COVID-19 and the Politics of Fear

December 04, 2021 0 comments

By Paul Malvern |


Politics is a funny business. It can improve people’s lives by appealing to humanity’s noblest aspirations. Or it can make life a living hell by drawing on people’s basest instincts. 

One of the most dangerous instincts is fear. For fear is easy to generate. It suppresses people’s ability to think critically. And it causes decent people to do things they never would do otherwise – which is why it has been used so successfully over the ages to get power and control others.

Creating a Culture of Fear

Of course, fear is not inherently bad. Nor is it something that should be avoided at all cost. For it can be beneficial – such as when our “flight or fight” response kicks in during times of danger. However, there are situations where it is quite harmful – for example, when it is irrational, when it is out of proportion to the threat, and when it is used to trick people into doing things that are not in their best interest. All of which have occurred during our current pandemic.

For those who have seen how governments really work, the idea that public officials might use fear to manipulate citizens is hardly news – as was recently demonstrated by a number of leaked documents which reveal how governments around the world have done just that during the pandemic.

Take for example the March 22, 2020 document from the UKs Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviour (SPI-B) which shows that the UK Government sought to increase fear and insecurity among citizens from the very beginning. In it the authors state that the, “perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent, using hard-hitting emotional messaging”.1 To achieve this goal, many believe the Government is using techniques developed by the Project Fear campaign, which bombarded the public in the lead up to the Brexit referendum with articles threatening economic disaster, should the country leave the EU.

Documents from Ireland’s Independent Scientist Advisor Group (ISAG) tell a similar story. For example, one email encouraged members to “look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety, and uncertainty”, adding ominously that they should “go after people and not institutions” because “people hurt faster than institutions”.2

And leaked German Government emails show that in March 2020 the Federal Ministry of the Interior hired outside experts to create a model to support "measures of a preventive and repressive nature".3 The result was a horrific worst-case scenario which predicted the death of a million Germans. This supposedly secret document was leaked to the media which dutifully published its frightening projections.

Up until recently Canada has not seen similar blockbuster revelations – due in no small measure to the fear among insiders that leaking documents could end their careers. Less understandable is the behaviour of many Canadian journalists who seem content to echo statements by government and public health officials rather than do the digging required to discover what is really going on behind the scenes. Because of their reluctance to commit acts of journalism, the task of giving Canadians a balanced picture has fallen to the alternate media, a few Sun Media journalists, and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms which advocates for those whose rights have been violated. The problem here is that these alternate sources have a very limited reach – which is why most citizens are only aware of the government-approved narrative.

That being said, there is a limit to this lack of curiosity among even the most docile journalists – as shown by recent media revelations concerning a project conceived by the Canadian military’s Joint Operations Command (CJOC) to target Canadians using propaganda techniques similar to those employed in Afghanistan. This campaign called for “shaping” and “exploiting” information in order to “head off civil disobedience by Canadians during the coronavirus pandemic and to bolster government messages about the pandemic”.4

While this project was eventually closed down, it seems likely that this is far from the only manipulation of public opinion that has taken place during this period.

Turning up the Heat

Given this monopoly over the information available to citizens, it is not surprising that governments and public health officials have had a free hand during the pandemic. That being the case, you would think they would be content with their wide-ranging powers and happy to bask in their success to date. For the curve has been bent – as we were told was critical if our hospitals were not to be overwhelmed. New cases and deaths are down. And as of November 13, 2021, 88.99% of those 12 and older had received at least one dose of the vaccine and 85.49% were fully vaccinated.5 In short, Canadians have done everything demanded of them as a condition of their returning to normal.

And yet, things have not returned to normal. For many restrictions still apply. Authorities warn that new variants may require new mandates in the future. And the vaccines which were supposed to save us have proved somewhat disappointing in light of their side effects and inability to totally prevent people from getting the disease and transmitting it to others.

