Apr 23 • 45M

Episode 19: Laura Dodsworth, Substack Writer and Author of "A State of Fear"

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Discussions, interviews and in-depth examinations on COVID-19 data
Episode details

Laura Dodsworth, author of the fantastic book: "A State of Fear: How the UK government weaponised fear during the Covid-19 pandemic" joins the show to discuss masks and how global governments used fear to ensure compliance with mandates. 

You can find Laura’s Substack here and her incredibly important book here. You can also follow her on Twitter here.

The podcast is also available through Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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Full transcript is available from the web version of Substack.

Ian Miller (00:00):

Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of the unasked podcast. We've got another very special guest today. Her name's Laura Dodsworth she's the author of the book, a state of fear, and she writes the Laura Dodsworth Substack. Everybody should go check that out. But so Laura, welcome. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this.

Laura Dodsworth (00:17):

Oh, thank you for having me. I can't think of a better podcast really you know, fit wise for me. So it's fantastic. I loved your book.

Ian Miller (00:26):

Yeah. Well, thank you. And I, I really enjoyed speaking with you, so I'm glad we're getting to do this again. My, my first question for you was kind of about your initial reaction to it. And, and you wrote about it in the book that the virus you were initially seemingly were a little concern because it's something new you weren't familiar with and, but you kind of seemed a little bit more, fairly measured in your response, but then when Boris Johnson gave his speech saying everybody needs to stay home, we're locking down. That's you know, we're moving in that direction in terms of policy, it seemed like you kind of reacted a bit more viscerally. So why do you think it was that his speech in particular kind of do that way? Maybe even more so than the virus did?

Laura Dodsworth (01:06):

Mm, yeah, isn't it funny? I think that there was just a lot of fear in the air and really everybody was subjected to some fears. It's just which fears you yourself are susceptible to. Now, I did have some fear about the virus and, you know, I remember up on tined food, I'm a, a single parent. And I thought, well, if I'm, if I'm terribly ill, how will my children cook? Because we were being told we couldn't leave the house at all. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>. And so the sort of normal recourse to help like family and friends wouldn't be available. So I had some nerves and my children still tease me about the fact that I asked them to wash hands when they came indoors for the first couple of weeks. <Laugh>. But my my approach is often to sort of deep dive and research and, and look things up for myself.

Laura Dodsworth (01:56):

And from very early, I was reading up on different epidemiologists and scientists, views of the virus. So rather a lot of unknowns at the beginning, there were also very respected voices urging caution on the IFFR for instance professor Johnny and Artis and contextualizing epidemics and pandemics. And I don't think I had an out of scale fear of it. And you see here in the UK, the initial response was that we would cocoon the elderly and a certain amount of herd immunity would build up. And then there was this sudden U-turn and I think I found the U-turn discombobulating. I just couldn't believe the address to the nation. On the 23rd of March, it was very stern. It was really going for a wartime vibe, you know, war on a war, on a virus. And for some reason I fast forwarded mentally very quickly, not that night, but very quickly into what the consequences could be.

Laura Dodsworth (03:06):

And to be honest, watching those fears become fulfilled, you know, to see them on furl over time has been quite horrific. So the longer lot I went on it was, it was obvious that we would have high inflation because we were quantitative easing our way through this. I was surprised that people were so adamant that children were resilient and children would be okay, and shutting schools and masking children would be fine because clearly it hasn't been. And I felt very frightened about the consequences of the very extreme, absolutely unprecedented actions we were taking. I think what confounded that as well was, as soon as you stepped outside your, your daily allowed exercise, people were really different with each other, just, you know, where I live just semi country side. They would hop to the side of country lanes or pavements to avoid each other.

Laura Dodsworth (04:06):

And it, it created that additional fear in the air. So for me, the fear wasn't of the virus, I thought it was strange that people were so frightened of a virus out in the open. For me, the fear was how easily fear was communicated and how manipulated people could be and what the effect of lockdown would be. And I did, I did feel it viscerally that first night of the speech. I had that freeze response. I felt everything drained from my body. It was, it was a very, very wobbly, shaky feeling. I've always thought I've got the most useless fear response. <Laugh> this is not the first time this has happened to me, that I drain and become, become useless. And interestingly, there is a lot of shame with this fear response because you know, it's people feel like they should have been able to run away or, or to fight, I guess I'm a freezer.

Ian Miller (05:03):

Hmm. Did you also mentioned in the book about a section about his body language during that speech, and did you know, is that something that you noticed as well that he, it, you know, I think it was phrased something like that. It was almost like a hostage situation. Was that something that you noticed when you were watching it or was that something that just kind of came up with in conversations with people?

