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.
‘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 behaviour they perceive to be deviant.’