Xtra News Community 2

General Category => General Forum => Topic started by: Kiwithrottlejockey on January 22, 2018, 01:00:20 pm

Title: 'merkin paranoia over “commie brainwashing” … faaaarking hilarious!!
Post by: Kiwithrottlejockey on January 22, 2018, 01:00:20 pm

from The New York Times....

When Americans Were Afraid of Being Brainwashed

What a forgotten episode of Cold War history can tell us about today's election-hacking fears.

By SUSAN L. CARRUTHERS | Thursday, January 18, 2018

(https://static01.nyt.com/images/2018/01/21/opinion/sunday/21Carruthers/merlin_132429509_bef97fad-7f37-43e5-92f7-dcee48baa5d9-superJumbo.jpg) (https://static01.nyt.com/images/2018/01/21/opinion/sunday/21Carruthers/merlin_132429509_bef97fad-7f37-43e5-92f7-dcee48baa5d9-superJumbo.jpg)
A scene from “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962), which reflected America's fear of a Communist mind-control conspiracy after the Korean War.
 — Photograph: Alamy/MGM/AF Archive.

THE SPECTER of Russian meddling in a United States presidential election — the fear that the Kremlin may have shaped the way Americans thought and voted — has electrified political life in the United States for the past 18 months. Those who hold the inviolability of electoral processes dear are understandably alarmed by evidence of foreign manipulation.

But the level of anxiety surrounding Kremlin interference threatens to exceed the immediate object of concern. A little-remembered episode from the early Cold War may shed light on today's panic: Americans have a long history of fearing foreign subversion via mental manipulation.

In the early 1950s, these concerns reached a new high with the captivity of some 7,000 American P.O.W.s during the Korean War. When a number of downed United States airmen recorded statements on behalf of the People's Republic of China claiming that they had engaged in germ warfare, many Americans became alarmed. Primed by recent show trials in newly Sovietized Eastern Europe that showed defendants like Hungary's Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty parroting confessions to trumped-up charges in a trance-like state, American audiences took the prisoners' rehearsed mea culpas as yet more evidence of a new Communist triumph: Scientists behind the Iron Curtain had apparently developed techniques that could wipe the mind clean and repattern behavior. Soon, processes of mental corrosion acquired a new and alarming sobriquet: “brainwashing.”

American commentators struggled to say exactly how a brain might be washed or whether the spin cycle could be reversed. Some believed that hypnosis or psychotropic drugs were used to induce a trance-like state in American prisoners. Others proposed that Chinese and North Korean Communists, tutored by their Soviet peers, applied Pavlovian techniques to condition the reflexes of their captives, rewarding complicit behavior while punishing deviance. Whether brainwashed P.O.W.s were ideological converts or merely obedient bodies, disciplined by physical punishment, remained a matter of dispute among contemporary observers.

But the vagueness of the concept served only to heighten hysteria. “Menticide,” announced the Columbia University psychiatrist Joost Meerloo, was a crime against humanity analogous to — or even worse than — genocide. The conceit spawned an array of nightmare scenarios. The worst of them appeared to be confirmed when 21 American prisoners refused repatriation after an armistice halted the Korean War in July 1953. Since a preference for “Red China” over America seemed inconceivable to many contemporaries, the conclusion was that the men must have been brainwashed. An unequivocal New York Times editorial in January 1954 evinced no doubt whatsoever. The “non-repatriates” offered “living proof that Communist brainwashing does work on some persons,” The Times informed its readers.

Fixated on these “turncoat G.I.s,” United States commentators tended to forget that an inordinately greater number of North Korean and Chinese P.O.W.s had refused repatriation to their side. What might have registered as a symbolic victory for the “free world” — 22,000 to 21 — was lost in heated contention over how brainwashing was performed and why Americans had seemingly succumbed en masse.

A vast majority of American P.O.W.s who survived captivity did return home — as, eventually, did almost all of the 21 men supposedly lost to brainwashing. But many found themselves suspected as traitors or ideological termites, sent back by their Communist captors to hollow out American society from within. Insidious plots subsequently made popular by fiction — think “The Manchurian Candidate” — appeared first in the pages of serious newsmagazines. In The Saturday Evening Post, Rear Admiral D. V. Gallery speculated that the Communists had expended so much energy on brainwashing American P.O.W.s to create a network of sleeper saboteurs awaiting activation. The Chinese, according to Admiral Gallery, had sown mental seeds they anticipated would “take root” and sprout in 10 or 20 years should another depression grip America. “This may seem far-fetched to those of us who live from year to year,” he acknowledged, before adding an Orientalist twist to his scenario. “But it isn't to Asiatics, who look at centuries as we do months.”