Laura Dodsworth (05:24):

No. The whole thing felt completely weird to me and it threw me and it is part of what scared me. His words about the virus did not scare me the extreme semi Churchillian and authoritarian language SC me. And it was that combined with this very staccato, peculiar body language, there was something about it that just felt off. And that's why I thought it would be a good place to start the book. So I consulted with forensic psychologists, somebody who interviews people who have lied to the authorities and tried to cover their traces and somebody who also works with body language to see what they made of it. And actually it's more that their professional opinions concurred with the feeling that I'd had that is his body language. Wasn't congruent with his words. There are parts when he's more relaxed, cause he, he appears to believe what he's saying. And there are parts where he's not comfortable with what he's saying at all, what that means exactly. Who knows whether he was lying, whether he just felt uncomfortable, maybe with delivering some very bad news to the nation. This is a man who likes to be liked and to deliver the news about lockdown would be a very difficult message for any statesman.

Ian Miller (06:45):

Yeah, it's interesting. And it's, it's one of those like important moments of history and, and it's really important I think, to kind of go back and look and see and what they were thinking and saying at the time and how they, how they were saying it. Another thing I think that we, we kind of both bring up a lot is what a poor job the media has done with with regards to COVID. And, and I know you wrote about it, how they kind of gave a lot of softball questions to, to Boris Johnson or to other health leaders which was definitely the case of the United States as well with certain governors that were not Ron DeSantis from Florida. So why do you think that that was a consistent feature across both countries? Like what, what was it about the journalism profession that was so ready and willing to go along with, with lockdowns and all these other policies?

Laura Dodsworth (07:29):

Oh, it was just so depressing. I had to stop watching the press briefings, cause I felt like shouting at the TV to, you know, tell the journalists off for not asking more probing questions. We had questions like, do you think we'll be able to have Christmas? Or can we hug our relatives? It was truly pathetic. <Laugh> all the questioning came from within the framework, not outside of the framework. So things like the, you know, the, the assumption to the model weren't challenged, the ingests were never questioned the data wasn't questioned. The presumptions weren't questioned. The only question was, are we doing enough? Are we doing it early enough? Hard enough, soon enough. I think that there are it's multifactorial. There are probably a number of reasons for this. I think activists, journalism is a real problem. The response to COVID has been very partisan among journalists.

Laura Dodsworth (08:25):

You know, if Trump said something had to be wrong, you know, orange man, bad wrong. And here, you know, there's also a lot of Tory bashing. So anybody who doesn't like the conservatives or didn't like Brexit might taking opposing position and give their conservatives a hard time for their handling. Also, you know, it was a pandemic, things were happening fast. There isn't a lot of time in newsrooms to consider things carefully. It's been obvious to me as well that some journalists aren't very Nuer or scientifically minded. Now I'm not saying that I'm especially Nuer or scientifically minded. I had to work harder to it. And where I didn't understand, I I've asked maths with friends to help me with, with stuff. And I think there's a big problem about click bait, journalism fear, fear cells, better than sex. It turns out, and there is a way in which remuneration is very, at least subtly connected to those clicks. There is one there's one broad sheet journalist I interviewed anonymously who explained that there remuneration is linked to the success of their articles. So, you know, the most lurid headline, the most fear driven headline will also generate the most clicks and views. And then journalists are compensated for that. Everybody likes their likes on, on Twitter. You know, Twitter's an important habitat for journalists too. And you'll see that you'll see broadcasting, print, journalists break their thoughts and stories on Twitter.

Ian Miller (10:04):


Laura Dodsworth (10:05):

So I think, I think it's multifactorial and, and there's another really important aspect, which is off com that's the the regulator for broadcast media here to guidance saying that broadcast journalists should be careful not to go against the government advice cause it might create public harm.

Ian Miller (10:29):

It's, it's crazy. It, it's insane to think about that. That a regulator was telling journalists not to question the government. I mean, that's just mind boing. It's, that's literally their whole job, you know, it's seemingly that's their whole job. But you, you mentioned how the fear seems to sell and, and that was a section I really enjoyed of your book was where there's a lot of these quotes that you, you bring up from the media with these kind of outrageous, at least looking back, they're outrageous headlines that are very obviously fear driven. And it, it seemed like, and let me know if I'm wrong, but it seemed like the vast majority of people, especially in the UK and in the us bought into that would you have, have expected that people would buy it pre COVID or were you surprised that people weren't skeptical? I, I mean, I, my personal sense as an outsider is that a lot of, you know, Britain, there's a lot of skepticism towards these things, but it seemed like that kind of went away recently.

