Scientists on a committee that encouraged the use of fear to control people’s behaviour during the Covid pandemic have admitted its work was “unethical” and “totalitarian”.
Members of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviour (SPI-B) expressed regret about the tactics in a new book about the role of psychology in the Government’s covid-19 response.
Scientists in the group now admit that they acted unethically last March, when they pushed the government to induce undue levels of fear in the population.
At the time they advised that “a substantial number of people still do not feel sufficiently personally threatened” by Covid-19, and therefore the government should increase “the perceived level of personal threat.”
Now a psychologist on the team says, “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 said in the early stages of the pandemic, “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.”
Another was “stunned by the weaponisation of behavioural psychology… psychologists didn’t seem to notice when it stopped being altruistic and became manipulative. They have too much power and it intoxicates them.”
Yet another member of the group said, “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.”
So will the government listen to the scientists this time?
You may wonder what effect all the fear-mongering had on general mental health, as well as on the economy. —Eds