June 20, 2024

Scientists admit: Use of fear to control behavior during the COVID crisis was totalitarian


Members of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behavior (SPI-B) which advised the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) recommended the heightening of fear messaging to control the behavior of people during the COVID crisis have admitted that their work was “unethical” and “totalitarian”.

Gavin Morgan, a psychologist who is also a member of the SPI-B 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.

Another SPI-B scientist said, “There were discussions about fear being needed to encourage compliance, and decisions were made about how to ramp up the fear. The way we have used fear is dystopian…The use of fear has definitely been ethically questionable. It’s been like a weird experiment. Ultimately, it backfired because people became too scared”.

Several other SPI-B scientists came out to speak against the fear-mongering during the COVID panic. One said, that they were “stunned by the weaponization of behavioral psychology…psychologists didn’t seem to notice when it stopped being altruistic and became manipulative. They have too much power and it intoxicates them”. [Also read, Fear appeal: The science of using fear to manipulate people into submission].

The following article was written by Gordon Rayner and was published by The Telegraph on May 14, 2021.

Editor’s Note: This article comes a few weeks after documents from the SAGE revealed that scientists recommended to ministers that “the perceived level of personal threat needs for be increased among those who are complacent, using hard-hitting emotional messaging.” To be fair, they also said, “To be effective this must also empower people by making clear the actions they can take to reduce the threat”. In the interest of transparency, we have attached the full recommendation to SAGE in the document below.

Protesters in the UK see this new Telegraph article as an “apology” from the SPI-B for contributing to the massive panic brought about by their recommendations to SAGE. But this apology is not enough.

People around the world have looked to the UK for guidance. For example, the UK’s actions have informed the very policies implemented by the Philippines. Their widespread use of fear has been emulated by our own government and media. Granted, our institutions could have chosen to approach this issue in a different way, but the UK must realize that its actions and decisions will have international repercussions. Our economy is all but obliterated. Our people are hungry. Our children are still suffering.

We commend the SPI-B scientists for coming out and condemning the fear-mongering. But it is not enough. Not with the level of damage their recommendations have created. They must do more to correct the impact of their mistakes.

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