Subscribe
Notify of
guest
129 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ed Cameron
Ed Cameron
10 months ago

Hmm … try agin with a few asterisks…
John Stuart Mill has this nudge b****cks sorted. I recommend the whole of the Introduction to On Liberty as the last word on this topic, but this will suffice:
“So protection against the tyranny of government isn’t enough; there needs to be protection also against the tyranny of prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to turn its own ideas and practices into rules of conduct, and impose them—by means other than legal penalties—on those who dissent from them; to hamper the development and if possible to prevent the formation of any individuality that isn’t in harmony with its ways. . . . There is a limit to how far collective opinion can legitimately interfere with individual independence; and finding and defending that limit is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs as is protection against political despotism.”

Raymond Inauen
Raymond Inauen
10 months ago
Reply to  Ed Cameron

I guess the redefinition of manipulation is now called nudging and no longer run by the ministry of propaganda but the ministry of positive influence. Whatever you call it, it’s still the same old game, only it sounds nicer, but is just as evil as before since it’s going to get abused by those with the every best intentions.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
10 months ago
Reply to  Raymond Inauen

Oddly the SAGE team put it in the spotlight. Laura Dodsworth’s book did a good job bringing it to attention. Canada and the USA are very secretive about their propaganda work. When the Trump administration hired the Fors Marsh group the democrats momentarily went up in arms about it. You can still find some of their barking at Trump in google searches. They thought he was hiring them to counteract their #1 campaign platform that all the covid deaths were Trump’s fault. Really they were just coming onboard to be the USA’s SPI-B group. Somebody told the democrats to shut the hell up though qnd it left the papers. Joe Biden renewed their contract last August. So they are up to $400 million for their propaganda and behavioral modification practices. The vaccine passes and mandates are nudge theory in practice. I know Hill & Knowlton of the infamous Nayirah production theater testimony is doing covid work in Canada. As the birthplace of modern propaganda it is a bit stunning that so few Americans know this about their past. It is one of the few fields of study that Americans still thrive in and are best at.

https://theconversation.com/the-manipulation-of-the-american-mind-edward-bernays-and-the-birth-of-public-relations-44393

Julian Pellatt
Julian Pellatt
10 months ago
Reply to  Ed Cameron

Brilliant quotation – and so apt in today’s warped, totalitarian mindset!

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago
Reply to  Ed Cameron

Why do so many people on here consider that using crudities somehow enhances their arguments?! It is an interesting and well argued article and shows some good examples of using nudge techniques – which by the way have been used for decades by supermarkets and many other businesses in a commercial context, without much comment. You seem to imply that any effort to say, encourage people to pay their taxes is unwarranted authoritarianism.

In any case, in my experience most people asserting freedom as an absolute good are remarkably selective in that, tending to mean that they should be able to do the things they want but not necessarily other people theirs. As a gay man, it was notable how few Conservatives used to believe in our freedom to do whatever we wanted with our own bodies, while still spouting on about freedom, as one of many examples.

An absolutist concept of liberty doesn’t get us very far in the real world.

Moro Rogers
Moro Rogers
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Everyone likes crudités. They are persuasive.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

… any effort to say, encourage people to … 
Hm. Perhaps there is a distinction with a difference between a supermarket and a government? I would think it is fallacious to argue that two wrongs make a right, irrespective of any lack of comment..
Government, in combination with manipulative techniques, can influence the entire country via its proclamations, together with the force of law and punishment etc.
Redefining manipulation as encouragement does not pursuade me.

Bruce Luffman
Bruce Luffman
10 months ago

Excellent point. Persuading the public to accept cognitive dissonance as a normal behavioural concept is both very worrying and along the very lines that governed Winston Smith in ‘1984’.

Josh Woods
Josh Woods
9 months ago

“Hm. Perhaps there is a distinction with a difference between a supermarket and a government? I would think it is fallacious to argue that two wrongs make a right, irrespective of any lack of comment…”
Agreed! Furthermore, a commercial ad doesn’t compel us to buy their products, but merely titillates the consumers’ appetite. You can like or hate a commercial ad(I dislike half of the ones I’ve seen due to their lack of intellect), but ultimately you’re not obliged to comply what it titillates you to do. The nudge unit, on the other hand, acts on behalf of the authorities and are coercing people not only into buying such severe cognitive dissonance, but also to uphold them rather fanatically. In other words, they’re issuing a highly questionable decree while hiding its much more valid alternatives from people, and that alone is unethical practice!
If one wants an actual real-life example other than 1984(albeit still a very salient fictional example), just look what happened in the Cultural Revolution in China(whose race I descended from) during Mao’s reign- Everyday civilians suddenly became Red Guards who purged neighbours they once loved just because Mao & the CCP said to them that it’s a glorious idea to purge “reactionaries”. All you need to do is to replace Red Guards with “Good, compliant and caring citizens”, “reactionaries” as “conspiracy theorists” and “granny killers”, physical purging and burning relics(though still occasionally happens today) with mass-censorship and civilian-fuelled cancel culture, “revive the revolutionary spirit”(Mao’s rhetoric) with “follow the science”(ironically lacking the mechanisms of the scientific method) or “the noble lie”-BOOM! You’ve just fast-forwarded 54 years!

Last edited 9 months ago by Josh Woods
Michael O'Donnell
Michael O'Donnell
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

I think many people consider that selfishness is the ultimate freedom. We hear lots from such people in these comments sections.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

The definition of absolute liberty is anarchy. Society needs rules, otherwise it would never function. However I feel currently too many are being imposed top down via an influential cohort whose views don’t necessarily align with the majority of society, rather than through bottom up common acceptance.
That’s just my opinion obviously, others may differ. I see very little diversity in parliament in terms of views and backgrounds. All the different sexes and ethnicities there seem to come from the same comfortable metropolitan middle class university graduates

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
10 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

The 26th January next may prove decisive.

Liz Walsh
Liz Walsh
10 months ago
Reply to  Ed Cameron

Great quote from Mills! These “nudgers” function as sheepdogs for the shady pastoralists of the political establishment, leading and herding the public in flocks, with no respect for the individual. The “nudgers” are just instruments to move us, en masse, to the shed, where we shall be fleeced, and ultimately to the abbatoir when their master so decides. They are of the administrative demi-monde, no better than procurors.

stephen archer
stephen archer
10 months ago
Reply to  Ed Cameron

What has this got to do with Game of Thrones???

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
10 months ago
Reply to  Ed Cameron

I think that you are right that there is a tendency to read only opinions with which one agrees, hence the piling on that happens (including on this site), however, it’s not universal, I’m on this site and I disagree with most of what is written, but I still read it. But I think that you’re right in that prevailing opinions tend to be contained in “bubbles”, the prevailing opinion in the student common room will not be that down in the “Dog and Duck” (I don’t think). These different sets of opinions rarely intersect, they probably didn’t much in the past, but it has got worse as the opinions have diverged more and more, hence the “culture wars”. I don’t think any of this invalidates what Mill said though, it’s just instead of the prevailing opinion of the masses we have a prevailing opinion in the corrodors of educational, civic, and informational power.

