I want to do a group ride again. Feel the speed, hear the whirring, enjoy the mental focus, the leg and lung power, the coordination, and the fun of pushing friends and fellow revelers along. I also want mass-start bike races and rides to return. Fans to flock to the roadside to see races, people to gather at cafe’s and deli’s mid- and post-ride. I want to safely go for an indoor meal at a crowded restaurant. I want Covid over.
But this desire is rooted in the necessity of defeating Covid. Life cannot return to “normal” until Covid is tamed.
Yesterday, I posted a piece with data on how masks work, and what the seeming best-case and worst-case scenarios might be.
Today, I want to address a scourge of our times. The false and misleading rant. I don’t know why people share these things. I don’t know why so many people don’t do even a minimal fact-check before turning around and pasting it in an email or retweeting or posting on Facebook. Problem is, even people who would seem to have professional reasons to know better contribute to the problem.
So, herewith, I look at one such post that was shared with me as proof that masks don’t work. And why it’s clearly wrong.
Keep in mind: They work.
SO, THERE’S THIS PROFESSOR
New York University Professor Mark Crispin Miller teaches courses on media, specifically mass persuasion and propaganda. It’s absolutely fascinating that his personal website (gotta love that a tenured professor at a university with an international profile likes to pretend his work is “notes from underground”) is filled with lots of reposts of stuff, mostly rants, found on Facebook without doing any analysis of the content. Part of me wonders if he’s testing his students. But having looked at his own writings, and his defense of such posts, it seems that he sincerely believes the stuff he posts, even though he claims, “I don’t tell students what to think.” He doesn’t exactly encourage thinking, either.
One of his posts is entitled “That mask is giving you lung cancer.” The post opens with “From Guy Crittenden, who, for 25 years, edited the trade journal HazMat Management. (This was posted on Facebook.)” Crittenden repeatedly mentions his qualifications, “you might say, well, Guy, you’re not a doctor. True, but I did edit that magazine for 25 years.” What is striking is that Crittenden does not use his post to link to or even mention a single article or study that supports his position, nor does he mention a single reference that anyone can use. Crittenden claims “The blue typical mask depicted in the photograph contain Teflon and other chemicals.” The problem is that he’s wrong. Those masks do not contain PTFE. And no, they don’t cause lung cancer. They may be uncomfortable, but that’s all.
He then goes on to claim, “So let’s say you don’t wear the blue packaged masks, and instead wear a homemade cloth mask — the kind people wear over and over and hang on their rearview mirror and so on. Those masks are completely useless against a virus, and are also very dangerous. OSHA would never condone a person wearing a mask of this kind for anything more than the shortest time.” What he fails to mention is that OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration, part of the United States Department of Labor), on their website, currently recommends cloth masks, and has been recommending them for some time.
Crittenden closes with an ominous assertion “END NOTE: The CDC and WHO have acknowledged that asymptomatic people do not spread the virus.” Problem is, by the time his post came out around October 15, the CDC had asserted more than a month earlier that asymptomatic spread is real and that 50% of the spread occurs before symptoms appear.
Miller shared another such rant from people who claim to be “OSHA-certified PPE experts,” and then he asserts they “explain in depth why mask mandates are insane” on a YouTube video where they’re featured guests on an anti-vaxxer YouTube channel. As you can imagine, an OSHA certification is not exactly hard to come by. You take a 10- or 30-hour course, answer some questions, and you’re OSHA-certified. One of the two experts, Kristen Meghan, seems to specialize in conspiracy theories. She has allegedly “blown the lid off of ongoing geoengineering/chemtrail operations.” The other consults on safety services for the construction industry, including OSHA-certification classes, which has nothing to do, last I checked, with infectious diseases. I started the video and had to stop because it’s clear they didn’t have any data to share, but they do spend lots of time boasting of their expertise and the host relies on old, since-corrected information. And unfortunately, there is more data and more data showing their claims are wrong.
This from a tenured professor, supposedly an professional expert on propaganda, who doesn’t tell students what to think, yet he seems to be embracing conspiracy theorists and telling people exactly what to think. He urges, “Please watch this video, and send it far and wide, before too many more people—especially children—are too stupefied and/or sickened by those needless muzzles to grasp this urgent information.” Don’t bother. There’s nothing urgent, and no reason to watch it at all, let along sending it anywhere other than to the trash.
The problem with shooting down idiocy like this is merely mentioning it gives the stupid claims oxygen to spread, like a virus. And the time it takes to debunk it is far longer than the time it takes to write it and spread it.