Monday, July 20, 2020

The Slippery Slope of Mask Mandates and the Madness of Mobs

Your mask is a lot of things. 

A security blanket. A lucky charm. A virtue-signaling device.

But that's about it.

Remember back during the first Gulf War, when everyone was wearing those little yellow "Support the Troops" lapel ribbons to show how much they cared about our soldiers? 

Well, your mask is the 2020 version of the yellow ribbon -- your way of advertising your selfless dedication to Not Killing Grandma. And it's just about as effective as the ribbons were, which is to say they're a terrific way of advertising your moral superiority over other people  -- but not much else.

And that's because...
  • N95 masks are designed for breathing out, which means you're not protecting the people around you at all. 
  • Surgical masks are designed for doctors to keep stuff in, but they're intended for short-term use in sterile medical environments, not for wearing on your face all day in non-sterile environments. Doing that just turns your face into a walking petri dish.
  • Cloth masks are so porous that they keep almost nothing out, though they are great for keeping moisture in, creating a welcoming environment for mold and mildew to grow and actually increasing the risk of respiratory infections -- this according to a 2015 study, long before anyone had ever heard of COVID. That study showed a 97% penetration rate with cloth masks. And that's not to mention the inevitable air gaps, or the fact that the virus is far, far smaller than the gaps between the threads, or that you can contract the virus through your eyes. (So why are the "experts" not pushing eyewear the same way they're pushing masks?)

In fact, several studies conducted before the C-19 outbreak consistently showed that masks were minimally effective at stopping respiratory aerosols and thus offered little to no protection against cold and flu viruses. It was discovered, however, that masks depleted wearers' oxygen levels and put them at higher risk for infection.


So why the sudden mask hysteria? Well, the obvious reason is that the ratings-driven media is pushing it relentlessly, and the people are buying in. Note how the media has shifted the goalposts, from talking endlessly about number of deaths to now talking just as incessantly about number of cases -- while never pointing out the obvious fact that cases are not deaths, and that more cases may simply be a result of more testing (or even some funny business with the way the cases are being counted). If case numbers rise but deaths do not follow in an appreciable manner, that's actually a potentially good sign that the virus is becoming less lethal and we're working toward building herd immunity -- despite our best efforts to thwart herd immunity so far.

Regardless, while the nonstop death counts programmed people to accept the lockdowns, now the nonstop talk of rising cases is programming people to accept masks, and even push for compulsory use.

But again, why? Why now, when at the height of the virus' deadliness, the same "experts" demanding we muzzle our faces weren't pushing masks at all? Some were saying they offered minimal effectiveness against the virus, while others were practically begging people not to wear and buy them. Let's review some of the flip-flops of the "experts" we're supposed to trust:
  • "There is no specific evidence to suggest that the wearing of masks by the mass population has any potential benefit." -- The World Health Organization, in March
  • "WHO advises that governments should encourage the general public to wear masks where there is widespread transmission and physical distancing is difficult." -- The exact same WHO, in June

  • "Right now, in the United States, people should not be walking around wearing masks." -- Dr. Anthony Fauci, in March
  • "Some sort of mask-like facial covering, I think for the time being, can be a very regular part of helping prevent the spread of infection." -- The exact same person, in May.

  • "Seriously, people. STOP BUYING MASKS! They are not effective in preventing general public from catching coronavirus." -- The U.S. Surgeon General, Feb. 29.
  • "I'm pleading with your viewers. I'm begging you ... wear a face covering." -- The exact same person, July 20.
Why now, when the mortality rate has been falling since the April peak? The CDC just reported a drop in the death rate for the 12th straight week, and cases considered serious or critical have reached a record low.

Why now, when the curve has been flattened? Here's a graphical view of where daily deaths stand as of July 19.

Why the hysteria, when, by the CDC's own figures, the COVID death rate is around 0.26%?

Why, when we know that the virus poses a minimal health threat to those who under 60 and not in some way immunocompromised -- in other words, to the vast majority of the general population?

Why, when the virus now poses about the same risk of dying to the general population as does driving to work?

Why, when just a few short weeks ago, C-19 was even close to losing its status as a pandemic because the death rate had fallen so low?

Why, why, why?

The rise of the rage mobs

Well, consider that masks were originally being pushed on the premise that they might protect you from catching C-19. When that narrative fell apart, based on the data we've seen here, the mask propaganda did a sudden 180: "Wearing masks protects you from me and me from you."

