Whether frightening the public was a deliberate – or honest – tactic has become the subject of intense debate, and dozens of psychologists have now accused ministers of using “covert psychological strategies” to manipulate the public’s behaviour.
They believe the Government, acting on the advice of behavioural experts, has emphasised the threat from Covid without putting the risks in sufficient context, leaving the country in “a state of heightened anxiety”.
They also claim that “inflated fear levels will be responsible for the ‘collateral’ deaths of many thousands of people with non-Covid illnesses” who are “too frightened to attend hospital”.
The government invested in excess of £184m on communications relating to Covid-19 in 2020, figures from the Cabinet Office show.
It spent £171.9m on media activity via Manning Gottlieb OMD last year, while MullenLowe UK, which handles the majority of coronavirus advertising, was paid £12.2m.
So, why are the excess death data and the Covid deaths data so out of whack? And why isn’t Covid killing lots and lots of people this winter, as it did in spring? Even if you ascribe all excess deaths to Covid and none to lockdown, there really does not seem to be anything out of the normal variation in total deaths from year to year. And surely, by now, the toll of unnecessary deaths caused by untreated cancer, heart disease, depression and so on, has at least begun to register.
One reason coronavirus might not be slaying all around it this winter is because, well, this is not its first winter. Remember: it is called Covid-19, as in 2019. Of course, the official version of history states that the virus never reached Western civilisation until the spring of 2020, but evidence for this assertion is based on dodgy polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and a profound rejection of common sense. (By the way, how many people do you know who had a severe bout of pneumonia-like symptoms last winter?)
But the main reason for the disparity is obvious: mass PCR testing. Under the current regime (science is the wrong word), a ‘Covid death’ is someone who dies having tested positive for Covid within the previous 28 days. When you test all hospital patients, as the UK does, then some of them will turn out to be positive – how many depends largely on the way you do the tests. And the more tests you do, the more ‘Covid deaths’ you will generate. It is that simple. Dr Mike Yeadon has written extensively on this, which he calls the PCR false positive pseudo-epidemic.
Ivor Cummins aka the Fat Emperor – gives James the lowdown on why you can’t trust anything our governments tell us about Covid-19. If you want the facts on Coronavirus – how deadly is it? do lockdowns and masks work? how does it compare with previous pandemics? – you’ve come to the right place
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This is an archive of a series of Tweets by Josef Kalf. It contains a summary of information that may be of interest to visitors.
Firstly, I am not going to be talking about cabals or any conspiracist stuff. I want to talk about power (based on what power has always done, in its own interests) & why we shouldn’t focus too much on on nations. Also “pretexts” and historical precedents. A common question is: “So Iran, along with South Korea & North Korea are all in on the conspiracy? They’re all in collusion? All governments of the world?” It’s not the way to look at it. It’s not like synchronised swimming. Can you think of a “pretext” where ALL governments of the world benefited (US, UK, Russia, Iran, China, Israel, France, etc)? One well-known pretext was “Terrorism”. Who started the “terrorism pretext” back then? It was the US who started it, and it got the support of the US power alliance (UK, France, Israel, etc).
Who benefited? EVERYONE! (Even the Russian, Iranian governments) The idea of the “War On Terror” being bogus and totally “manufactured” and a deliberate imperialist plot — for power to benefit from “creating more terror in the world” was unthinkable. It just didn’t make sense to ordinary people. Well now the whole world knows that “deliberately creating MORE terrorism” in the world made perfect sense and was hugely beneficial to ALL governments around the planet (not just the USA which created it). The opportunities to clampdown on citizens in the name of “security” and “protection” was a gift to ALL governments all over the world. This actually happened. Every government of every nation on the planet benefited from the US War On Terror. And guess what? It wasn’t a monolithic global co-ordinated plot. It wasn’t “synchronised swimming” — all nations executing some grand elaborate plan together. Is the new pretext “pandemics”? If so, who is behind the pandemic pretext?
Who’s getting politicians, the media & the public to push it using 24/7 fear-mongering? The world’s ruling elites. Who benefits? The world’s ruling elites. Who are the world’s ruling elites? Who are the ones using the pretext of pandemics to shape the world in their own interests? I will tell you who they are. Anyone who reads the world’s leading political analysts (Chomsky et al) knows this. The ruling elites include the influential actors who are in the upper echelons of political/state power who are in favour of global governance (everyone from Emmanuel Macron, Tony Blair to Henry Kissinger, Prince Charles, Obama, the Clintons & the people behind Biden).