Faced with this sobering reality, authorities have turned up the heat and instituted even more draconic measures, such as limiting travel by the unvaccinated and demanding that all federal government employees be vaccinated or submit to frequent testing - with proof of vaccination now being required for many other jobs and activities.

And to really tighten their grip, governments and public health officials are now blaming the unvaccinated in order to direct public anger away from themselves.

Of course, scapegoating is a not a new phenomenon – as seen in the Old Testament where a goat was sprinkled with sacrificial blood and released it into the wilderness, taking the sins of the community with it. Since then, nation after nation has created its own scapegoats – such as the Jews in Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s destruction of the Kulaks. While clearly not in the same league, the unvaccinated nevertheless are being turned into objects of fear and contempt. And Prime Minister Trudeau’s efforts during the electoral campaign to use the unvaccinated as a wedge issue has only heightened bad feeling toward this group.

Given this backdrop, many are now calling for even sterner measures – and if this means discrimination against the unvaccinated, well, so be it.

Politicizing Medicine

Of course, politics is not something that just involves governments, political parties, and parliamentary debates. For it also takes place outside what is normally thought of as the ‘political realm’ as individuals and groups strive to have their way on issues they feel strongly about – the medical system being no exception.

This temptation to play ‘hard ball’ when times are tough flows from the simple fact that we are human beings – not angels. And under stress people do things they might not do otherwise – a phenomenon seen from the very beginning of the pandemic. One good example was the debate as to whether we should close our airports to hot spots such as China – an idea that was poo-pooed at the time by those who felt it smacked of xenophobia and even racism. And while this measure was eventually taken, by the time this happened it was too late, thanks to the time wasted in political wrangling.

The politicization of medicine was also given a boost by events in the United States where opponents of former President Trump used the pandemic as a weapon to sink his re-election hopes. While this hurling of rhetorical hand grenades did damage his re-election chances, it also left the impression that the pandemic was totally out of control and countless millions were going to die. Given the strong connection between our two countries, this melee only served to heighten the sense of panic in this country.

As if it were not bad enough, this extreme partisanship also damaged the integrity of science as political ideology began to take precedence over scientific objectivity. A good illustration being those scientists and medical personnel who claimed that massive Black Lives Matters demonstrations would not act as ‘super spreaders’ while Trump rallies would – as if the virus were somehow able to distinguish ‘good Democrats’ from ‘bad Republicans’.

Some researchers also began to delay the release of information they felt might help Trump’s re-election efforts. This was revealed by researcher, Alina Chan, in an interview with NBC News. In it she confessed that she and some of her research colleagues held back a call for an investigation into the Wuhan Institute of Virology until after the election since “at the time, it was scarier to be associated with Trump and to become a tool for racists, so people didn’t want to call for an investigation into lab origins”.6

Another bad habit that developed in the United States was the tendency to make public health decisions based on public opinion polls. The classic example of this was the admission by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Chief Medical Advisor to the U.S. President, that he relied on polls to decide what level of vaccinations would constitute herd immunity. As he put it, "When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent …Then, when newer surveys said 60 percent or more would take it, I thought, ‘I can nudge this up a bit,’ so I went to 80,85." 7

Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to suspect that a similar politicization has also happened in Canada. Take for instance Prime Minister Trudeau’s position on vaccine passports. In a January 2021 interview with Reuters, he dismissed the idea since it was “fraught with challenges” and might have “knock-on, undesirable effects” in some communities.8 But as polls began to show growing support for tougher measures, he became (as if by magic) keen on the idea. And this same Prime Minister who believes in “my body, my choice” when it comes to abortion now is determined to make life difficult for the unvaccinated by requiring that all federal public servants and those working in federally regulated industries be vaccinated, unless they can come up with a good excuse and agree to frequent testing.

