NYT Surrenders to Reality: Admits ‘Mask Mandates Did Nothing’
A promising step in the right direction. But the New York Times and other lockdown supporters have a very long way to go if they ever wish to fully atone for what they supported during COVID.
It took nearly three years, but in light of the recent Cochrane review including 78 peer-reviewed randomized controlled trials (RCTs) concluding masks made “little to no difference” in preventing COVID or flu, the New York Times has finally been forced to surrender to reality: The mask mandates did nothing. In a show of capitulation, the Times deputized their top conservative columnist, Bret Stephens, to pen an article on the Cochrane review. By all accounts, the result is blistering:
The most rigorous and comprehensive analysis of scientific studies conducted on the efficacy of masks for reducing the spread of respiratory illnesses — including Covid-19 — was published late last month. Its conclusions, said Tom Jefferson, the Oxford epidemiologist who is its lead author, were unambiguous.
“There is just no evidence that they” — masks — “make any difference,” he told the journalist Maryanne Demasi. “Full stop.”…
What about the studies that initially persuaded policymakers to impose mask mandates?
“They were convinced by nonrandomized studies, flawed observational studies.”
What about the utility of masks in conjunction with other preventive measures, such as hand hygiene, physical distancing or air filtration?
“There’s no evidence that many of these things make any difference.”
Stephens minces no words in his criticism for the CDC and its director Rochelle Walensky, likely a reflection of the Times’ growing disenchantment at having been led down the garden path by the public health establishment. Stephens even includes a specific reference to Walensky’s awful testimony, which I highlighted last week, in which she insisted that the CDC’s guidance to mandate masks in schools would “not change with time” regardless of new evidence:
In congressional testimony this month, Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called into question the Cochrane analysis’s reliance on a small number of Covid-specific randomized controlled trials and insisted that her agency’s guidance on masking in schools wouldn’t change. If she ever wonders why respect for the C.D.C. keeps falling, she could look to herself, and resign, and leave it to someone else to reorganize her agency.
Stephens blames the CDC’s performance during COVID for a growing distrust of science and of public institutions more generally, and takes a subtle swipe at those who looked to China as a legitimate model for a public health response:
But the costs go deeper. When people say they “trust the science,” what they presumably mean is that science is rational, empirical, rigorous, receptive to new information, sensitive to competing concerns and risks. Also: humble, transparent, open to criticism, honest about what it doesn’t know, willing to admit error.
The C.D.C.’s increasingly mindless adherence to its masking guidance is none of those things. It isn’t merely undermining the trust it requires to operate as an effective public institution. It is turning itself into an unwitting accomplice to the genuine enemies of reason and science — conspiracy theorists and quack-cure peddlers — by so badly representing the values and practices that science is supposed to exemplify.
It also betrays the technocratic mind-set that has the unpleasant habit of assuming that nothing is ever wrong with the bureaucracy’s well-laid plans — provided nobody gets in its way, nobody has a dissenting point of view, everyone does exactly what it asks, and for as long as officialdom demands. This is the mentality that once believed that China provided a highly successful model for pandemic response.
In light of all this, we get the closest to an outright mea culpa that we’ve seen from the New York Times since COVID began:
[T]he verdict is in: Mask mandates were a bust. Those skeptics who were furiously mocked as cranks and occasionally censored as “misinformers” for opposing mandates were right. The mainstream experts and pundits who supported mandates were wrong. In a better world, it would behoove the latter group to acknowledge their error, along with its considerable physical, psychological, pedagogical and political costs.
Oh—“occasionally censored” you say?
Stephens’ article is good to see, and a promising step in the right direction. Still, the lockdowns and mandates that the New York Times supported since COVID began were a policy catastrophe of unprecedented proportion. Globally, these policies led to millions of deaths, pushed hundreds of millions into extreme poverty, wrecked the mental health of billions, and transferred trillions of dollars in wealth from the world’s poorest to the very richest, all for virtually no benefit.
For evidence of the psychological destruction that’s been wrought by these policies, one need look no further than the comments to Stephens’ article, which read like they’ve come straight from a psychiatric ward:
In the words of Jennifer Sey, it’s unbelievable that this needs to be said, but if a policy doesn’t work in the real world, then it doesn’t work.
From these comments, it’s clear that most of these people will take many years to psychologically recover. While a good psychiatrist never gives up on a patient, it also does no good for a doctor to blame themselves for those patients they couldn’t save. So we probably need to accept the fact that many of these people are broken beyond repair.
The New York Times and other institutions that supported lockdowns and mandates thus have a very long way to go if they wish to make amends for what they supported during COVID. At an absolute minimum, below is a list of the terms that might be acceptable should the New York Times wish to fully atone:
Unequivocal apology for all harm that was done by lockdowns and mandates
Endorsement of a comprehensive inquiry into the response to COVID, including a detailed accounting of the provenance and harm done by these policies
Full disclosure of all relationships and communications that led to the editorial decision to endorse lockdowns in early 2020
Full disclosure of all relationships and communications that led to the editorial decision to treat China’s COVID data as real and its COVID response as legitimate public health policy
Comprehensive review and disclosure of any violations of the New York Times’ editorial standards throughout its coverage of COVID
Full-length review of my book
So yeah, once the Times does all that, then maybe we can start to talk about amnesty.
Michael P Senger is an attorney and author of Snake Oil: How Xi Jinping Shut Down the World. Want to support my work? Get the book. Already got the book? Leave a quick review.
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Several billion masks are now shedding microplastics into the ocean for centuries. Millions of kids are developmentally delayed. Where's Greta?
You pretty much said this in your excellent post: The damage has already been done. As someone who has worn masks for the *right reasons* my entire working life, was educated about mask use yearly, and was properly trained and fitted for masks, I knew that the whole mask thing was insanity from day one. I'll never forget being the only person (that I could see) brave enough to walk through the Denver airport maskless in a see of frightened and paranoid faceless eyes in 2020. Mask mandates and the fear mongering behind them have left a scar on the psyche of civilization that may never disappear. To this day, I still don't like going anywhere anymore because if I see someone wearing their face diaper I about come uncorked. The policy should have always been, "if you are sick, stay home and if you feel the need to go out when you are sick with symptoms, please consider wearing a mask in case you cough in someone's immediate space." I never have, and *never* will, inhibit my supply of oxygen just to make some feel better.