The List: Breaking down the Dave Yost mask-burning video

A deep dive into a recent social media post from the Ohio Attorney General

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Attorney General Dave Yost in a video he posted on social media

On Tuesday, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, or more likely someone from his office, logged into Twitter and posted a 15-second video in which Yost can be seen dousing a face mask with lighter fluid and setting it afire, which is apparently now a thing among a certain type of Ohio Republican as we reach the end of the health orders first put in place last year by Gov. Mike DeWine in an attempt to stem the spread of the coronavirus. (Witness a similar video in which Josh Mandel sets fire to a mask while standing in what appears to be the outdoor stairwell of an apartment building, a scene I imagine was immediately followed by an upstairs neighbor yelling, “Mandel, is that you? What are you burning now?”)

But the Yost video somehow brings up more questions, owing both to Yost’s history with COVID-19 (he contracted the virus over the holidays this past year, telling 10TV the experience was “no picnic”) and the video itself, which is worth a deeper dive.

How many takes did Yost and Co. actually film?

When you watch the video, you might notice it glitches at the precise moment Yost throws a lit match, going on to end with the AG kneeling behind a burning mask, a wide grin on his face. But if you happen to pause the video precisely when this glitch occurs at the nine-second mark, you’ll notice a few oddities, including Yost having grown what appears to be a second right arm (see the photo included above). Even more tellingly, the bottle of lighter fluid can be viewed onscreen twice in this moment, both leaning precariously in profile and in a second, camera-facing version. Indeed, moving back and forth between the nine- and 10-second marks, you can watch the bottle “jump,” shifting from sideways to front-facing to sideways to front-facing, which is something I’ve now done with the frequency of Kramer detailing his second spitter theory on “Seinfeld.”

This means that the video, at a minimum, was filmed twice, with the two takes then edited together in an attempt to make it appear as if Yost lit a match, tossed it and set the mask ablaze in a single motion. 

But what are the odds he gave up after a single try? You have to imagine that the AG lit at least four or five matches, tossing each toward the mask only to see it extinguished mid-air, and it’s wholly possibly to imagine a reality in which he burned through a couple of packs of matches over the course of four to five hours before the crew gave in and created the spliced video from the two best takes. Which brings up another question…

At what point did Yost decide to apply the light fluid?

Sure, it’s possible he used it from the jump, but there’s also at least a chance that he thought the mask would be flammable enough to burn without the additional fuel. We’ll give the benefit of the doubt, though, and assume he attempted no more than one or two takes before giving the mask a solid dousing.

Did he buy the lighter fluid specifically to burn the mask?

The timing of the video, which was released following the Memorial Day weekend, makes it more likely that the fluid was actually purchased to light a charcoal grill for a holiday barbecue. But that idea also supposes that Yost is someone who would cook with charcoal rather than gas. If only there was some way to verify this fact...

Huh, well I’ll be damned. We’re going to go ahead and say that this particular bottle of lighter fluid was not purchased to specifically film this video, but rather by a “grillmaester” who scoffs at your use of propane.

OK, but did Yost buy the mask(s) he burned specifically for use in this video?

Yost ignites what appears to be a disposable mask. But in past masked appearances, the AG was photographed wearing a black cloth face covering, which would obviously be slower to set aflame. So, yes, we’re going to say that he purchased the masks used in the video specifically to burn, which also fits with the idea that the video wasn’t captured in a single take. You’re not going to want to burn multiple cloth masks (fiscal responsibility!) when disposables can be ignited for a fraction of the price.

What’s with the soundtrack?

The riff, from the Jimi Hendrix song “Fire,” is a nod to the 1967 Monterey International Pop Music Festival, where Hendrix famously set his guitar on fire. (Yost even mimics Hendrix’s hand gestures urging the flames higher as the video closes.)

So does that make Yost as cool as Hendrix?

Good heavens no.