In July 1518, a strange and inexplicable plague of dancing broke out in the streets of Strasbourg. People began to dance uncontrollably. Some sources say that about 15 people a day died from exhaustion. No one knows what caused it, but the best modern guess is that it was due to hysteria; a form of mass psychosis.
We can’t laugh at the past. We have not learned to live with death ourselves.This new virus brought together an alarming combination; our terror of dying and the determination of governments, increasingly parental in role, tighteningtheir control in order to avoid being blamed for deaths and punished by losing power.
Sweden decided not to lockdown and was then hysterically assaulted by government and news outlets across the world that had chosen lockdown. Dire and apocalyptic outcomes were predicted by the modellers. What has actually happened? A comparison of the Nordic countries shows there were fewer deaths per head in Sweden than in Finland or Scotland and about the same as Denmark. The media and modellers have stayed tight lipped and silent.
As we come out of lockdown, with the promise of the vaccines that appear to be highly effective in protecting communities from death, other elements in what we have been through begin to emerge to present questions.
Fear and the promotion of fear seem to me to be at the top of the list. We have all become each other’s real or potential enemy. For the first time everyone has become a threat to everyone else. It feels we may be close to a tipping pointconstituting a form of social hysteria, and if so one that has been created not solved by government.
Laura Dodsworth has just published a very powerful book called ‘A State of Fear’ and in it she asks questions about the extent to which governments deliberately set out to control their populations by making them artificially terrified.
She quotes Prof Piers Robinson, previously chair in Politics, Society and Political Journalism at Sheffield University, as describing not a conspiracyexactly, but “a coalescence of vested interests and agendas.” He has been one of the few academics brave enough to point out that the manipulation of fear strikes at the heart of the foundation on which our democracies are built.
“Not all persuasion is propaganda, but propaganda is manipulation and it is not democratic….I think we should investigate and hold to account the professionals complicit in this.”
Lorna Dodsworth’s book offers a very good start in holding what she calls ‘the psychocrats’ to account.
In Germany leaked documents from the Ministry of the Interior showed that scientists were hired to produce a worst-case scenario in order to justify restrictions on society. Welt am Sonntag broke the story of how leading scientists from various research institutes and universities collaborated with management at the ministry to create a computational model to ‘get ahead of the situation mentally and in terms of planning’, which was to help plan further ‘measures of a preventive and repressive nature’. The State Secretary, Markus Kerber, created a dystopian vision. It was about ‘maintaining internal security and the stability of public order in the country.’
Steve Baker MP in the UK has been an outspoken critic of state manipulation. “do I fear that government policy today is playing into the roots of totalitarianism? Yes, of course it is. .. Is this a totalitarian government? No. Do they believe they are liberals? Yes. But the pursuit of safety is our greatest danger at the moment.”
The question of how many deaths have taken place is problematic. No distinction was made initially between dying from Covid and dying with it. No attempt was made to tell the public how many of those who died with it had underlying illnesses that Covid simply accelerated. No attempt was made to count deaths due to imposing lockdown. SAGE itself warned of and expected 220,000 overall deaths, of which 100,000 would be caused by the lockdown,not by Covid. They remain uncounted.
Unashamedly contradictory messages were issued from government. Everyone was urged to take the vaccine; but each time there was a variant the public was told that it might be twice as virulent and suddenly we were warned the vaccines might not work. The Kent variant, the South African, the Brazilian and now the Indian arrived, all of them justifying further repressive measures. None of them turned out to be what the fear mongers claimed they might be. There was no evidence that any of them caused deaths in greater numbers – just fear.
Surfaces were supposed to harbour infection and then when it was discovered that the danger was almost wholly airborne, and hardly ever from surfaces, nothing was said. The fear remained. The largely cosmetic sanitisers stayed in place. (www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M20-6817 ) Masks were imposed, but when a randomised study demonstrated that there was no statistical difference in infection rates between those who wore them and those who didn’t, it was ignored. Masks became the semiotics of fear; useless biologically, but terrifying psychologically.
Perhaps Dodsworth’s most chilling discovery of all was that of two government agencies; the RRU (Rapid Response Unit) based at no 10, whose role during the Covid epidemic has included: ‘direct rebuttal on social media, working with platforms to remove harmful content and ensuring public health campaigns are promoted through reliable sources’.
And working alongside, the Orwellian named Counter Disinformation Cell. The CDC falls under the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. It brings together experts from various government departments and engages with social media platforms and with disinformation specialists from civil society and academia. It also tackles ‘fake news’. This may go some way to explaining the campaign against the Great Barrington Declaration and the sudden disappearance of reputable doctors and scientists who believed lockdowns were ineffective from social media.
If we are to be faced with two separate viral dangers, one a coronavirus and the other an epidemic of fear, we ought to retain our democratic rights so that the choice remains ours. It should not be delegated to an increasingly authoritarian government which while promising to follow the science produces disinformation designed to maximize social control.