Behavioral scientist who co-founded Downing Street 'nudge unit' speaks out.
The British government used “propagandistic” fear tactics to scare the public into mass compliance during the first COVID lockdown, according to a behavioral scientist who worked inside Downing Street.
Simon Ruda co-founded Number 10’s ‘Nudge Unit’, which was initially set up to encourage positive behavioral changes in the British public without the need for coercion or legislation, but was weaponized during the pandemic to create scaremongering.
“In my mind, the most egregious and far-reaching mistake made in responding to the pandemic has been the level of fear willingly conveyed on the public,” wrote Ruda.
“That fear seems to have subsequently driven policy decisions in a worrying feed-back loop,” he added, noting that such actions amounted to “state sanctioned propaganda.”
The behavioral scientist said that an obsession with daily case numbers came to dominate thinking, serving to spread even more fear. That process included grossly exaggerating the threat posed by COVID and producing lurid, alarmist propaganda to frighten the population into subservience.
The London Telegraph reported 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.”