Mask or No Mask?

There’s a meme circulating that assumes that those who believe masks are stifling also claim that masks don’t prevent the transmission of SARs-CoV-2. It’s one of the myriad of mocking memes designed to shame and marginalize those whom the meme-makers think are conservative and therefore stupid. I am not going to share the meme. I’m sure you have seen it.

I must admit, I don’t see anybody making these claims together or, for that matter, the same person making these claims sequentially. Maybe they do and I miss it. But if they did, would they be wrong?

On the first part, has anybody ever been under a blanket? Felt stifled? I bet you have. (By stifled I mean not being able to breathe properly, not being suffocated.) Ever experienced a roaring headache at a slumber party while hiding from the parents? Ever been performing oral sex and have had to open up a side vent to keep going? Why, even when it’s really cold, do we cover our bodies but keep our heads out from under the blanket?

Answer: to breathe.

On the second part, is it possible for a virus to get us under a blanket? Or through a niqab or burka? Yes. Obviously some air gets in or you would suffocate. If some air gets in, then viruses, which are tiny, can get in.

That’s the other thing the meme assumes—that if a person is stifled then the virus is stifled. Stop and think about that for a second. Are you saying that airflow is either/or? Either the air is flowing full volume or the air is completely choked off? Or is it our experience that airflow can be restricted but not choked off and still stifle the breather?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the whole point of masks is to reduce airflow. What would be the point otherwise? mask scolds readily admit this. I see the photos from these aerosol studies everywhere. What do they demonstrate? Restricted airflow.

Plastic bags tightly tied around one’s neck are probably very effective in preventing SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Why? Because little air gets in. Sleeping bags aren’t body bags. Etc. So we use breathable masks, so we don’t suffocate the user—while restricting the user’s airflow. I suppose we could all wear NASA spacesuits. I think only some students would find that fun. It will terrify and alienate others. But who’s paying for it?

Max Siedentopf apologises for coronavirus masks made of everyday items
Image from Max Siedentopf’s exhibit How-To Survive A Deadly Global Virus. Readers of magazine Dezeen were highly offended and accused Siedentopf of “spreading misinformation.” Apparently Dezeen readers don’t get satire. Cancel culture has identified humor as dangerous.

Don’t like common sense? Here’s a review of the scientific evidence about masks by physicist Denis G. Rancourt. Despite having published more than 100 articles in scientific journals on physics and environmental science, you have probably never heard of Rancourt. He was dismissed from the University of Ottawa for presuming that academic freedom gave him the right to experiment with grading schemes.

Gatekeepers like suppressing Rancourt’s arguments. This article was banned from ResearchGate on June 3, 2020 after it had reached 400 K reads. That’s why I am having to share the article from this source provided above. Get it while you can. Here’s the letter Jospeh Hickey and Denis Rancourt of the Ontario Civil Liberties Association wrote the WHO about masks.

Where do these desperate shaming memes come from? They come from a pathological desire to force everybody to do something. People who make these arguments have control issues. It’s like the desire to make everybody agree with one’s opinion about systemic racism by getting dissenters in trouble. Only racists would deny systemic racism, right? Cancel them. So if you don’t want to wear a mask you must be a fascist wing nut. Ironic, no?

This psychological need has many sources. Neither common sense nor science are among them.

So there are studies claiming a protective function. I agree: science is important. So what about the studies that do not find this protective function? What about not rigidly determining questions of personal freedom on the basis of selected science?

All the studies show masks work, I am told. Which studies? Which scientists? Whose scientists? The scientists who told us that hydroxychloroquine is ineffective and dangerous?

If you want to wear a mask, then wear a mask. But please stop trying to force everybody to be like you, to live in the world you think you control. At least stop claiming you believe in autonomy and freedom and human dignity if you think it’s appropriate for the government to force people to wear masks (or stay in their house, etc.).

“What would have us do?” That’s a question I get all the time. Thanks for asking. Here’s my recommendation: If you see me without a mask, and that bothers you, stay away from me. Or, if I am forced to wear a sign that indicates disease (like a mask), then stay away from me. Treat me like a disease vector if you want to operate on that level of fear and paranoia. I won’t be offended. I really won’t. I promise. It’s weird, but there are lots of things in life that are weird and I am a tolerant man.

There are viruses. They kill some people. This is the way it has always been. It is the way it will always be. COVID-19 isn’t novel in that sense. A virus may get you sooner or later. If it makes you feel better to wear a mask, then I have no desire to make you go about your life with a naked face. It may be important for you to project your (quasi) religious identity. I’m a proponent of religious liberty.

If you fear me because I am a man and therefore statistically more likely to commit violence, what can I do about it? I can only point out that this reaction is irrational. But I am not going to lord your fear over you. So don’t lord your fear over me.

It’s not that I don’t care about you when I don’t wear a mask. The problem is that you don’t care about me when you force me to wear one.

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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