The New York Times has been a primary offender in fearmongering and hyping the pandemic, while trying to bolster the efforts of power-abusing mayors and governors to make life miserable for the public in order to show they are “doing something.” Thus when the Times published this article, with the sub-head, “The accumulating research may be imperfect, and it’s still evolving, but the takeaway is simple. Right now, masks are necessary to slow the pandemic,” I assumed that I would read an unequivocal, full-throated, air-tight brief for mask-wearing.
Well, it wasn’t. In fact, there is so much equivocation and doubt in the article, which announces itself as pro-mask, that it reinforces the conclusion that the case for masks is being overstated, which is to say dishonestly reported. The takeaway is “simple” if one is inclined to blindly follow orders without good reason. I’m not.
The thing is rife with red flags. “May be imperfect” is a euphemism for “it might turn out that this is all wrong.” “It’s still evolving” is another dodge. One section of the article is headed, “Over time, recommendations on masks have changed. That’s how science works.” Wait, aren’t we always being told that challenging conventional scientific “consensus” is being a science denier? Skepticism is just a caution that what is being pronounced as the absolute answer isn’t as certain as its advocates claim. Here, the Times is saying that science being proved wrong is “how science works.” This obviously a procrustean standard at best. “Believe what we say, because we are scientists, but when it turns out we were wrong, that just proves how trustworthy we are.”
The Times says:
The C.D.C. has been criticized for an about-face on masks since the beginning of the pandemic, when it urged only symptomatic people to wear them. The agency did not recommend universal use of face coverings until April. (The World Health Organization was even later, issuing its endorsement in July.)The agency was reluctant to recommend masks at first because it worried about a run on the high-quality masks needed for health care workers, Dr. Marr said. “I think it took time to realize that there’s different objectives in the health care setting versus in the community,” she said.
In fact, what this tells us is that these trustworthy scientists and experts deliberately withhold information from the public for their own reasons. As I would say to a witness on cross examination, “You admit you lied then. How do we know you’re not lying now?” And the only answer to that is, “You don’t.” Another doctor interviewed tells the Times, changes in guidance “should be seen as a sign that the policy is following the latest science.” That’s funny: didn’t the article just tell us that Dr. Fauci’s change in guidance on masks had nothing to do with science, and everything to do with expediency?
“Somehow that change has been framed by some people as public health experts not knowing what we’re doing,” another doctor says. “But actually, we should see this change in guidance as part of the necessary evolution. That’s the cornerstone of a solid public health response.” That’s doubletalk, and Yoo’s Rationalization, “It isn’t what it is.” That change was an admission of a lie.
As for the rest of the article, we get vague and head-scratching statements like…
“With the coronavirus on the march through much of the United States, scientists are urging Americans to adopt the few health measures shown to slow the virus: universal mask use, social distancing, good ventilation indoors and hand hygiene.“
Slow? If they slow the virus, why is the virus “marching?” Slow how and how much?
“Among public health experts, there is near-unanimous endorsement of universal mask mandates to shield people from the virus and slow the pandemic.“
Mandates? Mandates mean penalties. It’s easy for “health experts” to demand mandates—they don’t care about any consequences no related to health. “Sure, what the heck, make everyone wear masks, day and night. Can’t hurt!” Remember the recommendations that we all wear masks during sex? That we wear masks while eating and drinking? Can’t hurt! And there’s slow again…show how much, and how reliably? Is any level of inconvenience, discomfort, and disruption of normal human interaction and the enjoyment of life a reasonable price to pay for this “slowing”? Since health officials literally care about only one thing, they don’t even consider such important factors as trade-offs. What does “near unanimous” mean, exactly? Maybe the non-conforming experts are the rational ones. Maybe they’re the right ones.
Meanwhile, why should anyone obey or take seriously mandates issued by elected officials who don’t follow the rules themselves?
“Increasing the proportion of people who wear masks by 15 percent could prevent the need for lockdowns and cut economic losses that may reach $1 trillion, about 5 percent of gross domestic product, the C.D.C. said.”
Could? Could? So this is just a guess, then, right? A guess by the same organization that regards being wrong and having to retract what it said was true earlier proof of what’s wonderful about “science.”
“If it can’t help us avert the shutdowns that are happening, it can certainly help us come down the backside of this peak and then keep things down,” Dr. Brooks said.