The fact that the narrative shifted to justify their continued use should have been a red flag in itself, but the shift was an important one psychologically, in that it changed wearing masks from an act of self-protection to an act of selflessness. And we've seen the predictable results. In a society that loves to virtue-signal, suddenly people were falling all over themselves to push masks -- and then to insist that you wear them too.

Couple that with the continued media-driven fear that makes people think C-19 is the black plague, and you've set the stage for a mob begging for mask mandates and treating those who question those same mandates as selfish monsters, witches to be burned. Never mind the facts. Never mind the logic. It's all driven by high emotion at this point.

"It's not too much to ask," they say. Well, it's not really for you to decide what's "too much" for another person.

"It's not infringing on your freedoms," they say. Isn't it? Because you've just opened a massive Pandora's box. If you let the government decide what you have to put on your face whenever it wants, what else have you opened the door to?

"It's no different from wearing a seatbelt." Well, yes, it is. A seatbelt doesn't restrict my breathing. A seatbelt isn't mandated for something that poses little to no threat. And, perhaps most importantly, there's no end to seatbelt laws. No one pushing for masks is even bothering to ask when the mandates will end. When can you take the masks off again? What will be the criteria? Will it be a month from now? Six months? A year? Will you have to put them on again for an indefinite amount of time if some statistical point is breached, or the media sufficiently ramps up public fear again?

Incidentally, the current climate raises a good argument that seatbelts shouldn't be mandatory in the first place -- precisely because liberty entails the right to take risks over your own body, and because things like mandatory seatbelt laws created the slippery slope that make people think today that just one little more bit of control over your body isn't such a big deal. Until tomorrow it's "just" mandatory temperature checks, or "just" a mandatory vaccine, or "just" a mandatory chip implant, or "just" a burqa.

The bottom line is, the government needs to have an extremely compelling reason to force me to muzzle my face, and it doesn't have one. As a free people, we should always demand that any infringements on our liberties of any kind meet a very high bar. Instead, a fearful people are literally begging for mask mandates that will solve nothing in the long run but allow the state more control over our lives and our personal choices.

If masks worked so well, they would have been mandated at the deadliest height of the virus, not after the mortality rate has been falling for three months.

If masks worked so well, it shouldn't matter to a masked person whether I wear one or not.

And if COVID were so deadly to the general population, there would also be mandates to dispose of your mask in a biohazard bin. Instead, the virtue-signalers just toss them in the trash or on the ground, after they've finished lecturing you about what a horrible person you are for thinking for yourself.

The doctor in the following video makes a good point about how we should be handling COVID prevention by using the example of a patient with cancer. The doctor doesn't go around the woman's community telling all her neighbors to wear masks. Instead, he tells the patient to take precautions to keep herself safe. It's worth a watch -- he also makes some good points about how the average case age has fallen to 31, an age at very low risk for complications, and how the supposedly rising hospitalization numbers are being skewed.

Superstition reigns

"We live in a society gripped by a quasi-religious fervor and obsessed with symbols and irrational fears," Rich Lowry recently observed. "Our society isn't progressing but falling back into a superstition that everyone must believe or pretend to believe for the supposed welfare of the community."

Mr. Lowry is referring to the current spate of woke moral panics that's causing us not just to believe in absurdities, but also to cling to them after we've been shown the facts of the matter. He cites the Bubba Wallace controversy: Even after the FBI determined that the "noose" in the NASCAR driver's garage was just a rope door pull, many still insisted that it was a noose -- "because the will to believe is so strong and, hey, better safe than sorry."

And that is precisely the same impetus that has pushed the mask conversation from "you don't really need them" to "we recommend you wear them" to "put on a mask, you selfish bastard, or I'll call the cops."

Consider again where the "experts" stood earlier this year at the height of the pandemic. (Emphases mine.)

First, Dr. Fauci, who famously called a mask a "symbol":

"When you're in the middle of an outbreak, wearing as mask might make people feel a little bit better, and it might even block a droplet. But it's not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is."

Then there's this:

"There's not much we can do, so we're all walking around feeling rather victimized by this virus. By using a mask, even if it doesn't do a lot, it moves the locus of control to you, away from the virus."

That was Vanderbilt professor of medicine Dr. William Schaffner, speaking to Time magazine in April.