Laura Dodsworth (11:17):

Oh no, I think we've got a very, he healthy, skeptical community here. I'm gonna have to say, but I think you can't underestimate something like this off con guidance. You know, it really chilled the inclination of the media to explore theories. And the broadcast media is very important and also big tech were sensory views that went against the world health organization or governments. And we gotta to remember that their positions changed on things. Now, if you know, social media like say YouTube or Twitter, we we're going to hold up the world health organization view at any one given time think about things they said during this pandemic, there's no human to human transmission. That's one thing world health organization said or it didn't originate from a lab or it's not airborne. Well, you know, the, the advice and the, the thoughts change constantly.

Laura Dodsworth (12:08):

So it's very, you know, you have to have debate and allow questions. And this is, this is part of, of science to, to ask questions and challenge hypotheses. There shouldn't be a faith in it. You know, the situation we had here is where the, the state broadcast or the BBC and other broadcasters couldn't really challenge the state orthodoxy because of off con guidance. So that's, you know, that's part of the, the media landscape. Now publications, which have had a, a good epidemic were probably more skeptical, such as the Telegraph and the spectator. They've both seen their subscriptions grow substantially during this time. And they, they have online subscriptions as well. They have a subscription model, which personally I, I'm a really big fan of, you know, you're gonna pay for your news one way or the other you're gonna pay via ads or sponsorship or the sale of your data, or you're gonna pay through individual copy sales or subscription.

Laura Dodsworth (13:05):

I think subscription is a really good model for providing sound journalism. So we have had a, a mix and, you know, that chapter referring to my book that is called headlines. So it's really some of the very worst examples. It, I mean, it was horrific in a way, keeping the tally of it through the year. People were told to be frightened of literally everything from ice cream to semen. There wasn't anything you couldn't catch COVID from. And there wasn't any aspect of your health that could, it could damage. I dunno how much people believed it all. I, I mean, I really don't know in my own little bubble, I, I brought quite a lot of skepticism to it, but I think there's something about Britain, you know, where we're definitely at home of liberal thought and I nation, and I, I think there's actually been a lot of pushback in this country about things such as vaccine mandates, for instance, and vaccine passports, a very successful political pushback and some political rebellion. And I think overall there has been a good amount of skepticism, but it's very difficult to know in your own bubble. And of course, this is one aspect of, of lockdown where atomized we talk, you know, during those really crucial peak times, we didn't talk to other people as much in real life. Whereas you might settle some ideas in the par or, you know, by the water cooler at work. We were all at home and really engaging with our screens a lot more.

Ian Miller (14:30):

Mm-Hmm <affirmative>. Yeah. and so you, you brought up kind of the vaccine mandates and, and that there was a little bit, it, more of a success successful pushback. And I did want to ask you about that as well, because you, you recently wrote a SubT stack kind of to talking about how masks were essentially the idea was to soften the public up for plan B, which was essentially vaccine passports among other things. But it seemed like they, you know, were, were, do you think that they were successful in that attempt to soften people up, but, or did, were they, were the people willing to kind of fight back against, was that like a bridge too far for them at that point?

Laura Dodsworth (15:03):

No people dawned their masks again. See, that was very interesting. That's some, somebody who works on a COVID task force within government contacted me to say they would like to talk to me anonymously about developments and they, they shared some documents with me and we talked, and that was a report of that conversation really. And the reason those contacted me is I'd written about this already in the Telegraph, one of our national newspapers, when the government brought out its its winter plan, it had plan a and plan B. And for me it was obvious that the, the whole point of these plans were to, to lay the groundwork for what they really want to do. And the government advice were saying, yes, that's correct. Masks have been reintroduced to soften you up for the next stage. It's it's like a, you know, a form of psychological technique.

Laura Dodsworth (16:01):

And the interesting thing about that person that contacted me and really some of the most severe criticism of the government is it has come from government advisors. You know, some, some quite shocking accusations, really. I mean, one of the, one of the behavioral psychologists who spoke to Mely anonymously did warn about creeping authoritarianism in government, that the pandemic can be used to grab power and drive things through that wouldn't happen otherwise. And another told me that psychology is, is a, is a weapon without a psychology without vaccine psychology is your best weapon and said, psychology has had a really good epidemic actually. And another told me that the use of fear had been dystopian. And I think this is part of the reason that the works and it's had such a good audience it's because there are people who are close to government who report with the techniques with the psychological with the games, with the behavioral psychology approach. And that's why they wanted to talk to me anonymously to, to help expose it.

