Localized introductionThe idea that the human mind can be controlled has taken center stage by politicians and scientists. And even the public as well; Especially in the fifties of the last century, and this was reflected in studies, books and tests of cases said that the minds of their people had been controlled and manipulated, and this effect extended – until now – carrying with it many connotations and concepts, which are discussed in the following article.Text of the articleIn the mid-1990s, Jesse Morton was 16 years old when he ran off to tour a rock band and make a living off the proceeds of drugs circulating outside of the concert. He was arrested and imprisoned on drug-related charges, and in a prison in the US state of Virginia, bin Laden became his role model, and (himself) became recruiting individuals for Al Qaeda. He is said to have inspired some of those who planned to send the remote-controlled plane loaded with explosives to the Pentagon.
After the so-called “Reverse Transformation” process and his work in the FBI, it is widely rumored that today he is seeking a new profession to reclaim the hearts and minds of those he helped plant previously to fight the West. In an interview with The New York Times in August, Morton declared: “100 percent free of extremism.”
Morton posits a certain psychological explanation for his condition. He describes himself as someone whose troubled childhood set the stage for subsequent life-changing decisions, as the feeling of letdown increased in a school that failed to protect him from his mother’s behavior and abuse. Morton believes that, as a teenager, he cultivated desires for revenge, drawn into the polarizing rhetoric of fundamentalism, falling into the clutches of powerful anti-Western leaders.
But how and why do some people “transform” in this or that way? And to what extent can the “planter of extremism ideology” or “the extremist” go beyond the conscious will of the human mind? All this may seem like a new dilemma, but in fact the world has seen this before.
The current debate about extremism bears a resemblance to previous fears of “brainwashing” in the twentieth century! In a research project called “ulterior motives” funded by the Wellcome Trust (headquartered in Birkbeck, University of London), we explore the history of brainwashing. We track ideas, experiences, fictions, myths, and policies that crystallized in the 1950s and were of the interest of psychologists.
Seen in light of history, cases like Morton, the way they are interpreted usually take a familiar turn. Yes, there are clear differences between past and present fears of mind control, but they are noteworthy, yet experts often follow the scent of hidden assumptions about the nature of the mind and group wafting from the Cold War past.
In fact, this has happened more than we are concerned with admitting, and we are now narrating the lives of these “other extremists” .. Revealing the legacy of the Cold War and “brainwashing” is important for another reason as well, as many of the large theses that have dealt with this topic, which have appeared since more than Half a century ago, it still delivers insights worth remembering now.The terrorist mentalityPolicymakers and researchers seek to trace parallels between cases like Morton’s case, and to explain the motivations of those who “corrupt”. But focusing on the apparent diseases of particular individuals may distract us from the underlying social and political conditions that alienate entire societies or large populations.
Certainly, the lives of individuals may give clues to those who are likely to be vulnerable to this, but it can also provide illusory reassurance, as if the problem – simply put – would exist within an isolated subgroup that broadcast its venom.
Today’s widespread condemnation that there are essential “terrorist radical features” that may serve as signs and indications that this person is an extremist or a terrorist, may be a sign of extreme confusion! It may not indicate any development in scientific knowledge, but rather the despair and failure to explain the crisis by limiting the discussion to diagnosing psychological and metaphysical states.
In fact, many of the features that are routinely discussed as markers for the minds of terrorist is one of the most common human emotions, and in the very obviousness and clarity. It was published in a list of 22 points in 2015 as part of the British government’s anti-terrorism strategy, especially within the scope of the “Prevention” section.
Can standards proposed for those at risk of “viability of the tendency of terrorism” that the fate of any individual identifies us at any time, including those traits such things as: the tendency to excitement and adventure, the sense of threat and insecurity, feeling angry and looking for power. There is already debate about the methods used to build such lists and features, as well as the awareness of those who use them of the frightening nature of these groups. It may be better for policymakers to read more accounts and notes on political violence and terrorism to extract the complexity of the matter.
This denies any belief that a predetermined type of dangerous individuals can be framed in advance of security. Joseph Conrad in the television series “The Secret Agent” and more recently Philip Roth in “The American Pastoral” or “American Pastoral” have highlighted the fact that A “terrorist” is also a person and a human being, not just a gear in a machine. We humans are greater than the sum of social influences, and we are not just cases that can be predicted through abstract processes.
Emma Klein’s best-selling novel, Girls (2016) is a fictitious and compelling “thick description” of what could lead a person to plunge into and out of the group’s sponsored horrific violence. The story explores the charismatic allure of a murderous California public leader – a man who has much resemblance to Charles Manson – with the narration of a young woman. Which constitute a myriad of personal factors – regardless of luck – the process of its entry and exit from a terrifying imaginary sect. The idea here is that the story belongs to her only, and to describe the circumstances and stories of the other members we will need a narration for each of them.
Freud simplified the dual character, as he insisted on considering some general features of the human being despite the fact that he had proven that none of us is fixed or consistent internally, and the story of more than two people is never the same, and his cases appear as novels rather than identity study files.