Joel Sweek
Joel Sweek
10 months ago
Reply to  Ed Cameron

I confess that I am a little surprised that, after so many days, no one has noticed that these are not actually Mill’s words, but the words of some Interweb crib notes on Mill. What Mill actually wrote is this:
“Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling, against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development and, if possible, prevent the formation of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence; and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs as protection against political despotism.”

Last edited 10 months ago by Joel Sweek
Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
10 months ago
Reply to  Joel Sweek

This is just a comments section. It really doesn’t need an editor. The point was made appropriately

J Bryant
J Bryant
10 months ago

This is one of the most interesting articles I’ve read on Unherd. Kudos to the author for being willing to critically assess his chosen profession.
I do feel, though, the author isn’t entirely ready to face up to what the past decade of his professional life has been about. Here is the most telling sentence, for me, in this article (and it’s a long sentence):
Though I don’t think it’s fair to blame behavioural scientists for propagating fear (I suspect that this was more to do with Government communicators and the incentives of news broadcasters), it may be worth reflecting on where we need to draw the line between the choice-maximising nudges of libertarian paternalism, and the creeping acceptance among policy makers that the state should use its heft to influence our lives without the accountability of legislative and parliamentary scrutiny.
What, exactly, does “the choice-maximising nudges of libertarian paternalism” mean? More specifically, why does “choice-maximising” qualify “nudges”? Surely the essence of nudging is to review the available universe of choices and figure out ways to “nudge” the population toward the choice desired by the entity paying the company doing the analysis? In other words, nudging, by its very nature, attempts to restrict choice.
The author refers, obviously with approval, to Richard Thaler, an academic champion of nudging. I watched Unherd’s interview with Prof. Thaler and it was the single most disturbing interview I saw last year. Mr. Thaler did not come across as some latter-day Goebbels, master manipulator and propagandist. He was quiet, measured, intelligent and apparently benign. A kindly relative at the family Christmas gathering. But he was also inflexible, intolerant of contradiction or interruption, and utterly convinced of the righteousness of his endeavor. For him, “nudging” was an incontrovertible social good.
Here’s my suggestion. Call nudging what it is: manipulation of people. Instead of creating a government nudging unit, create a Unit for the Manipulation of People. When that unit is spun out as a private company (as happened to the author’s unit), begin the standard preamble clause of business contracts with, “Whereas we, The Company for the Manipulation of People, …” That will remove any doubt on the part of the employees, and whoever employs them, about the function of the company. It will provide all parties with the opportunity to pause and ask themselves if the manipulation they’re about to embark on is appropriate. And it will also deprive all parties of the ability to later say they didn’t fully appreciate the consequences of their actions.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
10 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Excellent observation and analysis.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
10 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Edward Bernays was the same way. Read his autobiography and watch his David Letterman appearance.

Jacob Smith
Jacob Smith
10 months ago

Look, man, if you want to use behavioral economics to further good government, instead of using it to trick people into doing what you and your buddies think they should do, use it to manipulate your a**-hat bureaucrat peers into behaving as if they actually care about something other than their own careers.

Fredrick Urbanelli
Fredrick Urbanelli
10 months ago

Am I alone here, or is anyone else feeling a little nauseated by the flagrant boastfulness of this article? It reminds me of the cocky neocons who got their nations involved in Iraq, or the medical experts who assured us all that opioids were non-addictive. This writer seems totally oblivious to the very distinct possibility that he’s off the rails. He’s telling us, essentially. that manipulation and propaganda are good for us.

Unherd Person
Unherd Person
10 months ago

There is an ember of self-awareness, but the author is evidently deeply wrapped up in the ongoing mass psychological warfare against tens of millions of people ‘for their own good’ being a just cause.
Utopia is only approached across a sea of blood, and you never arrive.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
10 months ago

Precisely, perhaps the author should move to the Vatican where his skills are sorely needed?

Lucy Browne
Lucy Browne
10 months ago

You are not alone! The article was ‘We were great, hear how great we were, aren’t we great, we’re still great. But Govt. should do fewer sad face adverts about Covid. Apart from that… still great.’

Fredrick Urbanelli
Fredrick Urbanelli
10 months ago
Reply to  Lucy Browne

Yeah, maybe we should thank him for being so, y’know…awesome. Guys like him are just what we need today. No?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
10 months ago

“However, witnessing how the UK and other governments have responded to the pandemic, I can now appreciate the vulnerabilities of well-intentioned, democratic regimes,”

And which well-intentioned Democratic Regimes are those? The ones which destroyed education from 5 years old to 25? the ones who have spent us to 138% of National Debt to GDP, which we will never recover from? The ones destroying society by 1000 means? The ones destroying freedom and rights and personal choice? Destroying Jobs, free movement, free thought, free ‘Press’ free speech, free assembly, free Religion?

To me you all sound like something right out of 1984, (all 99% of you who were Remainers at least, and that 1% who joined you from the Brexit side – I trust them even less as they seem to have joined an unsavory crowd.)

Jem Barnett
Jem Barnett
10 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Yes, it’s very scary that people wielding such power can be so stupid.
And by stupid I don’t mean lacking in degrees or letters after their name, I mean deeply unwise.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
10 months ago
Reply to  Jem Barnett

A lot of degrees and letters-after-names connote an accumulation of mere knowledge, when what is really in short supply is wisdom.

Graham Thorpe
Graham Thorpe
10 months ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Jon I wouldn’t even credit their degree system by calling it a recognition of knowledge gained. It is nothing more than a system of baubles awarded for having the “correct” series of thoughts on given subjects. Try swimming against the tide of thought on any degree course and see how far you get.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
10 months ago
Reply to  Jem Barnett

The problem is that they are clever, and they subscribe to a world view that holds that if you are sufficiently clever, you don’t need any wisdom at all. Cleverness has always been enough for them, to get them through life, and wisdom is just a crutch for those who just weren’t clever enough. This is also the basis of why they think they should rule over you, and why they need to manipulate you — if you don’t already agree with them, then you just aren’t clever enough to understand their arguments.

Last edited 10 months ago by Laura Creighton
Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
10 months ago

I would say it is worse than that. These people think they are clever. They are not, but they live in a world were they are told how clever they are with no merit and are used to getting their way.

Unherd Person
Unherd Person
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

They are Very Clever People.
High information in a narrow field, and no moral compass on what if anything to do with that information.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
10 months ago
Reply to  Unherd Person

Yes, some of them see morality as another crutch for the unclever, indeed.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
10 months ago

Also – they have no life experience outside their bubble. Like he said 99% are remainers. Dr Jordan Peterson tells us Liberal Arts, Humanities,Psychology, and Social Science university students are 99% Hard Left. They live in a bubble where they never have had a conversation with a Trump voting, MAGA, construction worker, and never will, they can no more understand my life experiences than they could a duck’s – yet they think they understand the truth.

