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RAPID RESPONSE: "No Strong Evidence That Masks Protect Against COVID?" via Slate
The PAI addresses this Cochrane chicanery.
In Slate Magazine, there is a new and pitifully embarrassing article from Liz Highleymen, which fails to open with a disclaimer that Liz spends much of her workday being a contrarian on Twitter against airborne PPE during an airborne pandemic with a virus that can damage every organ in the body, including the brain. Readers of Slate should be informed when an author has an obvious bias and may overlook facts and data that debunk her prior conclusions, especially in the field of medicine and science with lives on the line during an ongoing disaster.
When an article is centered around a bold yet unspoken claim, that the entire field of Personal Protective Equipment, a global multi-billion dollar industry, is essentially bunk - well, I sure hope said "veteran science journalist" (according to Benjamin Ryan) has been able to go out into the field and investigate such a massive story - infiltrating the factories of mask manufacturers such as 3M, Armburst, and BNX to prove what a sham this entire industry is. I would be quite embarrassed as an editor of Slate if this reporter had instead sat at home and DM'd a bunch of vocal contrarian embarrassments with no relevant expertise or experience, especially when dealing with a global disaster that has killed and disabled so many millions. If I found my "veteran journalist" quoting a doctor who had never even treated a COVID patient on the effectiveness of PPE, I might be wondering if I just burned a decent amount of money on ideological fiction, when I had requested scientific journalism.
Part 1: "There's Still Not Strong Evidence That Masks Protect Against COVID"
Ah, fake news, right from the headline. Love it! Slate Magazine, your whole organization is now literally fake news, and you have Liz to thank for it. People will read this, fail to protect themselves from COVID infections, then go on to infect others by exhaling the virus - building the chains of transmission that have already killed and disabled millions of Americans - and has made COVID the leading disease killer of children. If I worked at Slate, I would be ashamed to cash checks from an organization that is actively working to kill and cripple children by spreading falsehoods. If you, the readers at home, would like to help the Pandemic Accountability Index cash checks to continue our grand inquisition against weapons-grade bullshit, we implore you to make a one-time donation or take out a paid subscription via the link below:
We already know that an effective N95 or better rated respirator protects against COVID infection and have mountains of evidence proving this. Here is a simple 3-minute explainer of the mechanics, that even a grade school child can understand:
As we previously linked to in the profile of Kevin Bass, a deranged eugenicist student who says he admires "good Beta males," that was boosted by Liz recently, there's an incredible amount of research & development that goes into the engineering of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) - Dr. Satoshi Akima from Australia explains in the below Twitter thread, and be sure to click through for all of it:
Part 2: The Intelligent Design of Both Sides-ism
Liz opens this article with an incredible "both-sidesing" of this “debate” - the infotainment spectacle of the 21st century, pivoting "masking proponents" - aka people that want to reduce the amount of COVID in the air, which has killed and crippled millions of Americans in a short amount of time and quickly become a leading cause of death and disability, versus "masking skeptics." Ah, centrism in the scientific field... why I do I suddenly feel a spiking pain - in my brain - oh frak - this has all happened before... and it is happening... again...
The year is 199X. Bill Hicks is in London, performing a stand-up set in which he riffs on Christians' argument that the world is only thousands of years old, because they went through the Bible and added up everyone's age, and asks about dinosaurs...
The year is 200X. Chicanery is afoot. In Texas, there is a public "debate" taking place over whether or not to include "Creation Science" and "Intelligent Design" in grade school textbooks. The blogosphere is young, and PZ Myers is making a name for himself debunking these ridiculous claims by well-funded, Christian fundamentalist "proponents" who are using these fictional terms to sneak the Bible into public classrooms - arguing that fiction should be taught alongside fact, and is clearly an attempt to undermine science and indoctrinate children - leading to the publication of junk textbooks such as "Of Pandas & People," and the establishment of the "Creation Museum..."
The year is 202X. Deranged rightoid billionaire freak Jeffrey Tucker founds yet another junk institution with the same anti-vax, pro-child death COVID contrarian pundits filling up the roster, in an attempt to influence the federal government response to this pandemic and the next...
All of these enemies of scientific inquiry, who would use fiction and illusion in order to mislead the public into adopting ridiculous and deranged ideals against their own self-interest, including the current crusade against the very concept of Public Health itself, are dirty players of a nasty game. One that has taken on a new and horrifically sadistic turn in the past three years.
