The following MIT study was quietly released a few months back and the subject was on anti-maskers themselves, as people, saying they are not “science deniers”, instead, they actually value critical thinking more than the “trust the science” crowd. But the researchers offer a twist which they themselves are guilty of.
It seems the key difference isn’t whether ‘anti-maskers’ have more data, are more educated, etc, – what makes ‘anti-maskers’ highly capable is their lack of “trust” in the system. There is also a lack of faith in public health officials who have either blatantly lied, or have been outrageously incorrect for decades. Many feel trust is earned, and the establishment has given people no reason to trust them and every reason not to.
From the findings:
“Most fundamentally, groups we studied believe that science is a process, not an institution.”
“Indeed, anti-maskers often reveal themselves to be more sophisticated in their understanding of how scientific knowledge is socially constructed than their ideological adversaries, who espouse naïve realism about the “objective” truth of public health data.”
“In other words, anti-maskers value unmediated access to information and privilege personal research and direct reading over “expert” interpretations.”
“Its members value individual initiative and ingenuity, trusting scientific analysis only insofar as they can replicate it themselves by accessing and manipulating the data firsthand.”
“They are highly reflexive about the inherently biased nature of any analysis, and resent what they view as the arrogant self-righteousness of scientific elites.”
“The lack of transparency within the data collection systems—which many of these users infer as a lack of honesty—erodes these users’ trust within both government institutions and the datasets they release.”
“their approach to the pandemic is grounded in more scientific rigor, not less.”
“data is the only way to set fear-bound politicians straight, and using better data is a surefire way towards creating a safer community.”
“Arguing anti-maskers need more scientific literacy is to characterize their approach as uninformed & inexplicably extreme. This study shows the opposite: they are deeply invested in forms of critique & knowledge production they recognize as markers of scientific expertise”
“We argue that anti-maskers’ deep story draws from similar wells of resentment, but adds a particular emphasis on the usurpation of scientific knowledge by a paternalistic, condescending elite that expects intellectual subservience rather than critical thinking from the public.”
Now here’s the catch and/or twist to this whole thing; They also state that although anti-maskers are data-driven, they leverage their interpretation of the data to push a narrative (sounds like what the other side does as well). The researchers also appear to present methods of combating this in the future.
“Understanding how these groups skillfully manipulate data to undermine mainstream science requires us to adjust the theoretical assumptions in HCI research about how data can be leveraged in public discourse”
So in the end, they are basically calling anti-maskers well organized, intelligent and a highly capable threat to their agenda.