Silly little rabbits; useful idiots, thinking they know the world.

Jane Watson
Jane Watson
10 months ago
Reply to  Jem Barnett

Lacking in common sense or gumption? No evidence I’ve ever seen that there is any correlation between IQ and common sense.

Unherd Person
Unherd Person
10 months ago

“Will nudge theory survive the pandemic?”
This framing reminds me of prison physician Theodore Dalrymple’s famous essay ‘The Knife Went In’.
https://www.city-journal.org/html/%E2%80%9C-knife-went-in%E2%80%9D-12530.html

As it happens, there are three stabbers at present in the prison who used precisely the same expression when describing to me what happened. “The knife went in,” they said when pressed to recover their allegedly lost memories of the deed.

The knife went in—unguided by human hand, apparently. That the long-hated victims were sought out, and the knives carried to the scene of the crimes, was as nothing compared with the willpower possessed by the inanimate knives themselves, which determined the unfortunate outcome.

Simon, you did this. Not ‘nudge theory’. You and your colleagues. On purpose.
Who the hell do you people think you are to mass manipulate a population as a matter of course, whatever the subject? Where does this God Complex, Saviour Complex come from? Why do you all think we need you to save us from this that and the other? This is a tyrant’s charter. Shame on you all.
For the absolute misery, terror and destruction you have helped usher on a population, the correct framing is – “Will nudge theorists survive the pandemic?”
You all need holding individually responsible and bringing to justice rather than any attempted slithering out the door hoping noone will notice or remember.

Last edited 10 months ago by Unherd Person
Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
10 months ago
Reply to  Unherd Person

Yep. The blithe way he says “But it’s not obvious to me that the trade-offs many governments are making in their responses to the pandemic are grounded in utilitarian rationality.“

Has he even contemplated the possibility that the pursuit of “utilitarian rationality” by empiricists who think they can calculate what’s best for everyone might lead to catastrophically bad outcomes and human rights abuses? I genuinely don’t think he has. And that’s the scary thing.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission, now.

Scott S
Scott S
10 months ago

Where to start with this Government, The Nudge Unit, our MSM and establishment?? I can’t think of a good word to say about any of them, except that I will never trust any msm or government message again, without further investigation. I have always been suspicious of authority, and that healthy mistrust has kept me in good stead over the last few years. It was obvious info was being held back and figures manipulated. All this coupled with people and views being demonised for daring to question the narrative, from the origin of the virus to the over arching benefits of lockdowns and everything else in-between, signalled to me there was something not quite rght going on. I must also state I am not a conspiracy theorist, and I approach everything with a critical eye, but this unfortunately seems a dated approach, and the world will suffer for ‘this get on board whatever the cost’ approach. For anyone seeking to avoid the nudge I would recommend C Jung’s The Undiscovered Self (Present and Future), which gives personal (not organised) religious faith as the counter to authoritarian regimes and ideas. Whether you are religious or not, it is still an essential read, for anyone seeking to avoid the ‘Hive Mind’.

Last edited 10 months ago by Scott S
Karl Francis
Karl Francis
10 months ago
Reply to  Scott S

Agreed, a superb read.

Unherd Person
Unherd Person
10 months ago
Reply to  Scott S

‘The Rape of the Mind’ by Joost Meerlo is also a frankly terrifying look into individual and mass brainwashing.
Written in the post-war 1950s, the parallels with today and people like Simon and his nudge buddies are startling.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rape-Mind-Psychology-Menticide-Brainwashing/dp/1614277877

Howard Gleave
Howard Gleave
10 months ago
Reply to  Scott S

It is posts such as yours and that of Mr Bryant below that enhances the articles themselves. Like you, the closing down of perspectives that were “orthogonal to the orthodoxy” in the words of Prof Sunatra Gupta, the unrelenting spin, the blatant use of fear as a tool of coercion by government, and governments, caused me to smell a very malodorous rat.

And like you, I am also not a conspiracy theorist, although I am starting to suspect that Big Pharma (especially as regards mRNA vaccines) has a worrying agenda that merits very close, forensic, public inquiry.

Graham Thorpe
Graham Thorpe
10 months ago
Reply to  Scott S

Well you should be a conspiracy theorist when there is a conspiracy going on. The fact that so many of us automatically trot out a denial in those terms is one small thing telling you the establishment nudging is working.

Hosias Kermode
Hosias Kermode
10 months ago

The writer of this piece illustrates perfectly why a civilised society needs as little and as local government as humanly possible. His jargon-heavy, turgidly written piece supposes a) that people like him and his associated civil servants “know best” and b) that the majority of citizens are too stupid to realise what’s good for them, so need to be manipulated into compliance. He is an illustration of everything that is worst about modern government. As has proved the case with Covid, the drive to “do something”, to prove one is “in control” has led governments into mandating things and prohibiting other things that have played havoc with our economy, education and mental health, without probably preventing a single death. The lesson of the Downing Street parties isn’t that the politicians and civil servants should have been keeping the rules they imposed on the rest of us. It is far worse than that. They knew those rules had no point other than to demonstrate they were “doing something”. No one was going to die from a bunch of under 50s drinking wine and eating cheese in a garden in the summer sunshine. The scandal is that they forced those rules on the rest of us, when the rules had no purpose except to create a reputation for their own competence. The Great Barrington lot had it right all along.

Last edited 10 months ago by Hosias Kermode
David Bell
David Bell
10 months ago

I can think of several candidates for your team to nudge. The BBC, for a start but doesn’t that propaganda outfit consider nudging to be its exclusive preserve? So who will nudge the nudgers?

Adam Kemp
Adam Kemp
10 months ago
Reply to  David Bell

Precisely. The State can ‘nudge’ and fear monger all it likes. After the Scottish Referendum, Brexit, Net Zero and Covid we see it is now an addiction. The mainstream media is supposed to be a bulwark against such tyranny. It has a duty to challenge ever more aggressive invasive diktat. If MSM fails in their duty, hey presto, you have Propaganda. Roll on the Inquiry into the media’s parallel addiction to ‘catastrophism’. A very unholy alliance.

Peter LR
Peter LR
10 months ago

Since you are using UnHerd as a Confessional, would you like to declare how the Nudge Unit was deployed by Cameron to try and prevent us from voting to leave the EU?

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
10 months ago

Well, marks awarded for reconsidering. It’s not easy to look back on work you were proud of and admit that maybe it wasn’t as positive as you thought.
By the way, your website is broken. The SSL certificate has expired and non-SSL isn’t configured correctly. Did you know that 100% of professionally run companies have working websites? You might want to reflect on that.

we created a product to de-bias recruitment in order that we would find successful candidates from a diverse range of backgrounds. Despite this, fewer than 1% of staff supported Brexit.

