I’m pro-science. That’s why I’m anti-mask
The landmark Cochrane study shows that the mask skeptics were right
Actress Georgina Rodriguez holds her face mask as she arrives for a screening at the Venice Film Festival (Getty)
Are you anti-mask?” “Are you anti-vax?” “Are you anti-science?”
Employees of Levi Strauss & Co repeatedly pummeled me with these questions during 2020-2022, when I was the company’s brand president. Why? I advocated in defense of children: against the masking of toddlers, against closed playgrounds and youth sports, for open public schools.
I’m not exactly sure what an anti-science person is. But that’s not me. I’m pro-science. And that’s why I’m anti-mask.
Given the findings from the recent Cochrane study, a meta-analysis summarizing seventy-eight studies including a million people, the science is now clear: “Face coverings make little to no difference” in Covid infection and fatality rates. Even when the hallowed N95 is worn.Jefferson_et_al-2023-Cochrane_Database_of_Systematic_Reviews (1)
The analysis acknowledges that “adherence” to mask-wearing was low in many studies. Harms were poorly measured and reported, but discomfort wearing medical/surgical masks or N95 respirators was mentioned in several studies.
If an intervention does not work in the real world, it doesn’t work, even if models and lab tests on mannequins say it does. Think of it this way: if a cancer drug shrinks tumors, but the side effects are so grave that no one will take it, it doesn’t work. Likewise, whatever masks may or may not do to protect inanimate mannequins in a lab, if real people in the real world don’t wear them “correctly” because they interfere with everyday interactions, they don’t work. Period.
I believe in the scientific method: make an observation. Ask a question. Form a hypothesis. Test the hypothesis. Listen to the answer. Insisting on the answer before pursuing this methodological approach is not science, it is propaganda.
And “masks work” was never more than propaganda — rooted in mechanical plausibility, not actual science — furthered by public health officials, left-leaning government leaders, the press and the party faithful starting in 2020 and continuing to the present day.
The left is holding fast to the idea that masks do work, despite all the evidence to the contrary. In fact, as of February 6, mask mandates have been reinstated at four elementary schools in Marin County, California.
And, on February 8, CDC director Rochelle Walensky explained to Congress why no random controlled trials (RCTs — the gold standard of scientific inquiry and evidence) were conducted to determine if masks prevent Covid:
I’m not sure anybody would have proposed a clinical trial because, in fact, there wasn’t equipoise to the question anymore.
Walensky’s view: we didn’t conduct any scientific inquiries because it was obvious that masks work.
This is not only circular logic, it is the antithesis of the scientific method. Belief in the effectiveness of masks has never been scientific, it was always religious in nature. It is true because I believe it is so. This religious fanaticism can be seen by the response to the Cochrane study.
The best science we have says that masks and mask mandates do not work. Nevertheless, public health officials continue to push this unscientific requirement. Most disturbingly, these true believers continue to push these “interventions” on very young children, those most at risk of harm from this policy.
Will there be redemption for those who had the audacity to challenge authoritarian public health bureaucrats? No, it seems. Will there be a change in policy now that the science is clear? Again, no, it seems.
Will there be a doubling down, with the self-proclaimed pro-“science” crowd continuing to insist masking works despite the scientific evidence showing us that they don’t? Yes. It appears so.
At Levi’s, I was forced to answer the “anti-mask, anti-vax, anti-science” questions directly in a virtual town-hall-style “apology tour” in the spring of 2021. In preparation for the session, I was told by a colleague that I needed to demonstrate to employees that I was “one of us” rather than “one of them.” I was told my views (aka questions about mask effectiveness) were in conflict with “the good-bad world we are living in.”
The “bad” people in the “bad” world think that masks might not be effective and that public school students should get to go to in-person school just like their wealthy peers attending in-person private school.
As one of “them” I was smeared as a racist, fat-phobic, unemployable villain, and was ultimately ousted from my job. After being told that there was no longer a place for me at Levi’s in January 2022, I publicly resigned. Since then, the company has justified their action by claiming that I undermined the safety of employees because I dared to challenge public health officials by asking: “Does masking young children do more harm than good?”
Here is the company statement:
When Jen went beyond calling for schools reopenings and began using her platform to criticize public health guidelines… it undermined the company’s health and safety policies.
I was billed as a public health threat and Democratic Party (“us”) infidel because I had the audacity to ask about the efficacy and possible adverse impacts of a universal masking policy for toddlers in pre-school, many of whom are just learning to talk.
Can young children even mask correctly when they still wear diapers and can’t even put on their own shoes? It is, and always was, a fair question, one rooted in both common sense and science.
As far as undermining the company’s health and safety policies, as far as I know, there are no toddlers working at Levi’s. Whose safety was being undermined by asking this very reasonable question?
What seems clear is that the enthusiastic, religious devotion to the dogma — “masks work” — signified adherence to a set of beliefs: I mask therefore I am good. I mask my children therefore I am loyal to the Democratic Party and public health diktats. I mask therefore I care. I am a loyal follower of “the Science.” My faith is unwavering.
Those who claim to be on the side of “the Science” will continue to push unscientific policies in order to prove that they were right all along. This is the sunk cost fallacy writ large. Don’t admit mistakes. Ignore the actual science in favor of “the Science.” And continue to punish those who challenge. As well as those most vulnerable who simply aren’t in a position to challenge at all.
“Science” has apparently been rebranded by the left. It is now a slogan — a tagline — shouted at heretics to signify one’s moral superiority and loyalty to the party. What we have now is “science” that ignores the scientific method, which means “the science” is a cult. And a dangerous one at that.