COVID-19 Part 25:
Artificially spreading fear was a ‘totalitarian’ behaviour control tactic, admit scientists

This was 'unethical' and 'dystopian' admit scientists behind technique

Members of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviour (SPI-B) have admitted that they regret the tactics they endorsed during the pandemic. The revelations were published in a new book about how psychological techniques were used to convince the general population to comply with the Government’s Covid-19 rules.

Who are they?

SPI-B is one of the mutliple ‘sub-committees’ that advise the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE). Their job is to advise the government on behavioural science techniques to employ in order to increase the adherence of the general public to ‘interventions that are recommended by medical or epidemiological experts’.

What did they do?

In Laura Dodsworth’s new book, A State of Fear, she spent a year researching the Government’s tactics. She explains that in as early as March last year, SPI-B urged that ministers needed to increase “the perceived level of personal threat” from Covid-19 because “a substantial number of people still do not feel sufficiently personally threatened”.

The book also talks about the role of the media and news stories fed to the public in the last 18 months. Aside from the warnings about the danger posed by the virus, the use of ‘non-stop bad news’ without any context or perspective was also cited as a tactic. As I said in my previous posts, if there was a running death toll for cancer or heart disease, these would both have been significantly bigger than for Covid-19. Additionally we were never told whether death tolls were above or below seasonal or yearly averages.

She interviewed Gavin Morgan, a psychologist on the team, who said “Clearly, using fear as a means of control is not ethical. Using fear smacks of totalitarianism. It’s not an ethical stance for any modern government. By nature I am an optimistic person, but all this has given me a more pessimistic view of people.”

“The way we have used fear is dystopian.”

One SPI-B scientist described the way they used fear during the pandemic as ‘dystopian’. They went on to say

“In March [2020] the Government was very worried about compliance and they thought people wouldn’t want to be locked down. There were discussions about fear being needed to encourage compliance, and decisions were made about how to ramp up the fear.”

“The use of fear has definitely been ethically questionable. It’s been like a weird experiment. Ultimately, it backfired because people became too scared.”

“We have to be very careful about the authoritarianism that is creeping in.”

Another SPI-B member said: “You could call psychology ‘mind control’. That’s what we do… clearly we try and go about it in a positive way, but it has been used nefariously in the past.”

One warned that “people use the pandemic to grab power and drive through things that wouldn’t happen otherwise… We have to be very careful about the authoritarianism that is creeping in”.

Another said: “Without a vaccine, psychology is your main weapon… Psychology has had a really good epidemic, actually.”

Another member of SPI-B said they were “stunned by the weaponisation of behavioural psychology” during the pandemic, and that “psychologists didn’t seem to notice when it stopped being altruistic and became manipulative. They have too much power and it intoxicates them”.

Why is this concerning?

I understand that many people, including some of my friends, will not understand why I am so vehemently fighting against this type of behaviour. This is, in part, due to the prosperous and peaceful lives we have led; we have not seen much evidence of authoritarianism or dictatorships, so we do not understand the danger it poses.

For those who have not read history books, it is hard to grasp that things can go so wrong, so quickly. It is strange to think that the road hell is often paved with good intentions and that the scariest type of governments are those that justify their actions by saying they are doing ‘what is best for the people’, without consulting the people. 

It is obvious now that the ruling elite in the government did spread mass hysteria and terrify the public disproportionately compared to the threat. If we do not stand up against this type of behaviour, then we are at risk of undoing years of democracy and freedom. This behaviour is dangerous, regardless of the motivations, intentions or who is doing it. History is a lesson. It is a gift for us to use wisely. Be brave. Stand up for balance, for those who have no voice, and for a society that does what is right, not what appears to be right. 

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