You had no chance with this. A political choice that prioritizes independence, rejection of an continent-sized superstate and rejection of Whitehall groupthink was never going to be represented in a Whitehall “company” that is dedicated to making governments undermine their citizen’s normal thought processes via mind control (which is the ugly way to phrase what you were doing). You might as well try to recruit more Corbyn supporters to the board of Goldman Sachs.
Besides, your platform is very explicitly about it being designed to create diversity only in the left wing sense. Literally the first bullet icon says “Up to 4x attraction of ethnic diversity candidates”. It’s not designed to bring in people with diverse viewpoints. Why would you expect it to help you attract people who will ever challenge your pre-conceptions?
Here, I’ll show you what life would be like if you’d managed to hire a few more Brexit supporters.
Your paper on the police force isn’t open access (zero democracy points for this), but the abstract says:

The results show a 50 per cent increase in the probability of passing the test for minority applicants in the treatment group, with no effect on white applicants

Ell oh ell. An effect size of 50% based on adding a statement about values, ahaha. Have you guys read anything about the replication crisis in the social sciences? You should know all about it, being your own field. This is an enormous effect size via an utterly implausible approach. Nudging is just the latest name for priming, and priming research is a notorious train wreck of false claims, according to the very psychologist you cite in your essay (Kahneman). Another recent paper that reported huge effect sizes using nudging in tax – your preferred example of success – turned out to be purely fraudulent and is now retracted (Ariely).
Put simply, I don’t believe your claimed effect is real. I think based on the long run of social psych claims that don’t replicate, that what happened is this – a police force so desperate to fix their race problem that they hired you guys, gave up when they saw what you were proposing and quietly altered the test results behind the scenes. You then assumed their “fixed” results were the impact of your own advice.
I looked at the citations list for your paper and didn’t see any attempt to replicate it. Nor have you done any attempt to replicate it. I would happily bet $300 that this study won’t replicate. All the usual signs of trouble are here. Social psych is just that unreliable.

Last edited 10 months ago by Norman Powers
Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
10 months ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

Have I understood this correctly? If, this year, you have two ethnic coppers out of 100 and next year (post-nudging) you have three out of 100, that’s an ‘effect size’ of 50%?

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
10 months ago
Reply to  Malcolm Knott

The abstract claims the increase is in the probability of passing, not the number of employees.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
10 months ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

So if this year you have two ethnic coppers out of 100 and next year (post-nudging) you will probably have three out of 100, that’s an effect size of 50%? (I am not trying to be funny, just trying to understand what’s going on here.)

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
10 months ago
Reply to  Malcolm Knott

They have a test. What this test checks, we are left in the dark about (unless we buy the paper presumably).
Imagine 30% of white candidates pass the test and 20% of black candidates do. By putting some weird statement about values on your form, you magically increase the probability of succesfully demonstrating their raw policing abilities by 50%. Thus now 30% of black candidates pass, achieving equality (because 20*1.5=30).

Last edited 10 months ago by Norman Powers
Saul D
Saul D
10 months ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

I was also disappointed that the paper was behind a paywall. If you want to reference papers on a public-facing site like this, then having open access should be a requirement.

Rob Britton
Rob Britton
10 months ago

Propaganda is still propaganda regardless of what fancy name you give it. It is still propaganda, and it has been turbocharged over the past two years.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
10 months ago

See how success is measured in government circles. We began with a team of seven and now we have over 250 people in several offices! Result!
And this happily enlarged unit has now reached the point where an academic can be cancelled for an innocuous historic tweet. Welcome to Whitehall.
How about leaving us to make our own, un-nudged, decisions and run our own lives without the benefit of Whitehall wisdom. (Or do we still think that ‘the man in Whitehall knows best’?)

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
10 months ago

Well for me and a lot of other people, we have a “screw you!” reaction whenever someone thinks we are stupid enough to be easily manipulated.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

I view this obvious attempt to justify manipulation through propaganda with utter revulsion. “Hey, we had the best intentions, honest!” Yeah, sure ya did, pal. What’s that road to Hell paved with?

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
10 months ago

Oh, you mean that same warm place where Edward Bernays is still residing?

Last edited 10 months ago by Matt Hindman
Jem Barnett
Jem Barnett
10 months ago

What I get from this article is that government has been infiltrated (or perhaps just ‘tooled up’) to a really worrying degree by the kind of arrogant, technocratic do-gooders that really think they’ve found utopia, and whilst the public keep voting against that, clearly the public are wrong and must be ‘nudged’ (later coerced, or forced) along to utopia… for their own good of course.
Two other points:

  1. What the heck is “libertarian paternalism”?
  2. I have read Thaler’s book. When I saw his UnHerd interview I was left with the impression that he is slightly scary individual. One of those that thinks the end would justify the means if you’re manipulating people toward “good”. Such people terrify me. Who defines good? …these types don’t actually like democracy and hope to ‘fix’ it. They want the Cratos (the power) without the Demos (the people) involved.
Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 months ago
Reply to  Jem Barnett

Good points you make. Libertarian paternalism is adding consequences to people’s choices e.g. reducing insurance premiums if gym membership can be proven, or increasing taxes on cigarettes to get people to quit.
Your second point resonates with my views on bioethics. It is a field of research that debates, among other things, if undergoing a medical procedure for the collective good supersedes an individual’s own free will. Of course, ‘collective good’ is a nebulous term that can be used to justify any number of removal of liberties.

Edward Jones
Edward Jones
10 months ago

On the evidence of the excellent and well informed comments by Unherd readers Simon Ruda must now realise he is not quite the cleverest bloke on the planet.

Laura Pritchard
Laura Pritchard
10 months ago

I’d like to propose that this is an attempt at nudging us into the belief that fear propaganda at the heart of government only started with the pandemic.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
10 months ago

“I remain a supporter of the use of behavioural science in public policy, and of the Behavioural Insights Team, more commonly known as the Nudge Unit”
Spoken like a true National Socialist

Fredrick Urbanelli
Fredrick Urbanelli
10 months ago

When you realize that today’s universities are pumping out minds like this by the truckload, it’s just scary. Data-driven, self-congratulatory amoral impostors convinced of their own righteousness. They’re everywhere now

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
10 months ago

For tomorrow belongs to me.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
10 months ago

Seriously I put it down to the demise of bullying.
Had the author been properly bullied at school, as he should have been, he would have the little bit of humility that is so obviously missing and would not have turned into the self-congratulatory, sanctimonious, if he was chocolate he would eat him himself unaware a***hole he seemingly aspired to be.

Unherd Person
Unherd Person
10 months ago

No idea about the author, but kids trained to run to authority every time they run into trouble like bullying as you mention (or are offended as is the rage today) are inevitably going to be big mummy statists who view top-down ‘solutions’ and ‘solution providers’ as the absolute norm.
Big State then inevitably hires people like Simon & Co, censors, thought police, etc. to satiate the demand for outsourced responsibility, thought and behaviour.

