How the propagandized “argue”: An exchange on masks (on Facebook)

Peter Dale Scott was kind enough to post a link to my petition on Facebook, which invited an objection from one Keenan Roberts. I replied; and here is our exchange.

I’m sharing it because it took up more time than I should have spent on it, so I want to put it to some use; and so I offer it as a good example of how the propagandized “argue”—with livid reassertions of the propaganda line, and fierce ad hominem attack, which the attacker furiously casts as based on “overwhelming scientific evidence and empirical data.”  

(This is how David Kyle Johnson, a professor of logic, “debated” the mask issue with Denis Rancourt in July:

(Here is a very good analysis of that attempt at a debate:

What this means is that the fully propagandized cannot argue, so it’s pointless to engage—something I learned months into this crisis, and should have remembered in contending with this character. We must work at persuading those with open minds, and let the closed minds be.  

Keenan Roberts
I’m not sure I agree this is about academic freedom. Mark Crispin Miller claims “masks are propaganda”, and he is trying to steer students to Tobacco Science type disinformation articles.

Mark Crispin Miller
Name one such “disinformation article.”(Since I’ve thoroughly researched the subject of “tobacco science,” I know that when I see it.)And when did I ever write, or say, that “masks are propaganda”? That masks are the focus of a global propaganda drive is indisputable, whether you believe in them or not.If I’m under fire for encouraging students to read scientific studies in peer-reviewed journals, urging them to make up their own minds, then this is most certainly a matter of academic freedom, if anything is.

Keenan Roberts
I think it is strange to classify simple health protocols for protecting the public from dangerous disease hazards as “a global propaganda drive.” Would you also classify the widespread recommendation of hand sanitizer around the world as “part of a global propaganda drive?”

There is overwhelming scientific evidence and empirical data that compares locations implementing mask requirements consistently proving that widespread use of quality masks significantly reduces the transmission of COVID-19. Your belief that “there is no evidence masks work” appears to be biasing your choice of “studies” to recommend. If you are unable to properly distinguish for your students which scientific claims are credible and present Tobacco Science versions of research that attempt to show the opposite of what mainstream science has already proved about masks, I’m not sure I trust your judgement to be able to teach students how to distinguish propaganda from real science.

Mark Crispin Miller
Propaganda is a systematic effort to get large numbers of people to think and/or do something. You think it means mass deception. It does not. Cigarette advertising and anti-smoking drives are both propaganda.

You obviously haven’t looked into the scientific literature on masks as barriers to transmission of respiratory viruses. Every single randomized, controlled study of the question, conducted among healthcare workers over the last 15 years, has found that they are ineffective. As RCT’s are the gold standard of scientific research, that is a significant consensus—which the CDC, Dr Fauci and the WHO all endorsed, until April (Fauci, CDC) and June (WHO). There are other kinds of studies, rushed out recently, claiming otherwise (which I also encouraged my students to read). You can check out the scientific reviews of those articles, and make up your own mind—that is, if you’re willing to make the effort, and not just “trust [my] judgement,” or anybody else’s.

There is one recent RCT, out of Denmark, on the effectiveness of masks against Covid-19 in particular. I’d love to share it with you, but I can’t, because, according to its lead author, they can’t find a journal “brave enough” to publish it.

As for the evidence that masks ARE effective, please share it—and square it with the fact that states without mask mandates have had lower Covid death rates than those that have imposed them; or the equally striking fact that, all over the world, Covid cases has increased AFTER mask mandates were imposed.

Or just talk to frontline healthcare workers, or PPE specialists, and ask what kind of protection they use in Covid wards. It’s masks AND respirators, AND face shields, AND goggles, as well as gowns, gloves and booties. If you think a cloth or paper mask alone can do the work of all that equipment, it’s your “judgement,” not mine, that’s dubious.

That you are so committed to the myth of masks’ effectiveness, and so intent on slamming me for questioning it, is quite compelling evidence that propaganda works, even on educated people.

Keenan Roberts
Perhaps I am putting too negative of a connotation on the term propaganda, and technically the term also applies to views/beliefs/recommendations one agrees with. But you didn’t answer the question about whether you would also classify the widespread recommendation of hand sanitizer around the world as “part of a global propaganda drive.” I suspect that you don’t usually apply the term to things you agree with.

Regarding your opinions on masks…wowzers! Where to begin. I’m actually shocked that you have filled you head with so much dis and misinformation about the efficacy of masks for COVID. You also make utterly false assumptions about how much I’ve looked into the scientific literature on masks. But the most worrying thing about your response is how mind-bogglingly illogical and childish some of your reasoning is – for example you said, “ask what kind of protection they use in Covid wards. It’s masks AND respirators, AND face shields, AND goggles, as well as gowns, gloves and booties. If you think a cloth or paper mask alone can do the work of all that equipment”

If you can’t see the blatant and silly straw man misrepresentations and multiple logical fallacies in that one idiotic argument, it’s time for you to take a remedial class in basic logic. That’s the kind of epically illogical nonsensical argument I would expect from a religious fundamentalist, or from a true believer that jet fuel brought down the World Trade Center towers.