As a "veteran" medical journalist, I would expect Liz to respect this ongoing conflict, and her responsibility to the public - especially as someone who writes for an LGBT publication. Alas, the sweet seduction of Enlightened Centrism, in which one is free from ideology and soars above emotional debate, simply hovering above it all, truly euphoric. No. Being a "veteran" science journalist means you are a soldier in an ongoing war, defending the public and the scientific field from those who would deceive and mislead them, and their greatest weapon - 24-karat gold covered bullshit. You were always going to be on a side Liz, and going AWOL is not acceptable.
Much as PZ Myers would probably tell you, life is hell - but the war continues. Even today, he still frequently speaks and writes about the nonsense and hogwash against "Intelligent Design" and "Creation Science," which has thankfully been pushed to the extreme fringes of the Internet and out of the spotlight, far from public school textbooks and sparing children from using science class to indoctrinate them into Christian fundamentalism, undermining the hard work of scientists and doctors around the world - many of which presently work to save lives during this ongoing COVID pandemic, and wealthy interests with evil intentions are hard at work to sabotage their efforts. It is your job to deny them, Liz.
Part 3: "The Gold Standard" …of Bullshit.
As Liz struggles to frame the debate, she finds herself writing that "Cochrane Reviews are widely considered the gold standard of evidence-based medicine. 'Wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference,' the review authors concluded of their work..." and here, if this was a real war, was where Liz charged into No-Man's-Land and stumbled face-first into a landmine, splattering her corpse into a million pieces across the battlefield. Oopsie.
The Cochrane Review in question was a "meta-analysis" of 78 Randomized Control Trials. To really sum this up, what "the authors" did here was something that some of you might already be familiar with, but likely don't remember. It was a minor event in some little-known part of the world, humbly titled the "2008 GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS." In fact, they actually made a movie about it, starring Ryan Gosling, which is my stage name. It's literally me, fr fr. Here is me, Ryan Gosling, explaining how a bunch of coke-addled gambling addicts crashed the global economy:
Do you see what happened? These financial con-artists took a few handfuls of shit, bundled them together, repackaged them as a plentiful bounty of golden nuggies, and sold them off for great profit. When the gold fell off and this was revealed to be a mountain of shit, the entire global economy went into freefall. The studies this meta-analysis is based upon are bad, Triple-B shit, and the reason I know this is because I read the comments section on Slate Magazine, on Liz's own article. From user "Splugarth," which sounds like a Dungeons & Dragons monster:
"If you actually [read] the study - a meta-analysis of 78 [RCTs], only 6 of which were conducted during [COVID] - you will see that the framing in this article is deeply misleading. At points, the study itself makes it clear that the included trials from the COVID era don't have enough participants...which are an update to a report initially released in 2020."
Splugarth, thank you. Alas, the fun has just begun, my slimy little gobin goober. Now we get to turn our gaze to just who are "the review authors" that science journalist Liz failed to do an ounce of inquiry into. Which is odd, because I'm pretty sure this is part of the job description, especially when so many lives are at stake.
Part 4: Following the Money
You may remember in our Follow-Up on the "Good Beta Male" admirer, and unqualified eugenicist Kevin Bass, the name of one of these "review authors" - Tom Jefferson, MD. Jefferson recently did an interview following up on the Cochrane review, in which he admits he doesn't actually believe COVID is an airborne pathogen, a fact widely understood in exhaustive detail since 2020:
Jefferson has also been paid to write for The Brownstone Institute, which is an outlet that is closely aligned to the infamous "Great Barrington Declaration," a childish and incompetent screed that advocates for the abolishment of public health and the federal mandate of mass disease, death, and disability. Brownstone and GBD were both founded and are funded by rightoid billionaire Jeffrey Tucker.
If you haven’t heard or simply don't recall, let me sum up what Jeffrey Tucker actually believes, and no, I am not exaggerating here:
13-year-old girls shouldn't be in school! They should be working at Hooters & smoking Virginia Slims on their breaks, because it’s cool!
Nicotine isn't addictive.
Long COVID disability is really "Mask Induced Exhaustion Syndrome," a completely fictional concept.
Reducing COVID infections via PPE "prolongs the pain."
The countless millions of COVID-induced deaths & disability was not an "emergency" but actually a "coup."
