Creating an environment in which individuals and marginalized groups were shamed during the Covid pandemic was a “reprehensible” strategy to deflect attention from the UK government’s errors, an academic study has concluded.
Research by medical humanities scholars at the University of Exeter said people from ethnic minority groups, people with medical conditions such as obesity and health professionals all faced shame and stigma.
They argue that the right conditions of shame were imposed on citizens to use their common sense and encourage people to report rule breakers instead of formulating cohesive public health policies.
Luna Dolezal, an associate professor in philosophy and medical humanities and one of the three co-authors, said, “There has been a deliberate political decision to create shame or allow it to spread, as a means of diverting attention from bad governance. ” Research.
“The uncomfortable conclusion we draw is that shame has come to define important elements of the pandemic, and that rather than this emotion being experienced equally by all, it is increasingly confined to some of society’s most marginalized. directed at and at the weaker members.”
Dolezal said by isolating communities—and often without much power—a “government-sanctioned blame culture” had been created. “This was a time when we needed solidarity, not division,” he said.
Dolezal said that there was a long tradition of “curtain-twitching” in England. “It intensified during the lockdown.” She said she thought the trend was over. “But it can be easily reignited.”
The book, Covid-19 and Shame: Political Emotions and Public Health in the UK, is being published by Bloomsbury on 9 February. It describes how and why shame was experienced in England, from the first tweet mentioning the word covidiot on 26 February 2020 to the online shaming of the Columbia Road flower market the following month when – legally – people came to Keep going
It recounts the first “local lockdown” in Leicestershire, which caused one resident to feel like a “Leicester leper” and in a chapter entitled “Coughing While Asian” “outlines racist hatred and abuse at persons believed to be Chinese”. discussed. and the myth of a healthy Western country “beset by foreign diseases”.
The book highlights the case of a mother who was “nominated and shamed” on social media for not clapping for carers. The woman said, ‘I am dead. “The post said … I showed up and I don’t deserve to use the NHS if I can’t take a minute to show my appreciation.”
Care workers were spat on and verbally abused, accused of being “murderers” and “carriers of death” and nurses had to hide their ID cards and hide their uniforms on the way to and from work for fear of attack. This phenomenon is said to have been studied.
According to the researchers, another group that was shamed were overweight people, who were portrayed as more likely to become seriously ill and thus become “a selfish burden on strained health systems”.
The study highlighted one particular campaign that used shame. In January 2021 the UK government released the “Can you look them in the eye?” The campaign aims at citizens breaking the rules and showing Covid patients in oxygen masks and “shameful gaze” towards the camera.
In a chapter titled “Good Solid British Common Sense”, the authors argued that the UK government’s emphasis on common sense holding members of the public accountable to the pandemic encourages “deeply harmful patterns of judgement, shame and surveillance”.
Fred Cooper, one of the authors and an expert on shame and loneliness, said: “Unable to provide an intrinsically useful or agreed-upon code for effective public health or good epistemological citizenship, appeals to common sense served a cynical political purpose.” Did. They eroded faith in scientific expertise, flattered those who like to think they had it, and created a shameful conglomerate.
The research claims: “Our uneasy conclusion is that shame has played a role in the pandemic, being beneficial rather than harmful to everyone else, at the direct expense of the most marginalized and vulnerable.”
The book is based on research collected through two projects: Views of Shame and Stigma in Covid-19, funded by the UKRI Arts and Humanities Research Council, and Shame and Medicine, funded by the Wellcome Trust.