I don’t understand how someone who has been a professor for as long as you have, and is as intelligent as you seemingly are, can be so extremely misinformed as you are on the subject, and as dogmatic and closed minded as you are about your false beliefs while arrogantly implying that anybody who disagrees with your extremely unusual and ignorant opinions on masks must not know anything on the subject. This would include 99% of doctors, nurses, and scientific experts who have direct experience and research with the subject. YOU, Mr. Miller, are neither a trained medical professional, nor an epidemiology expert. And yet you have somehow convinced yourself that you know more than 99% of these medical/scientific experts all over the world, who all must be idiots and incapable of seeing reality. This is what you are expecting us to believe, in order to buy what you are selling. At this point I have to wonder, are you also a denier of mainstream climate science as well?

I was hoping that discussing this with you would reassure me that you are competent to teach “propaganda vs science”. You’ve done such great work in the past, such as opening your students minds to the cover-up of the 9/11 false flag operation. I was inclined to support you because of all the great work you have done in the past, even if you are wrong on a few subjects like masks. But I wasn’t expecting the shockingly hypocritical display of the same kinds of irrational nonsense and dogmatic myths and closed-mindedness that you previously were helping your students identify regarding 9/11 and other subjects. Now I don’t know if I can support you. You seem to have lost your mind.

Mark Crispin Miller
Subtract the insults from your post, and there’s nothing left. Just come up with some solid evidence that masks are effective against respiratory viruses, and share it without hurling insults. And while you’re at it, please share whatever evidence you know of that asymptomatic cases are contagious. And—again—say something to address the data showing that cases have increased AFTER mask mandates were imposed (it happened last month in South Korea), and that states without mandates have had lower Covid death rates than those with them.

If you can’t do that, but just come back at me with more abuse, you will have proven that you have no case to make, and are too agitated to discuss this matter rationally.

Keenan Roberts
“Subtract the insults from your post and there’s nothing left.” Nope. Calling attention to your logical fallacies and lack of reasoning you have displayed is not insulting you. It’s a legitimate method of debate and critique. Playing the victim doesn’t help your position.

The fact that you haven’t bothered to read the MANY peer reviewed studies proving the efficacy of masks for reducing covid transmission (or that you pretend to not have seen any) is disturbing, and telling. Do you understand the term “selection bias?” The real question is, why do you ONLY find material that agrees with your far-out opinions that assert masks haven’t worked, or that asymptomatic transmission is a hoax? The scientific data and studies have been available on both for many months. When was the last time you honestly looked? Be honest.

You keep repeating your false assertion that, “that states without mandates have had lower Covid death rates than those with them.” For you to be saying this now, after several months of the pandemic moving into and exploding in the Republican run states with no mask mandates or where people haven’t been wearing masks (because of cues from their mentally unstable Mango Mussolini who has to politicize everything that should never be politicized), indicates that you need to try to keep up with current events. If you are using data from several months ago, it is outdated. You also need to make sure that you are separating death rates before mask mandates vs post mask mandates in the states with the highest death rates (NY, NJ) where the pandemic initially exploded before they were prepared to deal with the situation. It makes a huge difference when you look at the relevant data, not just selecting what you think supports your position.

I don’t want to spend too much time educating you on this stuff, as I have lots of more important things I need to be doing. I would prefer that you do your homework, and make an honest effort to look for the evidence that is available that contradicts your positions. You will have to go beyond your selection bias that has kept you from “seeing” all this evidence that you don’t want to see. I’ll check back later today or tomorrow when I have more time, and if you still haven’t found anything, then I’ll take the time to hold your hand and show you a bunch of research if you really need help.

Mark Crispin Miller
Here is a comprehensive takedown of the mask rationale by a scientist trained to use PPE (, and here’s the comparative data on the states (…/latest-national-data…/). As for those “peer-reviewed studies” showing the effectiveness of masks against COVID-19, they’re not RCTs, but observational studies, visualizations, computer models, etc. They aren’t definitive. The most prominent one, that ran in PNAS over the summer—on non-pharmaceutical interventions, based on data from Wuhan, NYC and Italy—was very poorly reviewed, as you can see from the Scientific Media Centre (UK) on (I think) June 6; and over 45 epidemiologists demanded its retraction. // It’s not “playing the victim” (yet another insult) just to note that you “argue” mainly by vituperation—and that, again, you really have no argument; so there’s no point in continuing this, either right now or whenever you feel like it.

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