Scary propaganda has proved so successful that most Britons are now too frightened to leave their homes, either with or without a lockdown, an academic has warned.
Sir David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:
“Many people are definitely overanxious about their chance of both getting the virus and the harm they might come to if they do get it.”
He added that the British government’s message for everyone to stay at home unless strictly necessary had been “slightly too successful” and that perhaps there should now be a campaign to encourage people to “get out and start living again.”
As Lockdown Sceptics reports, this problem has been confirmed by polling.
[The Government] has whipped up the public into such a frenzy of blanket-clutching fear, aided and abetted by the hysteria of the mainstream media, that a significant percentage may not dare venture outside for non-essentials. According to polling by Ipsos Mori, more than 60 per cent of people would feel uncomfortable going to bars and restaurants or using public transport after the lockdown is over, more than 40% would be reluctant to go shopping or send their children to school and more than 30% are worried about going to work or meeting friends.
Britain’s lockdown, it is becoming increasingly clear, is now driven more by political calculations than scientific ones. Boris Johnson and his nervous administration, crippled by their fear of opinion polls, lack the confidence to announce an end to the lockdown until they feel the public is ready for it.
This is the “availability cascade” of which economics professors Donald Siegel and Robert M Sauer warned in March, in one of the first major articles criticising British and U.S. lockdown policy.
Writing in the Jerusalem Post, they described lockdown as a “misguided social experiment” designed by “unelected public health officials” and driven by the “dangerous interplay between media and policy makers.”
The phrase “availability cascade” was invented by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman to describe the vicious circle whereby public hysteria and craven politicians feed on one another with disastrous results.
According to Siegel’s and Sauer’s article:
An availability cascade is a self-sustaining chain of events which may start from media reports of a relatively minor event and lead up to public panic and large-scale government action. On some occasions, a media story about a risk catches the attention of a segment of the public, which becomes aroused and worried. This emotional reaction becomes a story in itself, prompting additional coverage in the media, which in turn produces greater concern and involvement.
The cycle is sometimes sped along deliberately by ‘availability entrepreneurs’, individuals or organisations who work to ensure a continuous flow of worrying news. The danger is increasingly exaggerated as the media compete for attention-grabbing headlines.
Scientists and others who try to dampen the increasing fear and revulsion attract little attention, most of it hostile: Anyone who claims that the danger is overstated is suspected of association with a “heinous cover-up.”
Britain’s mainstream media — cheer-led by demagogues such as Piers Morgan — has often appeared worryingly eager to play up the horrors of the pandemic, while doing little to raise concern about the economic and social damage of keeping an entire nation under virtual house arrest for weeks on end.
This is now beginning to change. The mainstream media, mindful of the massive damage being done to the economy and its own balance sheets by the hysteria it has itself generated, is working in coordination with the government to try to shift the public mood.
Here, for example, is the Sun quoting three former Chancellors, all warning that the “UK economy may never fully recover from coronavirus crisis”.
Britain’s economy might never recover fully from the coronavirus crisis and Britain will not enjoy a “V-shaped bounce,” three former Chancellors have warned.
Labour’s Alistair Darling, who was Chancellor during the last recession, said whether the economy recovers at all will “depend on decisions the Government takes in the next three to four weeks.”
His predecessor Norman Lamont warned of mass job losses, with companies “finding they can operate with fewer people,” while some businesses will disappear completely.
One frustrated British businessman, Simon Dolan, is now seeking to challenge the government’s measures in a judicial review, which he hopes to support with a crowdfund. It is already almost halfway to reaching its £30,000 target.
Among his reasons for launching the challenge:
Small businesses continue to be badly affected. Businesses have been forced to shut, furlough staff and make cuts just in an attempt to survive.
Lockdown is also taking a huge toll on mental health and family life. Calls to the National Domestic Abuse helpline are up 49%. Referrals for cancer tests have fallen by 76%. It is estimated that 18,000 more people with cancer could die because of the disruption.
We are depriving children of a proper education and instead teaching them to hide away from uncertainty rather than to confront it.
It is now universally accepted that the lockdown will cause enormous long-term damage to both the economy and the general health of the population. No-one will be untouched by its effects, but the poorest in society will be by far the most affected.
His concerns are echoed by an op-ed in the Daily Telegraph — another MSM imprint now trying to dial down the hysteria and inject a note of pragmatism into public debate — by Scott Atlas of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.
Atlas offers “five facts that show lockdown is a mistake”. They are:
- The overwhelming majority of people do not have any significant risk of dying from Covid-19
- Protecting older, at-risk people eliminates hospital overcrowding.
- Vital population immunity is prevented by total isolation policies, prolonging the problem.
- People are dying because other medical care is not being carried out.
- We have a clearly defined population at risk who can be protected with targets measures.
But articles like this appeal to rationalism and not to the raw emotion now governing large swathes of Britain. The lockdown, it seems likely, still has some way to go.