Why did people take “brainwashing” so seriously, despite the best efforts of prominent social scientists to debunk outré Pavlovian notions and the racist stereotypes often used to buttress them? And why does “election hacking” exert a comparable allure? Anxieties about external manipulation are not, of course, divorced from the demonstrable efforts of other powers to sway Americans' politically consequential behavior: The theft and distribution of Democratic National Committee emails was real enough, as was the Chinese effort to win converts among captive Americans imprisoned in North Korea. But “election hacking” and “brainwashing” share an aura of dark magic that obscures the precise mechanics believed to be at work in shaping the thoughts and actions of freethinking adults. And obscurity provides fertile soil in which conspiracy theories flourish. When everything is, or may be, a form of “election hacking,” the techniques appear worrisomely diffuse. So, too, do the agents of a phenomenon variously attributed to Russian trolls, Twitter-bots, Facebook ads, a “useful idiot” in the White House or American idiocy more generally.

Anxiety over new technology also helps explain how concerns over foreign mental meddling metastasized in both the 1950s and present-day United States. Then as now, Americans fretted not only over the Kremlin's machinations but also over the ways in which a pervasive new medium was simultaneously bringing people closer while turning living rooms into isolated bubbles. Where today we devote acres of type to parsing the antisocial pitfalls of social media, anatomists of the '50s rued the destructive potential of television — whether to empower populist maniacs or induce Americans to crave new consumer goods they neither wanted nor needed. Now we ponder mysterious algorithms that mine our every online keystroke for lucrative potential; then, Americans got wise to techniques of “subliminal suggestion” that advertising wizards apparently employed to turn psychic soft spots into sales.

Fears of external manipulation tap into deep-seated human anxieties over individual autonomy. It can be terrifying to envision the mind as porous and malleable, just as it's alarming to contemplate state sovereignty as fragile and violable. But fantasies of invasion also exert a horror-show allure that threatens to cloud sober judgment about what ails democracy and how best to remedy it.

Perhaps the most surprising twist to the 1950s brainwashing scare is how quickly Americans lost interest in the brutality of P.O.W. camps and turned instead to self-criticism. An increasingly affluent society was excoriated as soft, degenerate and vulnerable, while Americans were called (by other Americans) flabby and gullible dupes. The enemy without was recast as an enemy within. Curiously, at the height of the Cold War, Americans reserved their most scathing critique for fellow citizens. It would be unfortunate if the current wave of panic over Russian interference ended in fiercer excoriation of American “deplorability,” without generating more productive ideas for reinvigorating deliberative democracy.


• Susan L. Carruthers is a professor of American history at the University of Warwick in England and the author, most recently, of The Good Occupation: American Soldiers and the Hazards of Peace (https://www.amazon.com/dp/0674545702).

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/18/opinion/sunday/when-americans-were-afraid-of-being-brainwashed.html (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/18/opinion/sunday/when-americans-were-afraid-of-being-brainwashed.html)

Title: Re: 'merkin paranoia over “commie brainwashing” … faaaarking hilarious!!
Post by: Kiwithrottlejockey on January 22, 2018, 01:01:17 pm

Talk about stupid American headless-chookism, eh?

(http://i378.photobucket.com/albums/oo227/Kiwithrottlejockey/TooFunny_zps2gz4suf2.gif~original) (http://i378.photobucket.com/albums/oo227/Kiwithrottlejockey/LaughingPinkPanther_zpsy6iu8yso.gif~original) (http://i378.photobucket.com/albums/oo227/Kiwithrottlejockey/ROFLMAO_Dog_zpsc4esrpyc.gif~original) (http://i378.photobucket.com/albums/oo227/Kiwithrottlejockey/LaughingHard_zpswco6umsu.gif~original) (http://i378.photobucket.com/albums/oo227/Kiwithrottlejockey/ItchyBugga_zpsebzrttez.gif~original)

Title: Re: 'merkin paranoia over “commie brainwashing” … faaaarking hilarious!!
Post by: Im2Sexy4MyPants on January 23, 2018, 04:42:47 am

Title: Re: 'merkin paranoia over “commie brainwashing” … faaaarking hilarious!!
Post by: Im2Sexy4MyPants on January 23, 2018, 01:29:20 pm