Published On: Wed, May 27th, 2020

The “Cummings effect”: UK Government scurries to stay ahead of lockdown disintegration

Isn’t it obvious?

On the Friday ahead of the bank holiday weekend just gone, when people were set to pack sun-drenched beaches (and to demonstrate that UK Government had no power to enforce a lockdown), a pathetic little weeks-old tale of Dominic Cummings, senior adviser to Boris Johnson, is dragged up in corporate-media to become an over-prolonged scandal that would still be toiling in social and corporate column inches long into the following week. Cummings had flouted lockdown!

This article is not here to debate the wrongs and rights of whatever Cummings has supposedly done – because all of that is about i) retrospectively creating justification for the appearance of such an unremarkable story, and ii) anchoring a psychological landmark for developments that follow.

At the root of the Cummings hullabaloo is the fact that the British public has been growing steadily confident about flouting the lockdown – or, to state it in terms that are dangerous to UK Government, acting in their liberty and with scorn for what is in effect an illusion of UK Government power (please see the FBEL The Coronavirus Police State series). The public show of defiance this weekend was clearly greater than has been seen since the Coronavirus Restrictions Regulations (CRR) were introduced in March. Photographic coverage of weekend day-trippers and holiday makers in coverage by The Guardian shows people covering whole stretches of beaches and gathering in huge numbers in parks. There are arguably more people in these photos than there were in the ones that were used, when the UK Government’s media mouthpieces invented the term “Covidiot”, as a visual tool in the revelation of pretext for the introduction of the CRR (see 23rd March, The Telegraph: “Boris Johnson has warned the UK faces a total lockdown amid growing concern at the failure of the public to heed demands for ‘social distancing’ to prevent the spread of coronavirus”).

Of course, and as the headline to The Guardian piece reminds, lockdown has now officially been eased. However, this doesn’t reflect the truth that UK Government had to ease the lockdown because of the increasing propensity of the British to flout it – even in spite of the best efforts of the nation’s favourite and most appalling gatekeeper.

Remember when it was written of Peter Hitchens, here at FBEL, that he would “[have a society] that belongs under a Pharaoh”? Well, he outdid himself on the Sunday ahead of this most recent Bank Holiday Monday:

We will never get out of this now. It will go on for ever. We will not be free people again.

Given that Hitchens’ gate-kept flock, in all their timidity, see him as a Great White Hope on their behalf, a more disgusting and vile piece of writing we will never come across again in our lifetimes. If any good is to be found in it, it surely reflects the desperation of UK Government.

Of course, previously Hitchens appeared to be involved in a scheme of perception-shaping which would have people believe that they were too scared to compel UK Government to end lockdown. It was programming, however, that was shown to have been entirely ineffective by opinion polling that showed

40% believe to some extent the spread of the virus is a deliberate attempt by powerful people to gain control

20% believe to some extent that the virus is a hoax

Be that as it may, Hitchens was at it again this weekend underneath his despairing opening lines, working to create associations between soon-to-arrive images of sunbathers and a laziness that we are evidently supposed to understand is encouraging the continuation of lockdown.

And so it has been. Lulled by the lotus-eating weeks of furlough payments and mortgage holidays, and by the almost unceasing spring sunshine, we have lolled about for the past two months vaguely wondering what that faint unpleasant sound in the distance might be.

Only one word is required: sick.

In actual fact, those soon-to-appear images of sun bathers are very important in terms of defeating the psychological nudging upon which lockdown depends. The essentialness of displays of unsanctioned behaviour in combating tyranny borne out of fear was presented here (and only here) at FBEL through analysis of the film, Equals, and the drawing of parallels between society portrayed in that work, and the situation that people were finding in their real life.

The long and the short of it is that enough British people did decide to take individual action against lockdown, and partake in behaviour that was supposedly not allowed. It broke the UK Government’s authority – and the weakness is even evident in a caption to a photograph in the aforementioned Guardian picture gallery. The scene is Southend-on-Sea; there is no 2-metre-apart orderliness to be seen. Yet the caption reads:

Community safety officers, employed by the local council, patrol the beach to ensure physical distancing measures are adhered to and visitors do not drink alcohol

(The Guardian attributes the photo to Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images).

What the writer of the caption has done is rely on the gaslighting technique that is bread and butter stuff for Winston Smith characters slaving away in the ranks of cubicles on the news media shop floor of the Ministry of Truth. While there may be a local by-law prohibiting the drinking of alcohol without the premises of a licensed victualler, ignoring social distancing guidelines is not illegal. There is nothing that police – or even losers pretending to be police – can do to enforce social distancing guidelines.