Last edited 10 months ago by Unherd Person
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
10 months ago
Reply to  Unherd Person

In the golden page of bullying the authorities would have (a) told them off for telling tales and (b) told them it was character building

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
10 months ago

Surely it is “the morning shall come when the world is mine, tomorrow belongs to me “?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
10 months ago

Thank you for the correction

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
10 months ago

the data was checked, rechecked and published in a peer reviewed journal

Was this journal invested in the truth of the same conclusions as yourselves, so that the peer “review” was in fact a climate-science-style pals’ rubber-stamp, to keep the bandwagon rolling; or was it an actual impartial review, by someone with statistical and analytical expertise, but no skin in your game?

Last edited 10 months ago by Jon Redman
Philip L
Philip L
10 months ago

The whole “nudge” business has revealed the fact that almost everyone is dim. And I have honestly begun to wonder whether we really are descended from the occupants of Golgafrinchan Ark Fleet Ship B.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
10 months ago
Reply to  Philip L

Please UNHERD! Get us the *Made me Laugh* button! (Thank you Philip. Hieronymous Organthruster)

Last edited 10 months ago by Laura Creighton
Josh Woods
Josh Woods
10 months ago
Reply to  Philip L

With all due respect Philip, I beg to differ partially. While there is certainly a sizeable dim crowd out there, this “nudge” operation is just a euphemism for psychological manipulation, something long used by countless abusers to keep even their smartest targets under their influence and do absolutely bizarre things like what we’re seeing right now. I’ve noticed that the nudge unit has conveniently hyper-emphasized the novel part of COVID to dupe people into thinking that they don’t have the knowledge on how to work around it(whereas we actually have a century of experience as outlined in the Great Barrington Declaration), thus enslaving them to the command of utterly incompetent and unscrupulous authorities. In other words, the nudge unit & SAGE are gaslighting people into believing that they know far fewer than they actually do on this matter, thus grooming them into members of this gargantuan global cult!
What is truly lacking is the fine balance between a strong, independent mind and a diplomatic way of expressing your authentic views(something I’ve been very fortunate to have fostered on my own). Lots of people have been scared into not speaking up in fear of being cancelled(I’m an exception myself, and ruffed feathers with a few folks!). That’s groupthink and mob mentality 101. As less people dare to speak up, bystander effects also festers, and the solution to that? Be the proactive Samaritans who initiate the trend of challenging the dogma and steer society towards the right direction!

Last edited 9 months ago by Josh Woods
Toby Bray
Toby Bray
10 months ago

Underlying this piece is the question: what is an individual human being, and how should we treat him or her? Although the combined forces of technology, convenience and profit are pretty much dictating the answer.
There were always areas of our life subject to ‘nudging’ e.g. advertising, direct marketing, public health campaigns. But the digital world has taken it to a whole new level. Think Amazon, YouTube, supermarket website recommendations, notifications on your mobile etc. etc.
Seems that we’re rapidly adopting a new idea of what a human being is. Not an individual who deserves respect for making their own decisions. But merely an economic, commercial or sociological unit, which can be prodded to go in the ‘right’ direction. And much of it comes in the pernicious guise of *helping* you, “If you like this, you might like this”.
Politics becomes less about open debate, and more about behind-the-scenes technical and psychological manipulation.
Economists, marketers and sociologists have always had this professional perspective – but I’m not sure it’s ever been so prevalent before. In the same way, after 2 years of Covid, the perspective of professional public health officials has now also become a commonplace view amongst ordinary members of the public i.e every individual is primarily a vector of disease.
Very creepy. But digital life – with all its possibilities of infinite options, evaluation of responses & optimising of results – seems only to be speeding this up.

Last edited 10 months ago by Toby Bray
Trevor Law
Trevor Law
10 months ago

If you don’t want me to be a “conspiracy theorist”, please stop behaving as if you are part of one.

Josh Woods
Josh Woods
10 months ago
Reply to  Trevor Law

And don’t plan conspiracies behind your doors before they become conspiracy facts!
PS Conspiracy theories/theorists ought to be treated an agnostic term rather than one that is strictly fictional, as we already have a term for that ie conspiracy hoaxes, or hoaxes in its most succinct form. A conspiracy theory can either be a conspiracy fact or a conspiracy hoax, depending on what the evidence reveals. Rant over!

Kate S
Kate S
10 months ago

Ah yes, this reminds me of the nudge letters deployed successfully by HMRC, which had me in a state of turmoil for months. I finally managed to find out that i did not in fact owe any money, it was just a ‘harmless nudge letter’ to customers to pay money they didn’t in fact owe yet – they wanted to ‘encourage’ customers to pay a year in advance. The wording was so opaque and threatening. When i finally managed to get advice from someone on what they were doing and called HMRC to ask why they’d done this, they actually laughed (not joking) and said it had been very successful at getting people to pay what HMRC had decided might be their ‘projected’ tax for next year. I’m still so angry about it, i remember the message boards i went on at the time to try and find out what was happening – the fear, the panic, and with some i’m sad to say, the suicidal thoughts at being handed astronomical bills out of no where and not being able to get any information from HMRC as to where it came from – just to ‘pay up’. I don’t accept the authors assertions that they didn’t think ahead to how these techniques could be used. It’s a typical ‘all for the greater good’ mentality, as long as it’s being deployed on the ‘right type of people’ who cares right?

Last edited 10 months ago by Kate S
Kathleen Stern
Kathleen Stern
10 months ago
Reply to  Kate S

Totally agree about HMRC. Recently widowed I was sent an incomprehensible demand for money I supposedly owed them. When I finally got through on the phone the man dealing with me proved to be the rudest,unhelpful official I have ever dealt with. My only consolation was that I had to use a tax accountant who I knew was excellent to navigate this Byzantine process and she discovered that they actually owed me a considerable amount of money which I then received. It was the sheer passive cruelty which I won’t forget or forgive.

Josh Woods
Josh Woods
10 months ago
Reply to  Kate S

Kate, I’m terribly sorry that you had to go through this ordeal. What HMRC did falls deep within the realm of psychological manipulation and abuse, which is what nudging is in practice. As something who has survived prolonged psychological abuse under my own bio family I can tell that the nudge unit is basically doing the same, just that they do it at much more sophisticated level, and the effort in pulling off the deception is unbelievably huge!

Dave Corby
Dave Corby
10 months ago

“Despite this, fewer than 1% of staff supported Brexit.”
This says it all as to who takes part in this. People who think they know best and who want the power to make you do what they want.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
10 months ago
Reply to  Dave Corby

… because the ends justifies the means. Any means.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
10 months ago

Do you remember the Aids campaign, many years ago? They tried to scare the wits out of us by depicting tombstones and promiscuous heterosexual couples when everyone knew that the problem was elsewhere. I don’t think it worked very well.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
10 months ago
Reply to  Malcolm Knott

That was an early instance of the left making up nonsensical predictions and presenting them as factual so that we panic into doing what the left wanted.
See also climate science.