Oh! So maybe it CAN’T prevent the need for shutdowns.
“The term mask refers to any kind of protective facial covering, but its effectiveness depends greatly on the type…The average person, on the other hand, is exposed to much less virus and less often, and so can be protected with a well-made cloth covering, Dr. Brooks said. The best cloth face coverings, which have multiple layers that can trap viral particles — the thickest are mostly impervious to light — are as effective as surgical masks in some circumstances.”
In what circumstances? What are the standards for a “well-made” mask? I see many people wearing paper masks, and wrote earlier about lattice masks on sale over the web. Are there standards for what masks are effective? Er, a, well, no, not officially. Why the hell not? Later we learn that it’s because there isn’t enough study data to say for sure what the standards for an effective mask should be.
But we should all wear masks anyway, because…
“The average person can be protected, at least somewhat, with a well-made cloth covering, according to the C.D.C.“
That’s a double indefinite! “At least somewhat” and a “well-made cloth mask” when we have no standards regarding what “well-made” means, because…
“All kinds of masks offer the wearer some degree of protection, multiple studies have shown. Exactly how much protection is not yet clear.“
There is increasing evidence that cloth face coverings, too, stop virus expelled by an infected person when breathing, talking, singing or shouting — controlling the spread at the source.
That’s funny: there is “increasing evidence” that the 2020 election was full of dishonest election tricks and efforts to distort the vote, and the New York Times is leading the shouts that such evidence isn’t good enough to conclude anything or take major action….and that’s correct.
“This discovery became especially important once scientists learned that people who don’t even feel symptoms may spread the virus.”
Wait: is it increasing evidence, or is it a discovery? They are not the same thing. This is dishonest advocacy. designed for casual and gullible readers.
“More than 50 percent of all infections may be transmitted by asymptomatic people.”
Or, apparently, they may not.
Critics of mask-wearing measures have long demanded a randomized clinical trial that establishes their effectiveness. But while such trials are the standard for drugs and vaccines, they are not ideal for evaluating behaviors subject to people’s recall, experts said.
Boy, those ignorant critics demanding actual proof before they agree to alter the way they live their lives!
“Show me the clinical trials that showed the efficacy of hand washing,” Dr. Volckens said. “And I think we all agree that smoking causes cancer and is bad for you — does that mean that we can’t believe that smoking causes cancer because there isn’t a clinical trial?”
Do you really want us to list all of the things the public agreed on that turned out to be untrue once actual research and data were available? So we should just believe this because the “experts” say so, I guess. This is the “scientific” argument.
“A Danish study published on Wednesday was a randomized clinical trial assessing whether a mask protected wearers. It found no statistically significant effect. But the study has serious limitations, experts said: It was conducted when community transmission in Denmark was low, and masks were far from the norm.”
The actual study on masks isn’t good enough, but the near-unanimous belief of health experts without studies is to be trusted and obeyed.
“’It’s hard to do these studies in real life,’” [one doctor] said.”
Oh…we should all wear masks without sufficient evidence because actually finding out whether they work is “hard” ! Isn’t science wonderful?
“The study still found a 15 percent protection for the wearer, although the figure was not statistically significant. But it may be an underestimate, Dr. Marr and other researchers said.”
It “may” be. Then again, it may not. This is one powerful argument for masks, don’t you think?
“I still think masks are the most cheap, effective, versatile intervention that we can have if social distancing is not possible or variable, or if indoor ventilation is poor,” said Julian Tang, honorary professor of respiratory sciences at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom.
And this is what I think. I think the New York Times set out to make the case for mandatory masks and found that the case was weak, so they engaged in appeals to authority, deceit, cherry-picking and dishonesty. I think that rather than critically examine the justification for the sweeping endorsements of wearing masks, it just resorted to pushing a narrative at the expense of public understanding, counting on their readers to accept what is basically a lot of evocations as fact. I think that if this is the best the nation’s paper of record can do to make the claim that masks are crucial when it undertakes the job—this was a special feature in the Science section!—then the public is being misled, once again, “for their own good.”
What the Times article essentially says is,
“Health professionals don’t really know how much masks will prevent the spread of the Wuhan virus, but it’s probably better than nothing, and since they don’t care at all about the many, many negative consequences of doing it, we’re expected to do what they say.”