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Cochrane’s early and deliberate interference in the publication of efficacy of masking review results

Yet again, The Science follows politics.

There is zero evidence that this does anything
eugyppius: a plague chronicle | February 6, 2023

The Cochrane mask review I wrote about last week has hit Team Mask very hard, in fact much harder than I thought it would. They’ve been frantically coping for days now – combing through the fine print, seizing upon every moment of expressed uncertainty or caution in the paper to claim that population-wide masking might still be justified, somehow, because reasons.

The dim and eternally concerned Twitter epidemiologist Jennifer Nuzzo (who would be a disgrace to her field, if the field of public health weren’t already a disgrace) posted a hilarious nineteen-tweet thread that gathers all the typical excuses and cries to the heavens for more studies, because the “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Intriguingly, as others have noted, Nuzzo used to think totally differently about the utility of masking. In 2006, our epidemiological luminary co-authored a paper on Disease Mitigation Measures in the Control of Pandemic Influenza, which flatly admits that “the ordinary surgical mask does little to prevent inhalation of small droplets” and that no data support using N95 or FFP2 respirators outside of healthcare settings. Like all pandemic authorities, Nuzzo had sensible ideas right up until the moment her ideas became important.

Tom Jefferson, the lead author of the Cochrane review, has added to the pain and embarrassment of Team Mask by granting this interview to Maryanne Demasi, in which he reiterates bluntly that “there’s no evidence that masks are effective during a pandemic,” no evidence that respirators do anything even in healthcare settings, blames misguided mask mandates on bad governmental advisers, and criticises the masking “craziness” that took root in 2020, in which “strident campaigners” – “activists, not scientists” – like “academics and politicians started jumping up and down about masks.” He also makes an observation that is often aired at the plague chronicle, namely that the failure of masks to do very much indicates that virus transmission itself is poorly understood, and far more complicated than we tend to assume. You should read the whole thing for yourself.

Here, I want to highlight one crucial point. Jefferson explains that he and his co-authors were ready to publish a review on the evidence for masking and other physical interventions in April 2020, but that Cochrane held up its appearance by “inexplicably” demanding a further peer reviewer. This effectively delayed publication by months, in precisely the period that novel mask mandates were emerging all across the world. When the review was finally cleared for publication in November – long after its chance to influence mask policies had passed – the authors were directed to insert all manner of language softening their conclusions, and Cochrane included an accompanying editorial on why “Policy makers must act on incomplete evidence in responding to COVID-19.”

Plainly, the conviction that mask mandates were necessary came first; The Science followed. All the while, though, the evidence didn’t go away. It was just suspended slightly out of view, diluted with weak excuses and deprived of influence over policy, until the ideological fervour dissipated and the plain truth could be spoken again. The lesson is that regime authorities, particularly when they enjoy the collaboration of the press and academia, can tell almost any lie, but suppressing the truth requires active effort, and sooner or later their myths come crashing down. The mask mythology was among the first to take shape, and it has been the first to fall.

In the coming months other pandemic fantasies will also begin unravel.

UPDATE: See also this interview with Tom Jefferson published today in the Daily Sceptic

February 7, 2023 - Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular |

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