• Louize Small

Did the Government Use Behaviour Modification Techniques on the British Public?

Are we living in a dystopian sci-fi novel?



In March 2020, without our consent or consultation, the leaders of our nation decided to engage in psychological tactics to get us to do what we were told. Deciding we were not ‘sufficiently threatened’ as the SARS-Cov2 outbreak emerged, a meeting was held with SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies), and the paper, ‘Options For Increasing Adherence to Social Distancing Measures’ was prepared.


The document, published on May 5th 2020, identified that “social disapproval for failure to comply” could be a ‘highly practical’ way to rapidly increase general social distancing. There followed a media campaign to ‘increase sense of responsibility to othersand shame those who 'selfishly' refused to follow government orders.


Stating that, “The perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent,” the government pledged to, ‘use media to increase sense of personal threat.’ In April, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, told us that by disobeying the guidelines, we were risking our own lives and the lives of others. He shamed the “small minority” of the public who were not towing the line, addressing dissenters as if they were naughty children who were, “breaking rules and pushing the boundaries.” News outlets picked it up and passed it on. Social media exploded with vitriol and scorn. People took the bait, got judgemental and fell out with their friends.


We were told the virus, “thrives on social contact and the human bonds that bring so much to life,” in another faux-emotional performance from Matt Hancock, which left us terrified and darting off the pavement to avoid each other. Loneliness and isolation became a common feature of many people’s lives, as we grew more distant and divided.



The Queen hypnotised us into a state of wartime consciousness. The decision for Her Majesty to address the nation was made in ‘close consultation’ with Downing Street. Our sovereign said, “If we all remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it.” The speech ended with a reference to WW2 heroine, Dame Vera Lynn, and the phrase, “We’ll Meet Again.” Weeks later we were urged to have socially-distant street parties to celebrate V.E. Day, which magically served to solidify the war mentality of doing one’s duty.


We have been pushed, pulled and pitted against each other in a sea of misinformation and confusion. Anyone who dares question the official narrative is silenced and ridiculed, sometimes quite viciously. People have lost their jobs for having opinions and being outspoken. Censorship is at an all-time high, leaving concerned citizens asking whether we are heading towards a future where freedom of speech is a crime.


In George Orwell’s dystopian ‘1984,’ the protagonist is tortured, isolated and de-humanised in order to fit in line with party views. In 2020, in real life, we keep each other in-check so diligently that we don’t need government enforcers. We police each other because we have been subliminally trained to do so by our leaders and our media. We may joke about North Korea but how far away are we from state-sponsored haircuts and badges of obedience?



Edward Hunter first coined the term ‘brainwashing’ in 1950, describing how the Chinese government appeared to make people cooperate with them under the Maoist regime. Brainwashing is altering or controlling by use of certain psychological techniques. The aim is to reduce the subject’s abilities to think critically or independently in order to allow introduction of new, unwanted thoughts and ideas.


Professor Philip Zimbardo, Psychologist and creator of the Stanford Prison Experiment, described mind-control as: “The process by which individual or collective freedom of choice and action is compromised by agents or agencies that modify or distort perception, motivation, affect, cognition or behavioural outcomes. Any human is susceptible to such manipulation.”


Another behaviour modification technique is coercive control, which became a crime in the U.K. in 2015. Abusive partners use this method to keep their victim isolated and compliant. World-leading victim advocate, Laura Richards, says that coercive control is a range of behaviours that can be subtle or nuanced and deprive the victim of their basic rights and needs: “The abuser creates an unreal world of contradiction, confusion and fear. Furthermore, 51% of victims do not even know they are being abused, manipulated and controlled.”


Two key aspects of coercive control are isolation and restricting autonomy. It is a domestic abuse crime that carries a maximum five-year jail term. If we look at our government’s attempts to change our behaviour and shame us into submission, perhaps we need to ask if we have been collectively subjected to a campaign of psychological abuse.


Anyone know a lawyer?


(c) Louize Small/One Little Warrior, September 2020

This article appears in the September edition of the Light (Issue 1).

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