As well as countless more horrific and deranged ideals from a self-proclaimed "anarcho-capitalist" - which is short for, I'm rich, and I should have the freedom to hurt and exploit anybody with less money than me, as they're clearly not human according to the Worthington Law. Anybody who has taken money from Tucker to write for a "Brownstone" Institute is completely unqualified to speak about COVID and is quite frankly little more than stuffed full of "brownstones."
Liz didn't even bother to acknowledge this once in her piece - something her audience would surely love to know, and is frankly the real story, of how Cochrane has wrecked their own credibility. A medical journalist not even mentioning these facts is simply giving cover to the enemy of both science & journalism - destroying her own credibility in the process. Frankly, if Liz is so comfortable laundering this nonsense for far-right maniacs, then she should set an example for young women in STEM and retire her career as a medical journalist to start taking shifts at Hooters. These girls need to know that their place isn't in the R&D lab, developing the next lifesaving vaccine - but instead serving the whims of sick old billionaire perverts like Mr. Jeffrey Tucker for sub-minimum wage and tips in Buttcoin!
Another author, Dr. Conly, is against the use of airborne PPE during an airborne pandemic, because they might cause acne. Which is worse, Liz: Long COVID or pimples? I don't think anyone has committed suicide because of zits, but there certainly have been suicides caused by post-COVID disability. Conly also frequently denied airborne transmission of COVID, against all evidence - and was behind an included “RCT” that was previously featured on the PAI, which you can read here.
To summarize - Conly didn't do a Randomized Control Trial, nor a Randomized Trial - it was simply a random gaggle of data smashed together to justify a conclusion when Conly fought to deny nurses & doctors airborne PPE during an airborne pandemic. Some of them died or became disabled.
There was also an unlisted author in the Cochrane review, a Mr. Carl Heneghan - who bragged about being an author on Twitter. Heneghan works for anti-mask, pro-virus libertarian think tank "Collateral Global," which employs multiple hack frauds of the Great Barrington Declaration. Why would the "gold standard" Cochrane accept an unlisted author, that also has links to Jeffrey Tucker's blood-soaked billions? This is clearly a massive conflict of interest that corrupts the legitimacy of this review. Liz did not bother to mention any of this naked corruption either, proving her inability to fulfill her duties as a science journalist for Slate Magazine.
It's so sad, because there is a real story around this Cochrane RCT "meta-analysis" review about billionaire dark money corrupting public COVID discourse that a science journalist could cover and really make a name for themselves... but I found it by scrolling through Twitter, and digging through journalism done by... working scientists and doctors, who have enough on their plate already, and you have mainstream science journalists laundering the enemy's sadistic bullshit into major publications instead.
Part 5: The Abstract Concept of "People"
After abandoning her journalistic obligations to the public, Liz goes on a bit she's been fine-tuning and abusing on Twitter ad nauseum as a vocal anti-mask pundit. She writes in Slate:
"...people aren't mannequins in a laboratory - when it comes to COVID prevention, the only thing that matters is what they do in the real world."
Even if this is your genuine belief, Liz - you still have an obligation to the public as a science journalist to tell "people" what they should be doing, like the oft-maligned People's CDC has done. At the very least, cover your own ass first, Liz - by giving the public reliable, actionable information based in fact - instead of embarrassing yourself with this pathetic argument you frequently make on Twitter, with no evidence to support it:
"It's whether people wear them well enough to make a difference... in the real world."
Well Liz, I have exciting news for you. You're the medical journalist with the massive audience at Slate Magazine. Which means... this is your job! This is your fucking job! Are the overwhelming majority of people born with a pair of hands? Yes? So they can press the fabric of the N95 against their face and form a seal? Yes? Then tell them!
"Most people have established opinions about masks - so much that it's unlikely the Cochrane Review will change many minds, never mind behavior."
This is the responsibility that you are getting paid to fulfill, instead of plopping out this infotainment both-sidesing culture war horsepuckey that is deeply tarnished by billionaire dark money, and ending up with millions of dead and disabled Americans! At the very least, get yourself the plausable deniability that you published accurate and reliable information that indiciates the importance of protecting yourself from COVID infections and how to do so.