They also include the people connected to concentrations of private wealth & power — the world’s banking & financial institutions, digital tech corporations, pharmaceutical giants, energy industry, news media & entertainment industry etc. They also include the elite groups, bodies, institutions, think tanks, NGOs, UN, WHO, WEF, IMF — who are in bed with private wealth & power, who have been embroiled in corruption, bribery & corporate interference. And the corporate giants who have posted record profits while the economy has been destroyed & countless businesses & livelihoods have perished. $10.2 Trillion dollar profits for Gates, Bezos & the other giants since Covid. These are the ruling elites.
So… we shouldn’t be looking at power through the lens of “nations” (e.g. which nation or country has power). We should be looking at who are the richest and most influential actors who want to shape the world in their own interests (not the people, the masses). Look at this tweet. This guy is expressing a common reaction: “No one WANTS a pandemic”. It’s too unthinkable.
It sounds perfectly reasonable on the surface. Politicians, people in power — they are human beings. The idea of human beings wanting a pandemic sounds too unthinkable, outrageous, insane, psychopathic? With the manufactured “War On Terrorism”, even America’s own military intelligence warned: “If we go ahead & do this, we will create countless Al Qaedas & ISIS-style groups all over the planet” But they went ahead & did it anyway (Chomsky). Why?
Why create more terror in the world? More fear, more fighting & divisions among the people (racism against immigrants, islamaphobia, etc) The elites knew it would be the perfect opportunity to take power to the next level: Advance imperialist agendas (when you have more control of the Middle East oil region, you have more control of the world). It was also the perfect opportunity for governments to clampdown on citizens. Studying power, history, propaganda, etc tells us that all the major power grabs have been predicated on massive lies. Saddam’s WMDs was a monumental lie from those in power, who managed to get mass public consent for all the slaughter which ensued. How do you get mass public consent for terrible things? Ramping up fear, getting people panicked, stoking divisions among the masses helps enormously.
Do you know there are groups, programmes, operations exist to shape public opinion. That’s their job. Their job is to shape the opinion of the public. e.g. getting the public to give consent/approval/support to invade Iraq — for example — is not an easy thing to do. Sure, a million protested on the streets. But the propaganda obviously succeeded.
Today it’s not even controversial to discuss the actual conspiracy of Weapons Of Mass Destruction or deliberately creating more terror groups (& tensions in the world to fuel more terror) across the world. Why is it not controversial? Cos now we all know the truth about it. The bogus manufactured War On Terrorism is all known to everyone & admitted even by power. Therefore, how outlandish can it possibly be to suggest that all kinds of horror await citizens all over the world on this new theme of “global pandemics”? The opportunities here dwarf the War On Terrorism, right? That was nothing compared to this, right? As Chomsky pointed out about 9/11 & the “war on terror”, the opportunity to clamp down on citizens in the name of “security” & ramp up surveillance was a gift to all governments. How much of a “gift” is the pretext of deadly pandemics sweeping across the world? This is the mother of all opportunities to manufacture a “new normal” & to introduce the most intense, high-tech system of clamp down we could ever imagine, in our wildest dreams (nightmares).
The terrorism pretext didn’t involve a monolithic global co-ordinated plot. If you read Chomsky who’s written many books “How Power Works”, “Understanding Power”, “Who Runs The World” etc you’ll see that it’s pointless to be fixated with viewing power through the prism of nations. You need to be looking at this in terms of “who are the ruling elites?” Who are the ones making sure the world runs in their interests? The Ruling elites are happy to be invisible because they want to remain unaccountable and unelected. That’s the beauty. They make whatever deals they want with governments. Governments love it too, cos they can do backdoor deals with them. We all know — despite all this talk of the decline of the US Empire — that America is still overwhelmingly the world’s nation superpower. And America has absorbed many other nations around the planet.
