Psycho-Covidology: Induced Helplessness and the Exploitation of Fear

EDITORIAL, 4 Jan 2021

#674 | Diane Perlman, PhD - TRANSCEND Media Service

 (Note: This is pertinent to the USA, which is dominated by Big Pharma, the biggest lobby in Congress. I’m curious about dynamics in other countries and request comments.)

Since March I have been living in two parallel universes. In one, I feel paralyzed with fear and helplessness, passively waiting for Big Pharma to create a new drug and vaccine as the only way out of lockdown. The pandemic feels random, like a crapshoot. Anybody at any age can die or kill others. My fear is debilitating and thought-stopping.

In the second, my fear is motivating and empowering. I understand who dies, why, and how to reduce vulnerability. I know most US deaths are among those in unprotected nursing homes, among the elderly and those with comorbidities like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. The vast majority have mild or no symptoms. This universe is populated by doctors and scientists, mostly in other countries. They research, apply, and document effective natural and repurposed pharmaceutical measures and treatments that boost immunity, reduce symptoms, severity, and duration of Covid-19.

There is a one-way, impermeable membrane between these two worlds, meant to guarantee that nothing from the second leaks into the first. This is done by not reporting scientific research and treatments around the world, shutting down websites and Facebook pages, disseminating disinformation, misrepresenting facts, discrediting and in some cases, suspending licenses of practitioners.

Fear is in the air. Legitimate worries about death and disease can be easily exploited by various political and financial interests by disinformation, censorship, scapegoating, surveillance, manipulating fear and abusing power. Fears may be well-founded, exaggerated, minimized or denied. Plus, we judge everybody else’s level of fear as being too much, not enough, or crazy compared to our own.

Fears can be exaggerated for political purposes, such as in political campaigns and the run up to wars. In her groundbreaking book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein describes how crises, disasters and upheavals are exploited when people are preoccupied with survival. Some make huge profits while others lose lives, jobs, homes and fortunes.

How Numbers Are Manipulated to Exaggerate the Threat 

There are many ways to inflate infection and death rates. We don’t know the actual infection rate because everyone isn’t tested. PCR tests have false positives.

We don’t know the actual death rate because the CDC combines death rates from pneumonia, influenza and COVID-19 (PIC). Doctors report that they are instructed to list people dying from other causes, some with Covid-19 as dying from Covid-19.

A high percentage of people on ventilators die when there are safer ways of getting oxygen into the body. Many doctors are frustrated that life-saving protocols are being ignored and patients are dying needlessly.

Daily pronouncements of new infections would be less alarming considering that much of the increase is among young people with mild or no symptoms. Rates were predicted to be higher in winter and lower in summer due to protection from higher humidity, sunlight, Vitamin D and other factors.

Politicization of blame for increasing rates provokes hysteria and divisiveness. It diverts us from focus on the actual causes so we can become active agents of our health while protecting the vulnerable and

What Is Happening and Why?

“Probably never before in history has anything or any event mixed fact, fiction, fear, and confusion like the COVID-19 pandemic.”Thomas E. Levy, MD, JD

 I have been studying propaganda, scapegoating, and psychological manipulation of fear since college. Today it is quantum leaps more dangerous than ever. Even progressives who have always questioned authority make exceptions for Covid-19. Many who normally exercise agency feel helpless, which I call “induced helplessness.” Some psychological concepts will illuminate the process.

 Goldilocks Fear – Not Too Much, Not Too Little

Fear, conscious or unconscious, is dominant. People are more dangerous when afraid. People regress to more primitive levels of development. Higher cognitive functions, the use of logic, the ability to anticipate consequences and understand cause are replaced with simplistic, black-and-white thinking.

Too much fear can be debilitating, rendering people vulnerable to exploitation. Too little fear allows recklessness, endangering self and others. A healthy, optimal level of fear allows one to be aware of objective risks to take appropriate protective precautions for self and those most vulnerable. Healthy fear motivates learning about reducing personal risk factors and prophylaxis against Covid-19, including diet and supplements that boost immunity.

Having solutions reduces fear. Dr. Pierre Kory, who testified before the US Senate on December 8, 2020, considers Ivermectin a miraculous solution to the crisis (see his powerful 10-minute testimony here). In Argentina, none of 800 health care workers who received prophylactic Ivermectin got sick, while 58% of the control group did. Kory says, “You will be protected from getting ill if you take it in early outpatient treatment.”

Helplessness versus Agency

In animal studies on “learned helplessness,” which would not pass ethical review boards today, dogs repeatedly exposed to inescapable electric shocks learn they have no control over their environment. When placed in a condition they can escape, they don’t even try.