As well, some suspect that some public health decisions may not be not totally free from political interference – a suspicion that was heightened when Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario, remarked at a press conference, “I don’t know why I bring all these papers. I never look at them. I just say whatever they write down for me.” 9 While she was likely talking about her own communications people, the damage was done – as seen by NDP leader Andrea Horwath’s remark that it “leaves more and more questions in people’s minds as to who is calling the shots”.10

More recently, Blacklock’s Reporter, published an email in which a PMO official complained that “it was ‘totally unacceptable’ for the Public Health Agency to offer medical advice without first checking with political aides”.11

Of course, such a possibility is far from surprising since many in government love being in control – an attitude which many suspect has now begun to infect some medical and public health authorities as well. This suspicion was acknowledged by Dr. Anthony Fauci who remarked that, “scientists have been perceived throughout this pandemic as ‘authoritarian’ by members of the public, because of the steps taken to combat the virus.” And then, as if to prove the skeptics right, he added that, while he respects Americans’ independent spirit, “now is the time to do what you’re told”.12

Of course, Fauci might have a point if you believe vast numbers of lives are at stake as the early pandemic models had forecast. The problem is that these early models have since been discredited due to the fact that this virus has proved to be less lethal than had been predicted.

Nor is it a good idea to tell people to shut up and do what they are told since this turns people into robots without the ability to think for themselves. And shutting down discussion among health care professionals and researchers is particularly ill-advised since it denies the health care system all of the information needed to battle this virus. Unfortunately, that is exactly what has happened in the case of those researchers and doctors whose views differ from the current narrative. For rather than carefully considering the ideas of such individuals, many in the medical establishment dismiss them out of hand, at times responding quite harshly. Just how harshly was revealed at a press conference hosted on Parliament Hill by former MP Derek Sloan which dealt with the censorship of doctors. In it a panel of doctors and researchers provided numerous examples of physicians being silenced and even fired from their positions.13

As if to underline the reality of this ‘my way or the highway’ approach toward dissenters, the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons cautioned doctors on April 30, 2021 that they “have a professional responsibility to not communicate anti-vaccine, anti-masking, anti-distancing and anti-lockdown statements and/or promoting[sic] unsupported, unproven treatments for COVID-19.” It further warned that, “physicians who put the public at risk may face an investigation by the CPSO and disciplinary action …14

In effect, the College was laying down the law and warning doctors against criticizing elements in the current approach – which stands in sharp contrast to its claim that this statement was, “not intended to stifle a healthy public debate about how to best address aspects of the pandemic”.15 Of course, part of the problem involves how you interpret some of the terms used in the statement. For example, what constitutes ‘healthy public debate’? And what do the authors mean by “misinformation”? Does it refer to statements that are patently false or purposely deceptive? Or does it involve something broader which could include ideas that are simply at variance with the current narrative? Whatever the case, it seems likely that this warning has discouraged some from sharing their insights and experience - which is never a good thing in science.

In spite of this pushback, some doctors and researchers have spoken out – either as individuals or as part of a group. One such group is the Canadian Covid Care Alliance which brings together doctors, scientists and health care practitioners to provide “top-quality and balanced evidence-based information to the Canadian public about COVID-19”.16 This includes information on vaccines, employer and educational institution policies relating to vaccination, and possible new treatments.

What’s interesting about many of those expressing doubts about current procedures is their desire to remain anonymous – no doubt fearing that going public might damage their careers. Not an unreasonable fear based on recent history!

Looking at this conflict within our medical system, it seems clear that both sides want the best for Canadians. But the question is how to achieve this. For on one side is the medical establishment which fears that airing conflicting claims by doctors and researchers at this time could cause chaos, which they hope to avoid by imposing message discipline. While on the other side are those researchers and physicians who see problems in the current approach and are frustrated by their inability to get their concerns taken seriously. How this will play out is anybody’s guess. But what we do know is that telling dissenting doctors and researchers to be quiet will not make the problem go away. For while some ideas from dissenters may be of little value, others may be quite helpful. That being the case, those ideas which are plausible need to be given a fair hearing rather than simply sweeping them under the carpet. For it is only by looking at all of the data – not just that which fits your narrative - that the health of Canadians can be ensured.