Let’s look at the nations which HAVEN’T been absorbed (Russia, China, Iran). These nations are surrounded by US military bases. Does Iran or China have military bases and ships surrounding the USA or Europe? No. America still calls the shots & has a large number of countries as pet poodles (the UK, etc). But focusing on nations misses the point anyway. In a world ruled by money, the real superpowers (with the real power to wield) are CORPORATIONS. Corporate power rules. It really does. We live in a “plutocracy masquerading as democracy”. What little crumbs of democracy we have now…just look how fast they are disappearing. Would you say I’m crazy if I said we are living under a dictatorship now? All over the world we’re seeing the police becoming more militarised. The point is to be more imposing & intimidating as we move closer & closer towards dictatorship. If you are living under “rule by diktat” (“Do what we say or face the consequences”) then you’re in a dictorship! Therefore we have every reason to believe armed forces involvement in this Covid programme is to provide an effective coercive intimidating presence. Of course people are going to make out that the armed forces are there as a helping hand or purely for administrative purposes.
Anyway, going back to the topic of power…
The US still calls the shots as the nation superpower. But in a world ruled by money, the real superpowers (with the real power to wield) are corporations. The concentrations of private wealth & power who are hidden, who have tentacles, connections & influence all over the planet. This is the New Empire, isn’t it? The ruling elites. As I mentioned, Chomsky et al. have books on this stuff. This is why I think it’s stupid the way people demand to see evidence of some Darth Vader overlord pulling the strings globally across the planet. The lizard thing — that’s just a slur to ridicule people as looney conspiracists.
20 YEARS AGO IT WAS TERRORISM “Yes please do everything you can to protect us from Saddam & Al Qaeda. Sure, invade country X, you have our approval. We also accept that security & surveillance now needs to be more intense.” NOW IT’S PANDEMICS “Tougher lockdown measures please!”
I started this thread answering the question “So explain how every governments of every country is in on this global plot”. The next question is: “All those doctors, nurses, hospital staff all over the world…so are you seriously saying they are all in on it?” It’s a facile point to make. Because they are all PEOPLE. Doesn’t matter if they are junior nurses or the most senior esteemed leading specialist doctors. They are people and capable of being corrupted, or pressured, or being susceptible to groupthink.
As we all know, millions upon millions of people adhere to the agenda of power or follow mainstream, establishment consensus. Does this mean THEY are part of the 1%? No. They are just gullible people who swallow mainstream narratives & follow mass groupthink. Thankfully there are also millions of people in the world (including bus drivers, roadsweepers, medical staff, MIT, Oxford, Harvard, Stanford scientists, experts, Nobel Prize winners, whistleblowers) who do NOT swallow the propaganda. It’s not right to say that the respected experts standing against the consent are a fringe group of wackos. Consider their qualifications and their standing in the scientific community. They have nothing to gain by opposing the consensus. That’s why we need to listen to experts who are blowing the whistle. What do they have to gain? They face ridicule, ostracisation, their careers destroyed.
Regarding the line which pro-lockdown people make (“So you’re saying all hospital staff and doctors are in on it?”) We are all complicit and guilty of being “in on” all kinds of horror. Watch this short educational allegorical film:
Were the members of the public who were in favour of the invasion of Iraq, the Vietnam war, the rise of Hilter, etc “in on it”? Well, yes, of course they were — but they weren’t involved in the running of it, where they? They were “knowingly complicit” or following the herd. Millions upon millions of human beings “agree” with what power is doing. Just because they agree with power, and they may be nice, well-meaning people, does it make it right? It means that these millions of people have been successfully propagandised. How many millions supported Hitler and the Nazis? How many millions voted for Boris Johnson or Margaret Thatcher? Or supported wars or went along with terrible, inhumane policies? Millions upon millions of human beings (NHS staff, doctors/nurses, bus drivers, politicians, window cleaners, judges, engineers, waitresses, journalists) will simply swallow propaganda. But thankfully many are not so gullible.
You understand that the vast majority of journalists don’t do journalism, right? Because of the system-serving mindset which is endemic in that profession. Why do you think people who work in the medical profession are going to be any different? Most human beings are compliant and system-serving. We need to focus on how power works and educate people to get them out of this mindset. Are you happy to let our ‘betters’ take care of running society for us? You trust the consensus? Do you think it’s in our interests, not in the interests of those responsible for the consensus being pushed day in day out, 24 hours a day? What is happening to the general public in 2020 is very distressing. The cult mindset from the mainstream consensus is shameful. There is so much disregard for devastation of millions of lives, and refusal to fight for what makes life worth living.
