A response to the Independent, ‘Real men don’t wear masks’: The link between masculinity and face coverings | Ewell Gregoor
Those who follow me on Twitter will know that I have kept a close eye on the scientific developments during the Coronavirus pandemic. I make no secret of my opposition to the current Covid-19 measures. It is axiomatic that the scientific evidence behind the current Covid measures are weak. If this was untrue, every country would have the same measures, and they would not change on a weekly basis. This past week it was announced that SAGE have proposed a ‘circuit break’, the new term for a full national lockdown. The proposal from SAGE is much coveted, what has slipped under the radar, or has been deliberately left out, is that SAGE have admitted that the evidence base for their ‘circuit break’ is ‘weak’. Further proof that there should be no dogmatic view of Covid-19 measures.
My passion for providing an antithesis to the pro lockdown establishments rhetoric on Covid-19 is what led me to contributing to the article in the Independent, ‘Real men don’t wear masks’: The link between masculinity and face coverings.
I do not wear a face mask, I haven’t since the start of the pandemic. I am a recent graduate having undertaken an Undergraduate and Postgraduate Degree in Allied Health Sciences. Thus, I am all too aware that prior to 2020, the scientific consensus on the effectiveness of facemasks in the prevention of virus transmission is weak. Prior to June 2020, the World Health Organisation shared this stance.
It would be disingenuous to pretend that my reason for not wearing a mask is entirely scientific. Suppose the scientific consensus, before 2020, generally accepted that wearing a mask prevented virus transmission, I may wear a mask out of personal choice. However, I would be uneasy with the Government mandating them by law, with police punishments for those who disobeyed. I believe Western Democracy is nothing without civil liberties and individual freedom. It would take something pretty drastic to view liberty as some frivolous commodity that can be sacrificed. That said, should a situation arise that I deemed acceptable to warrant draconian societal measures, it is unlikely that the government would need to enshrine them in law. In World War Two, you did not have to tell people to run to bomb shelters when air warnings rang aloud.
Even though I do not think Boris is any real long-term threat – more a spineless Prime Minster that is all too easily pushed around by people who are playing politics – the next leader who changes the law to enhance police powers and circumvent the democratic process may not be. Civil liberties are there to guard against such possibilities. It has been difficult to watch as people have almost welcomed their erosion.
I digress. I am here to expose debase journalism standards in 2020. Last week, during an interview with a reporter for the Independent, in which the reporter stated they wanted to hear from ‘People’ (Key word) who were not keen on wearing masks. In what I admit must now seem naive, I thought I would be given an opportunity to present my ideas and understanding of mask wearing in science, in the hope that people would have a more informed opinion after reading. Such is the process in a liberal democracy. What I did not realise is that the headline had already been written. It was nothing more than a hatchet job on men and mask wearing dissidents.
In the article I was accused of spreading misinformation. I was also misquoted as saying that ‘The virus poses no threat to me, so do not require a mask’. I said no such thing.
Below are the questions that I was asked with my responses; make up your own mind.
Q: Why don’t you wear a mask?
EG: I do not believe individual liberty and free choice are some frivolous commodity that we should just give up without question. We were told at first that the measures were to protect the NHS, more measures have since been added and continue to be added, with the goal posts constantly changing. I worry where this will end. I worry it won’t end. Covid for most people is a mild illness. I think the measures are disproportionate to the risk.
Q: Do you worry about the impact on others
EG: I worry about the impact that widespread compliance of measures, such as mask wearing, that has at best limited evidence, will have. We are about to enter another quasi-lockdown, of which people will lose their jobs and livelihoods. Foodbank usage is up 170%. Not to mention the damage the lockdowns are having on the third world.
Q. Are you worried about being fined for being out without a mask?
EG: I am less worried about the prospect of a monetary fine than I am by the very fact that the government has the power to police social decisions such as what we wear. I am not a millionaire, and of course I would rather not pay a £200 fine. However, I feel this would be a small price to pay to safeguard against the dangers of authoritarianism and the encroachment on our civil liberties. After all, many people, particularly those on the left, until recently proclaimed that this Government harboured racists within their ranks. Boris is regularly accused of being on the ‘far right’. I find it strange that given this view people are comfortable with a supposed far right leader having the power to put them under house arrest and tell them what to wear or suffer police consequences.
Q: Are you worried that by not wearing a mask you could be contributing to more deaths?