Sue Whorton
Sue Whorton
10 months ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

For me the problem isn’t climate science, it is the limits to the models used for predicting outcomes. The Covid models accuracy has been unreliable. The complexities of climate make the modeling unbelievably complex and no way of checking. I am beginning to have nightmares about replacing the combustion engine with batteries. The mining, creation and storing and recycling of batteries involving lithium all have potential for long lasting environmental catastrophes. CO2 at least is part of natural systems and can be controlled that way if we chose, The heavy metals are not and have very long consequences. There are streams in Swansea that are dead because of Roman lead mining. There is precedent.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
10 months ago
Reply to  Sue Whorton

Yes. This is why chemical spills are worse than oil spills; oil’s a natural substance whereas a chemical spilt can be something that doesn’t exist in nature.
I have occasionally heard climate scientists argue that we trust doctors so why shouldn’t we trust them? The answer is that doctors don’t demand you amputate your legs now to prevent a disease in your grandchildren in 100 years’ time.

Elizabeth Dichter
Elizabeth Dichter
10 months ago

Nudging seems so manipulative because the nudgers always have an agenda, an outcome they prefer. Why nudge at all? If people are susceptible to “automatic thinking” why not just offer objective information about risks and benefits and encourage people to take more time to make important choices?

rodney foy
rodney foy
10 months ago

Is “objective information” from the government ever going to be truly objective?

I do want them to provide the information on which they base their decisions for me to check, and also to help with my voting at the next election, but I will never believe it’s objective

Josh Woods
Josh Woods
10 months ago

Nudging is in itself manipulative, that’s what it is. Because they don’t think your independent mind would comply with their desires without it, otherwise nudging would be pointless. Full stop.

T Doyle
T Doyle
10 months ago

Oh dear. This bloke could present Goebbels and the Nazi propaganda machine as just a bunch of creative misunderstood hipsters. This stuff is as old as the hills and is as insidious and disingenuous as any of its predecessors. No doubt all the founders of this unit made a few quid when it was privatised. Which is all that really matters.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
10 months ago
Reply to  T Doyle

Or he could a bunch of creative misunderstood hipsters as evil Nazis

Josh Woods
Josh Woods
10 months ago
Reply to  T Doyle

Yet project their own faults onto completely innocent and reasonable folks. Isn’t that what happened to the authors & supporters of the Great Barrington Declaration?

Paul Hughes
Paul Hughes
10 months ago

The simple truth needs no spin.
Spin and nudging is what you use to when the truth doesn’t achieve what you want. It follows that spin/nudging is required to achieve ‘aims’ that the truth does not support.

Josh Woods
Josh Woods
10 months ago

I for one will go so far as to say that the kind of ad shown in the featured photo is straight-up guilt-tripping and undoubtedly the harmful kind of psychological manipulation, and perhaps even psy-ops, and undoubtedly blatant propaganda. That in itself tells you why the nudge unit is the gates(pun slightly intended) to a VERY dangerous slippery slope, one that has now been crossed, and one we must pull civilization back up from ASAP with all our might. And I find it nauseating that the author keeps referencing Richard Thaler, a vocal proponent of vax mandates that is now costing thousands if not millions the careers they’ve invest so much time, money and manpower in, not to mention sabotaging healthcare services worldwide. While I give credit Simon Ruda’s acknowledgement that he has underestimated the dangers the Nudge Unit can bring, I certainly do NOT think his attempt to rectify his mistakes comes even nearly enough, as one can certainly argue that ‘nudging’ is merely the covert form of coercion and social ostracism, and thus a VERY ethically shaky ground to put your moral stakes on!!

Last edited 10 months ago by Josh Woods
Frances An
Frances An
10 months ago

Fascinating perspective. I am reminded of a failed attempt to use ‘nudges’. For a very brief period, the Australian government tried to run a campaign encouraging people to get vaccinated. The campaign was fear-based and, from memory, featured a young, unvaccinated woman on a ventilator unable to get help because medical resources had run dry. This campaign was poorly received and retracted very shortly after its release: people saw the campaign as a way of shifting blame onto citizens. The main reason we could not vaccinate quickly enough at that stage was the government mostly ordered AZ which they then decided would only be for 60+ (I’m not actually sure about number this, because they changed their mind about this a couple of times too :/). I suppose the moral of this story is that nudge theory can be used for all kinds of purposes but is like casting a mysterious spell: sometimes it’ll do nothing, but other times it might explode in your face. Trying to influence people on an unconscious level in a specified direction is risky business!

Mat G
Mat G
10 months ago
Reply to  Frances An

Not sure the shifting of blame nudge was entirely unsuccessful, given the Aussie public’s response to a certain tennis player

Josh Woods
Josh Woods
10 months ago
Reply to  Frances An

Not directing this to you personally, but interestingly enough many of your neighbours(and also my former ones when I lived in Australia prior past March) still fell for nudges surrounding lockdowns & masking, perhaps far worse than other nations. Their minds have been completely brainwashed, and they’ve often become fanatics and go against dissidents such as myself!

Last edited 10 months ago by Josh Woods
James Joyce
James Joyce
10 months ago

What a long essay that is a bunch of crap!
What did Ronald Reagan say were the most frightening words in the English language? “I’M FROM THE GOVERNMENT, AND I’M HERE TO HELP!”
The Nudge Unit seems to be the “Woke Unit,” and now it is becoming the Coercion Unit.

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
10 months ago

I, like many others, have been a victim of this squalid “nudge” behaviour as exercised by HMRC towards tax planning.
So successful was HMRC is persuading people tax planing was tax avoidance they conned judges into thinking they (HMRC) had a case for punitive penalties and they conned (lied to) parliament about it as well.
Nudge is not an excuse for manipulation of the facts. Which is how it’s been used in reality.

Last edited 10 months ago by Andrew Wise
M. Gatt
M. Gatt
10 months ago

Thanks Freddie and thanks to Unherd. Nudge needs to be kept front of mind. Nudge is not our friend.

jonathan carter-meggs
jonathan carter-meggs
10 months ago

Fascinating when you witness a person deep amongst the woods describe the entire forest and its position in the world. In my opinion the hierarchical view of policy making and implementation from top down using “Nudge” is misguided. Society and its current rules are part of a human feedback loop. Individuals, interest groups, communities, and governments are all in the loop and their outputs form the inputs of the others (like the human centipede). In this way evolution is continual and component members within the loop modify, start, or stop memes that run around it. First order effects are one-one connections, second order effects are one step removed from the direct issue (keep with me). So “Nudge” is a second order effect intending to influence the first order ones. it can be well intentioned but it involves deliberately focussing away from the point.
Conclusion: you are fooling yourself if you think your motives are pure or that by fiddling at the second order you are being honest with the others in the loop. Back to basics ought to start with telling the unvarnished truth!

