In my recent post, I gave reasons why I am very wary of talking to the media. I thank those who sent messages of support. While I do not give two Hancocks for what the establishment thinks, I do care about what our supporters think and am deeply grateful for the responses.
So I have more for you. We, the co-authors of the Cochrane review on “physical interventions to interrupt or reduce the spread of respiratory viruses” (such as masks and PPE), known for short as A122, have received several requests described in my previous post: “Can I please check the main facts and, by the way, tell me what your review says because I cannot be bothered to do my job” type of messages.
However, we recently got another query which underlines the points made in the previous posts. This request comes from a very powerful press syndicate:
I’m reaching out because I’ve been seeing some posts [links redacted by TJ] spreading widely on social media that seem to be misrepresenting the conclusions of your recently published study on physical interventions and respiratory viruses.
Do you think it is a misrepresentation to claim (as the tweets I link to above do) that your study definitively proves that masks don’t work in preventing the spread of viruses such as COVID-19 and the flu? If so, I’d be interested in debunking these claims to set the record straight and would love to speak with you more about the study.
The disturbing aspect of this request is as follows: the stringer is making contact with one of us. After exchanging pleasantries, he or she will ask a few superfluous questions.
We have an abstract, a plain language summary, Trust the Evidence posts and a podcast and Carl and I have written a Spectator piece covering the review. If you are a real masochist, you can read all the 300-plus pages of the review. I even gave the interview I mentioned previously, but I am not planning any more outings. So there is nothing to explain or fact-check. But the stringer is not really interested in checking facts. What they want to do is to write truthfully that they have spoken to one of us and then put the spin required in the release to ensure the ‘misinterpretation’ of twitterati is set straight. ‘Debunking’ is the term used, and it will be actioned if the stringer thinks the twitterati have ‘misinterpreted’ our findings.
I am not on Twitter, never have been and never will be. I have no idea what these folk have written (I redacted the links without opening them). What disturbs me, though, is the idea of ‘debunking’ or ‘normalisation’ of the information flow.
We have done the tough work over two decades, reporting results separately from our interpretation, as in all Cochrane reviews. The studies’ results are the results reported by the authors of the single studies included in the reviews. Our interpretation is one you can – and should if you want – challenge.