Likewise, people who grow up without control learn to be helpless. Helplessness raises cortisol levels, which suppresses the immune system. The constant barrage of exaggerated, frightening messages about forces beyond our control, being told that we have to wait for a vaccine to save us while suppressing empowering information induces helplessness.

Public Health Is Not Metabolic and Immune Health            

Public health deals with contagion and behavior—masks, handwashing and distancing. It requires compliance and has a significant role. But public health has nothing to do with personal health, resilience, metabolic flexibility and immune function. These require agency over one’s health. Government, Big Pharma and the media hype public health and ignore personal health.

Germ Theory versus Host Resistance

Germ theory requires handwashing to prevent infection, but does not address individual variability in resistance if exposed. One can increase “host resistance” by boosting immunity. The media emphasizes germ theory and ignores our agency to protect ourselves with good nutrition.


Yale psychologist Irving Janis defined groupthink as, “A mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.” With groupthink, few dare to challenge the dominant mindset.

Groupthink pressures for consensus and discourages independent thinking and expressions of doubts. Overconfidence and failure to consider alternative views, facts and bodies of knowledge impair sound decision making, leading to flawed decisions. With fear, groupthink is more extreme.

For example, scientists tried to stop the launch of the Challenger space shuttle in January1986, warning that the O-rings would freeze and endanger the mission. Due to groupthink this idea was rejected and the Challenger, with the first teacher in space, exploded shortly after launch.

Hegemonic Belief Systems

Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist philosopher, described the ways the ruling class establishes and maintains control of class relations, wielding “invisible power” by manipulating the culture’s ideology, beliefs and values. This maintains the status quo, inducing people to accept without question the ruling class’s worldview as natural and inevitable.


In “Mystification, Confusion and Conflict,” R.D. Laing describes mystification as a “plausible misrepresentation” of reality. “By representing forms of exploitation as forms of benevolence, the exploiters bemuse the exploited into feeling at one with their exploiters, or into feeling gratitude for what (unrealized by them) is their exploitation, and, not least, into feeling bad or mad even to think of rebellion.”

Mystification maintains power dynamics of stereotyped roles and power relationships. It induces confusion, masks the truth about what is actually happening and what a conflict is actually about. People may not feel confused. In fact, they may feel quite assured of their position.

Terror Management Theory 

Terror Management Theory (TMT) is a body of social psychology research inspired by anthropologist Ernest Becker’s 1973 Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Denial of Death. Awareness of the reality of death creates profound existential anxiety. To protect ourselves, we mobilize an “anxiety buffering system” to ward off such anxiety. We create meaning systems that offer an illusion of transcending death. We urgently hold on to aspects of meaning, and dread anything that threatens our buffering systems.

Hundreds of experiments have studied the effects of confronting people with their own mortality. “Mortality salience” disrupts the anxiety buffer. People respond with greater fear and suspicion of outgroups, greater attachment to one’s ingroup, increased nationalism, prejudice, increased support for violent solutions and greater attraction to charismatic leaders.

 Political Mind Games

In Political Mind Games: How the 1% Manipulate Our Understanding of What’s Happening, What’s Right, and What’s Possible, Roy Eidelson—my friend and colleague—describes how politicians appeal to fundamental concerns that govern our lives: vulnerability, injustice, distrust, superiority and helplessness.

Covid-19 provokes issues of vulnerability and helplessness. Magnifying alarmist fears of a dangerous world heightens feelings of vulnerability. Manipulating helplessness incites the feeling of powerful forces beyond our control.

Be a Conspiracy Hypothesist

Sometimes people investigate different sources, connect dots and challenge the dominant narrative. They are often dismissed as conspiracy theories. Those who dismiss should be called out as conspiracy deniers.

Has anything like this every happened in history? Like falsifying data for profit or censoring truth? Tobacco? Oxycontin? Vioxx?  Is it plausible?

So don’t be a conspiracy theorist or a conspiracy denier. Be a conspiracy hypothesist. Make a hypothesis and see if the facts support or invalidate it. Accept truth.

Don’t Be a Sucker: Think for Yourself

We need to learn how to discern who is telling the truth. For starters, follow the money. If Ivermectin, at 12 cents a dose, keeps all 800 Argentinian frontline workers from getting sick compared to 58% of the control group, why isn’t it being widely distributed?

In England, frontline National Health Service Workers receive immune support resilience packets of supplements to keep them from getting sick. Why don’t we protect our healthcare workers with immune support? In England they are distributing free Vitamin D pills for 2.5 million vulnerable. Why doesn’t the US?

Dr. Thomas Levy said that “doctors do not support inexpensive, effective therapies, … But the bottom line is in medicine, just as in any other business, money rules.”