Ed Cameron
Ed Cameron
10 months ago

John Stuart Mill has this nudge bollocks sorted. I recommend the whole of the Introduction to On Liberty as the last word on this topic, but this will suffice:
“So protection against the tyranny of government isn’t enough; there needs to be protection also against the tyranny of prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to turn its own ideas and practices into rules of conduct, and impose them—by means other than legal penalties—on those who dissent from them; to hamper the development and if possible to prevent the formation of any individuality that isn’t in harmony with its ways. . . . There is a limit to how far collective opinion can legitimately interfere with individual independence; and finding and defending that limit is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs as is protection against political despotism.”

Ian Herriott
Ian Herriott
10 months ago

“It is questionable whether a civilised society should knowingly increase the emotional discomfort of its citizens as a means of gaining their compliance. State scientists deploying fear, shame and scapegoating to change minds is an ethically dubious practice that in some respects resembles the tactics used by totalitarian regimes such as China, where the state inflicts pain on a subset of its population in an attempt to eliminate beliefs and behaviour they perceive to be deviant”

Dr Gary Sidley March last year in the critic. Spells out the reality of nudge ‘science’
https://thecritic.co.uk/a-year-of-fear/

Karl Francis
Karl Francis
10 months ago

“Back in the garage with my BULLSH*T detector” – The Clash
… and my copy of ‘The Undiscovered Self’
of course.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
10 months ago
Reply to  Karl Francis

Carl Jung, ‘The Undiscovered Self’

“In this challenging and provocative work, Dr. Carl Jung—one of history’s greatest minds—argues that civilization’s future depends on our ability as individuals to resist the collective forces of society. Only by gaining an awareness and understanding of one’s unconscious mind and true, inner nature—“the undiscovered self”—can we as individuals acquire the self-knowledge that is antithetical to ideological fanaticism. But this requires that we face our fear of the duality of the human psyche—the existence of good and the capacity for evil in every individual.

In this seminal book, Jung compellingly argues that only then can we begin to cope with the dangers posed by mass society—“the sum total of individuals”—and resist the potential threats posed by those in power.”

And the Clash?

I wonder what these rat like psychology students out ‘Nudging’ consumers into doing the ‘right’ thing, making the right purchases, think of Jung’s Christian Mysticism and Psychology? You know they had to study him.

Unherd Person
Unherd Person
10 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

You can see why Jung is widely dismissed among modern academia. Pulling back the curtain on the individual, slicing us open all laid bare as agents of good and evil is antithetical to the collectivist zeitgeist where problems are systemic, a result of ‘society’, and therefore need ‘fixing’ with top-down control rather than entrusting the individual.

David Morley
David Morley
10 months ago

We advocated two new dimensions to policy making: behaviour-focused models describing what drives human decision making; and the priority of empirical research over all other sources of information. 

It may sometimes seem a bit sinister, but the alternative seems to be:

  • assume people are more rational than they in fact are
  • Base policy on politicians (often unfounded, or only half true) pet ideas

So how do we prevent its misuse?
And if we are completely honest with the public, does it destroy the effect – eg “we over exaggerating the dangers of Covid to get you to comply”

Last edited 10 months ago by David Morley
Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
10 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

But basing policy on somebody’s (often unfounded or only half-true) pet ideas is what we _always_ get. Giving them scientific clothes to wear doesn’t change that.
The only thing to do is to allow people to challenge these ideas, rationally, instead of deciding that they need to be manipulated into believing something else.
Note that you can actually influence people to be a whole lot more rational, but if you are going to make strides in that direction, you first need to expect them to be rational, and take that as a given. Many of them will fail at this, indeed we all will at some points in our lives, but it is always easier to work with people who are trying to be rational than those who believe it doesn’t matter. The next thing you need to do is to teach them the difference between themselves, their egos and their feelings. You can do this as well.
This serves as a pretty good basis for resilience to emotional manipulation, but it may not be enough under the constant onslaught we face today. It used to be that the only people trying to manipulate you were nearly always also trying to sell you something, and if you kept your wallet in your pocket or purse you would mostly be ok.
Rationality looks a whole lot better when people understand their their own feelings are being used against them, and thus cannot be trusted. But I doubt the nudgers want to help sell that message. 🙂

Last edited 10 months ago by Laura Creighton
Su Mac
Su Mac
10 months ago

Where did I read this? “Modern politics is the process of manufacturing consensus” Anyone??
It boils down to this – in both the personal and the political – just because you CAN persuade someone to do something, should you?
Our world leaders have forgotten that in the personal realm this excessive use of “nudging” leads to unhealthy, bullying, domineering relationships over angry people who either wither away, hate or fight back unexpectedly.
Fortunately I think we are seeing the last option taking hold.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
10 months ago
Reply to  Su Mac

deleted, as all I pasted in worked just fine without the links. So if you want them, head to wikipedia.

Last edited 10 months ago by Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
10 months ago
Reply to  Su Mac

Of the ‘anyone’ — did you mean ‘Manufacturing Consensus’ or ‘Manufacturing Consent’ ?
Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media is a 1988 book by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky. It argues that the mass communication media of the U.S. “are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function, by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion”, by means of the propaganda model of communication.[1] The title refers to consent of the governed, and derives from the phrase “the manufacture of consent” used by Walter Lippmann in Public Opinion (1922).
I pasted this in from wikipedia but it was so link heavy as to trigger the approval mechanism.

Jane Watson
Jane Watson
10 months ago

“we need multidisciplinary teams, a strong culture of intellectual humility and designed-in cognitive diversity to tackle problems”…

So the very things we have seen such a woeful lack of in SAGE, and on stage, throughout this pantomime. Blinkered, single issue ‘experts’, unable to see the bigger picture – so sure of their cleverness and goodness that anything can be justified.

And, of course, they all meant so well.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
10 months ago

I have spent the last few days thinking and wondering why it is that Simon Ruda wrote and posted this? Is Galeti Tavas correct this this was an attempt to nudge us? Is Peter LR correct in his supposition that he was using us as a confessional? Was he simply fishing for information trying to find out exactly how much trouble he is in?
I’m with the last, but it did occur to me that this might have been an attempt at repentence by somebody who has never repented anything before and is particularly clueless about what it entails. If this is the case:

  1. You cannot get forgiveness for your trespass until *after* you have repented it. Understanding is not forgiveness.
  2. For people who have something large and monstrous to repent, it is usually necessary to make a large change in one’s life — to ‘turn over a new leaf’ as part of the repentance. Note that this is necessary but not sufficient. Once it becomes clear that your old way of living has lead you into the commission of great evil, you will want to change your life in any case. A change of life is particularly necessary when the evil involved was deceitfulness. We aren’t going to forgive you unless we sincerely believe you are contrite, and since we already know that you fooled us once, we aren’t likely to believe you the second time, if all you have to show us is words.
  3. Repenting to those who were clever enough to catch you at it is not enough. The people who were damaged the most were the ones you thought your cleverness gave the right to fool. Those are the people whose forgiveness you need the most.

