Five questions for the government’s behavioural scientists

Simple questions, requiring simple answers

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As proposed in a previous HART article, state-funded behavioural scientists – via their application of often-covert ‘nudge’ techniques – fulfil a crucial role in imposing the will of a global elite upon ordinary people. Whether it is confining us to our homes, encouraging the ingestion of insects, imposing digital IDs or restricting our opportunities to travel, the nudgers promote the compliance of the masses by a variety of means, including their stealthy harnessing of fear, shaming and peer pressure.

And behavioural scientists are now a prominent occupational grouping within the government infrastructure. The ‘Government Communications Service’ employs more than 7,000 ‘professional communicators’ across the UK, and incorporates a ‘Behavioural Science Team’ (based in the Cabinet Office) with a central goal of embedding behavioural science expertise across the Government Communication profession’. During the covid event, the Cabinet Office granted the Behavioural Insight Team (the original ‘Nudge Unit’) a £4-million contract to furnish the government with ‘frictionless access to behavioural insights to match central priorities’. Recent Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to the Cabinet Office and the Department of Energy Security & Net Zero asking how many behavioural scientists they currently employed were both refused on the grounds that it would take too long to compute the information. Ironically, it seems that taxpayers are generously funding their own manipulation.     

A prominent UK behavioural scientist recently acknowledged the impact this intense nudging campaign has had on the British people. In a 2023 interview for the Telegraph, Professor David Halpern (the Founding Director of the Behavioural Insight Team, aka the UK’s Nudge Unit) observed that people are now ‘drilled’ and rightly calibrated to accept further restrictions; ‘once you’ve practised something’ (lockdowns, mask wearing) ‘you can switch it back on … you’ve got the beginnings of a habit loop … we’ve practised the drill’.

HART believes that the general public has a right to be informed about the nature, scale, and intensity of state-sponsored nudging, not least so that they can be furnished with the opportunity to express their opinions about the appropriateness and acceptability of this form of top-down persuasion. Yet, to date, there has been a stark reluctance for any of the behavioural scientists within the government infrastructure to admit responsibility for promoting the fear-inflating messaging witnessed throughout the covid event. Given this lack of transparency in regard to the details of the ongoing behavioural science operation, HART would like to ask the state-employed nudgers the following questions:

1. Do you perceive yourselves as advisors or enablers? Is your primary goal to provide   expert guidance to ministers and civil servants, or to maximise the compliance of the masses with Government edicts?

2. Did you conduct your own independent evidence reviews before promoting the implementation of top-down restrictions such as lockdowns and community masking, or do you presume that all recommendations emanating from national and global public health bodies are for the ‘greater good’?

3. Do you recognise the ethical concerns arising from the Government’s deployment of nudges upon their own citizens? How much time do you devote to discussing the morality of using often-covert, distress-inducing methods of persuasion upon ordinary people?

4. If, as you claim, you have never endorsed the use of fear-inflation as a means of promoting compliance, why did you all remain silent throughout the covid event while our Government was ‘scaring the pants’ off us all?

5. Do you recognise, and allow for, the fact that your own ideological biases will be colouring your judgements & actions?

By answering these questions, and thereby filling in some of the information gaps surrounding the Government’s ubiquitous use of nudging, lay people will be better placed to make an informed choice as to whether they want their taxes spent on this often-clandestine activity.

We look forward to receiving responses from the behavioural scientists concerned.

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