Book Review- A State of Fear by Laura Dodsworth
Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said in his 1933 inaugural address that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”. In the context of the Great Depression, he was referring to how fear can hamper efforts to solve situations and recover from difficult times.
In another context, it takes on a rather different and more sinister meaning- how fear itself can be weaponised against the population by totalitarian governments. In this landmark book Laura Dodsworth charts how the British government has been doing exactly this in the Covid-19 crisis, using fear of an unknown, invisible enemy- a virus- to coerce the public to accept previously unthinkable lockdowns and socially destructive distancing and quarantines, effectively dismantling the very fabric of society without firing a shot and relatively minimal police enforcement.
The book opens with Dodsworth’s personal reaction to “Fright Night”, when Johnson tells the country to lockdown, “inducing fear and evoking war and authoritarianism.” From that point on, she says,
the risk of death was energetically amplified, particularly during the 6pm and 10pm news broadcasts and on newspaper front pages. The Downing Street briefings were characterised by authority figures in suits on raised podiums and yellow and black chevroned signage warning danger, danger, danger.
Vast amounts of government resources and public money have been spent terrifying the public into “following the rules” through a combination of politically biased studies, dodgy statistics and a captive (or complicit) and censorious media scrupulously scrubbing any alternative points of view, no matter how well qualified. The captive and complicit media has been only to willing to sing to the government’s tune when, having closed so many other businesses, state propaganda has become their main source of advertising revenue.
The infamous Imperial College models– funded by Bill gates and the Chinese Communist Party- that predicted half a million deaths sans lockdown were based on flawed assumptions that took no account of pre-existing immunity- we have after all lived for millennia with coronaviruses. Nor did they consider the spontaneous changes in people’s behaviour on perceiving a real threat, or the already well-understood vast age stratification- older people are 1000x more times at risk of death than children. It was however sufficiently frightening to throw the entire population into an unprecedented lockdown. Similar tactics have been used repeatedly, as in the graph used by government advisor’s Whitty and Vallance to justify the second lockdown in October, showing a scary graph on TV predicting a completely implausible 4000 deaths a day. No scrutiny or cross-examination was permitted, just fear.
It is not surprising to most people that populations can be relatively easily scared, or that fear is used as a political tool, but this book gives us a rare behind-the-scenes look at the dark and sinister machinations of government propaganda through detailed research and a series of enlightening interviews, and introduces us to the extensive and highly developed governmental organisations that constitute what is essentially a modern-day Ministry of Truth.
Take the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) known as the “nudge unit” for example. With a global reach, through the BIT, “Britain is teaching governments around the world how to follow its model of nudging citizens into doing what is ‘best’ for them.”
Or the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPI-B) which infamously published in its report of March 22nd 2020 Options for increasing adherence to social distancing measures :
A substantial number of people still do not feel sufficiently personally threatened; it could be that they are reassured by the low death rate in their demographic group, although levels of concern may be rising … 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.
The trappings of fear can be seen everywhere: Incident tape surrounding playgrounds and park benches, circles on the floor to keep social distance, ubiquitous masks serving as a constant reminder of a killer virus at large, the daily liturgy of death statistics on the media, posters of people on respirators in hospital asking you to “look into their eyes and tell them you followed the rules” or reminding you that “anyone can have it, anyone can spread it” have all played a role in terrorising the public into accepting the dismantling of society and the removal of basic freedoms that have been considered sacrosanct for centuries. Without these all-pervasive visible reminders that we live in constant danger from each other, fear of the virus would long since have rescinded.
No leader with the countries’ best interests at heart would act in this way. Rather, a responsible approach would be to reassure, give the basic facts in a balanced manner and let people do their own risk assessments, just as pandemic plans pre-March 2020 clearly advised.
Scared? Stay at home, wear a mask, self-isolate, whatever- but leave everyone else alone to get on with their lives. At no point was any of the government interventions necessary.
Dodsworth’s book contains some revealing interviews. One Whitehall insider expressed concern over the way behavioural psychology has taken over the country:
They told me that they are ‘stunned by the weaponisation of behavioural psychology over the last five years’ and that ‘psychology and behavioural science are feted above everything else. The psychologists didn’t seem to notice when it stopped being altruistic and became manipulative. They have too much power and it intoxicates them.’
The psychology of fear, why it is so effective and so hard to break free from, are considered, along with the devastating impacts of a year and a half of state-sponsored fear-mongering. A substantial proportion of the population seem traumatised, and likely to continue mask-wearing and social distancing even after restrictions are lifted, if they ever are. Children especially badly effected, with record referrals to mental health services and increase in suicides. The NHS, far from being saved, now has a waiting list of over 12million, while the bill for Covid measures now exceeds 400 Billion pounds.
There is one point where I feel the author fails to complete joining the dots:
Fear was an open door – naturally, because we were in an epidemic. The government didn’t need to so much as knock on the door. It didn’t have to open it for us, and politely say, after you. It certainly didn’t need to use a battering ram.
This begs the question of whether there ever was a pandemic? In 2009 the WHO changed the definition of a pandemic to be any widely spreading infectious disease, regardless of mortality rates. The WHO themselves support Ioannidis’ assessment of an IFR of 0.2%, equivalent to seasonal influenza. Excess deaths in the UK are highest only since 2008. With an average age of death of 82, most with co-morbidities, the vast majority of the population have little to fear from Covid. The only conclusion is that the only pandemic we have experienced is one purely of fear.
This is an important contribution to the growing literature on the Great Hysteria, asking probing questions and revealing a great deal about how the government is working to brainwash the public. It should be on everyone’s reading list, and has already been selling very well. Hopefully it continue to do so and make a great impact, opening people’s eyes and maybe waking a few of them up. Buy a few copies for all your friends and relatives who might still have some functioning braincells, before it it too late.