The Mask Problem
Before 2020, nobody even thought they’d be effective against viruses, two years later we have even more evidence that they don’t work, and yet public health authorities won’t stop promoting them.
Perhaps there is hope, even for Germany: Nine days into the lifting of the general indoor mask requirement, a marked shift in habits is underway. Fewer and fewer are bothering with useless plastic face-diapers.
As I carry out my semi-regular supermarket surveys, though, I’ve begun pondering all over again the whole problem of masks, and why we ever started wearing them, and what it all means.
The story is bizarre:
Everyone will remember that Corona astrologers and public health authorities, from Anthony Fauci to Christian Drosten, advised against masks early on. They pointed to longstanding public-health guidelines against community masking, which they claimed was powerless against viral infection. Then, beginning in April 2020, these very same people started singing a different tune. They had only played down the utility of masks to preserve their availability for healthcare personnel, they said. In fact everybody should wear masks; they would prevent infections, perhaps even make lockdowns unnecessary.
They proceeded to impose mask mandates upon the better part of the world. Lungs everywhere filled with new microplastics, oceans accumulated a new kind of trash, all of it to no effect whatever. Older public health doctrine against masking, it turns out, was totally right. Mandates plainly have no effect on infection curves. This is because SARS-2 is primarily transmitted by aerosols; it works like a gas that fills indoor spaces. Only N95 or FFP2 respirators have any chance of stopping the inhalation of these microscopic particles, but the discipline required to fit and seal a respirator properly is both inconsistent with the low quality of commonly available models, and incompatible with use outside of a controlled hospital environment. Thus, even respirators are totally worthless.
I am open to theories as to how our pointless mask obsessions ever came to be. Right now I have three ideas, which aren’t mutually exclusive and probably all apply to varying degrees:
Copying Asia: Corona was less virulent in the Asia-Pacific region, where masks are more common. A big part of how we got lockdowns and the rest of containment, was a bunch of people assuming that Asia was doing it right and that we needed to copy them.
Making Corona Visible: Consciously or unconsciously (probably both), public health authorities wanted a means of making the pandemic real and tangible to the masses. Pervasive disease statistics were part of this, hand sanitiser and distancing rules another part, masks yet another part.
Maintaining Useful Fictions: A lot of people came out of the first-wave propaganda campaign believing that SARS-2 had a 10% fatality rate and was likely to kill their kids. How could such an enormous threat be reconciled with the decision of authorities to insist on ordinary routine supermarket shopping, to end closures after April, or to weigh the problem of reopening schools? Rather than admit the danger of the virus had been wildly over-hyped, they claimed to have a charm that would magically save its wearers.
Working on longer piece, a book review, which should be up tomorrow, hence nothing yesterday and shorter post today. Book reviews take a long time.
I'm pulling out what's left of my hair. How can science be this utterly broken?
We had a hypothesis. We tested it. We tested a million billion times, in every country, in every cohort. Our hypothesis failed. It failed when we tried two masks. When we tried n95s. When we tried it at nursing homes. It failed, and failed, and failed.
But we became so in love with our hypothesis, and it became such an easy way to get published if we could data-drudge our way through some retrospective bullshit study, that we kept up this charade, and now have only the weight of a hundred ridiculous studies as "evidence".
Now half the world is convinced this useless intervention has value. Beyond the damage we are doing to toddlers, think of the long term implications? How many PhDs and MPHs are going to conduct research beginning with the premise "That masks work"? How much detriment will that have to future decades of research when we begin with a baked-in assumption that falsely describes viral behavior? How much damage would have been done if we clung to elevation correlating to Cholera for another 50 years after Snow demonstrated otherwise?
Everyone looks to John Snow as the hero of Epidemiology, but what we need is the next William Farr.
Who among the Public Health establishment will concede, just as William Farr had done 160 years ago, that their pet theory turned out to be completely wrong?
This nonsense needs to end. We knew for 100 years that masks didn't stop bacteria much less viruses. We knew through RCT even in the operating room they had no measurable impact on asepsis.
Just because the "bad team" was against masks without having the evidence to back up why didn't work doesn't mean that we need to cling to this failed and unfalsifiable hypothesis out of spite or some moral obligation. Accepting that this is pseudoscience doesn't mean we are republicans.
What do we need to do? Resurrect the James Randi 1 million dollar prize to challenge practitioners of this pseudoscience to prove their claims? Or would people like Gorski just claim they are "above" having to demonstrate their claims  and simply point to that time some people in a salon in Georgia who agreed to be tested didn't get Covid while wearing loose fitting cloth masks as his mic drop?
The public health establishment has been thoroughly Gish Galloped. They point to the 100+ "pro" IVM studies as example of how something false can be Gish Galloping, but refuse to realize they too have fallen for the same logical fallacy.
Social Media Archaeologists will someday find the primary source of how something that doesn't work got 70 studies to "show" it does work , but we can't wait for them to catch up.
I have taken that original collection of Gishes and added to it over the last 18 months, including every study, notable article, or Bill Nye TikTok into this spreadsheet. Now I need the next William Farr to take over and shut down this nonsense once and for all.
Who's it going to be?