Ian Miller (17:12):

Yeah. Well, I I'm, I'm glad that they did because it is, I think it's very, very important, but you know, I, I, I focus a lot on mass. We're just kind of talking about it. And so I wanted to, to get your thoughts, you know, what was, what did you think of mass as the mandates started to roll out in the UK and especially there, because I feel like early on maybe even more so than the us, a lot of the, the kind of health leaders in the UK were downplaying masks and saying that they weren't going to make a difference and what gonna work.

Laura Dodsworth (17:41):

Oh, that's exactly right. I mean, you had Fauci, didn't you say that masks wouldn't actually prevent transmission. They might just stop a few droplets. And we had the, the, the same here from multiple public health officials, senior public health officials. And then there was this U-turn wasn't there. Now, one of the MPS I interviewed for the book told me that the sec of state for health and social care told the MP that masks were introduced to encourage confidence when the first lockdown ended. The problem was that the high street didn't bounce back. When the lockdown ended, people didn't go and hit the shops and hit the high street in the way the government had expected. And so masks were supposedly reportedly introduced as a way to give people confidence. The problem is they turned people into walking billboards for danger, and it became obvious that masks offer another kind of signal known a select committee hearing.

Laura Dodsworth (18:48):

That's when MPS get to ask experts for their almost like witness statements for their opinions David Halpin, who is the head of the behavioral insights team, that's the nudge unit referred to masks as being a signal that masks be useful as a signal, as well as the underlying evidence that they reduced transmission. I think it's really important to note that there are people in government ministers, the head of the nudge unit and behavioral psychologists science for my book who referred to masks primarily as serving the purpose of being a signal. Now, how did I feel about it? I hated it. I couldn't actually believe that the uptake was as high as it was mm-hmm <affirmative> cause it was clear that there wasn't any new scientific evidence to justify the use of cloth and surgical masks in the community to reduce transmission. And I think it's incredibly onerous to make a law, to compel people, to dress a certain way without evidence, because really without evidence, it is just a form of dress.

Laura Dodsworth (19:54):

It's not PPE mm-hmm <affirmative>. And I think over time, the symbolism of masks has really changed while they were signals to indicate that we were in a pandemic, they've become something else. It's, it's fading now it's receding now, but they've really become signals of morale and virtue, you know, good compliant, virtuous people wear masks, your mask shows you care for other people. And if you don't wear a mask, what does that mean? That you don't care? And so that's, that's the thought behind it. Now, there also was quite a lot of shaming attached to masks. Don't CRE to Dick who's the head of the, the met police said that police wouldn't be enforcing the mask mandates and shops. And instead she was trusting on the public to shame each other for not own masks. Now in this country, we did actually have exemptions.

Laura Dodsworth (20:45):

For instance, let's say you had a physical disability that might prevent you from wearing a mask or even if the idea of wearing a mask could cause you significant stress. You didn't have to wear one. So you can imagine that could in, that could include perhaps people who have been raped, who might commonly have a problem with stomach covering the mouth or veterans with post-traumatic stress to I've spoken to two veterans with PTSD that make masks very difficult. There's lots of reasons people could have for not wearing a mask. So we always had exemptions. So the idea that we had the head of London police saying she wanted the public to shame each other was quite staggering. Going back to, again, the head of the UK's nudge unit, he also talked about the, that the British public would do most of the heavy lifting in socially enforcing masks. And this is all part of the behavioral psychology approach to use that kind of herd mentality so that we are really policing each other and making, you know, enforcing the mask querying.

Ian Miller (21:45):

Yeah. And, and the nudge unit thing I wanted to, to ask you about as well, because, you know, I think in the us, most people listeners are probably in the us. That's not something that we've been familiar with. I mean, I've read about it obviously because of your book and, and other sources, but you know, can you explain to people what exactly the nudge unit is and, and how they've been operating during the pandemic?

