The Government’s “grossly unethical” uses of its “nudge unit” inflated fear among the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, psychologists have said—prompting MPs to launch an investigation.
A group of psychologists have written to Parliament’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, warning that a team of civil servants dedicated to “nudging” public behavior during the pandemic were unaccountable and unethical.
The letter’s 40 professional signatories—led by Dr Gary Sidley, a retired clinical psychologist—said they opposed the use of manipulative slogans such as: “If you go out you can spread it, people will die.”
They also condemned the use of “images of the acutely unwell in intensive care units” on billboard and TV ads, as well as the “macabre mono focus on showing the number of COVID-19 deaths without mention of mortality from other causes or the fact that, under normal circumstances, around 1,600 people die each day in the UK.”
The signatories said it was “highly questionable whether a civilized society should knowingly increase the emotional discomfort of its citizens as a means of gaining their compliance.”
The letter added: “Government scientists deploying fear, shame and scapegoating to change minds is an ethically dubious practice that in some respects resembles the tactics used by totalitarian regimes such as China, where the state inflicts pain on a subset of its population in an attempt to eliminate beliefs and behavior they perceive to be deviant.”
Government’s nudge unit used ‘grossly unethical’ fear tactics ‘like China’ to scare public into following Covid rules, psychologists say
- Psychologists warn Government’s ‘nudge unit’ used ‘unethical’ scare tactics
- 40 co-signatories warned the overarching strategy was ‘like totalitarian China’
- Televised images of ICU patients and focus on Covid deaths came under fire
- MPs set to probe conduct of civil servants behind behavioural insights team
Psychologists have warned the Government’s ‘nudge unit’ manipulated fear tactics in a manner akin to China to coerce a terrified public into following strict Covid rules.
MPs are set to launch a probe into the behaviour of the civil servants behind No 10’s ‘nudge unit’ – used by Downing Street to subtly influence public behaviour – amid fears they employed ‘grossly unethical’ tactics in a manner similar to those seen in authoritarian states.
40 psychologists co-signed a letter to Parliament’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, warning of amoral adverts that used slogans like: ‘Stay home to save lives’ and ‘if you go out and spread it, people will die’.
The use televised images that showed ‘the acutely unwell in intensive care units’ and the ‘macabre mono focus on the number of Covid-19 deaths without mention of mortality from other causes’ were also singled out for criticism by the group.
A government memo shared in March 2020 that suggested the ‘perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent’ was also noted in the psychologists’ remarks.
The letter added: ‘Shaming and scapegoating have emboldened some people to harass those unable or unwilling to wear a face covering.
‘More disturbingly, the inflated fear levels will have significantly contributed to the many thousands of excess non-Covid deaths that have occurred in people’s homes, the strategically-increased anxieties discouraging many from seeking help for other illnesses. Read More (DailyMail.co.uk)