So, What’s the Problem?

For many the use of fear to manipulate citizens is not problematic. After all, they would contend, this is a global pandemic we are facing. And given the threats we face, using fear to force compliance and sacrificing a few freedoms along the way are a small price to pay.

Sadly, such individuals are mistaken since this approach is fraught with difficulties.

One problem is that fear doesn’t encourage thoughtful consideration. Rather it causes people to do things they would never do otherwise. Such as sending large quantities of personal protective equipment to China early on in the pandemic when there was a shortage here in Canada. Or forcing people into COVID hotels and charging exorbitant prices for bad food and poor accommodations. Or hesitating to close our airports to planes from hotspots because it might be seen as racist or xenophobic. Or making people so afraid they willingly surrender their freedom believing that this will ensure their safety. Or compelling churches to close because they are seen as non-essential services that are “super spreaders”.

Nor are governments likely to relinquish all the emergency powers they currently possess. This was discussed in a Financial Times interview with the Estonian Prime Minister. In it she said, “What we have seen in this Covid crisis, this urge for a strong hand or an authoritarian way of governing is deep in our societies, even in some countries you would never believe … Even if you don’t have the epidemiological reasons now, we are not giving people the freedoms back because it’s more convenient this way.” 17 Sadly, her words may also apply to Canada.

Yet another problem is that using ‘fear porn’ to force compliance is unethical since it denies people the ability to make rational decisions about what is in their best interest. This is particularly true of the ham-fisted inoculation campaigns currently under way that are pressuring Canadians to get vaccinated without informed consent. For while many of the short terms side effects are known - which can include blood clots, myocarditis/pericarditis, Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), anaphylaxis, and even death - no one knows what the long-term effects are. That is because the Phase III clinical trials of the vaccines are ongoing and the results are not yet available.18 Which suggests that pushing people to get vaccinated through enticements or threatening their ability to work or travel is at best unethical and at worst a violation of their human rights.

We also need to consider the long-term cultural damage flowing from the unremitting propaganda we are subjected to daily which uses powerful fear-inducing messaging and images to gain public compliance. The problem here is that you cannot turn fear on and off like a light switch. And having taught people to fear and distrust each other, this fear is now a part of the culture and as such will be difficult to reverse.

As well, we need to consider the long-term damage to our economy and the physical, mental and emotional health of Canadians which is evident from our many bankruptcies and job losses as well as the flood of people showing up at hospital emergency facilities due to suicide attempts, drug overdoses and mental health crises.

Sadly, this is just the beginning. For while the full extent of this damage is yet to be seen, the initial evidence is not encouraging. A good example is the work by Simon Fraser economist, Douglas Allen, who criticizes current decision-makers for having “greatly overestimated the benefits of lockdowns and underestimated the harm the restrictions would cause”.19 In his study, Covid Lockdowns: A Critical Assessment of the Literature, he concludes that “Lockdowns have had, at best, a marginal effect on the number of Covid-19 deaths”. 20 Unfortunately, the negative impacts from lockdowns have been anything but marginal. For in his research, he found that lockdowns have actually caused more death and suffering than they have prevented. And they have resulted in many unseen harms such as: lost civil liberties, reduced social contact, cancelled medical procedures, damage to education, and increased family violence, mental illness, substance abuse and suicide. 21

Summing Up

While the “politics of fear” has successfully forced widespread compliance with public health decrees, many of its longer-term consequences are likely to be far from positive. And some of them are already being seen – such as, the harm to our economy, sky-rocketing public sector debt, and the damage to the physical and mental health of millions of Canadians. This is particularly true of the negative impact which lockdowns, school closings and the constant ramping up of fear by governments and the media are having on Canada’s 8 million children. This was highlighted by the national children’s advocacy group, Children First Canada, which warned that, “Children’s hospitals have reported unprecedented admissions for suicide attempts, eating disorders, substance-use disorders, as well as other physical symptoms related to distress, known as a somatic symptom disorder.”.22