Laura Dodsworth (22:07):

Yes. Sure. So you will also have nudge in the us, you do, you just don't have something called a nudge unit. <Laugh> you need to find out where your nudges are lodged within government, because nudge is really part of how governments do their business now. So the nudge unit is the col political term for the behavioral insights team. And that was set up in the UK in, oh, I'm gonna get the date right now. I hope 2011 under the David Cameron department. And originally it was part of strategy and policy. And then it spun out to become its own unit. And it was one third owned by the government. It's one third by an organization called nester and one third by the nudge unit directors. So that's lovely set up a expense, but it's ended up making some of them really quite rich <laugh> and the idea behind behavioral psychology and nudge is that it's all about helping us to become better people and model citizens without having to resort to new laws.

Laura Dodsworth (23:17):

In fact, there's a great quote from cast Einstein, who you probably have heard of as he, he held from your side of the pond mm-hmm <affirmative> and he said, let think I got the quote just here. Yes. So Kas Einstein is a famous behavioral psychologist, scientist. He's a famous behavioral scientist. And he said by knowing how people think we can make it easier for them to choose what is best for them, their families and society. So isn't it great. There are people who know what's best for you. Now, cast Einstein was quite close to the Obama administration. I believe he still works for the us government now. So behavior, the behavioral insights team of it exported their company around the world. They have offices around the world, but other, other countries too, have nudge units embedded in government. And even beyond the nudge unit, there are behavioral scientists in other government departments too. I believe there are 54 in the treasury, in the UK governments and also in government agencies, you know such as the UK HSA and also the NHS in the cabinet office itself, they're everywhere.

Ian Miller (24:34):

Hmm. That's in, it's very interesting and it's kind of scary and that's, that's, I also wanted to, to get your thoughts on that because you know, do you think that this is something that will, the public will be more aware of now? I mean, it it's obviously been around for 10 years or a little more, but you know, this, it feels like this was the most concerted effort to, to deploy that kind of behavioral psychology to get people to comply with, with lockdowns and mandates. So do you think the population will be more aware of it and more skeptical towards these kinds of, of ideas now? Or is it gonna be continued and, you know, accepted going forward?

Laura Dodsworth (25:06):

I think it's interesting that well, I do, I do think, I like to think, I hope that my book has moved the dial. I mean, it was out early, it was out in may 21, and it was really important to me to, I mean, in a way, lay ego aside and get it out early so that it would move the dial because I, I could have turned out a more, a more complete and more perfect book had waited another year, but I really wanted people to be aware. And they obviously are. Now there was a poll that was conducted this week in the UK by a grassroots organization called recovery. And, you know, they used a, a reputable polling company to do this with a representative sample of the British public. And they were fi they were trying to find out what people think of the COVID inquiry terms of reference.

Laura Dodsworth (25:54):

So the government is gonna hold an inquiry into its handling of the pandemic, but there are quite a few things missing from the terms of reference, you know, most, most famously people talking about the fact that children aren't specifically mentioned in the inquiry mean, obviously we have to look at what lockdown and school closures did specifically to children. Now, this poll by recovery found that 42% of the British public want the inquiry to consider the use of behavioral psychology in influencing public behavior. And I think that's incredible because before the I before the pandemic, the issue of nudge rarely, rarely hit the headlines. And although my books had some very favorable press and media coverage in certain outlets, it's been completely ignored by others. So it was on the Sunday times best sell list for four weeks. It's sold really well. It's had reviews from really respect to public figures, such as law assumption.

Laura Dodsworth (26:55):

Number of times it's been mentioned by the BBC, or I've been invited for interview zero, you know, it's, it's interesting, there's been a real I really tend to ignore nudge and the fear Mon growing on use behavioral psychology in some areas, but not in others. So the fact that 42% of British people want this specifically to be looked at in the inquiry, I think is incredibly hopeful. It's the best news I've had for ages in <laugh>. However, I don't think the government will want to look at it. Cause I think the enactors are the policy, you know, that plans deliberately frighten people to make them comply with the lockdown is a really difficult charge to answer. Yeah, most people would say that frightening people beyond the scale of a threat is quite egregious. It's quite sinister, quite insidious, and it's also anti-democratic to subliminally influence people and frighten them in to doing what you want them to do. You know, furthermore, they're still nudging all the time. You know, depending how much time we got to send this interview, but there are other areas where nudge is being applied now to not just towards policy goals, to soften us up for tough, tough policies. It's incredibly convenient and effective for government rather than passing laws and having all the tricky and convenient debates.

