“Following the science” became a mainstay mantra of the pandemic, frequently trotted-out to justify unpalatable policy decisions such as banning hugging or denying fathers the right to attend the birth of a child.
Yet as Britain’s epidemic begins to fade away, it is becoming increasingly clear that many influential scientists were ignored, ridiculed and shunned for expressing moderate views that the virus could be managed in a way which would cause far less collateral damage.
Instead, a narrow scientific “groupthink” emerged, which sought to cast those questioning draconian policies as unethical, immoral and fringe. That smokescreen is finally starting to dissipate.
First major inquiry into the Covid crisis says the tragic losses in care homes were among the highest in Europe
The report finds that deaths could have been prevented but instead elderly were treated as ‘an afterthought’
Finding is just one among catalogue of failings detailed in the inquiry by the health and science committees
The report found test and trace system which cost Government £37billion was also branded ‘chaotic’ fiasco
Part of the rush to dismiss women on the basis of little to no evidence comes – no doubt – from a well-meaning, but ultimately misguided effort to reduce vaccine hesitancy in young women, although if anything will drive hesitancy it is surely exactly this kind of medical gaslighting. More broadly, being disbelieved and dismissed by the medical establishment is nothing new for women, who are used to being, for example, prescribed antidepressants when they present to doctors in pain (men who present with similar symptoms are more likely to be prescribed painkillers). Women are simply not considered to be reliable narrators of their own bodies.
In this article, we aim to develop a political economy of mass hysteria. Using the background of COVID-19, we study past mass hysteria. Negative information which is spread through mass media repetitively can affect public health negatively in the form of nocebo effects and mass hysteria. We argue that mass and digital media in connection with the state may have had adverse consequences during the COVID-19 crisis. The resulting collective hysteria may have contributed to policy errors by governments not in line with health recommendations. While mass hysteria can occur in societies with a minimal state, we show that there exist certain self-corrective mechanisms and limits to the harm inflicted, such as sacrosanct private property rights. However, mass hysteria can be exacerbated and self-reinforcing when the negative information comes from an authoritative source, when the media are politicized, and social networks make the negative information omnipresent. We conclude that the negative long-term effects of mass hysteria are exacerbated by the size of the state.