In coming days, this newspaper will show the treatment meted out not just to lockdown critics, but ministers asking awkward questions about what all of this would lead to. This shows the groupthink atmosphere: how hard it was, even as a Cabinet member, to urge caution. By the end, ministers were left in no doubt that anyone who asked questions would be seen by the No 10 team as a problem – or even the enemy. (Even, on occasion, the prime minister himself.)
It’s a classic study of groupthink, but decades of study into so-called cognitive dissonance in political leadership shows we should expect this. The bigger the stakes, the stronger the denial. At a certain stage in a high-stakes drama, the politician starts to see their policies as not just correct but heroic and their critics as confused, malign or ideologically-motivated. A poor backdrop for error correction.
Bill Maher on the pandemic “I feel like the people who were the dissenters are looking pretty good.”
Russell Brand: “I think dissent is a great duty around all topics.”
Epidemiologist Martin Kulldorff and Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R., Iowa), a physician, at a Feb. 28 hearing of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic:
Kulldorff: By forcing children to have a vaccine that they don’t need because they’ve already had the disease, that undermines the trust in other vaccines like the measles vaccine or the polio vaccine and that’s very, very serious.
I think during the last several decades we have the never-vaccinate people, the antivaccine people, have tried to undermine their trust in vaccine, but with very little success. But the vaccine fanatics who want to vaccinate every person in this country, even though they are children who have very little risk for it, even though they have already had Covid, that has undermined the trust in other vaccines enormously, creating enormous vaccine hesitancy.
Miller-Meeks: So not allowing their provider or physician to determine the risk and the benefit.
Kulldorff: Yeah, and also people themselves, because people know that about immunity. We learned that in school. People know that if you’ve had a disease, you are—
Miller-Meeks: It wasn’t until I came to Congress that I found out infection-acquired immunity was a novel concept.
Kulldorff: Yeah, I guess we knew about it since 430 B.C., the Athenian plague, until 2020, and then we didn’t know about it for three years, and now we know about it again.