Ian Miller (28:08):

Mm-Hmm <affirmative>, if you can get people to do what you want without having to force them to do it, it's theoretically it's better for them. And it's kind of the implications of that are really, really horrifying when you think about it in detail mm-hmm <affirmative> I did wanna ask you one, one more thing about kind of a data related question and it was, it was mentioned, I believe in your, in your Subec about masks making the comparison between England and Scotland and, and I've done this recently with, you know, you can post the charts showing that England without mandates is doing better than Scotland with, with mask mandates in place. And you show, you said it was, you know, essentially the trial and it showed that really matter. So how are people able to kind of continue to get away with ignoring these comparisons? It just, it feels inarguable at this point, doesn't it? <Laugh>

Laura Dodsworth (28:56):

Oh, in you'd think so. I wish I had an answer to that because literally just today there, there were calls for mask mandates to be in IED because cases are so high in England. And like you I'm thinking, excuse me, would you look at Scotland? They haven't dropped their mask mandates and they've had higher case numbers in England. Yeah. So although there might be other confounding factors, there's no clear argument in favor of masks here. It's ridiculous us. And you know, the number of cases has recently just peaked and it's peaked despite the fact that we haven't reintroduced masks or lockdowns or any other restrictions. So that kind of illusion of control that people might have been, you know, hanging onto before it's got to be dispelled by the fact that a wave has, has peaked and is declining all on its own.

Ian Miller (29:51):

Yep. Yeah. It's it seems so obvious, but it, it's still so hard to get people to to accept that. Because

Laura Dodsworth (29:59):

There's such vision reminders. That's the thing, because it seems to be common sense. It's covering your mouth where you breathe or you cough, you know, it feels intuitive and it feels like common sense for people. Plus it's something that they can do. It gives them the illusion of control, which is why they were introduced in the first place.

Ian Miller (30:17):

Yeah. But it,

Laura Dodsworth (30:19):

An illusion,

Ian Miller (30:20):

It is an illusion, but it's very hard to convince people of that. And ironically, you know, they can't use the nudge unit to convince people that it was all an illusion in the first place. <Laugh>

Laura Dodsworth (30:28):

Well, absolutely. Now I, I have had an MP say to me, do you think we need a reverse nudge plan? I said, no, I couldn't possibly agree with that. What we need is a honesty from now mm-hmm <affirmative> and forever not gonna happen. But the, you know, the, the problem with using fear is how you reverse from it. You do see some signs of reverse nudging now. So a little bit of challenging of the data. So while a year ago, you would not have been able to challenge or drill down on hospitalization easily, not without insight sources, which, which I had, and some journalists that the Telegraph had, and you were kind of breaking the story that the overall hospitalization figure we had was including people who were admitted hospital with COVID and had symptoms. It also included people who went to hospital with something entirely different and were tested and found to have COVID.

Laura Dodsworth (31:21):

And it also include people who called COVID hospital. So it's important to know about all of those subgroups people, but the reason the number was presented as one big number was for effect mm-hmm <affirmative>. Now what they've done this year is say, ah, but this number includes incidental hospitalization. So you have people who hospitalized with COVID and from COVID and they're different things. So this is what I'd call a little reverse, nudge, a little bit of honesty about the granular detail of the data in order to start dispelling fear, because you can't go back and say, well, we were exaggerating before.

Ian Miller (31:57):

Yeah. Well, do you, and do you think that part of that also was, was to show, okay, well, you know, we've had this incredible vaccination roll out huge amount of uptake. If hospitalization numbers are so high, people are gonna start doubting how well these are working and not potentially going to get a booster or a, you know, they're rolling up four shots now, or fish shots down the road. Do you think that that played a part in that as well?

Laura Dodsworth (32:20):

Yeah, I mean, absolutely because I think people oversold what the, what the vaccines could do and were four at the beginning which I think is very unfortunate. There was never any evidence in the trial data that they would stop death or reduce transmission. Those were hopes there was an evidence. But you know, indeed if they have reduced severity of symptoms and reduced hospitalization, then that has to be shown in the figures. Otherwise it would look like it hadn't worked. So you're right. The data has to correspond, although have been enormous amounts of inconsistencies in data at various times.

Ian Miller (32:57):

Yeah. looking at, at the UK's reports on those occasionally it's it's you can see there's a shift when they started putting in a little add-on there saying, you know, we we've calculated vaccine efficacy ourselves. So look at our numbers. Don't go look at the rates that we've posted down further on. Those are those can't be interpreted properly. That that was very entertaining. Well,

Laura Dodsworth (33:16):

I mean, that, that is difficult because the HSA has published really transparent data about vaccine efficacy. And it's quite hard to know what it means. Cuz for instance, at the moment, if you look at the report, it would appear that the triple vaccinated are much more likely to be effective COVID than the UN vaccinated. But this is, it depends which population estimate you use. Cause there are different ways of estimating the overall population. And so that's what all those disclaimers are about. I would have personally, no idea mm-hmm <affirmative> which population estimate is the right one to use and therefore what it shows about vaccine efficacy.

