Dilbert creator Scott Adams is obviously best known for being a cartoonist, but he’s also an author, a speaker, a blogger, and one of the sharpest purveyors of pure logic in media today. Even if your knee-jerk reaction is to disagree with one of his opinions, it would be foolish and irrational not to listen to and seriously consider them. Particularly as he’s delved into politics over the past few years, I’ve often found myself agreeing with and enjoying Adams’ take. However, as a long-time critic of forced masking, I was a bit unsettled last week to find myself on the other side.
In a video in-part titled “Mask science explained,” Adams cites three positions on the mask debate and logical ramifications for each (the relevant portion starts at the 40:30 mark). First, those who think “masks work” should obviously wear masks. Easy. Second, those who aren’t sure but hold to the possibility that “masks might work” should also wear masks in case they indeed work. That’s pretty simple too. Adams’ third proposition, however, gets tricky. The Dilbert creator labels those who are “sure masks don’t work” as “irrational.” By implication, those people should get sane and, well, put on a damn mask, apparently. As someone who considers myself pretty rational and open to differing opinions, this caught my attention. I certainly don’t want to be “irrational,” do you?
“Could we find out [the anti-maskers] were right?” Adams asks rhetorically. “Yes, but there is no evidence of that at the moment and it would be irrational to act on something that has zero evidence when the stakes are this high.”
Thus, he concludes that masks should be worn. Now, when the typical pro-maskers make their demands of us, they offer little if any logic or evidence to back it up other than the usual mindless mantras (insert Charlie Brown ‘adult’ voice saying something to the effect of “Masks have been show to stop the spread of COVID-19). Here, at least Adams offers us some basic logic to bolster his case, and I’ll give him credit for that.
But is his overall premise - presumably that widespread (forced?) masking is good - correct? I would argue no, because his scenario overly simplifies something that’s far more complicated, and thus not only misrepresents the anti-mask argument but also leaves out key aspects of it. In Adams’ scenario, we only have two choices. Either masks work or they don’t, and since we can’t know for sure, then not wearing one is deemed “irrational.” However, what if masks “work” when used correctly in limited, specific circumstances but, for other reasons, don’t “work” to curb overall coronavirus spread? And further, what if it doesn’t even matter whether masks “work” at all?
For example, I think masks probably work in transportation situations where people are packed in for longer than 15 minutes with others closer than 6 feet and the ventilation is good enough to prevent aerosol transmission (i.e. planes). I could also envision them working in close contact services like hairdressing and such, again so long as the ventilation system is preventing aerosols. But they don’t want us using masks only in limited, common-sense situations, now do they? No, depending on the degree of the pro-masker’s religious-like fanaticism on the issue and how blue an area you live in, they insist people wear masks almost everywhere and in almost every situation, regardless of how common transmission is in that environment or whether a mask would really help, and they want us to do it seemingly forever, with no end in sight. Even if their view is “better safe than sorry,” they are advocating an unsustainable approach that isn’t realistic over the long-haul and, even if followed at first, ultimately causes non-compliance due to poor messaging and the unreasonable nature of the demand.
Further, what if masks not only do NOT work to curb overall coronavirus spread, but are also potentially harmful? Consider this group of charts, put together by PJ Media’s Matt Margolis, that shows a noted lack of correlation to when mask mandates were put into effect and any coronavirus case decline. I use such charts often to make my own points on Twitter, such as here showing mask mandates coming out in Arizona well before their spike, or here, where Israel had to wait six months for their spike, wearing masks the entire time. Remember when we were told if we would wear masks for just a few weeks it would all be over? Well, in countless countries, states, and areas, universal forced masking over MONTHS has done nothing to stop the spread of coronavirus and, if you only took these patterns into account, may have even had the opposite effect.
The pushback to this is the contention that things would have been worse without masks (notice how masks always get the benefit of the doubt in these scenarios), but that holds little water because of the many areas that are currently doing fine without masks. These include plenty of U.S. counties, but most notably it includes almost all of Scandanavia, where life is pretty much back to REAL normalcy now, sans large gatherings and basic, sustainable social distancing. If mask use were good public policy, its implementation would be followed by immediate and lasting case declines. In area after area, that has not been shown to be the case to any significant degree.
Of course, I have no direct proof that masks have the *opposite* effect, but I believe it’s a stronger case than the pro-maskers have. Indeed, some raw numbers seem to show it. Mask mandates seem to correlate with high COVID rates in many areas, and given the highly contagious nature of the virus, it would stand to reason that, were the virus as deadly as we are told, areas without mask mandates would be overrun with bodies. That isn’t happening.
It stands to reason that there are plenty of unintended consequences to attaching a moist, bacteria and virus-laden piece of cloth over the faces of a non-trained population, most of whom touch and adjust it constantly before touching other things, and most of whom put them on surfaces other people touch. We could be basically trading “muh droplets” for surface transmission, with aerosol transmission remaining unscathed and increasingly a primary source. Not to mention the issues with bacteria and virus spread from contaminated hands and surfaces as well as a troubling rise in bacterial pneumonia cases that some doctors have observed and attributed to incorrect mask-wearing.
So yes, masks could “work,” sometimes, yet forced-universal masking in all situations could still be a horrible policy decision.
Finally, whether masks “work” or not isn’t even the overall point. We’re dealing with a highly contagious respiratory virus that had at least contributed to killing a million people - the vast majority of whom were either super-old or super-sick and toward the end of their life (remember, colds and the flu kill younger people too) - at the time a WHO official said it had already infected 750,000,000 people. This is an infection fatality rate of .13%, or only slightly higher than the flu. This is not universal lockdown, nor is it even universal masking stuff, and plenty of scientists agree (see, we can all appeal to authority!). Oxford professor and epidemiologist Dr Sunetra Gupta, hardly a raving right-winger, sums up the case for limited herd immunity, protecting the vulnerable, and the Great Barrington Declaration in this important piece. The fact that those same scientists are being maligned by the media and censored by Big Tech only speaks to the likelihood that they are onto something. In truth, younger people spreading this and becoming immune could be the best long-term protection out there for the vulnerable, and our best shot at a normal life.
Sadly, there are no solid COVID-era studies to directly back up either side. Even Adams admits that “every study that doesn’t have a control group is garbage” while speaking to the ethics of purposefully leaving participants in such a study unprotected. However, one may exist right now but could be currently under mass censorship. As Alex Berenson noted during this Fox News segment, a large Danish study done in June, oddly, has yet to be published. When he asked the lead researcher what was taking so long, he was told it would be published "as soon as a journal is brave enough." You can draw your own conclusions.
Finally, there are undeniable societal ramifications that come from long-term public masking. Notwithstanding the constant tension between pro-mask Karens and people who want to breathe free air, some of which have sadly led to violence, can anything good come from people, particularly children, not seeing other people’s faces? Even with a strong vaccine, coronavirus will ALWAYS be with us, and thus so will the arguments for forced, universal masking. Now that we’ve started down this rabbit hole, as long as the virus *could* kill someone, some leftist will want to forcibly mask the public. It may sound virtuous, but “if it saves one life” has never led to sound public policy.
Scott Adams is a funny, brilliant guy and I’m a huge fan, but with respect, he’s wrong on this. With hospitals far from overwhelmed, there is a far stronger argument for a return to REAL normalcy than the one for this dystopian reality we’ve forced ourselves into living with no end in sight.
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