Book Review: A State of Fear – How the UK Government Weaponised Fear during the COVID-19 Pandemic

As featured in Edition 38, available here.

BY JAMIE SPRATT (2nd year - Economics and PAIS - Durham, UK)

Laura Dodsworth’s newest book is not a critique of the efficacy of lockdowns, but rather the way the government and its advisors have used fear and propaganda to terrify the British population into conforming with lockdown rules. SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) advisors are on record saying that the level of personal perceived threat to individuals needed to be increased. There were deliberate tactics used to manipulate people into believing the coronavirus was more dangerous to them than was the case. Shockingly, there was absolutely no public debate about the ethics of such tactics, and even worse, there was no plan devised for a ‘way out’ – no plan to unlearn the excessive fear.

There has been a lack of critical thinking over the past 18 months, with any question over government policy followed by the passive rebuttal that we are ‘following the science’. Many of the men and women who sit on the SAGE and SPI-B (Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours) advisory boards are not virologists or epidemiologists, but rather behavioural scientists whose entire career is based on behavioural change and subconscious ‘nudging’. So, when the Prime Minister explained he was ‘following the science’, that was an incredibly misleading term. Science is not one homogenous body with fixed and unchanging opinions.

‘A State of Fear’ was an incredibly refreshing read, and one of the best pieces of journalism to come out of the past couple of years. There are interviews with government scientific advisors, politicians, journalists, and many more people involved in the decision-making regarding the pandemic. The book explores carefully crafted adverts, such as the emotionally manipulative plea to not ‘kill your granny’, the deliberate misuse of statistics and graphs in order to inflate the risk of the virus, and much more. A must read for anyone that cares about the future of our democracy.

IMAGE: Pinter and Martin/ Blackwell's/ A State of Fear