In addition, there a number of other harms, which, while less visible, nevertheless are also quite serious. One of them is what one might call the damage to the Canadian soul. This includes such things as the diminished value Canadians now place on freedom, their willingness to suspend human rights in order to feel safe, and the growing hatred directed at those who choose not to be vaccinated. This scapegoating of the unvaccinated is a particularly interesting phenomenon since many tend to think of human rights in terms of racial and sexual minorities. But as we are now seeing, hatred can be directed against any group – including the unvaccinated.

Observing the vilification of these people and the growing list of restrictions being placed on them, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that something troubling is happening in this country, which up to now has prided itself on its tolerance and commitment to preserving the rights of minorities.

Another area of harm involves the damage being done to our democratic institutions – such as Parliament and our provincial legislatures - which have taken a back seat to fiats issued by the Prime Minister, provincial Premiers and public health officials. This abdication of responsibility by our elected officials in favour of rule by a tiny clique of people at the top is best illustrated by the passage in the Ontario Legislature of Bill 195 whose provisions allow the government of Premier Ford to extend or amend emergency orders relating to the pandemic a month at a time for up to two years without consulting the Legislature. Given how sweeping these new powers are, it is remarkable that only one elected official, MPP Belinda Karahalios, voted against it, declaring that it “silences every single Ontario MPP on the most important issue facing our legislature today”.23 Rather than being applauded for her commitment to our democratic system of government, she was instead punished by the Government by being turfed from the Conservative caucus.

And then there is the matter of our judiciary, the Canadian Constitution and Charter of Rights, and provincial human rights legislation and codes – all of which have proved woefully ineffective in protecting Canadians from the growing power of the State and a mob mentality driven by fear. Speaking of the impact of mandatory vaccination policies on our rights and freedoms, Marty Moore, staff lawyer at the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, notes that: “Requiring COVID vaccination as a condition for participating in basic aspects of society is a profound violation of Canadians’ human dignity and personal autonomy protected by our Charter.” 24 And so it is.

Taking all of this together, it is clear that Canada and Canadians have not done well during this pandemic and we are in some sense less than we used to be. Whether we can return to that which we were prior to this virus is anyone’s guess. Still, what we do know is that Canadians have gone through other dark times in the past and have come out the other side – sometimes even stronger and better. We can only hope that we will see a repeat of this in the future.





1. Laura Dodsworth. A State of Fear. London: Pinter and Martin Ltd., 2021.

2. Gary Kavanagh. “’Look for ways to increase, anxiety and uncertainty’ – Zero Covid document”. Gript. February 23, 2021. Retrieved from: https://gript.ie/look-for-ways-to-increase-insecurity-anxiety-and-uncertainty-zero-covid-document/

3. Anette Dowideit and Alexander Nabert. “Interior Ministry Engaged Scientists to Justify Corona Measures”. Die Welt. July 2, 2021. Retrieved from: https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article225864597/Interner-E-Mail-Verkehr-Innenministerium-spannte-Wissenschaftler-ein.html

4. David Pugliese. “Military leaders saw pandemic as unique opportunity to test propaganda techniques on Canadians, Forces report says”. Ottawa Citizen. September 27, 2021. Retrieved from: https://ottawacitizen.com/news/national/defence-watch/military-leaders-saw-pandemic-as-unique-opportunity-to-test-propaganda-techniques-on-canadians-forces-report-says

5. Government of Canada. COVID-19 vaccination in Canada. Retrieved from: https://health-infobase.canada.ca/covid-19/vaccination-coverage/

6. Denise Chow. “The science around the lab leak theory hasn't changed. But here's why some scientists have”. NBC News. June 16, 2021. Retrieve from: https://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/lab-leak-theory-science-scientists-rcna1191

