Covid Propaganda: Understanding the Communication of Fear

It is interesting to consider just how different the past 18 months would have been without dozens of Government briefings and constant Covid ad campaigns. The propaganda pushed by the Government as part of its Covid response is the subject of an upcoming public lecture by Dr. Colin Alexander, Senior Lecturer in Political Communications at Nottingham Trent University, on September 13th at 7.30pm. He will argue that the Government has “more or less copied the British wartime propaganda strategy from World War II when dealing with Covid”.

In a previous blog post, which gives a taste of lecture’s content, Dr. Alexander writes that: “The best propaganda is the propaganda that the audience doesn’t realise is propaganda.”

The public information briefings that occurred at about 5pm each day from Downing Street during the first lockdown in spring and summer of 2020 were episodes in propaganda straight out of the wartime playbook. Rather than being ‘public information’ events as they were so described, they were in fact filled with ‘strategic communications’ intent on manipulating the public to the ends of the powerful. They were carefully staged, choreographed and scripted by spin doctors and other political communications professionals working for a Government that is addicted to propaganda and cannot fathom engagement in public communications through any other prism.

Furthermore, the U.K. Government’s approach to Covid briefings in the first half of 2020 may harm the long-term trust of the public in governance and the various organs of state that are entwined with the crisis. Public Health England, for example. Indeed, Chris Witty [Whitty], Patrick Valance [Vallance], Jenny Harries, et al – by standing next to the cabinet minister of the day – may end up tainted as manipulators-in-chief themselves through their (and the organisations that they represent) implicit endorsement of the Government’s approach to public communications.

Tickets for the event, which is free and which anyone can attend, are available here.

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