This is BIG and getting out of hand (like an actual real virus which is deadly to humanity — not only has a huge section of the Left become totally de-lefted, human beings are being de-humanised en masse). Today we see a new form of left which is fake and anti-Left & which belittles citizens who are demonstrating the most elementary leftwing values (regardless of whether or not they consider themselves left). Some of these elementary values are:
- Behaving with real humanity (not fake humane caring for the sake of keeping up appearances)
- Giving equal regard to all lives and not relegating other causes of human death and suffering which eclipse the virus
- Being true to standing against authority which is illegitimate (like standing against this three-way marriage made in totalitarian heaven, a lethal cocktail which becomes self-reinforcing and invincible if you allow it to continue).
- Having a sense of urgency to push for getting enough grassroots people rise up and fight against the authoritarianism on the horizon.
- Pushing for comprehensive public inquiries, holding the ones leading the agendas to account, investigating their actions and behaviour.
- Pushing for balanced public debate and combatting the smearing and ridiculing
- Safeguarding all that makes life worth living
- Standing against the destruction of the economy and the prospects for a decent human existence for the sake of our children and future generations.
- Protecting marginalised, impoverished people, working classes.
- Shielding them from economic hardship, exploitation, oppression/control.
- Recognising that these ‘new normal’ policies are bringing the worst economic depressions in world history
- Recognising small businesses being swallowed up by multinational giants (which have gained tremendously from Covid, record profits, etc)
- Recognising that Newnormalism = the world being shaped in the interests of state power in bed with unelected, unaccountable private power & globalist elite institutions.
- Recognising that a new level of de-humanised mass consumerism and mass debt slavery to colossal online shopping giants like Amazon is just around the corner.
- The idea of believing in communities and meaningful human connections vanishing from society for good, as power seeks (like never before since Thatcher/Reagan) to break people up into atomised, lonely, weak, afraid, confused individuals controlled by division and fear.
For dictatorships to work, laws are not enough, as there are never enough police officers to enforce laws that a majority of the working population doesn’t believe in. Historically, totalitarian regimes have relied on the grudges of individuals, on the stoked prejudices of communities, & on the sense of duty of members of society to an abstract notion of a nation/people/religion to police the population.
Above all, they have relied on fear.
We shouldn’t give oxygen to the mainstream narrative that:
A. being for the Covid agenda (tougher lockdown measures) is a “leftwing” position
B. being against the Covid agenda is a “rightwing” capitalist position.
The ones who are more obsessed with playing stupid “culture war” games and making the debate (or lack thereof) about a “piece of cloth” are the pro-lockdown types. The opposers/dissenters are largely steering clear of this culture war nonsense. In fact, actively calling out stupid culture war and identity politics division & distractions is a prominent trait of those who oppose the consensus. The dissenters are more clear-headed, capable of critical thinking and are focusing on the wider threats and implications for human society. They are not selfish, petty mask moaners. When it comes to Covid, there’s a lack of rigorous interrogation from people calling themselves left. There’s even a lack of even the most non-committal, uncontroversial, thought-provoking discussion on some of the points made below.
It should be on every leftwing person’s radar. Power, oppression and propaganda are the basic staples for anyone with leftwing or socialist values. I simply don’t get progressive & intellectuals who refuse to even discuss the WEF (like they don’t even want to acknowledge their existence).
If the WEF really is a tinpot outfit of no consequence then progressives & intellectuals should explain why the WEF is of no consequence. There’s no excuse anymore. The Great Reset & Davos has made multiple TIME Magazine cover stories.
The world’s most powerful & influential actors seem to embrace the messages from elite groups, bodies, institutions, think tanks, NGOs, UN, WHO, WEF, IMF — who are in bed with private wealth & power, who have been embroiled in corruption & corporate interference.
The world’s most powerful & influential actors seem to embrace the messages from elite groups, bodies, institutions, think tanks, NGOs, UN, WHO, WEF, IMF — who are in bed with private wealth & power, who have been embroiled in corruption & corporate interference. It’s surely foolish to not pay attention to their brand for a world vision and future of human society gaining traction?
When all this stuff is in plain sight and you can get it from the horse’s mouth, there’s really no longer any excuse to claim it’s conspiracy theory nonsense.
Many people do indeed want to argue endlessly about the ins and outs of mask efficacy, statistics, technicalities, the actual nature of the virus and theorise about why the lockdown happened. However many people don’t get caught up in technicalities — they want to focus on the wider picture of what’s afoot, they want to talk about the horrific top-down tightening of controls which is making human existence unbearable.
