The next time someone asks you to describe the difference between a liberal and a conservative I want you to reach over and pick up the omnipresent face mask that has become the sinecure for the COVID 19 pandemic. A sinecure usually refers to a public office with a big title and no responsibilities but in this case it refers to symbolic prophylactic that looks important but provides little, if any, real protection.
Hand the mask to your questioner and ask them to describe it to you including the material from which it is made. Ask them to describe the passage of air as you inhale and exhale. Ask them to describe how much unfiltered air is drawn in with each breath and how much of your breath escapes the mask as you exhale. Ask them how the coronavirus enters your system. (Don’t let them peak at the answer because it enters your body through the mouth, nose and eyes.) Ask them how much protection the mask provides the eyes.
Let me give you the answers so that you are prepared for the next series of questions. There are the facemasks that healthcare workers use and that few laymen actually own. They are identified as M-95 and the 95 represents the amount of air filtered inhaling and exhaling. (Actually the best of these M-95 masks filter nearly 99 percent of the air both inhaling and exhaling. They work. They are expensive because it takes more than a symbolic gesture to actually provide protection to our healthcare workers.
The facemasks you generally see – like the one you are holding – are either made of paper as a surgical mask or cloth as with virtually all of the rest of the masks. The paper surgical masks provide for about an 80 percent filtration when exhaling and about a 22 percent leakage when inhaling. The leakage occurs precisely because the masks do not seal tightly like the M-95 masks and therefore air escapes around the edges of the mask both when inhaling and exhaling. When you move the mask down for comfort so that it is not covering your nose it becomes even less effective. But they look cool – they look very “committed.” It says, “I care.” But they provide limited protection for the both the person wearing them and those around them.
And then there are the cloth masks. Given the limited ability to purchase the paper surgical masks the overwhelming majority of those wearing masks turn to clothe masks. Their filtration rate is near zero. The best that can be said is that they have a dampening effect if you sneeze. But the too look cool, particularly now that we have designer cloth masks. They are a symbol of your awareness and your dedication to reducing the spread of the coronavirus.
When reaction to the pandemic began, the experts gave three preventive elements:
- Wash your hands
- Avoid touching your face (eyes, nose and mouth)
- Employ social distancing (a six-foot interval between you and the next person.)
They all work but they are virtually invisible to the casual observer.
Nowhere in those recommendations was anything about wearing a facemask. The only conversation involving facemasks centered around the M95 masks for healthcare providers. But facemasks are something visible, something identifiable, something that sets the wearer apart from others. And that is precisely the formula for the media. Think about that – everyone wearing a mask creates a climate of fear, a nation cowering as a plague sweeps through. Hollywood couldn’t write a better script. So, soon enough questions were being asked by the media about whether everyone should be wearing a mask. And the experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, Deborah Birx and Surgeon General Jerome Adams all poured cold waters on the idea of everyone being compelled to wear masks – and precisely for the reasons I noted above. Outside of the M95 masks, the use of other masks are unreliable. And yet the questions by the media persisted and more so because President Trump –their constant foil – refused to wear one. Then came the liberal/progressives who opposed anything that Mr. Trump proposes and joined with their friends in the media to create a firestorm of criticism of anyone not wearing a mask. They didn’t give a damn about the efficacy of wearing a paper or cloth mask; it was about form rather than substance. It was about show rather than effect. It was the difference between liberal/progressives and conservatives.
Soon enough all of the “experts” began to sing in unison about the wisdom of wearing a mask – so much so that they have practically ignored the concepts of washing hands, not touching your face and social distancing. But here is the big point. The media and the liberal/progressives insist upon following the “science.” (They have even made “science” a verb rather than a noun. “Don’t you even science.” I still don’t know what the hell that means but, like so many other things from the liberal/progressives, it has become a part of the chant – you know, like “woke” and “truth to justice.”) At any rate, there is no science that justifies the change in position – and I mean the kind of verifiable science with structured testing, blind studies, and peer review. (Yes, Ms. Birxs now cites data showing how far the droplets can travel in a sneeze and even deep breathing but they are no different than the data originally considered when mandatory masks were discounted. You don’t have to wear a lab coat to know that while the distance a sigh or a sneeze travels are important in discussing social distancing, they have nothing to do with the efficacy of a face mask – only two elements are critical: filtration and fit (sealing). So in fact, the “new” evidence still doesn’t answer the question of whether wearing a mask is significantly preventive – particularly masks other than the M-95 type.) No, instead the media and the liberal/progressives have seized upon the favorite sources – a randy band of college professors who feel compelled to pontificate on everything without the slightest bit of evidence to back up their assertions. They all appear in their lab coats, wildly disheveled to give the appearance of endless study and dedication, but they are like Shakespeare’s Macbeth:
“It is a tale.
Told by an idiot,
Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
It follows a pattern of liberalism to seize upon the visuals. It is not unlike the famed liberal’s War on Poverty – a task undertaken fifty years ago and continuing on until today and accounting for over $25 Trillion dollars and still growing without changing the pattern or intensity of poverty in America by so much as a percentage point. But the liberal/progressives can point to all of the programs and all of the money spent and all of the people receiving payments while steadfastly refusing to talk about the lack of progress or, even more, the failure of the programs they created. Meanwhile those in poverty remain in poverty because liberal/progressives focus on form over substance, on visuals rather than progress.
Look this column is about the foolishness of liberalism; it isn’t about whether you should wear a mask. Contrary to the actions of many of the “blue state” governors, we were born free. You are free to make a choice about whether to wear a mask or not. You can even wear a mask while driving by yourself in your faded “Smugmobile” (Toyota Prius) with the windows tightly sealed like the moron on Bond Street in Bend the other day. Businesses are free to require you to wear a mask when entering – like Costco. In fact, Costco could decide to require you to wear a clown nose (it’s about as effective) and that would be their right. Your response is your freedom to choose whether to do business with such businesses.
But what is not allowed is the government to mandate that you wear a mask without demonstrating a legitimate public interest and without scientific evidence demonstrating that only the mask can meet that public interest.
That’s what freedom is about and we have been sacrificing that freedom out of fear.