We mainly hear about expensive, patentable, pharmaceutically engineered drugs and spend hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money developing drugs, like Remdesivir and vaccines, that patentholders profit from.

Clinical trials in China and Italy using high dose intravenous vitamin C demonstrate effectiveness at stopping the cytokine storm that kills so many people. IV vitamin C is being used as part of an integrative treatment for COVID-19 patients at Northwell Health facilities in Long Island, New York. Physicians made the decision based on experimental treatments in Wuhan, China.

The patients who received vitamin C did significantly better than those who did not get vitamin C,” Dr. Andrew Weber said. “It helps a tremendous amount, but it is not highlighted because it’s not a sexy drug.”    

            “With the treatment options available, there is no good reason for most people to even contract COVID-19, and there is certainly no good reason for anyone to die from this virus, much less have a prolonged clinical course of infection with a great deal of needless suffering.”

For a list of treatments that prevent, improve or cure see, “COVID-19 How can I cure thee? Let me count the ways. Commentary by Thomas E. Levy, MD, JD 

Scientists are having increasing success with natural and repurposed treatments. They are learning, teaching, and testifying. Some who have been censored are taking legal action. Momentum is building.

More truth is coming out, but it’s daunting to challenge the powerful, dominant forces in an environment of palpable fear. First, we must be aware of the techniques being used and work to demystify. As the eminent philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said:

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”


Diane Perlman, PhD is a clinical and political psychologist, devoted to applying knowledge from psychology, conflict studies and social sciences to designing strategies and policies to reverse nuclear proliferation, to drastically reduce terrorism, reduce enmity, and to raise consciousness about nonviolent strategies for tension reduction and conflict transformation. She is a visiting scholar at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, is active in Psychologists for Social Responsibility, the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, and on the Global Council of Abolition 2000. Some of her writings can be found on her websites,  and Email:

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 4 Jan 2021.

Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: Psycho-Covidology: Induced Helplessness and the Exploitation of Fear, is included. Thank you.

If you enjoyed this article, please donate to TMS to join the growing list of TMS Supporters.

Share this article:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.

6 Responses to “Psycho-Covidology: Induced Helplessness and the Exploitation of Fear”

  1. Frances says:

    The Australian govt., it’s national health officer and state health officers are following the WHO script, lockdowns, closing state borders, mandatory masks in public, fines for not wearing masks in public, with some state variations. International travel denied. HCQ which was used by Australians in PNG daily to prevent malaria now banned to be prescribed by doctors. Many businesses which are still open refuse cash transactions; also, use of QR code with smartphone on entry/exit from premises now required at many venues. Sad state of affairs and Aussies obey due to fear and fines.

    • Thank you for answering my question. You help me realize that your experience comes from WHO which is controlled by Bill Gates – so the US experience is being exported.

  2. Liz Peel says:

    “Learned helplessness: is a CIA torture tactic.
    “Two architects of the CIA’s torture program, contractor psychologists Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, called it by the antiseptic term “learned helplessness”. It means that torturers break down an individual’s self-control, until he or she is emotionally and psychologically unequipped to disobey.”'s%20torture%20program,%20contractor,she%20is%20emotionally%20and%20psychologically%20unequipped%20to%20disobey.
    “Jabuli and other torture survivors experienced a chilling process referenced in the US Senate intelligence committee’s report into CIA torture. Two architects of the CIA’s torture program, contractor psychologists Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, called it by the antiseptic term “learned helplessness”. It means that torturers break down an individual’s self-control, until he or she is emotionally and psychologically unequipped to disobey.”

    Fear and lerned helplessness can be sustained with an in-body communication system/Personal area network set of wireless implants against a person’s will and without their permission.
    Example: US Patent 7914468B2 Systems and Methods For Monitoring and Modifying Behavior – israeli inventors
    Audio and video broadcast into a person’s body as well as a “shock” option

    Liz Peel
    Los Angeles
    2:30 pm PST

    • Thanks for that Liz. Being a psychologist from Philadelphia, I have known Marty Seligman, theorist of learned helplessness, and participated in his APA presidential initiative in the first class of fellows in the Solomon Asch Center for the Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict. most pertinent my friends and colleagues in Psychologists for Social Responsibility took on the APA to hold them accountable for role of psychologists in designing, mont=itoring and participating in torture.

  3. Marilyn Langlois says:

    Thank you for this insightful analysis of the various psychological techniques being used against whole populations with few recognizing it, and for reminding us that there are other more constructive ways to deal with this illness. Thank you also for the important work you have done in the past with Psychologists for Socisl Responsibility to take on the APA and oppose the participation of psychologists in any aspects of torture.

  4. […] Psycho-Covidology: Induced Helplessness and the Exploitation of Fear […]