The fact that MASKS WORK and that they save lives is widely considered to be “The Science”.
My take: any time someone throws the phrase “The Science” at you, there’s a reasonable probability that they’re full of shit, and skepticism and further investigation is warranted.
You see: there’s science, and there’s “The Science”.
Science is an endeavor that involves asking questions, testing hypotheses, challenging assumptions, collecting data and evaluating models and interpretations of that data. It is a tool to be used in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. Absolute purity or perfection in science is next to impossible, as it is a human endeavor, subject to human foibles. Nevertheless, when employed properly, it is a powerful tool for finding answers to certain kinds of questions.
“The Science”, on the other hand, is a tool that propagandists use as a bludgeon to shut down dialog, and usually involves cherry-picked studies and experts and a hefty dose of hubris and appeal-to-authority, and is generally considered infallible. “The Science” is about religious dogma, about reciting the We KnowTM consensus orthodoxy dictated by a priestly class of superhumans known as The Scientists (a.k.a. “Experts”, who We KnowTM could never, ever, be corrupted or influenced by power or money). The religion around “The Science” is particularly insidious, as one of its core tenets is that it is most certainly not a religion! (anyone who claims it is a religion is an anti-science heretic/moron who should be summarily cancelled and ignored)
(Probably we should dig a little deeper into the science-as-religion – a.k.a. Scientism – in a future post… but for now, lets get back to the topic at hand: masks.)
“The Science” insists that We KnowTM masks are, without question, crucial to our health in the current situation with the pandemic. Furthermore, it is fully supportive of any and all measures taken by governments with respect to recommendations and mandates. (and is in fact completely opposed to any consideration of individual liberty as a relevant issue, and is almost entirely dismissive of the existence of downsides or hazards, be them medical, psychological, or sociological.)
Science, on the other hand, would seem to indicate that “The Science” shouldn’t be so certain about these assertions; that the topic of masks isn’t the slam dunk its purported to be.
We can start with a pretty straightforward statement from the World Health Organization – an organization that we’re told to accept as authoritative on the issue. To quote page 8 of a publication from December 2020 “Mask use in the context of COVID-19“:
At present there is only limited and inconsistent scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of masking of healthy people in the community to prevent infection with respiratory viruses.
“Limited and inconsistent scientific evidence” doesn’t sound like a slam dunk, a reason to obsessively cover our faces every time we set foot out our front door, to be emotionally triggered with dread and hatred when we see an exposed face in public building, to shout and scream as if the person with the exposed face is literally murdering people with their actions.
No, “limited and inconsistent scientific evidence” actually sounds like a reasonable assessment. I’ve found most of the “masks are effective” articles out there don’t look at the full spectrum of studies and opinions out there. They only show you the studies and give voice to experts that support the claim, and pretend like studies and experts on the opposite side don’t exist.
A scientific approach would have us put all the evidence on the table to evaluate in totality, whereas following “The Science” would have us “only look at what we tell you; Shut up, and comply.”
Randomized Control Trials
I fully accept that there are several of studies that demonstrate that pieces of fabric of various types prevent particles of various sizes from passing through with varying levels of effectiveness.
Many articles you find arguing for the effectiveness of mask tend to dwell on the basic logic:
In lab experiments, mask materials are shown to effectively filter particles and droplets of the size that are exhaled by humans.
Coronaviruses are transmitted via the droplets and aerosols exhaled by humans.
Masks reduce the transmission of coronavirus between humans.
It seems like simple, basic, slam-dunk reasoning, but the logical inference is not a justified scientific conclusion. With the question of masking healthy people during a pandemic, there are many more variables at play than whether fabric prevents particles from passing through.
This reasoning constitutes a hypothesis. It is a reasonable hypothesis, to be sure, and fortunately it is also testable. Do masks worn by healthy people prevent the spread of a virus? It seems they ought to. To answer the question we really should be looking at the gold standard of scientific studies: the Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT). In an RCT, the experimenter attempts to isolate a specific variable, and compare against a control. Observational studies and theoretical/computer models are fine and good, but they are less direct in examining the variables in question, and are therefore no substitute for the RCT.
