Rand Paul Lies About Face Masks
In the last few weeks, Rand Paul, the senator from Kentucky, has put up two videos on YouTube in which he claimed that facemasks don’t protect you from covid. YouTube took those videos down and gave Paul a seven day suspension.
Paul complained that this violated his freedom of speech. In fact, he said, it made YouTube a propaganda arm of the federal government.
I agree with Paul that freedom of speech is crucial. But Paul misrepresented the two scientific studies he cited. The studies only said that cloth face masks protect you less than medical masks. They did not say what Paul implied– that cloth face masks make you sick or that cloth face masks don’t work.
Rand Paul’s problem was that he doesn’t seem to understand the purpose of face masks. You don’t wear face masks to protect you from covid. You wear face masks to protect others from you.
Why? Covid is sneaky. It can keep you seemingly healthy and use you as a walking weapon, as a spray gun aimed at the faces of others.
It can even outwit the covid vaccines. Those vaccines protect you powerfully from serious illness or death. But the virus has an endrun. It can’t get into your system if you’re vaccinated. It can’t make you seriously ill or kill you. But it can establish outposts in your nose and throat and use you as a spreader. It can use you to saturate the air around you with the sars-cov 2 virus and to infect others.
To repeat, you wear a mask to protect others from you. You don’t wear a mask just to protect yourself.
Rand Paul was not telling the truth about the two studies he cited. These studies did not explore the effectiveness of face masks in protecting the people around you. And they did not show that masks make you sick.
One was a study performed in Viet Nam. Among 1600 Vietnamese health workers, those who wore medical masks were better protected against flu and viral infections than those who only wore cloth masks.
Paul twisted the results of this study to make it look as if the cloth masks made you ill. But, in fact, Viet Nam, the country where the study was done, makes face masks mandatory on public transport, in supermarkets, in airports, and in train stations. If you don’t wear a mask in public in Viet Nam, you are fined.
One result of this mandatory masking is that Viet Nam has one of the lowest rates of covid in the world, with a total of 4,145 deaths compared to our 625,00.
The other study Rand Paul cites is from Denmark. To quote Reuters, “6,024 adults were divided into two groups, one wearing face masks and one control group.” The study concluded that face masks only give you 15-20% protection against covid.
But the reason for wearing a mask, to repeat, is not to protect you. It’s to protect people against you.
The researchers behind the Danish study warned that their results did not mean what Paul was implying and should not be used the way Paul was using them. But that didn’t stop Rand Paul.
Nor did the fact that Paul actually believes in one form of mask, the N-95.
OK, so Rand Paul got things wrong. But this is a free country. We have the right to get things wrong and to say them out loud. Right? That’s freedom of speech, isn’t it?
Remember, Voltaire said that I may disagree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. And I’ve been an anti-censorship crusader and have risked my career to defend that principle.
However there may be an exception. Supreme Court Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes said in 1919 that, “free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.” In other words, there may be limitations on your right to speech if what you say can kill. And right now, false information about masks and the vaccine has helped kill roughly 625,000 Americans, as many Americans as died in all the major wars of the 20th century combined.
C Raina MacIntyre, Holly Seale, Tham Chi Dung, et al. A cluster randomised trial of cloth masks compared with medical masks in healthcare workers. British Medical Journal Open. 2015; 5(4) Published online 2015 Apr 22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4420971/,.