EG: Has anyone considered that wearing masks may be contributing to the rising cases? We have more cases now than in March before mandatory mask wearing and social distancing measures, how can this be if masks work? My position on mask wearing is a mix of a protest for liberty and an understanding of the science, which for the past 40 years, before political lobbying to the WHO, was in agreement that masks do not stop virus transmission in non-controlled environments. The science was also clear that any positive impact that mask wearing has is counterbalanced by possible adverse effects such as face touching, mask disposing etc.. The WHO released a tweet on 27/3/20 saying “If you do not have any respiratory symptoms you do not need to wear a medical mask. Used alone masks can give you a false sense of security and a feeling of protection and can even be a source of infection”. The WHO then changed this stance sue to ‘political lobbying’. I am deeply concerned that an institution such as the WHO would change 40 years of scientific consensus because of political lobbying. Are we oblivious to the dangers of this? On to the point of the false sense of security. One of the reasons the Government has asked us to wear masks is to coax people out, with a suggestion they feel safer. This is exactly what the WHO originally warned against. I see this every time I am in the shops that people with masks on are stood close together, touching their faces. Sorry, but I stand with the scientific consensus of the past 40 years.
Q: How do you respond to stories of people who died from Covid after not wearing a mask? (A link was inserted with the question of an anti-mask man who died from Covid-19)
EG: The suggestion that not wearing a mask had any impact in the gentleman dying is completely dystopian. According to a recent report by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (US), 85% of people infected with Covid either wore masks always or often. 70% of the 85% said they always wore a mask. How should this make mask wearers feel?
Q: When you read about the 43,000 deaths in the UK, does it make you reconsider your decision not to wear a mask at all and if not, why?
EG: If I thought that I needed to make a societal change because 44 thousand people have died, then I should have done the same in the 6 months from October 2017 – March 2018 when there was a particularly bad flu strain and 55 thousand excess deaths. People struggle to quantify numbers, which is normal because they aren’t exposed to death data on a regular basis. 44 thousand deaths to a Respiratory Infection in 12 months is obviously sad. But isn’t uncommon . My non-mask wearing is no more to blame for the excess deaths in 2020 than you are to blame not wearing a mask in the 2017-18 Flu Season, which took more lives than Covid-19. Let’s put this in perspective. The WHO in 2011 said that passive smoking accounts for 600,000 deaths per year. Other reports have that number higher at 1 million. If the 2020 mantra is to do all we can at any cost to save whatever lives we can. Facemasks are at the very bottom of a long list of things we could do.
Q: Do you own a mask?
I will not labour the point that I did not misrepresent information, given that my sources were the World Health Organisation and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Nor did I say that the virus posed no threat to me. I said that for most people the virus was a mild illness. Which the Independent should well be aware of, given that on October 8th the Independent released an article stating that 86% of people who have a positive test result showed no symptoms at all. The virus poses a threat to us all, I would never deny this. The latest WHO research shows that the Infection Morality Rate from Covid-19 is likely to be below 0.2. Whilst low, I appreciate it is still a threat.
When the journalist asked to speak to ‘people were not keen on wearing masks’, I was not aware that only men were being interviewed, nor that the central focus of the article would be an attack on men. Otherwise, I would not have contributed to the article. I had a little concern during the interview that I would be made out to be a conspiracy theorist, which I why I made this request.
‘Appreciate you won’t be able to put this in verbatim. Just please don’t portray me as a conspiracy theorist. Because I’m not. I know the virus is real. I just don’t think the response is proportional to the threat’.
There was a certain degree of irony in the accusation that my scientific rationale for not wearing a mask was misinformation. In the article, the author states that mask wearing is ‘scientifically proven’, with an attached link. The link is a statement from Oxford University. Bizarrely, within the Oxford Statement, this admission can be found, ‘over-reliance on an evidence-based approach and assertion that evidence was weak due to few conclusive RCT (randomized control trial) results in community settings, discounting high quality non-RCT evidence’.
A strange admission for a statement that says masks are effective. Just discount nearly every Randomised Control Trial, which are the ‘gold standard’ when it comes to scientific research, and you may just be able to justify mask wearing through observational assessments. The statement did nothing more than back up the points I made in the interview. The readers can decide which one of us is spreading false information.
Luckily for the author and for the Independent, my stance on civil liberties includes the right to free press. Whilst the article is representative of the debasement of British Journalism and may well indeed break Journalism Standards, I will not pursue this any further.
I will see this as a lesson learned. I hope others will learn to think twice before believing what they read in newspapers with a clear agenda.