Ian Miller (33:52):

Yeah. It's it is a really hard question to answer. I don't think we'll ever get a, a perfect answer and it might be totally different between different populations even as well. So but I wanted to ask you as well you know, the UK has pretty much dropped almost every restriction and, and it kind of seemed like it happened pretty quickly after going from, you know, mass mandate or softening up to plan B to almost essentially back to normal, just a matter of months. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> so do you think that kind of Boris Johnson's political issues that happened around that timeframe that kind of came up the party gate, things like that, did that play a part in it? You think?

Laura Dodsworth (34:26):

Yes. Two things party gate was an absolute gift. I mean, nobody E everybody likes fair play don't they, nobody likes hypocrisy. So the idea that while people were suffering really, really strict restrictions, which came enormous personal that the number 10 Downing street was hosting parties was so unpalatable and that had to has in the end of the restrictions here, but also Omicron. So although our own public health officials didn't want to concur with the view coming out South Africa, that it was milder and needing to feel of hospitalizations. Ultimately it has proven to be milder and like, so I think it's the combined effective party gate massive gift and on micron.

Ian Miller (35:14):

Yeah. Well, I guess we have one thing to be grateful for with being hypocritical about not follow our own rules. So what, what's the end game for kind of the opposite side of the coin, which is countries like, you know, Australia, New Zealand and others, you know, Chinas and these incredibly strict lockdowns now and they're, they seemingly are okay with having kind of endless pandemic policies. You know, what, what do you think is the end game for those places?

Laura Dodsworth (35:40):

They'll have to reverse out of it because it's not sustainable. The, the social, the health, the economic destruction can't be, can't be sustained. You can't keep countries lodge down. I think, you know, zero, zero, that zero COVID is being revealed as the absolute nightmare that it was, it was always going to be cause funny people don't talk about Sweden much anymore. Do they? Yeah. You know, Sweden was in the news all the time, all the time when they were branching out on their own and following existing pandemic policy. But look how well it's worked out for Sweden.

Ian Miller (36:19):

Yep. That's

Laura Dodsworth (36:20):

Good. So yeah, I, I, I I'd say it can't be sustainable because if it is all that will be all that will remain is to salt the earth in those countries.

Ian Miller (36:28):

Yeah. I was gonna say that's exa and that I listened to an interview with one of the Swedish epidemiologists at the time who was saying, you can't sustain these policies forever in democracy. You just, you can't do it. But some, some, some places are still trying. Your latest sub was about something other than COVID, which I think is, is also good to have reminders of there are other issues in the world.

Laura Dodsworth (36:50):

<Laugh> and

Ian Miller (36:51):

<Laugh>, it was kind of about how ignoring biology is, is impacting the NHS in a real way in, in, and and it's become a hot topic here in the us as well with the we've had this, the, the transgender swimmer that has been swimming in these, in female sports competitions. So I wanted to ask what you think about this topic and you know, where does it go from here with these kinds of policies?

Laura Dodsworth (37:12):

Mm, well, it's been quite hot topic in the UK for several years because the conservative government proposed to reform the gender a recognition act, which would mean that somebody would change their gender just on self identification. They wouldn't need to go before a medical panel or have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. They certainly wouldn't need to embark on any kind of medical treatments. And there have been concerns that that would impact single sex spaces and single sex rights and the most obvious examples of sport. Like your you're just saying with Leah Thomas also prisons, we have had a transgender male sexually assault women in a, in a woman's prison here in England. But also, you know, this, this issue with the NHS is just arisen and it's kind of incredible really because the NHS waiting list has gone from 4.2, 4 million, the outset of the pandemic to 6.1 million in January, 2022.

Laura Dodsworth (38:04):

So the NHS has got some big problems on its hands and with the hidden backlog, that's going to grow millions more that's people who avoided elective outpatients or elective procedures. So it was just astonishing to find out that thanks to advice from the society of radiographers that some hospital trusts are asking everybody man, or woman, if they could be pregnant before they have cancer treatment or scans involve radio. Now, obviously it's essential to protect unborn babies from radiography. You know, patient safety is paramount, but it's normally quite obvious whether somebody could be pregnant or not based upon their sex. And there will be times when it's not in the case of say a pregnant trans man, but these case are quite rare. And you would think that in those cases, a question might suffice or even referring to the patient notes. But in fact, the NHS doesn't record biological sex anymore.