If endless arguing on technicalities, the virus, reasons why it has happened, etc) isn’t the bag of people identifying as Left, then they can just focus on the fundamental INJUSTICE and INIQUITY of clampdown measures and the lies used to justify them. These horrific injustices and iniquities are all unchallenged by a huge number of so-called Leftwing people. It’s depressing. People rightly have been outraged over Assange injustices and manufactured Anti-Semitism injustices ✊ When it comes to these particular injustices, they simply cannot bear the deception and the dishonest, system-friendly mindset among people from top to bottom. But when it comes to Covid injustices, it’s the SAME DANGEROUS MINDSET but on steroids. It’s the same sneering and ridiculing of people as cranks and conspiracists. Yet, people who reckon they’re left/socialists aren’t calling it out. It’s bizarre.
If one is not visibly combatting the injustices & iniquities mentioned in this thread, or at least engaging in the various issues raised (which are all about power, oppression, propaganda, lies, corruption). How can one call oneself left? It’s insane. It doesn’t add up. No self-respecting leftist can reconcile it. It seems like utter hypocrisy. Especially for anarcho-socialist lefties & anti-establishment types who act like they are uncorrupted by the system-serving mindset of centrists, liberals, Guardian types.
I remember thinking in 2019 (and the years leading up) that this is THE worst period of lies & hypocrisy – not just among power, politicians & media but among ordinary people.
Now in 2020 it’s off the scale. 2019 seems like an “honesty paradise” compared to today.
The 2020 Covid scandal is a pretext/vehicle which puts all historical precedents & puts all other pretexts/vehicles to shame! It is being used to institute authoritarian horror, and those de-lefted lefties have turned into the cruelest, nastiest enforcement officers. Time is running out. We need to encourage people to stand up against THIS. If we don’t do everything we can, it will be too late. The power-versus-the-people will have reached a whole new level. It will become more self-reinforcing and invincible than ever before. We need to wake people up to the fact that going along with this scandal is not in anyone’s interests but those in power. We need to wake people up to the fact that those in power only have power over us because we — the people — give it to them. It’s an illusion. We need to take away their power by not being COMPLIANT. For if you are compliant, then you are COMPLICIT. State power, in bed with unaccountable, unelected private power wants a controlled demolition of the global economy for it to be rebuilt again — more than ever before — in the interests of 21st century capitalism.
The dominant power structures wants us further reduced to fearful, isolated, obedient and dependent cattle owned and exploited by a ruthless and truthless financial elite. It’s society shaped in their interests — not ours — to a whole new level. The effects of what is happening is essentially resulting in the de-humanising of humanity. We need to do everything to stop people being compliant and complicit in this crime against humanity before it’s too late.
Johnson’s speech announcing a new lockdown on Saturday reminded me of how Tony Blair deployed fear to justify drastic state action over foot and mouth disease, and – warning that Saddam Hussein’s arsenal put the UK “45 minutes from doom” – in support of the Iraq war. It is the same blind fear exploited in every debate on immigration, crime and prisons.
The Cabinet Office signed the lucrative contract with London-based OMD Group as the Government began to gear up its response to the crisis.
Ministers struck a deal worth up to £119m with one of the world’s biggest marketing companies for a Covid campaign three weeks before the country went into a national lockdown, official filings show.
In fact, it is now becoming clear [Lockdown] is simply the wrong policy. Those who dissented from the Government’s Covid-19 strategy have been dismissed as mavericks on the fringes of the scientific establishment. However, this is no longer the case. I am afraid that the broadcast media has been particularly slow to reflect a shift in outlook among international scientists.
The great 20th-century pandemics, comparable in so many ways to their 21st-century heir, accounted for myriad private tragedies. Yet, unlike this novel coronavirus, their public, political significance was negligible. They were treated as public-health challenges, problems for clinicians, virologists and epidemiologists. And there were arguments at the time that more should have been done to mitigate their harm. But there was no sense of a world ending. No talk of a new normal. No attempt, that is, to reorganise the entirety of societal life around the threat they posed.
When the postmortem is done on the media’s coverage of COVID-19 (and it will be), it will be clear that the virus was no Black Plague — it’s not even the flu on a bad year.
SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, has killed 56,749 Americans as of Tuesday.
