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Masks: Symbolic Protection in the Projection of Fear

Over the past year and a half, Americans and people worldwide have been encouraged to "trust the experts" and to "trust the science." Well, as we know all too well by now, while it often aids in getting there, "science" doesn't independently produce facts. It's a process that aims, like an asymptote approaching a limit, to get us as close to the truth as humanly possible. 

In this way, the risk in depending on "science" to determine the facts is found in the public's unquestioning obedience to those who hold "the science" beyond reproach in order to advance their own selfish objectives. For this reason, it is imperative that the people wielding "the science" do so in good faith, and in such a way as to avoid discrediting it. As it turns out, people will trust in an institution so long as it preserves their faith; once it has betrayed them, it's difficult to regain their trust. 

As much of the public has become all too familiar with these themes over the past year and a half, it's worth remembering that the vaunted institutions which claim "the science" for themselves have been just as selfish in their hopes of achieving compliance with their ever-changing directives. Whether the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the people have begun questioning their faith in the institutions which claim exclusive authority over matters pertaining to the public health. 

Whereas these institutions have leveraged their control over "the science" to justify their directives, their insistence on changing "the science" and their conclusions by the day have jeopardized the public's trust in both. Meanwhile, whereas neither agency possesses legislative or law-making power, or any Constitutional basis whatsoever to even support their existence, both agencies have grown well beyond their intended scope to threaten much more than the public's trust in the so-called "science."  

As it turns out, science is merely a method, valuable only insofar as it reliably distills the truth. In this way, science is only as reliable as the individuals who apply it. 

Unfortunately, all too often, those individuals are deceitful in their methods or dishonest in omitting their limits and shortcomings. Granted, we are all the more likely to uncover the truth in time with the benefits of knowledge and technology; however, it is the responsibility of the “scientist” to reasonably account for the foreseeable shortcomings of his methods. Whether for a lack of available information, knowledge or technology, the scientist honors his practice by seeking and conveying the truth; by applying his methods patiently, honestly and carefully, so as to leave little doubt about their validity. 

In the event that the “truth” frequently changes, this reflects on both the integrity of the scientist and the validity of the science. In this way, upon too many betrayals, the public loses confidence in the “science” just as they lose faith in the “experts” who present their conclusions. 

After all, science possesses any merit at all strictly because it is reliable and repeatable over time; short of this standard, it’s anything but scientific. This is certainly the case with the institutions which claim exclusive authority over the subjects pertaining to public health. For them, the “science” changes more often than the “scientists” change their labcoats. 

As implied by both the CDC and the FDA, those wielding "the science" today are just as uncertain about the virus as they are ambivalent about the treatment. By all measures, the story on the coronavirus outbreak, as reported, has been and will likely continue to be more political than epidemiological. 

A few facts are known about the practice of mask-wearing, a practice thoroughly understood in the medical and biotech industries. As it turns out, though not in conformance with the preferred policies of the day, "the science" has long been settled on the subject. Ironically, it's not "settled" in the way that today's "experts" would have you believe.

Surgical masks, and particularly any other mask of inferior quality, are demonstrably worse than useless in “slowing the spread” of the virus through the aerosols we emit with every breath. While invisible, these aerosols escape around and through the masks people worldwide have been asked or required to wear. What’s more, according to the CDC, “The smallest very fine droplets, and aerosol particles formed when the fine particles rapidly dry, are small enough that they can remain suspended in the air for minutes to hours.” While people think they’re doing well to protect themselves with their masks, they’ve merely afforded themselves a false sense of control and security.

As I mentioned, these masks are worse than useless because, while demonstrably ineffective in “slowing the spread” of the virus carried by the aerosols we exhale, they are potentially harmful to those who wear them improperly; what’s more, they’ve been shown to increase incidence of anxiety, depression and even suicidality. 

Interestingly enough, the introduction of masks, just a century ago, followed from the knowledge that open wounds face serious risk of infection. It was then determined that face coverings would be used by surgeons in an attempt to prevent water droplets from contaminating those open wounds. However, this practice preceded knowledge about the nano- and microscopic scale of viruses contained in our breath. 

