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The Sinister Cult Paid by Government to Fearmonger Covid

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A parliamentary committee is set to investigate scare ads created by the UK government’s shadowy ‘behavioural insights’ team to nudge the public into obeying Covid-19 restrictions. The move comes amid concerns about the grossly unethical use of the unit to inflate fear levels.

The House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee is expected to probe the so-called ‘nudge unit’ as part of an ongoing investigation into government activities during the pandemic, The Telegraph reported. Tory MP William Wragg, who chairs the committee, told the paper that the central issue is how nudge sits within parliamentary democracy and ministerial accountability. 

According to The Telegraph, the committee received a letter from a group of 40 psychologists this week, which warned that it was highly questionable whether a civilised society should knowingly increase the emotional discomfort of its citizens as a means of gaining their compliance.

Government scientists deploying fear, shame and scapegoating to change minds is an ethically dubious practice.

The signatories reportedly criticized the use of dramatic adverts featuring slogans such as ‘If you go out you can spread it, people will die.’ One such ad had a close-up photo of an intensive-care patient wearing an oxygen mask, with the caption: ‘Look her in the eyes and tell her you never bend the rules.’

The use of images of 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 said to have been condemned by the group, which warned of unintended consequences.

‘Shaming and scapegoating have emboldened some people to harass those unable or unwilling to wear a face-covering,’  they wrote, adding that the inflated fear levels and strategically-increased anxieties had discouraged many from seeking help for other illnesses.

The letter also cited a government memo from March 2020, which warned that a substantial number of people still do not feel sufficiently personally threatened by the virus and called for hard-hitting, emotional messaging to target the complacent.


Established by David Cameron’s coalition government in 2010, the ‘nudge unit’ is apparently designed to apply scientific principles to subtly influence public behaviour without the need for legislation. Although its handiwork has been visible in government ads, The Telegraph noted that its operations are shrouded in secrecy. You can share this story on social media.

Monika and Alfred Schaefer


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