cent nonwhite 2021-02-12

    Superspreader Noem. Impeach.

  22. james 2021-02-12

    It’s amazing how many people will be irresponsible if their leaders encourage that behavior. I need to protect those most vulnerable around me and it would be very helpful if everyone wore their mask. Some of my circle have about a 20% chance of dying if they contract Covid-19. That is very scary.

    Governor Noem’s example is making protecting my friends and family much harder.

  23. mike from iowa 2021-02-12

    Last updated: February 12, 2021, 14:27 GMT
    United States
    Coronavirus Cases:

    3858 moar bodies for Thursday January 11th. Happy Birthday eldest Grandgirlie.

  24. Mark Anderson 2021-02-12

    I always thought of kristi as cute, but superspreader, I had no idea.

  25. leslie 2021-02-13

    Noem and Trump refer to the Oath Keepers in her reference to their motto: “Not on our watch” (after the DAPL Cannonball protests she legislated against); and today Trump referred to “Our Movement” which is also Oath Keepers rhetoric. (FreedomWorks PAC and the American Liberty Alliance home page touts Oath Keepers as a key part of “the Movement”.)

  26. John Dale 2021-02-16

    Masks don’t work, cause bacterial/viral load near the face, and reduce a person’s ability to interpret nonverbal cues over time (so, in educational pedagogic terms, masks are degenerative and will cause underdevelopment in important portions of kids’ brains that are responsible for their humanity and connection to others).

  27. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-02-16

    How many times do we have to rebut the same false claims, John Dale? Masks work. Stop facilitating the Governor’s deceitful bad example.

  28. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-02-16

    Masks are a lot less degenerative than death and permanent disability from severe respiratory damage. Kids can still get plenty of face time from their parents and other members of their home pods, as well as well-designed video interaction. We can find ways around the pedagogical disadvantages.

  29. o 2021-02-16

    John Dale, I can only come to the conclusion from your comment that you were raised in childhood, completely surrounded by people in masks.

  30. mike from iowa 2021-02-16

    Last updated: February 16, 2021, 13:59 GMT
    United States
    Coronavirus Cases:

    For the first time since the last time, daily body count failed to reach 1000 and stopped at 994.

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