Take a look at this paper published in April 2020 I’ve seen referenced from multiple pro-masking articles, and explicitly recommends the adoption of public mask wearing. Specifically, look at section 4, “Mask Efficacy Studies” on page 3:
Although no randomized controlled trials (RCT) on the use of masks as source control for SARS-CoV-2 has been published, a number of studies have attempted to indirectly estimate the efficacy of masks.
And on the following page:
There are no RCTs that have been done to evaluate the impact of masks on community transmission during a coronavirus pandemic.
The specific statements are technically true (as of the time of publishing), but misleading.
- No RCTs for masks as source control for SARS-CoV-2? What about RCTs for masks as source control for other viruses?
- No RCTs for impact of masks on community transmission during a coronavirus pandemic? What about RCTs for impact of masks on community transmission for other viruses or in a non-pandemic scenario?
There are several RCT studies about mask use for influenza and coronavirus (non sars-cov2, e.g. common cold) transmission that pre-date this paper. It just so happens they don’t support the conclusion this paper is going for.
- Physical interventions to interrupt or reduce the spread of respiratory viruses. Part 1 – Face masks, eye protection and person distancing: systematic review and meta-analysis (March 2020)
- “Compared to no masks there was no reduction of influenza-like illness (ILI) cases or influenza for masks in the general population, nor in healthcare workers.”
- The use of masks and respirators to prevent transmission of influenza: a systematic review of the scientific evidence (Dec 2011)
- “there is a limited evidence base to support the use of masks and/or respirators in healthcare or community settings.”
- Use of surgical face masks to reduce the incidence of the common cold among health care workers in Japan: a randomized controlled trial (Nov 2008)
- ” Face mask use in health care workers has not been demonstrated to provide benefit in terms of cold symptoms or getting colds.”
So why should the paper even make the statements about RCTs at all? My guess: they had to at least acknowledge the RCT, as it is well-understood in the scientific community that the RCT typically produces the most powerful compelling scientific evidence.
Now, in this article I won’t try to pull together an exhaustive list of all the points of the debate. I just wanted to make the above point about RCTs because that’s what got me to start seriously questioning “masks are effective” orthodoxy. (Understand I wasn’t an “anti-masker” from the beginning)
For further investigation, I recommend the following resources that pull together a ton of evidence challenge the prevailing narrative:
- Ryan Cristián at The Last American Vagabond: The Great Mask Deception.
- Swiss Policy Resarch: Are Face Masks Effective? The Evidence.
Even if you want to accuse the Cristian and SPR of cherry picking their studies to support their conclusion, don’t discount the validity of the studies cited and the arguments made. Take this information in context of the plentiful pro-mask articles and analyses out there.
One thing that drives me a little crazy is the mindless acceptance that there couldn’t possibly be any drawbacks, any harm, any cost to be considered in a cost-benefit analysis to having everyone cover their faces at all times in public.
“The Science” would seem to indicate that even thinking that there might possibly be problems with obstructing your breathing for hours on end is as ridiculous as thinking you could grow a penis and balls on your forehead if you try hard enough.
To me it is common sense that messing with something as fundamental to our health as our respiratory function might pose a problem. It makes me think of the whole “2 + 2 = 5” phenomenon from Orwell’s 1984. Authority tells you that 2 + 2 = 5, everyone around you accepts it and thinks your crazy for going against authority and what everyone thinks and insisting that 2 + 2 = 4. Breathing is a basic function, fundamental to our life. Why is it so insane to think that obstructing your breathing for 9 hours out of the day might have a drawback?
I recommend taking a look at this paper published in January 2021. The author speaks somewhat to the efficacy of masks, but the most interesting parts are the discussion of the adverse effects, woefully lacking in mainstream discussion.
