Scientists in the UK working as advisors for the government have expressed 'regret' for using what they now admit to be “unethical” and “totalitarian” methods of instilling fear in the population in order to control behaviour during the pandemic, according to reports in The Telegraph.
The comments made by Members of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviour (SPI-B), a sub-committee of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) the government’s chief scientific advisory group. The report quotes a briefing from March 2020, as the first lockdown was decreed, that stated the government should drastically increase “the perceived level of personal threat” that the virus poses because “a substantial number of people still do not feel sufficiently personally threatened”.
One scientist with the SPI-B admits that “In March  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 unnamed scientist adds that “The way we have used fear is dystopian.” The scientist further confessed that “The use of fear has definitely been ethically questionable. It’s been like a weird experiment. Ultimately, it backfired because people became too scared.” Another separate scientist on the subcommittee professed “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.” With another warning that “We have to be very careful about the authoritarianism that is creeping in,” adding “people use the pandemic to grab power and drive through things that wouldn’t happen otherwise.”
According to the report, another researcher with the group acknowledged that “Without a vaccine, psychology is your main weapon,” adding that “Psychology has had a really good epidemic, actually.”
Yet another scientist on the subcommittee stated that they have been “stunned by the weaponisation of behavioural psychology” over the past year, and warned that “psychologists didn’t seem to notice when it stopped being altruistic and became manipulative.”
“They have too much power and it intoxicates them”, the scientist further warned.
The comments were collected by author Laura Dodsworth, for her book A State of Fear, out today, that explores the government’s actions during the pandemic.
When the Telegraph asked the subcommittee for comment on the findings, SPI-B psychologist Gavin Morgan replied “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.”
Morgan added that “By nature I am an optimistic person, but all this has given me a more pessimistic view of people.”