Go look at the literature concerning the effectiveness of masks in slowing or stopping the spread of coronavirus. What you will find is this: that masks both do and do not work.
Now, we know that something cannot both be “is” and “is not” because that’s a contradiction, and contradictions are null. Meaning they invalidate both premise and conclusion and thus result in a net 0…they are valueless and non-existent, and thus should be entirely rejected out of hand.
But the contradiction here is merely figurative…we can safely assume that the scientists and medical professionals who lead the discourse on mask-wearing in the midst of this virus kerfuffle do not mean to give a non-answer, and do not mean to confuse or mislead the public. So what it means is that there is benefit to mask-wearing, but with that benefit is a corresponding risk.
Now, I am not going to ramble on about the why’s and wherefore’s of masks and mask-wearing…about their usefulness after moisture saturation, effective resistance, virus transmission routes, moisture droplets, and all of that kind of thing. All that can be found in hundreds, if not thousands, of articles online. But distilling down the literature, there is a consistent conclusion that can be inferred from all of it, and that is this: That for every benefit to mask wearing there is an equal and opposite risk. For example, a mask may be effective in stopping large droplets of water from spreading to surfaces and other people, whilst at the same time they are not effective in halting the virus on smaller air droplets which can permeate the mask. Masks can give wearers a false sense of security causing them to become careless in social distancing, or deciding that it is safe to be around someone who is symptomatic, or that it is safe to go out when they are sick. Masks can reduce the risk of face-touching, which is likely a much more prevalent route of virus transmission than airborn inhalation. Yet they may also significantly increase the amount of face touching due to people having to readjust their masks, or taking them on and off, or pulling them down and then back up again for whatever reason. If you are a glasses wearer like me, you find yourself constantly having to readjust a face mask due to fogging. It is such a problem for me that I am not actually comfortable wearing a mask out of fear of catching the virus via face-touching. Masks may present as a comforting psychological bromide, yet this may backfire due to overconfidence. Masks are effective to some extent in preventing the inhalation and exhalation of the virus, but only for about twenty minutes, after which they become too moisture saturated to serve as any kind of preventative measure. In order for masks to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus and not actually promote an even greater risk, the paper-based surgical masks must be discarded after a single use, and never worn for more than twenty minutes; the cloth masks, the makeshift homemade masks, the bandanas, must be washed after every use, and never worn for longer than twenty minutes. Hands should always be clean when affixing or removing the mask, and once on, should not be touched, ever. Failure to do these things not only voids the usefulness of the mask in preventing virus transmission, but can actually increase the risk of someone getting sick and spreading the virus to others.
Now, you may think the point of this article is to assert that mask-wearing is a zero-sum activity. And a very compelling argument can be made for that, and is what I happen to believe. I believe that mask-wearing is nothing more than a public spectacle, and does little more than promote a panic and hysteria with respect to a relatively harmless virus, which does nothing in the end but to prolong the economic, psychological, and even physical destruction of our nation, not to mention the already-irreversible and massive demolition of our Constitutional rights and freedoms, which we will never see returned.
But that’s not really what I am interested in here. The point I want ot make is much more academic, much less idealistically charged…perfunctory. After all, rational consistency is the only real discourse of substance. Everything else is just barking.
Let’s talk law. Let’s talk the idea of mandatory mask-wearing. Which is not such a far-fetched notion, and in some places in this country is already a reality. A law, or requirement, which demands that people wears masks in public or else suffer punishment is ostensibly designed to save lives, right? To protect people from this rogue virus that is ravaging the nation and the world (well, okay, 2.2 million out of a world population of 8,000 million is hardly “ravaging”, but let’s just assume the media’s self-serving perspective on this). And certainly there is some evidence that wearing a mask may save lives by halting or slowing virus infections. But—and here’s the rub—there are a lot of ifs which must be given asterisks…a lot of caveates. Masks may be effective in doing what the law ostensibly intends them to do IF masks are worn no more than twenty-minutes; IF we do not allow them to be moisture saturated; IF they are not handled once they are placed on our faces; IF the paper ones are disposed of after each and every use, and IF the cloth ones are washed after every use and never worn more than once UNLESS washed; IF we only put them on and take them off with clean hands; and IF we don’t allow them to give us a false sense of security and thus IF they do not tempt us to violate other preventative protocols.
What all of these IF’s mean is that simply applying a law which requires citizens to wear masks in public will not actually DO that which the law is intended to do, because for every increased benefit there is an increased risk. Failure to wash masks or discard them, to wash hands before and after touching masks, to not wear them longer than twenty minutes, to not allow them to become moisture saturated, to not wear them more than once, to not allow them to become an excuse to forgo much more important preventative measures, to NOT allow them to become a false sense of security is to INCREASE the risk of spreading the virus. Masks are a razor’s edge of risk…fall off that edge, and you make the problem worse than if you’d never worn a mask at all.
It is clear from this then that one law is not going to do the trick. We will need dozens and dozens of related laws in order for that one law—mandatory mask-wearing—to actually do what we are told it will do: keep us safe. Otherwise it is merely a law for law’s sake; the exercise of authority for authority’s sake. The law which says you shall wear a mask must also say you shall not touch your mask with unclean hands; you shall discard your paper mask after a single use; you shall wash your cloth mask after a single use; etc. etc. You get the idea. And this is the problem. Tyranny is a destination born of ostensibly benevolent intention. Once you allow one law to pass, you imply that ALL others must necessarily follow, and that you shall allow those, too. And before you know it, you are told where and when you can and cannot open your business that YOU built with YOUR own time and money and resources; what you can and cannot sell; what you can and cannot spend your money on; where you can and cananot go, and with whom you can and cannot associate, and what the nature of that association shall look like; where you can and cannot work, and for how long, and so on and so forth.
Oh, wait a minute. We are there already. My bad.
So it has always been with law and government, and always will be. At the end of it all, the only real State solution to public health situations like we are seeing now is to save lives by disallowing people to live them. At the end of the day, mask-wearing is just another part of the hammer used to bash the virus into oblivion and you and me along with it. For the law cannot recognize the difference.