We’re publishing an original piece today by Dr James Moreton Wakeley, a former Parliamentary researcher, about the Government’s shameful use of behavioural science to terrify people into complying with its draconian lockdown edicts. James is involved in Time For Recovery, the group led by Jon Dobinson, which is launching a new campaign later this week to bring greater attention to the Government’s deliberate use of fear and the campaign’s disastrous consequences. One of these consequences is highlighted in HSJ today – NHS hospitals are unable to cope with the surge in admissions of children with mental health problems. Here’s an extract from James’s piece:
Manufacturing and stoking fear to influence behaviour is recognised as deeply unethical. The Covid campaign of fear flies in the face of the British Psychological Society’s Code of Ethics and Conduct, which is based in part on the values of respecting the patient and being honest with them. In January, 47 health professionals wrote to the British Psychological Society to express their concern at the way in which the Government has manipulated behavioural science to inculcate lockdown compliance. Other scientists and psychologists have written stinging polemics against the Government’s approach, grounded in the most cutting-edge research on the mind.
There is, however, tragically, now ample evidence of the impact of the campaign of fear that shows the concerns aren’t merely theoretical. The campaign of fear has caused nothing short of a wholly-avoidable physical and mental health crisis. In the first lockdown, over 6,000 people died at home from non-Covid diseases, being too scared to go to hospital. Visits to Accident & Emergency departments collapsed. Over 44,000 fewer people started cancer treatment than in the previous year, with 4.4 million fewer diagnostic tests being carried out: figures that cancer specialists like Professor Karol Sikora have linked to undue fear.
Demand for mental health support has sky-rocketed. An additional 27,000 adults sought support last year and it is now understood that one in six of 5-16 year olds have a mental health condition. The continuing and wholly unjustified face mask mandate in schools is likely to compound this, as well as leading to additional physical ailments. Overall, the Centre for Mental Health has warned that 20% of all adults and 15% of all children will need help dealing with conditions like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder over the coming years.
Some truly shocking stories are to be found within statistics such as these. One grandmother from Gloucestershire took her own life, afraid that the minor cold she had contracted was Covid and fearful that she would give it to her family. I am sure that many of us have our own personal stories of friends and family who have become ever more anxious towards the world outside, or of once confident, go-getting colleagues for whom the world is now a much more forbidding place.
The campaign of fear must end now. This week, Recovery – a new movement founded to bring balance and reason to the lockdown debate – is launching a new campaign to bring greater attention to the Government’s deliberate use of fear and the campaign’s disastrous consequences. The British public deserve to know how dishonestly and abusively the Government has behaved. Those too scared to get treatment for conditions other than Covid, or scarred by a year of lockdown, need a voice. Once more people know how they have been manipulated, a more rational response to dealing with Covid may yet become possible, with more ears open to learning about the costs of lockdown and how there are other, better ways to deal with a pandemic.
As someone who stumbled across Recovery when trying to find ways to help end lockdown, I urge you to support the campaign. Please donate, share their message as widely as possible, and write to your Member of Parliament to get them to act now.
Let us be in no doubt about what the past year has seen. The Government has knowingly used fear to manipulate its people into behaving in a way it deems good for them. It is a policy suggested by advisers who seemed to have known what this could do to the brain, and who were also surely aware of the ethical questions such a policy raised. Assisted by a media that has been shaped into compliance, half-truths, exaggeration, and even lies have been deliberately employed to foster greater levels of obedience. This has had a deleterious impact on mental and physical health.
Of all of the tragedies of the past year, this has been the most avoidable. It asks questions not just of the ability of the state to deal with the pandemic in a measured, rational way, but also of the ethics of those responsible for it.
James Moreton Wakeley is a former parliamentary researcher with a PhD in History from Oxford.
Stop Press: The illustration accompanying this story is a poster Recovery is using to promote its latest campaign, but said poster has been banned by JC Decaux, the world’s largest poster company, because it supposedly contains “political undertones”. Needless to say, JC Decaux hasn’t refused to run any of the Government’s pro-lockdown propaganda. Guido has the story.
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