7. Mike Allen. “NYT: Fauci acknowledges moving goalposts on herd immunity from COVID-19”. Axios. December 25, 2021. Retrieved from: https://www.axios.com/fauci-goalposts-herd-immunity-c83c7500-d8f9-4960-a334-06cc03d9a220.html

8. Andy Blatchford. “Trudeau injects vaccine hesitancy into spotlight of Canadian election”. Politico. August 15, 2021. Retrieved from: https://www.politico.com/news/2021/08/15/trudeau-canada-election-vaccine-hesitancy-504938

9. Chris Fox. “Ontario health official responds after being caught on hot mic before COVID-19 briefing”. CTV News December 16, 2020. Retrieve from: https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-health-official-responds-after-being-caught-on-hot-mic-before-covid-19-briefing-1.5233742

10. Ibid.

11. “Try to take it down: PMO”. Blacklock’s Reporter. August 23, 2021. Retrieved from: https://www.blacklocks.ca/try-to-take-it-down-pmo/

12. Christina Farr. “Fauci says U.S. has ‘independent spirit,’ but now is the time to ‘do what you’re told’”. CNBC. November 12, 2020. Retrieved from: Fauci says U.S. has 'independent spirit,' but now is the time to ‘do what you’re told’ (cnbc.com)

13. “Derek Sloan raises concerns over censorship of doctors, scientists at Parliament Hill press conference.” Rebel News. July 20, 2021. Retrieved from: https://www.rebelnews.com/derek_sloan_raises_concerns_over_censorship_of_doctors_scientists_at_parliament_hill_press_conference

14. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. “Statement on Public Misinformation”. April 30, 2021. Retrieved from: https://www.cpso.on.ca/News/Key-Updates/Key-Updates/COVID-misinformation#

15. Ibid.

16. Canadian Covid Care Alliance. “Independent, science-based evidence to empower Canadians”. Retrieved from: https://www.canadiancovidcarealliance.org/

17. Richard Milne. “Estonian PM warns West of damage from Covid-induced authoritarianism”. Financial Times. June 23, 2021. Retrieved from: https://www.ft.com/content/49b922a5-78cd-4d00-9ffd-e1ba26a4f061

18. Canadian Covid Care Alliance. “What is Informed Consent and How Does It Apply to COVID-19 Vaccinations?” Retrieved from: https://www.canadiancovidcarealliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Informed-Consent-Article.pdf

19. Thade Andy. “Decision to lockdown caused 282 times the loss of years of life says Economics professor” Gript. May 20, 2021. Retrieved from: https://gript.ie/decision-to-lockdown-caused-282-times-the-loss-of-years-of-life-says-economics-professor/

20. Douglas W. Allen. Covid Lockdown Cost/Benefits: A Critical Assessment of the Literature. Burnaby BC: Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University, April 2021. Abstract, p. 1. Retrieved from: https://www.sfu.ca/~allen/LockdownReport.pdf

21. Ibid. “D. The Costs of Lockdown”. pp. 37-41.

22. Children First Canada. “The Clock is Ticking: The Child Mental Health Crisis Rages on While Parliament Breaks for the Summer and an Election Looms.” June 29, 2021. Retrieved from: https://childrenfirstcanada.org/press-releases/the-clock-is-ticking-the-child-mental-health-crisis-rages-on-while-parliament-breaks-for-the-summer-and-an-election-looms/

23. Jackie Sharkey. “Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalios booted from PC caucus after voting against COVID-19 emergency bill”. CBC News. Jul 21, 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/belinda-karahalios-cambridge-progressive-conservative-1.5658084

24. Marty Moore. “Mandatory Vaccination Policies Disregard Canadians’ Constitutional Rights.” The Epoch Times. September 6, 2021.

Category: , , ,

www.CultureWitness.com:
We provide commentary on the cultural decline of the Western world, from a conservative perspective.