With the benefit of this knowledge, we now know that masks are inadequate in preventing the transmission of viruses. In fact, as recently as 2010, the US National Academy of Sciences declared that, in the community setting, “face masks are not designed or certified to protect the wearer from exposure to respiratory hazards.” 

On the subject of treatment, the drugs currently available are both widely-untested and, thus far, ineffective in preventing the spread or contraction of the virus. In fact, according to the CDC itself, three-fourths of all new cases affect those who’ve already “taken the jab.” So, while the treatment has not yet been proven to “slow the spread” of the virus, it has proven ineffective in defending against it. 

Meanwhile, the data presently available to us suggest that, where the treatment has any value whatsoever, it’s in the mitigation of the symptoms; however, even this comes at an undisclosed risk, namely to those with preexisting health conditions. According to the CDC itself, “Information about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for people who have weakened immune systems… is not yet available.” 

Of course, this is to say nothing about the risk posed by the people foregoing the treatment, who are expected to follow suit so they too can get the treatment and continue wearing their masks. After all, it’s not about returning to normal, or to some semblance of freedom; it’s about conformity and control, the public seeking the former while the politicians pursue the latter.

Likewise, the primary value of the mask comes in the form of optics: as Dr. Shane Neilson wrote in his 2016 article titled The surgical mask is a bad fit for risk reduction, “the surgical mask is a symbol that protects from the perception of risk by offering nonprotection to the public while causing behaviours that project risk into the future.” 

In this way, states Dr. Neilson, “The future pandemic is perceived in the present, but its materiality is not just in our minds, it is literally substantiated by the mask.” He continues, “Thus we have the means for a self-perpetuating system: the mask symbolically protects against infection just as it represents fear of that infection.” 

According to Dr. Neilson, the widespread misconception about the use of surgical masks — that wearing a mask protects against the transmission of any virus — is a problem of the kind theorized by German sociologist Ulrich Beck. 

In the course of reporting on the sociological implications, Beck suggested that the cosmetic symbols are themselves manifestations of risk that bear their own risks. In this way, the same mask donned in the present for the common cold at a local clinic forms part of the cosmetic framework of future pandemic risk management. Despite the undeniable evidence of its ineffectuality, it becomes part and parcel of the political playbook, for the benefit of appearances at the grave cost of truth and liberty. 

Ultimately, wherever anyone seeks to pressure or coerce another into compliance, he can’t afford to guess; he has to be absolutely certain: he must be certain of the problem, as well as the risks attending the proposed solution and the plausibility of its success. In the event of its failure, the "experts" stand not only to lose the faith of the public, but more importantly the sanctity of truth and liberty.  

After all, the onus is on any one who dares to compromise liberty for any temporary advantage. There is no loss in the human experience which is more regrettable than that measure of freedom which is sacrificed in futility. For this reason, any one who proposes any measure which stands to curtail the public liberty must first demonstrate certainty, and integrity in demonstrating it. In the absence of certainty and integrity, the cost is simply too great, paid perennially by those who had no say in whether they should incur it at all. In this way, the people become unwitting participants in the symbolization of protection for the projection and perpetuation of fear; and in the perpetuation of fear, they become subjects of those who come to have little use for the "science" that justified their power. 

Ultimately, once they've achieved unquestioned power over the people, they decide what "the science" says and, just as importantly, what it doesn't say. What's worse, they leave "the science" so disfigured that it's wholly unrecognizable to those who dare to remember it. 

It is in this way that future generations are left ill-equipped to challenge their conventions. Invariably they are made into symbols for the projection of the ongoing political agenda; and since they are assumed subjects beholden to "experts" who claim exclusive rights over "the science", they are powerless to resist. For this reason, it is absolutely essential that, where the fight for truth stands any chance of success, it be waged passionately and relentlessly for its own sake and the sake of posterity. 

As the philosopher Thomas Paine once wrote, "If trouble must come, let it come in my time, so that my children can live in peace." In this particular case, we must welcome trouble now so that our children may also stand to know truth and liberty. In losing any measure of one, they invariably stand to lose both. 

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