That’s not good. But it’s not as bad as the 2017-2018 flu season, when 80,000 -plus perished. And it’s a long cry from what all the experts were warning about just a few weeks ago: First, they predicted 1.7 million Americans dead; then they redid the models (this time apparently entering a few more “facts”) and said 100,000-240,000 dead.
- A recent Stanford University antibody study estimated the fatality rate from the virus is likely 0.1% to 0.2%
- In New York City, the death rate for people 18 to 45 years old is 0.01%, or 10 per 100,000 in the population.
- People aged 75 and older: 0.8%
- For children under 18, the rate of death is zero per 100,000.
The World Health Organization hired a high-powered public relations firm to seek out so-called influencers to help build trust in the organization’s coronavirus response.
WHO paid $135,000 to the firm Hill and Knowlton Strategies, according to documents filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
WHO has come under intense scrutiny for amplifying the Chinese government’s false claims about the coronavirus.
Hill and Knowlton proposed identifying celebrities and other social media users with clout to ‘amplify’ WHO’s messaging about the pandemic.
- Sweden’s total deaths per million in population as of July 14 is 549. That’s considerably lower than the deaths per million rate in the UK, which is 662, and in Spain, which is 608. In Belgium, the death rate is 884.
- Sweden deaths per million is many times better than the rates found in New Jersey and New York: 1,763 and 1,669.
- Articles condemning Sweden’s “failure” rarely if ever mention these comparisons.
- Nonlockdown Sweden has a death rate similar to harsh-lockdown France can only be explained by claiming France didn’t lock down harshly enough or long enough.
- Two weeks after the WHO’s prediction that Sweden will have a resurgence in COVID-19, both cases and deaths in Sweden continue to trend downward.
- Thanks to Sweden we know what both lockdown and nonlockdown countries look like: they look remarkably similar in some cases.
- After all, after failing to implement a lockdown for months, Sweden is still nowhere near matching the death rates reported in New York.
• There was “massive confusion” about different Covid data between England’s health bodies. “Public Health England figures are about double the ONS figures because PHE are reporting anybody who has had a positive Covid death in the past… This will get increasingly confusing as we go into the next Winter because there could be a new outbreak and new deaths while also still reporting on historical deaths… This is a problem for epidemiologists and media… ”
• Even a “28 period cut-off is still not ideal for accurate death numbers because there is “immediate cause and underlying cause… Immediate cause means you’ve had Covid within 21 days but outside of that, it becomes the underlying cause — something that contributed to your death but wasn’t a direct cause. A 21 day cut-off would be helpful because it gives a clearer understanding of that distinction”
• “We follow excess deaths which is the most accurate information about what’s going on at that moment, but it can’t tell you what those deaths are caused by” (i.e. people not coming forward with heart attacks etc)
• “There’s an important distinction between lives lost and life years lost. One of the things we’ll be watching very closely over the next six months is how many people would have actually died in the next six months… That’s where the excess deaths really matter. If we start to see it trend significantly under for the next few months, we’ll start to come forward with information that suggests there was a group of vulnerable people that any respiratory infection would have shortened their life.”
• “In the media you’ll always hear about catastrophe and the consequences of that. One of the things we notice is that when you don’t hear anything that usually means there’s good news happening. So when Sweden looks worse you hear about it but when it’s not so bad, like now, you never see it in the media.”
COVID-19 started registering with most of the British public around late February and early March. Many were concerned but not particularly afraid. Only weeks later people were terrified to leave their homes or go near other human beings. How did such a dramatic shift in public perception happen so quickly?
In early March 2020, The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) produced a document for the UK Government highlighting methods for rolling out new social distancing rules. There seemed to be some doubt as to whether the public would comply with the upcoming measures so SAGE outlined a methodology based on known psychological behavioural modification techniques.
SAGE, SPI-B and applied psychology
SAGE is an advisory group to the UK government responsible for making sure decision makers have access to scientific advice. We are told that the advice provided by SAGE does not represent official government policy.
SAGE also relies on expert sub-groups for COVID-19 specific advice. These sub-groups include:
- NERVTAG: New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group
- SPI-M: Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling
- SPI-B: Independent Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours
The identity of individual committee members themselves were initially kept secret, purportedly due to national security. Some names were eventually released, largely due to efforts by UK businessman Simon Dolan and his legal challenge campaign. Nevertheless, two members remain anonymous.
Psychological techniques for behavioural change
The document itself, titled Options for increasing adherence to social distancing measures, was drafted by SPI-B, the behavioural science sub-group for SAGE.
