How psychological tactics subdued the French into accepting enduring state control over freedoms

By: Rachel Marsden

PARIS – As COVID-19 continues to make its way across the jabbed and unjabbed, ultimately conferring gold-standard immunity by virtue of having caught and recovered from the virus, the disease appears to be receding. Yet here in France, despite similar data suggesting that COVID has ebbed, the government has yet again pivoted. Its new tact sacrifices fundamental freedoms, not in the interest of saving lives, but rather to prevent any potential future risk, which may or may not even exist. How scientific.

If one follows the data, there’s no reason why mainland France should currently be subjected to any restrictions. But President Emmanuel Macron, a former banker, has found a way to apply the Sunk Cost Fallacy — whereby people double down on something for which they’ve sacrificed to invest — to remake the French mindset in favor of unlimited government control, even in the absence of existential crisis.

So how did he do it? How did this particular French president hack the ethos, pathos, and logos of a citizenry famous for lopping off the heads of their rulers? By sheer manipulation and coercion.

The “health pass”, introduced by Macron in July during a national address, has forced the French to get jabbed or, alternatively undergo a nose swab test every 72 hours in order to frequent everyday venues like restaurants, bars, cinemas, swimming pools, libraries, museums, gyms, some shopping centers and transportation.

Then came mandatory jab mandates for certain professions — leave without pay being the only other option in case of refusal. The one-size-fits-all approach to medicine and health fails to take into account prior acquired immunity or individual risk/benefit assessments by patients in consultation with their doctor.

Many French, having done their own analysis, had been waiting for more hindsight to become available on the new prophylactic treatments whose efficacy, safety and immunogenicity clinical trials aren’t scheduled to end until October 2022 in the earliest case of the Moderna jab and January 2023 for Pfizer. But social exclusion and financial burden are weapons powerful enough to strong-arm the famously skeptical French.

And the screws are still tightening on any holdouts, including kids as young as 12, who, beginning on Sept. 30, are required to get the jab or be left out of non-classroom school activities like swim lessons and extracurricular activities. Meanwhile, on Oct. 15, antigenic nose swab tests will cost 25 euros (and double for PCR tests) out of pocket for the unjabbed holdouts who have been getting them every three days to validate their health pass.

Several media outlets have lauded France’s approach. “How France tackled vaccine hesitancy,” read a headline in The Economist. “COVID-19 passports have proved efficient, and surprisingly popular,” it concluded. The Wall Street Journal also wrote that France “overcame COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.”

If The Economist noted that the passports have become popular, it’s arguably because once people are strong-armed into making a decision, particularly one they might never have made if they had not been coerced or manipulated, they become ardent defenders of their new position to sidestep cognitive dissonance.

Of course, there are the true believers who have always felt that their own personal choices should be adopted by everyone, despite neither the jab nor the health passes being a guarantee that one is prevented from catching or transmitting COVID. The believers use government alignment with their own views as moral validation to hoist themselves up onto their high horse and look down at those whose critical thought process and personal health situation led them to a different conclusion.

But then there are those whom the government has coerced into giving up so much of what they once resisted that they’re now “all-in” – Sunk Cost Fallacy-style. And many of these people now want everyone else in the same boat, too. Anyone who has doubled down on a different personal choice, despite all the pressure to cave to government demands, represents a threat in the mind of those who gave in. These holdouts are living reminders that maybe, just maybe, some can indeed resist government manipulation and restrictions while not suffering any adverse health effects.

But the real dangerous part is yet to come. As various segments of French society acquiesce to the health pass, the risk of it becoming a permanent fixture is increased. Initially set to expire on Nov. 15, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal recently suggested that its existence is set to be perennialized. Macron and his health minister have also hinted as much.

And why wouldn’t the government feel emboldened to implement enduring restrictions independent of scientific data when so many French are proud of their morally righteous health pass, and don’t seem to much care what might become of this system long after COVID-19 has vanished from the forefront of daily life.