A team of doctors, writing in the New England Journal of Medicine back in May, drove home this aspect of mask-wearing in an article pointing out the low likelihood of catching C-19 from fleeting public encounters:
We know that wearing a mask out side health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection. Public health authorities define a significant exposure to Covid-19 as face-to-face contact within 6 feet with a patient with symptomatic Covid-19 that is sustained for at least a few minutes (and some say more than 10 minutes or even 30 minutes). The chance of catching Covid-19 from a passing interaction in a public space is therefore minimal. In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.
In the aforementioned Time article, Lynn Bufka of the American Psychological Association further drives the point home. She "suspects that people are clinging to masks for the same reason they knock on wood or avoid walking under ladders":
"Even if experts are saying it's really not going to make a difference, a little [part of] people's brains is thinking, well, it's not going to hurt. Maybe it'll cut my risk just a little bit, so it's worth it to wear a mask," she says. In that sense, wearing a mask is a "superstitious behavior": If someone wore a mask when coronavirus or another virus was spreading and did not get sick, they may credit the mask for keeping them safe and keep wearing it.
Are you seeing where this is going now? Back to the New England Journal of Medicine article:
It is also clear that masks serve symbolic roles. Masks are not only tools; they are also talismans that may help increase health care workers' perceived sense of safety, well-being, and trust in their hospitals. Although such reactions may not be strictly logical, we are all subject to fear and anxiety, especially during times of crisis. ... Expanded masking protocols' greatest contribution may be to reduce to transmission of anxiety, over and above whatever role they may play in reducing transmission of Covid-19.
A mask is a "talisman." A magical item, employed by ancient superstitious cultures in the belief that it offered special powers and protections to the user.

There you have it. Your mask is a lucky rabbit's foot.

And yet another physician, Dr. Simone Gold, points out the irrationality and obvious danger involved in turning your rabbit's foot into a political weapon:
Of course, by knowledge or common sense observation, most Americans already know that masking everyone is superstition. But unlike privately carrying a lucky charm, mandating facial coverings requires the consent of the governed. Many cultures mandate clothing that appears totally irrational to outsiders. Never have those cultures pretended that there is a scientific basis for their clothing requirement. Their leaders rule, and their citizens accept, that their choice of clothing is due to religious or cultural preference. 
Not wearing a mask is not mere "personal choice" like deciding between a head covering or a T-shirt. It is a flashpoint for being a free human being who has consented to be governed but has not consented to be ruled. We do not consent to a masked America, because that is a fundamental change in American society, culture, norms, and rights. 
People who are apathetic toward their own liberty cannot eliminate Constitutional rights for those who are not. This is not the first (or last) time that people who believe in superstition are screaming the loudest. The Constitution exists precisely to protect all people during times of mass hysteria. 
The mask has become the most visible symbol of social conditioning to Americans determined to preserve individual freedom. 
She's absolutely right. The masks aren't about health. They're about conditioning, obedience, fear, and control. I'm not willing to compromise my liberties for any of those things. It's not about "owning the libs," or loving Trump, or anything else. It's about standing my ground, not being compelled to do something for which there's no logical justification, and not giving up my freedoms without a damn good reason.

This is no time to roll over. It's no time for being controlled by superstitious fearful groupthink. It's time to think with a clear head about what's going on, and what our current choices portend for the future. Are we going to become an authoritarian society of hysterical germophobes who are likely to set the stage for future lockdowns and health mandates of all shapes and sizes? Or are we going to acknowledge that life involves risk and people get sick, so that we can take responsible steps to protect vulnerable people while letting the rest of the population go about their lives, hopefully building herd immunity in the process?

"The woke shamans are defining and enforcing a new symbology," Mr. Lowry continues. "They insist their spiritual sense is better attuned than anyone else's and will try to excommunicate anyone who says otherwise. Their work may seem shockingly new, but it is really a throwback to ages past -- ones that no advanced society should want to revisit."

It's not a coincidence that the people trying to cancel you for not having the proper opinions are the same ones who want to order you to put a muzzle over your mouth. Their mandates rely on the suspension of your critical thought. Indeed, it's clear that their own critical thought has given way to a classic case of mob mentality, wherein groups use emotion rather than logic to compel their peers to adopt a behavior -- even if they have to shame, scream, and use violence to do it.

The pitchforks are out, and the dominoes are falling. Under pressure, states are issuing mandates one after another, and now the big corporations are lining up to do the same. And sadly, it appears increasingly likely that the enraged mask mobs will win the day.

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