So, the science wasn’t settled.
A new Cochrane Review analysis of masking studies finds that when it comes to an entire population, there’s no evidence to support that masking reduces spread of a disease.
Or as the lead author of the analysis, Tom Jefferson, put it in an interview with journalist Maryanne DeMasi, “There’s still no evidence that masks are effective during a pandemic.”
Great. Glad we—and so many of America’s kids—had to put up with masking for so long.
And this isn’t some fly-by-night study, as even journalists from liberal outlets acknowledge. “Cochrane Reviews are widely considered the gold standard of evidence-based medicine,” wrote Slate’s Liz Highleyman.
“The paper—a rigorous assessment of 78 studies—was published by Cochrane, an independent policy institution that has become well known for its reviews,” acknowledged The Atlantic’s Yasmin Tayag.
Some are responding to the study by noting it doesn’t mean that, personally, masking is the wrong choice. “Even if mask recommendations might not have a population effect, high-quality masks still work on an individual level if that person consistently wears them,” wrote former Planned Parenthood CEO Dr. Leana Wen in The Washington Post.
But that misses the entire issue. I, like many other Americans, have never had an issue if individuals want to mask. (While I miss your smiles and grimaces, I certainly think it’s your choice to do what you want regarding masking.)
But what I did have an issue with is the government forcing masking.
According to Ballotpedia, a whopping 39 states—including 17 states with Republican governors—imposed mask mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nor were these mandates short-lived, done during the initial panic about the pandemic and then quickly ended as governors realized this was going to be a long haul. With the exception of four states, these statewide mandates lasted 148 days or longer, with Hawaii “winning” the crown by imposing a horrifying 704 days of masks.
Of course, the federal government imposed a mask mandate on transportation. Top federal government officials, including most infamously Dr. Anthony Fauci, endlessly promoted masking, fueling and lending credibility to state and local mask mandates.
And what for?
Perhaps even more infuriating is that we could have known masking didn’t work in early 2020, before endless months (or years) of mandated masking, before young kids’ language development and facial-recognition skills were affected by long-term masking.
Jefferson, the study’s lead author and a senior associate tutor at the University of Oxford, was also behind a similar review of studies released in November 2020 that found no evidence for masking being effective. But in his interview with DeMasi, he said that study was actually ready seven months before it was published—right at the time governments across the world were making critical decisions.
He said Cochrane made them jump through hoops: “For some unknown reason, Cochrane decided it needed an ‘extra’ peer-review.” When the study was finally released, Cochrane accompanied it with an editorial.
“The main message of that editorial was that you can’t sit on your hands, you’ve got to do something, you can’t wait for good evidence … it’s a complete subversion of the ‘precautionary principle,’ which states that you should do nothing unless you have reasonable evidence that benefits outweigh the harms,” Jefferson said.
Good to know that science can’t be politicized.
But one thing should be clear from this new analysis: We need freer discussions. During much of the pandemic, liberals wailed about misinformation and disinformation. Social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, took steps to censor so-called “misinformation” about COVID-19 and how to handle it.
Even more upsettingly, the government pressured Twitter. “The United States government pressured Twitter and other social media platforms to elevate certain content and suppress other content about COVID-19,” tweeted journalist David Zweig in a December “Twitter Files” expose.
“When the Biden admin took over, one of their first meeting requests with Twitter executives was on Covid. The focus was on ‘anti-vaxxer accounts.’ Especially Alex Berenson,” tweeted Zweig, referring to a former New York Times reporter who became known for challenging the conventional “wisdom” about COVID-19.
And that wasn’t the last time Biden would put pressure on Twitter.
“In the summer of 2021, President [Joe] Biden said social media companies were ‘killing people’ for allowing vaccine misinformation. Berenson was suspended hours after Biden’s comments, and kicked off the platform the following month,” Zweig continued.
When Berenson sued Twitter, he got access to internal documentation. Those documents, Zweig wrote, “showed direct White House pressure on the company to take action on Berenson.”
So even if the federal government didn’t impose a nationwide mask mandate, it helped squelch free discussions that could have led to different outcomes and different pressures on state governors.
Living in a blue neighborhood during the pandemic, I used to frequently pass the world’s most obnoxious sign on lawns: “In this house we believe: Black Lives Matter / Women’s Rights Are Human Rights / No Human Is Illegal / Science Is Real / Love Is Love / Kindness is Everything.”
But here’s where I do agree: Science is real. And I hope this latest study will convince all Americans, whatever their ideological persuasion, that we should realize we gave the government far too much power to control our lives during the pandemic–and that it wasn’t even based on science.
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