Laura Dodsworth (39:06):

It records gender identity, and it could record both, but it's not it's recording gender identity. So it just seems incredible that where, you know, in the exact place where biological facts and data are really important, they're not being recorded. So my article was to draw attention to that. We've got the NHS asking very silly questions of elderly men, whether they're pregnant before they have an x-ray. And at the same time you know, journalists are asking politicians here, you know, what's a woman, what's a man because they hot topic and some of foundering unable to answer. So we've got the NHS asking silly question and politicians completely unable to answer them.

Ian Miller (40:00):

Yeah. I mean, do you think that this continues just to get worse as far as these, these kinds of obvi things that seem very obvious that don't make sense? Is that just gonna get worse or is it, do you think that there will be some pushback and get better?

Laura Dodsworth (40:14):

Oh, there's lots of pushback. And there has been, there has been here for a while. So I think ultimately truth always wins. Sometimes it just takes time, you know accommodating people's identity and rights is one thing, but denying biological reality is ultimately going to be futile. And you know, it's a bit like zero COVID, it's not, it's not gonna work long term. I don't think.

Ian Miller (40:44):

Hmm. I hope you're right. And so my last question for you is, is back to COVID because, you know, what else are we gonna talk about at the end of the day <laugh> so I just wanted to, to get your idea of the future of pandemic policy in the U. Okay. And, you know, specifically with COVID and or if they're a future pandemic. So, you know, I mean, do you think mass vaccine passports that they, that there's the political capital for them to come back there at some point? Or are they gone permanently and then, you know, down the road there's another pandemic or severe flu or something like that will lock downs become kind of a permanent feature now of societies.

Laura Dodsworth (41:18):

Yeah. I think there's a real danger that some people would exert muscle memory and want to go back into lockdown and also masks. And I just pray that the inquiry will be independent, will be robust and dispel any remaining ideas that they're scientifically proven. I think that the vaccine passport isn't going anywhere, it's just quiet at the moment because Saed, Jat made a speech at a digital transformation summit and he was talking about the NHS app and saying, it's been, you know, it was the most downloaded free iPhone app in England. And, and that would've been unthinkable just, you know, just a little while ago, couple of years ago now he said he wants to keep the momentum going. And he would like by March 20, 24 for 75% of adults to have the NHS app. So he actually said he wants the app to be life, not just for COVID now using the app as a way of interacting with the NHS.

Laura Dodsworth (42:28):

I remain to be convinced whether it's a good thing or a bad thing. I haven't looked at that. And it doesn't mean it's the same past sports being required for entry into civic, social and, and economic life, but it's not actually going away. There's clearly some plan to retain it. So I think that's something to be aware of. There is at the moment, a lot of bad press right now about some of the effects of the pandemic things, which, I mean, honestly, they're, they're kind of enraging. I, I barely have words to express how I feel about what's being done to children. You know, it's coming increasing that children have got social development and language issues from having been surrounded by masks in their early years. And not having had normal social interaction and not going to school. And I, I think this has been an explosion of drugs, bullying and depression among teenagers.

Laura Dodsworth (43:20):

You know, I have teenage sons and I've, I've seen this for myself. So there is gonna be more and more coverage, I think about the harms of lockdown. And I hope that will make people pause for thoughts in the future, but what we've seen kind of an ideological split in people where, you know, the difference between left and right left and white wing, isn't really the main thing anymore. It's about authoritarianism and, and Liberty. And we've seen, there are a lot of people who want to lean into that sort of strong on government into the government, making decisions for them and into this authoritarian response. And that is, that is still what frightens me. It frightens me. It frightens me when I wrote the book and, and it frightens me now.

Ian Miller (44:02):

Yeah, well, hopefully you know, the, the inquiry and another kind of pushback will hope get, get these policies out of the, the public view of as being acceptable. You know, we gotta stop thinking of them as something that could even be tolerated at any point. Cuz like you say, the harms are tremendous Lu Laura, thank you so much for coming on the show. I really appreciate all of your input and everybody you can follow Laura on SubT stack, Laura dot SubT stack. The book is called a state of fear, how the UK government weaponized fear during the COVID 19 pandemic you can also follow follow Laura on Twitter at at bear reality. And again, and thank you so much Laura for doing this. This was great.

Laura Dodsworth (44:39):

Oh, it's an absolute pleasure. Thanks for having me.