The world’s most trusted evaluator of medical studies, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, has just released as close to a conclusive report on the effectiveness of masks against respiratory viruses such as COVID-19 as we are likely to have for the foreseeable future. The report assessed data from 78 different studies, including 11 new randomized controlled trials involving 610,872 participants.
Cochrane concluded, in the words of one of the authors, Dr. Tom Jefferson of Oxford University, “There is just no evidence that they (masks) make any difference. Full stop.”
Among the reasons for that assessment was Cochrane’s conclusion that states and countries with mask mandates fared no better than states and countries without.
Moreover, Dr. Jefferson’s conclusions were not limited to cloth and surgical masks. Regarding N95 masks, Jefferson said the same thing: “Makes no difference — none of it.”
As for the early COVID-19 studies that policymakers cited to justify mandates for mask wearing, Jefferson said: “They were convinced by nonrandomized studies, flawed observational studies.”
For example, PolitiFact, one of the so-called “fact-checkers” whose primary function is to declare whatever differs from the left as “false,” declared in 2021 that studies “have consistently found that mask mandates cause sharp declines in coronavirus case rates.”
Bret Stephens, one of the two or three nonleft columnists at The New York Times, wrote this about the Cochrane study: “Mask mandates were a bust. Those skeptics who were furiously mocked as cranks and occasionally censored as ‘misinformers’ for opposing mandates were right. The mainstream experts and pundits who supported mandates were wrong. In a better world, it would behoove the latter group to acknowledge their error, along with its considerable physical, psychological, pedagogical and political costs.”
Stephens’ description of those who differed with the left and the “experts” on universal mask-wearing as having been “furiously mocked as cranks and occasionally censored as ‘misinformers’ “ is, of course, entirely accurate.
We were right, but the left controlled all the tech giants — and except for Twitter, they still do. They, not we, were the ones who spread misinformation about masks — and about lockdowns, the origins of COVID-19, the claim that there was no early treatment for COVID-19 (just wait for the vaccines and hope you don’t die in the meantime), Trump campaign collusion with Russia, the Hunter Biden laptop and every other issue that divides left from right.
Even now, after the Cochrane report, the left continues to push for mask-wearing.
There were more than 3,000 comments on Bret Stephens’ column in The New York Times. Every single one of the most popular comments said the Cochrane report was flawed. I did not read all 3,000-plus comments, but I could not find one that agreed with Stephens or Cochrane. Note that in order to comment on a New York Times article, one must be a New York Times subscriber. These people are as representative of the American left as any group could be.
And the Washington Post Editorial Board just published a lead editorial, “In a crowded place, a face mask or respirator keeps the virus away,” taking issue with the Cochrane review.
The people who boast that they — unlike the right — only “follow the science” are lying to themselves, to us, or to both. Leftists have no interest in “the science” when it conflicts with any position they hold. Science said schools should be kept open, that closing them would do great damage to many young people. Yet, with a few exceptions such as Sweden, the left clamored for, and where in power, closed schools. Science tells us that COVID-19 vaccines are not helpful — and even potentially injurious — to young people (Denmark strongly discourages any healthy person younger than 50 from getting a COVID-19 vaccine). Yet until this year, nearly every American university forced students to get vaccinated, and many still do.
So why, even despite the science, does the left insist on wearing — and forcing others to wear — masks?
I will offer four reasons.
One reason is that the further left one goes, the more fear governs an individual’s life.
This is true because the more one is governed by fear, the more one is likely to take left-wing positions. And it is true because left-wing positions inculcate fear. In other words, the frightened gravitate to the left, and the left makes people frightened.
The second reason the left still insists on mask-wearing is that leftists don’t ask the question, “At what price?” In fact, the moment one asks that question, one becomes a conservative.
The price paid for mask wearing is huge. Not seeing people’s faces has a negative impact on human relations. People whose face cannot be seen are less human — isn’t that why people who oppose the Muslim veil oppose it? Doesn’t the veil dehumanize the woman whose face disappears behind it? What is the effective difference between the veil and the mask? There is none. And what about children who don’t see faces outside of their house? What about patients who don’t see the faces of nurses and doctors? The nursing home residents who can’t see the smiles and hear the unmuffled speech of their caregivers? The harm done is huge.
A third reason for left-wing support for masks is that leftists read, listen to and watch left-wing media only. Thus, they were completely ignorant of all that we who opposed masks knew thanks to the fact that we also consume nonleft media.
A fourth reason the left insists on forcing others to wear masks is that controlling others’ lives is in the left’s raison d’etre. Controlling others is what leftism is all about. That is why the left seeks ever-expanding government. There is no such thing as increasing the size of government but not increasing the amount of government control over people’s lives. By definition, more government means more control over people’s lives. There is no example of the left gaining power anywhere in the world and at any time since the left took over Russia in 1917 and not restricting the freedom of its citizens.
Understand the left’s support for mask-wearing and you will understand the left.
Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host whose column is distributed by Creators Syndicate.