Below is another image of people not obeying non-law (The Guardian attributes the photo to Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images). Reports have emerged that all that police have been able to do in response to these mass expressions of liberty is to urge people to practise common sense – like any UK police force knows what that means!

So, the problem for UK Government is that it can’t have the fundamental constitutional component, The People, comprehending its own power. The UK Government cannot afford a situation where people see that the dodgy statute law which is the Coronavirus Restrictions Regulations – and indeed any statute law (legislation) – is unenforceable if enough people decide that they are going to ignore it. The solution is to create a Lucifer figure: one of the elite who erred and caused a new paradigm. Hence, the Cummings story: to explain why the lockdown is over. It wasn’t the mere mortals, no. It was one of the “gods” who ruined lockdown optics by stupid accident.  As such, the UK Government created something called the “Cummings effect”. The coverage in corporate-media speaks for itself, and an example of it now follows:

Some have dubbed today’s packed beaches as the “Cummings effect”, as Boris Johnson’s senior adviser Dominic Cummings is embroiled in a row for travelling 260 miles from London to Durham during the lockdown.



Beaches packed on Bank Holiday as residents say it’s down to ‘Cummings effect’


“Cummings Effect” Blamed for Packed Bank Holiday Monday Beaches

The following is from the twitter account of the gobshite that is Piers Morgan:

What is the Govt doing to do/when the public now ignore lockdown rules? How can police continue to enforce breaches with fines, if offenders say ‘Cummings did it, why can’t I?’ You’re wrecked your lockdown @BorisJohnson – the only question now is how many lives it will cost.

And the following extract provides a slightly different twist. Headlined, Frasers boss blames Cummings effect for store reopening delay, the body of the article continues:

Wootton, right-hand man to Frasers and Sports Direct tycoon Mike Ashley, told ITV News that he was “extremely irritated” that ‘non-essential’ retailers must wait until June 15 before reopening, rather than June 1 as previously expected.

Wootton told the broadcaster: “We actually think that the whole Dominic Cummings fiasco over the weekend has made [the government] hesitant to act decisively, so they’ve clearly pushed [reopening] back to the 15th of June.”

Now, the management of Frasers and Sports Direct, and indeed that of other retailers, may genuinely believe that the UK Government is capable of acting indecisively, but the truth is that a decision is sure to have been taken, and any delay would be due to an attempt to hold out as long as possible (remember how, in April, Wetherspoons threatened to open in June regardless). Anyway, because the “Cummings effect” is code for public disobedience, the collection and presentation of the mistaken idea (by ITV, in this case) shapes public perception to conceive a particular reality: to wit, a delay in reopening shops is a collective punishment. Of course, it is not exactly shooting French villagers because the resistance blew up a German train, is it?

In spite of the Cummings episode clearly being an issue of managing a psychological operation that has gone awry, there has been a lot of help selling it as something else from the usual suspects. The reader will perhaps have noticed that some alternative media and pre-9/11 attitude blogosphere types are feeding their audiences an extension of the Cummings tale to an enthusiastically and persistently gullible audience. The author doesn’t know the exact details (because he tries his best not to waste his time), but the yarn that many are being payed out (away from the important knowledge) at the end of involves Cummings being on a mission to a big pharmaceutical company on a matter related to a vaccine. Of course, the proper response to this should be: but even if it is true, so what? There is this thing called the internet, and also a new fangled device called the telephone. Cummings could have a virtual meeting at any time to discuss vaccines – or even 5G death rays for that matter.

The point to understand is that there can’t be expressions of dismay, out of alternative (and semi alternative) media, at the suggestion that Cummings is plotting mandatory vaccines (or the like) if there is not a public aspect to it. And expressions of dismay are for reinforcing the impression of the inevitably of a vaccine, and producing the idea of the foregone conclusion. It’s what alternative media does. However, in the end, the power of UK Government to dispense a vaccine is the same as the power of UK Government to make a person not leave his home. At FBEL, the readership is told that if the individual chooses it to be the case, then this power does not inevitably convert to an undesirable outcome, and stands to be challenged and defeated.

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Have Your Say
  1. Mara D says:

    “people not obeying non-law”

    Nicely put.

    I notice that ‘voluntary’ compliance with the new “track and trace” Stasi operation is couched as a “civic duty”, which is stretching the term way beyond it’s legitimate use (pay taxes, vote, attend a jury trial). I hope there are high levels of non-compliance.

    Seeing all those people on the beaches and out in the countryside gives me hope that not all ‘citizens’ are as stupid as the UK government would like to think they are.

T-shirts to protest compulsory face coverings - click image