Warden Hodges is running the narrative
July 30, 2020
In a previous post back in May, we highlighted how the UK response to Covid resembled nothing so much as an episode of Dads Army:
with the scientists at Imperial College playing the role of Private Frazer (“We’re all doomed”), the Media as Corporal Jones (“Don’t Panic, Mr Mainwearing!) and government officials as some combination of the charming but hopeless Sgt Wilson, the blustering out of his depth bluffer Captain Mainwearing or the well intentioned but utterly useless Vicar. There are of course far too many people taking on the role of the Chief Warden Hodges, eagerly enforcing not only the new regulations, but a lot that aren’t even there. The rest of us are left playing the role of Private Pike; obeying orders and doing as we are told, but increasingly wondering about the competence of those in charge and, more importantly, who put them there.
Months later and the situation is no better, in fact it is worse, and markets are starting to get seriously worried about the self harm being done. In particular there is a genuine concern that the character of Warden Hodges, the power mad petty bureaucrat, is coming to dominate governmental behaviours – daily emboldened by the Mainwearing and Wilson style leadership and the Jones and Fraser behaviour of the mainstream media.
However, if we actually dig a little deeper, we can see that Jones and Fraser are behaving exactly how they are scripted to and that in fact, the Warden Hodges among us in government are using the very sorts of psychological behaviour we have been discussing in relation to markets in order to further their own particular agendas.
In a wonderful piece of Nominative Determinism, we note that one of the advisors on the UK Government’s Sage advisory team is called Professor Fear . This is particularly apposite since she sits on a rather Orwellian sounding committee called SPI-B, which stands for Scientific Pandemic Influenzea Group on Behaviours, who appear to have created specific advice for the UK government in how to use psychological controls to ensure compliance with Social Distancing and lockdown. Their advice is here, but the full details and background are set out in this piece by one of an increasing number of sceptical websites and blogs.
It is not the purpose of Market-Thinking to become simply another source of sceptical commentary on Covid, rather to draw parallels to the way familiar psychological behaviour and manipulation in markets is being aped (sic) by wider behaviours at the moment and how, in this instance, this is being done quite deliberately by ‘behavioural experts’ advising government. As such, in order to understand how the narrative may evolve it is vital to understand who is shaping it.
As the linked post from evidencenotfear.com highlights, there was a clear shift in advice back in March to deliberately engender fear in the British public to ensure compliance and it demonstrates how all the initiatives since then have fitted precisely to this script, encouraged by a media for whom the government has become their biggest customer. (The recent move to ban ‘junk food advertising’ when McDonalds is the 3rd biggest spender will only have made that worse).