The majority of people claiming to exercise their "autonomy" or "freedom" by rejecting straightforward pandemic mitigations are doing no such thing. Rather they are taking top-down direction from a post-truth political machine that increasingly rejects uncomfortable realities, and replaces them with a reassuring narrative of being attacked. You can tell this when talking to them because rather than laying out some chain of reasoning and hoping to find a flaw in it (as curious minds are), they get to the exact same terminal talking points and act like having stated such settles the matter.
As someone who is predisposed to not follow either herd and wants everyone to really think for themselves, these political operatives besmirching the concept of freedom to sell their snake oil is infuriating.
The blue post-truth political machine is focused on identity politics, which has little bearing on Covid response. Giving a pass to protests for police accountability, or dwelling on how Covid "especially impacts communities of color" are examples of its distortion. But these aren't completely undermining its overall treatment of Covid.
And yes, many people who are taking Covid seriously are also simply following top-down direction. From a libertarian perspective, this is similarly ridiculous - eg the continuing prevalence of ersatz face cloths as opposed to real filtering respirators. But really, this is traditional authority doing its thing - most people don't do the work to truly make their own decisions, and so they defer to some leaders that tell them what to do that are expected to generally make decisions in society's interest.
The real question to be asking is why the red tribe's authorities have misled them on this topic so tragically. The opposing position to "wear a mask to protect others" should have been "wear a mask to protect yourself and your family" (eg valved respirators are fine). But they instead chose to reject the whole topic, with disastrous results.
> The opposing position to "wear a mask to protect others" should have been "wear a mask to protect yourself and your family"
Should the mask topic also prohibit any divergence? Is the evidence so unambiguous that all raised objections can only be a tragic misleading with disastrous results?
Cochrane review (Nov 2020): "We included nine trials (of which eight were cluster‐RCTs) comparing medical/surgical masks versus no masks to prevent the spread of viral respiratory illness (two trials with healthcare workers and seven in the community). There is low certainty evidence from nine trials (3507 participants) that wearing a mask may make little or no difference to the outcome of influenza‐like illness (ILI) compared to not wearing a mask (risk ratio (RR) 0.99, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.82 to 1.18)"
The dynamic isn't that the evidence is unambiguous, but rather that when the evidence is inconclusive falling back to first principles makes sense. Respiratory filtration should help prevent spread of respiratory pathogens, period.
If there are no conclusive results proving that out for ersatz cloth masks, then the scientific approach is to try better protective equipment until it does become effective. Taking a lack of positive results as a reason to eschew protection is anti-scientific nihilism. If a virus is still spreading somehow with a certain type of PPE, then what does it take to stop it? Full face mask? Bunny suit plus PAPR? Once we know that, then we have a good idea of all the mechanisms of spread, and can debate whether specific precautions are worthwhile. Bunny suits might not be, but half face P100 respirators plus face shields at $50 per person might have actually made economic sense based on what Covid has done to the economy.
> If there are no conclusive results proving that out for ersatz cloth masks, then the scientific approach is to try better protective equipment until it does become effective.
I respect your view and completely agree that personal protective equipment should be examined further. The current evidence is definitely sufficient for a strong mask recommendation. I’m only critical of mandates (or bans) in this situation as they push people away from doing their own research and lead to bizarre scenes, as you encountered it with your respirator.
The best way of reconciling this seems to have been states issuing directives that didn't actually have the force of law. For example, the only "lockdowns" I know about the US were a few counties in CA. And yet people believed and acted as if there were such orders, even though they were really just strong suggestions to stay home.
FWIW the mask regime I was dealing with was being promulgated by a private company (the hospital), rather than the government. I'll critique any power structure regardless of its charter, but no political framework really has a good idea how to reel that type of thing in. To me the only real way to get past this is for people to become more intelligent so such top-down structure isn't seen as necessary in the first place.