SPI-B highlighted nine broad ways of achieving behavioural change in the public:
- Environmental restructuring
In the document, SPI-B focused on the methods most relevant to their stated goals and set out ten options that were evaluated on six criteria.
The six criteria, under the acronym APEASE, were:
- Spill-over effects
Government persuasion through fear
A key part of SPI-B’s behavioural change strategy that seems to have been adopted was to ‘persuade through fear.’ The Persuasion section of the document states:
A substantial number of people still do not feel sufficiently personally threatened.
Clearly, the psychologists felt that, as of late March, the public was still not afraid of COVID-19. It therefore suggested that the government increase the level of fear:
The perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent, using hard-hitting emotional messaging.
Appendix B of the document lists ten options that can be used to increase social distancing in the public. Option 2 advises:
Use media to increase sense of personal threat.
In hindsight, this explains the tone of government sponsored social media and physical billboard advertising campaigns that started appearing around April.
SPI-B recommendations to increase personal threat and use hard-hitting emotional messaging are on display with eerie imagery coupled with taglines such as:
- “Anyone can get it. Anyone can spread it.“
- “Don’t put your friends and family in danger.“
- “Stay home for your family. Don’t put their lives in danger.“
- “If you go out, you can spread it. People will die.“
Hysterical news headlines
The article compared hysterical BBC news headline from the first week of April 2020 with those from 2018, when mortality rates were peaking due to a bad flu season. It found no references to flu or excess mortality on the BBC home page during the 2018 peak. InProportion2 asked, “Do the headlines reflect the gravity of the situations in an equivalent way – or is additional fear being stirred up in 2020?“
Persuasion through shame and approval: Covidiots and heroes
SPI-B psychologists knew that fear on its own would not persuade everyone. Messaging needed to be tailored to take into account different ‘motivational levers.’
Some people will be more persuaded by appeals to play by the rules, some by duty to the community, and some to personal risk.
It therefore suggested using both social approval and disapproval, with compulsion (legislation) as a backup:
- Option 6: Use and promote social approval for desired behaviours
- Option 7: Consider enacting legislation to compel required behaviours
- Option 8: Consider use of social disapproval for failure to comply
We can see the obvious approval-disapproval dialectic with the ‘Heroes and Covidiots’ narrative that soon began to surface in the news. The term ‘Covidiot’ appeared around March with The Economist’s 1843 Magazine describing covidiots in this way:
Even in a pandemic, many of us are prone to judge others and find them wanting: the term “covidiot” describes any and every person behaving stupidly or irresponsibly as the epidemic spreads. Sometime in early March the word was born, and, almost as fast as the virus spread, so did instances of covidiotic behaviour.
Although it’s not clear how the term came about, it was quickly adopted in UK mainstream and social media. At the same time, we began seeing praise for heroes who ‘did the right thing’ by complying with the government measures.
The METRO article below shows all three options in play:
- Social approval: “These local heroes have been doing amazing things…”
- Social disapproval: “Lake District closed…because covidiots won’t stay away…”
- Compulsion: “Matt Hancock threatens to close beaches…”
An incentivised media
These psychological techniques would have been impossible to deploy on the public without a compliant media. How did the government convince the media to go along with the plan?
Increased UK government media spending
Digiday, a media and marketing industry publication, reported in April that the government is becoming UK news publishers’ most important client. In the 20 April 2020 article for Digiday, Lara O’Reilly wrote:
…the government is spending more than usual, judging by their bookings. The publishers also pointed out that the lack of activity from other advertisers in the current market means the government campaigns will have an outweighed share of voice compared with normal times.
During that period, the British public started seeing coverage across media outlets with the unified “In this together” messaging. O’Reilly pointed out that the campaign was worth £35 million over a three month period.
Last week, the government and newspaper industry launched a three-month advertising partnership dubbed “All in, all together.” The campaign — worth approximately £35 million ($44 million) for the full course, according to sources — kicked off on Apr. 17, with all the U.K.’s national and regional daily news brands running near-identical cover wraps and homepage takeovers, which carried the copy, “Stay at home for the NHS, your family, your neighbours, your nation the world and life itself.”
So, we ask again: how did the government convince the media to go along with the plan? The answer is simple and obvious: with lots of money.