Wearing facemasks has been demonstrated to have substantial adverse physiological and psychological effects. These include hypoxia, hypercapnia, shortness of breath, increased acidity and toxicity, activation of fear and stress response, rise in stress hormones, immunosuppression, fatigue, headaches, decline in cognitive performance, predisposition for viral and infectious illnesses, chronic stress, anxiety and depression.
For further investigation, see the following:
- Interview Tammy Clark and Kristen Meghan (video) – a conversation with two certified OSHA experts on PPE who train doctors in the proper use of masks
- Is a Mask That Covers the Mouth and Nose Free from Undesirable Side Effects in Everyday Use and Free of Potential Hazards? – very technical and extensive look at studies.
The whole reason for having everyone – even healthy people without any symptoms – wear masks everywhere is because everyone is a potential carrier and can transmit without knowing it. Everyone one of us might be a diseased “asymptomatic carrier”.
The whole “everyone should wear masks everywhere” dictate hinges on the potential for asymptomatic transmission.
So it seems relevant that on June 7th last year, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove of the WHO said that asymptomatic transmission of SARS-CoV2 is “very rare”.
It also seems relevant Tony Fauci himself said, in no uncertain terms in January 2020: “In all the history of respiratory-borne viruses of any type, asymptomatic transmission has never been the driver of outbreaks. The driver of outbreaks is always a symptomatic person.”
These statements seem to be consistent with the results of a study in China that involved 10 million people without any asymptomatic transmission of Covid.
Take a look at this article published last November: Asymptomatic Spread Revisited.
“The Science” is Authoritarian
Science is about seeking the truth by examining all available evidence, listening to all available viewpoints.. “The Science” is about suppressing and ignoring some of the evidence, ignoring and silencing some of the experts.
Ron Desantis, governor of Florida, held a public roundtable to consult with a number of doctors regarding health-related policies for the state.
Mask policy was part of the discussion, and the doctors didn’t say the right things. Youtube removed the video recording of the session from the platform. You can see the full video via this link. Alternatively, take a look at some excerpts below:
Actually, Masks DO work!
Yes, I realize I just gave you point after point to call into question the masking dogma. But I in fact do believe, quite strongly in fact, that masks DO work!
They just work in different ways than “The Science” would have us believe.
- To serve as a constant reminder every time we go out in public that there is a deadly virus out there that we need to stay afraid of.
- To erase our identities by covering up the most individually human part of us.
- To divide us into two neatly-divided groups – maskers and anti-maskers – each who judges the other as either selfish or stupid, and each identifiable from across the room so the judgments can be made quickly and easily.
- To reduce the quality of the air that we breathe in, all the while thinking how ridiculous it is that anyone could possibly think that obstructing your airways for hours at a time could possibly have any drawbacks.
- To keep us all in a routine of conformity and obedience to “The Rules”, with easily-identifiable nonconformists/violators.
- Psychologically stunt or damage the developing minds of young children so they cannot see human faces at a time when they are learning to read human expressions.
- To serve as a constant reminder that we should BE AFRAID – not only afraid of a virus, but afraid of degenerate anti-maskers putting us all in danger, or, alternatively, afraid of the human race turning into a bunch of order-obeying zombies with no capacity for independent thought.
- To train us on an instinctive level that we humans are dirty, filthy, diseased creatures; simply breathing in proximity to one is a constant threat to your health.
Am I cynical for thinking that the above may be considered by some to be features rather than bugs? How much longer is His Royal Holiness Dr. Fauci going to keep telling us to double mask? We know the vaccine wont end it, since all it is purported to do is turn everyone into potential “asymptomatic carriers”.
However effective at preventing spread of contagious respiratory disease, one thing I can tell you for certain is that the topic has been politicized to an extreme degree. They are being used as a psychological tool to manipulate our perceptions.
My recommendation: reclaim your status as a free-thinking human being, and throw your middle finger up into Anthony Scumfuck Fauci’s face. Wear the mask if you want to, but don’t freak out when you see someone without one. Don’t live your life in fear of exposed human faces.