So, my bet is that this note was a complete waste of time because forgiveness wasn’t what was wanted. But I could be wrong …. and if so I suggest that Simon Ruda and any other nudgers whose consciences have started complaining and have started to feel ashamed of themselves, go found a different institute, one dedicated to teaching people when they are being manipulated and helping them learn techniques to resist the same. And stand up for reason in the political process, as the ideal we should aim for even if we can only approach it imperfectly.

Last edited 10 months ago by Laura Creighton
Unherd Person
Unherd Person
10 months ago

The piece comes across to me mainly as a defence, with a sprinkling of confessional. I also wouldn’t be surprised if there are elements of nudge.
It doesn’t appear that Simon has anything close to a full grasp on the extent of his and the nudge unit’s crimes against a full 70 million people. You do this to your partner or child and you’d be in prison. Post-justice, I too hope for a 180 degree flip and they dedicate their lives to combating this kind of state power.
On your point 3 above, I’m not sure. It has been blanket demoralisation. It has been torturous being aware that we are being force-fed 2+2=5, everywhere, 24 hours a day. Being coerced from all angles into being a liar and a coward, a pet being trained by the state. Receiving abuse from family, friends, colleagues and strangers for daring to say “We are being mass manipulated, the state is intentionally terrorising us. 2+2=4″.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
10 months ago
Reply to  Unherd Person

Thank you for writing. I’m in Sweden. We *don’t have* the blanket demoralisation you are talking about here. So it might not be my place to speak about that in this forum.
However, I do have experience with the genuine repentance on the part of very Clever people. And you have to be wary of the con. If they think confessing to those Clever than they are … Clever enough to have caught them out at it … their Clever superiors, who are more Clever than they …. Well, their repentance is full of worms.
They aren’t sorry they harmed others, but only sorry that they got caught. This may be step one of their steps to true repentance.
So, dear goodness gracious, I wasn’t saying that they didn’t owe a debt to the clever enough to have figured them out. Just that this is only a place to start. They need to see what they did to those less clever, too. Until they renounce the idea that the clever get to manipulate the less clever because their cleverness is their superiority … I am not much interested in their repentance.

I don’t forgive easy. I don’t see why I ought to.

And I am very sorry that you had to suffer as you have.

Last edited 10 months ago by Laura Creighton
Unherd Person
Unherd Person
10 months ago

Good points about Very Clever People. The timing of this article is suspect, just as the tide has really started to shift against Covid hysteria, as people have become more aware of the lunacy.
Why didn’t Simon write this in say Spring 2020 when the ethical case against potential measures, restrictions, propaganda was being made in other quarters? Or in summer 2020 when the damage that this top-down tyranny was causing was already apparent to the small minority of us plebs who were paying attention? “Sorry not sorry”, sorry for getting caught as you say.
Perhaps the chance to run the grandest nudging experiment yet was too tempting for the mind of mass manipulators to turn down, whatever the cost (were the costs ever discussed, and in any real depth?). Very Interesting Projects are a real credentials booster.

Last edited 10 months ago by Unherd Person
Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
10 months ago
Reply to  Unherd Person

The timing is indeed suspect. But I have met people, having neglected to check the morality of what they were doing from the get-go, who are convinced that what they have been doing must be moral, because if it were immoral then they would not be doing it.
The banality of evil, indeed.

Last edited 10 months ago by Laura Creighton
Unherd Person
Unherd Person
10 months ago

That’s some truly demented non-reasoning, belief in ones own de facto superiority. CS Lewis’ Of all tyrannies…, etc.
This short Peter Hitchens clip also comes to mind about this kind of person, though he’s focussing just on the left wing variety.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qCHRYMe66g

Last edited 10 months ago by Unherd Person
Unherd Person
Unherd Person
10 months ago

On ‘cleverness’, one thing that’s been eye-opening is that there’s been no relationship that I’ve seen between intelligence and susceptibility to the nudging propaganda, the hysteria.
Most of the most ‘intelligent’ people I know have fallen for it all hook, line and sinker, or at least that’s what they virtue signal. On the other hand, I know plenty of normies whose BS detector saw this for what it is from the start.
‘Cleverer’ in the context we’re talking about is about ability to manipulate, get one over on someone else, on other people. Bring them to heel. That’s the kind of people we’re dealing with in these nudge units.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
10 months ago
Reply to  Unherd Person

I’d upvote you 400 times if I could ….

Mark Burbidge
Mark Burbidge
10 months ago

Behavioural science. An oxymoron that is about as useful as witchcraft but far more sinister.

Helen E
Helen E
10 months ago

Eight paragraphs in, and this US reader still has zero idea what the author is talking about. Is this a strictly UK invention? “Nudge” unit? Part of the executive branch, paid for by UK tax money?
In the US, beginning in the ’50s, we’ve been accustomed to seeing helpful TV spots, ads (use your seatbelts, don’t litter, etc) followed by “this public service announcement has been brought to you by the Ad Council.” But the Ad Council is a national nonprofit. Same difference?

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
10 months ago
Reply to  Helen E

I am not in the USA but I believe that you have a Nudge Unit too, called the the White House Social and Behavioral Sciences Team.
https://behavioralscientist.org/executive-order-formally-establishes-us-nudge-unit/
But perhaps the team didn’t survive Obama’s presidency?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
10 months ago

haha, all you puffed up and angry sheep – you just got nudged. This article is mere poking the wasp nest with a stick to see the angry wasps all go buzzing about in an impotent rage….

At least I suspect that is it, as what other responce could the writer have been expecting? You have been one of his study experiments, and you passed with flying colours…….

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
10 months ago

I thinking the idea of nudging seems to necessarily making decisions amongst an in group that just aren’t fully and openly explained and therefore can’t be debated, or effectively challenged.

A little like consultation exercises that are exercises to try and ensure the already decided upon option is the one most people will go along with, rather than accept a full debate may be made necessary by a challenging objection.
The way the EU *nudge*…exampled by their *progress* from EEC..to EU..the clue is in the acronym… and adoption of the very ambiguous idea of ever closer union as a process that both does what it says on the tin lid, but , be assured, will never actually reach *a union*, so people are nudged towards the end while being reassured it will never be reached.

Elena Lange
Elena Lange
10 months ago

Nudge Unit, I see, I see. There will be reckoning with you, too, as with all the inhuman social engineering psy-ops that cost us and our children our happiness, health, and future.

Julie Blinde
Julie Blinde
10 months ago

Nudge theory will survive the pandemic as a pub-joke.
But finger-wagging theory has already died

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
10 months ago

Doesn’t this argument go back to the 1960’s with Simulmatics Corporation and later with Cambridge Analytica or is that something different?

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
10 months ago

This is interesting. Some of the propagandists having conscience pains? These people are evil