Psychological techniques to change behaviour
We can see that the UK Government has a public document outlining psychological techniques to change the behaviour of the population. We see a unified mass-media campaign that falls in line with these techniques. We then see a dramatic shift in public perception and behaviour.
What else can we call this but ‘brainwashing’?
Despite the open nature of what has transpired, it seems to have gained little coverage in the media. This is of no surprise since it was clearly complicit in spreading fear in the public.
Download the document
The document is freely downloadable on the gov.uk website in a page titled, “Research and analysis – Options for increasing adherence to social distancing measures, 22 March 2020“.
We encourage you to read the document, compare it with your observations about how the government and media has acted, then make up your own mind.
After seven months the mainstream media finally catches up. On 24th January 2021, The Express published the following article: Government accused of using Covid fear tactics to inflate anxiety levels of British public.
- Campaign, the world’s leading business media brand for the marketing and advertising, reported that the UK government spent more than £184m on Covid communications in 2020.
- It has emerged that German politicians, scientists and public health bureaucrats have also collaborated to induce panic to justify the first German lockdown. The source material is in German but a Twitter thread explaining the leaks in English has been archived. We will update here if an English source becomes available.
- On 18 March, the UK Government put out a tender for a £2m COVID Public Information Campaign for Northern Ireland. It is to last to years starting 1 April 2021.
- In an article for the Critic, A year of fear, Dr. Gary Sidley wrote about the role of SPI-B and The Behavioural Insights Team in bombarding the British public with fear-inducing information. Dr. Sidley is a member of the Health Advisory and Recovery Team.
The mainstream media is now acknowledging the government’s psychological strategies to manipulate behaviour of the British public. On 2 April, The Telegraph published the article, State of fear: how ministers ‘used covert tactics’ to keep scared public at home.
Update 27 June 2020: For a more in-depth commentary, please read How SAGE and the UK media created fear in the British public
In early March 2020, The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) produced a document for the UK Government highlighting recommendations for increasing adherence to social distancing measures. There seemed to be some doubt as to whether the public would comply with the upcoming measures so SAGE developed a methodology based on criteria called ‘APEASE’.
The document itself was drafted by SPI-B, the behavioural science sub-group for SAGE. More information about SPI-B can be found in this document.
In the document, behavioural change options were set in a grid and evaluated based on the six criteria. See Appendix B in the linked document.
SPI-B’s APEASE criteria are:
- Spill-over effects
Persuasion through fear
It seems that a big part of SPI-B’s behavioural change strategy was to ‘persuade through fear.’ The Persuasion section of the document states:
The perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent, using hard-hitting emotional messaging. To be effective this must also empower people by making clear the actions they can take to reduce the threat.
Appendix B of the document lists ten options that can be used to increase social distancing in the public. Option 2 advises: “Use media to increase sense of personal threat.“
Psychological techniques to change behaviour
In this document, the UK Government has openly admitted to using psychological techniques to change the behaviour of the British population. Despite the open nature of this admission, it seems to have gained little coverage in the media.
This is of no surprise since the British media was clearly complicit in spreading fear in the public.
Download the document
The document is freely downloadable on the gov.uk website in a page titled, “Research and analysis – Options for increasing adherence to social distancing measures, 22 March 2020“.
At a time when some advertisers are hitting pause on spending and others are avoiding appearing next to coronavirus articles — or even just “bad news” — the U.K. government is rapidly ascending the rankings of U.K. news publishers’ most important clients — and cheerleaders — during the crisis.
The media in this country have no shame. For two months they’ve been ramping up fear and hysteria over Covid-19. They predicted apocalypse. They reported the daily death tolls like gleeful grim reapers.
And now, after all that, after pumping out 24-hour rolling doom for weeks on end, they have the gall to wonder why so many people have been too scared to visit a hospital during the pandemic. And why there has been a huge number of excess deaths from treatable ailments other than Covid-19. And why there was a policy of ‘Protecting the NHS’ at all costs from the coming viral calamity that involved sending even infected elderly people away from hospitals and back to care homes. ‘How could this happen?’, they cry.
Science is not a good guide for society. Of course science is essential to our understanding of the world and to the creation of the new insights, technologies and treatments our societies need. But it cannot tell us what is best for our societies in political, moral or economic terms…
If it is true that Boris put the country into lockdown partly in response to media pressure, then the media themselves may have a lot of questions to answer about the damage currently being done by this unprecedented freeze on working life and the economy.