Part 6: Selective Lies of Omission
Alas, you didn't do that, did you Liz? Instead, you end with this absolutely pitiful ode to complete and utter cowardice:
"More than showing whether or not masks work, the Cochrane Review finds that the kind of evidence gathered so far can't really answer the question. Maybe that's a good reason to let people decide for themselves."
We have mountains of evidence that effective PPE works. The Cochrane Review has massive conflicts of interest and is clearly compromised by rightoid billionaire dark money and is utterly worthless. Pretending that's "a good reason to let people decide for themselves" is a journalistic betrayal of your audience, and a betrayal of every medical expert and professional who has exhausted themselves fighting COVID these past few years. Maybe you could have bothered to ask them what they know?
Well, you did try reaching out to Kimberly Prather, aerosol physicist, via casual Twitter DM, and in your words, "left on the cutting room floor:"
You did, however, manage to include a depressingly pathetic quote from social media addicted contrarian and vocal pro-COVID, anti-vax, anti-mask adult oncologist Vinay Prasad of UCSF. How an eye doctor is at all qualified to comment on the engineering and effectiveness of airborne PPE during an airborne pandemic, is beyond imagination - as none of their years of commentary on COVID are evidence that Prasad is qualified to speak on the topic, much less any scientific or medical topic.
If your car breaks down on the side of the road, and you see a car mechanic named Hernandez on the left who looks like he's been fixing cars longer than there's been wheels and shits spark plugs, but on the right you see a Greenpeace rally looking to start throwing Molotov cocktails, are you really going to sit there and pretend that they're somehow of equal worth when it comes to getting your car working?
Liz, you also failed to mention Prasad’s previous statements that child deaths from COVID, the leading disease killer of children, are simply "anecdotes" which "should not be covered by the news," yet frequently screeches and whines like a wounded hyena that vaccine-induced myocarditis is happening everywhere, all the time, (actually much less often than COVID-induced myocarditis) and has called for the abolishment of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention as well as the American Academy for Pediatrics. Prasad has also argued that public health mandates are somehow the roadmap to the Fourth Reich - but not the naked eugenics that he demands we follow with a toxic smile across our faces, encouraging mass & repeated infections, killing countless vulnerable people and achieving nothing positive.
Vinay Prasad is also obsessed with painting female colleagues, who actually do work relevant to COVID, out to be "crazy" and "idiots" or implying that they're “hysterical” for wishing to be safe when they seek medical care. Your audience would certainly love to know that this sort of misogyny is acceptable in your personal roster of experts - especially someone who loves to incite harassment against women:
You see Liz, the public is entitled to know that you find an unhinged misogynist worthy of commenting on COVID, with nothing to show to prove his expertise except a bunch of pathetic YouTube streams, podcast episodes, embarrassing tweets, and the hundreds and hundreds of times he's said "RCT" whilst never designing or performing one himself. This is what we call "functionally illiterate," and unfit to publish. Your public endorsement of Prasad makes you fundamentally unfit to publish.
You know what really happened here, Liz? Instead of doing real journalism and uncovering an important story that would incite a public outcry against corruption in science, you DM'd a bunch of your Twitter buddies, including some real sickos, and haphazardly slapped this hogwash together under a guise of "Enlightened COVID Centrism." This is because you yourself are just another loser COVID contrarian that doesn't have to shoulder the very real burdens of this pandemic.
We at the PAI have talked to those that have, and these burdens include actually treating COVID patients, or dealing with unvaccinated children suffering death or disability, including neurological and cognitive impairment, as a result of COVID infections. You're not even doing journalism anymore, you're just... posting - and in this posting, well... I'll leave it to Dr. Jonathan Howard, who has actually faced COVID head-on in the very beginning:
This is not once, but twice now Liz, that you have laundered the bullshit of rightoid billionaire Jeffrey Tucker. In the world of professional wrestling, we would refer to you as a "smart mark." A "smark" is somebody who reads all the underground "dirtsheets," talks all sorts of trash about performers & their "workrates," and even after smugly positing themselves as being truly above it all, find themselves quickly "worked" into an emotional frenzy by the fed's "booker" and the in-ring performers. You'll soon find these "smarks" first in line at the merch tables to stock up on t-shirts and autographs from their favorite talents.
How pathetic must it truly feel to fall for far-right bullshit like Tucker's shenanigans again and again, and find yourself laundering this toxic, anti-public health corpo-libertarian bullshit through a mainstream outlet like Slate? All for what, exactly?
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