Inevitably, our history sometimes affects us in a shocking way, and we know that many people who commit horrific crimes (serial killers, for example) often have a frightening and horrific past, but the large numbers of children who have experienced horrific childhoods are not a threat to the law. We can look back and make many assumptions and conclusions about the devastating effects of certain parenting environments, parenting methods and social experiences. But we cannot predict with confidence that social conditions (a) will necessarily produce behavior (b) in human (c), months or years later.
Robert Jay Lifton, one of the most prominent commentators on methods of coercive persuasion during the Cold War, sheds light in his writings on what he called psychological anesthesia, as well as on specific sects, indoctrination procedures, and the various aspects of opaque persuasion in general. His book, Reshaping Thought and the Psychology of Totalitarianism – a study of brainwashing in China – helped shape this field.
He explained how different processes – he defined – would ensure control of the social milieu, sacred language, hidden manipulation, the supremacy of doctrine over experience and the exercise of full authority over life and death, the ability to leave the victim vulnerable to partisanship and indoctrination. At the same time, Lifton rejected the assumption that there was a reliable, fast-track method for manufacturing robots, and so was wary of adopting the term “brainwashing.”
People are not just robots, ironically in the most famous work on the Cold War era and the mind control of the Cold War the film The Manchurian Candidate – Relative to Manchuria in China (1962)
The story behind “brainwashing”
The term “brainwashing” was coined in the 1950s, at a time when liberal democracies – which feared an outbreak of Nazism again in Germany, or anywhere else – were still going through the stressful effects of that period, and fears of “Stalinism” and “Communism” were increasing. What was then known as “totalitarianism”.
The Cold War was considered an excellent arena for psychological battles, and an arena for the futile matches between “freedom” and “tyranny”. Meanwhile, a host of stories have explored the possibility of realizing the psychological mechanism. The dangers of brainwashing are discussed in the humanities and portrayed in popular culture in films such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). The great struggle between “the open society” and its “enemies” was discussed in a number of influential works in the 1940’s and after, by philosophers and economists.
In the decades after Hitler’s defeat, the psyche has often been likened by liberals to a state: with pluralism, tolerance, openness to opposing voices, and a structure of “checks and balances”, it was seen as an image of a normal, healthy mind.
The term “totalitarian” was coined to convey the psychological equation of tyranny, and other new terms such as (Menticide) or “killing the mind” appeared in the 1950s, capturing the psychological feeling and the economic and political threat posed by the global progress of communism.
However, the concept of “brainwashing”, which is nothing less than “extremism”, has often been obscured by much more than it has been shown. Both terms can be a means of being lazy and refusing to investigate further the history and past of individuals, under the pretext that the way people behave can be known in advance. Both terms can also serve to consider any opposition ideology that is little more than a mere blanket hypnosis, for extremism and brainwashing are recent – and apparently scientific – signs of the old tale of pettiness. As a dangerous modern science , the story of brainwashing has become a daily news dose that extends on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. In 1953, upon the end of the Korean War, a group of 21 American prisoners made an important decision, which was not to return to their homeland, the United States, and to live instead in China.
Their “choice” dropped a mountain of criticism on their heads and became the center of a debate about a mass transformation movement after the Cold War. The behavior of the soldiers provoked fierce attacks, as they were branded “not Americans” or “coup d’etat” who rushed by choosing the enemy, in addition to a lot of panic that befell them. Not only did many consider them “apostates”, but also cases requiring psychological treatment, chanting “Get the psychiatrists!”
David Hawkins was the youngest of these 21 soldiers, and it turned out that his past life – like Morton – was full of exciting twists and turns and was an attraction to many stigmas. He lived for several years under the rule of “Mao Zedong” of China before returning to the United States to face hostile checks, Especially that TV attack on Mike Wallace’s show in 1957.
When we met old Hawkins in 2014, he was living in Los Angeles at the time, and we talked about his vision of his “transformation” with his twenty fellow captives, and their thinking about reversing the decision, he told about the troubled past he left behind, bad experiences in childhood and adolescence, family tensions, and from On the other hand, his adventurous spirit and his constant search for new beaches to land on. Hawkins admitted his own impulsive stubbornness when his anger sparked officials ’indifference to their decision to return home. The decision to stay in China was “spur of the moment”.
Others who stayed in Beijing (including the African-American soldier, Clarence Adams, who compiled an echoing memoir published after his death under the title “An American Dream” in 2007) described their complex personal journey and experiences of racism. They insisted that they were acting independently, declaring their right to make their own way in the world, and acting as they pleased. The meanings of their choices, and whether there was a role for subconscious processes that planted ideas within them has been the subject of endless debate in the United States. The competing experts fought with each other over the truth of the matter, and only a few saw the soldiers ’behavior as an expression of true freedom.
However, in 1953, Hawkins was not aware of the name given to him that he was “brainwashed” at all, but – later – he gave the term some credibility, as he tightly weaved it into his self-understanding of himself, taking into account Freud’s psychoanalysis, at the suggestion of Psychiatrists, began to consider whether his experiences were related to “post-traumatic stress disorder,” a condition that was “discovered” as a result of US military experiments during the moral military disaster of the US intervention in Vietnam.
Hawkins contrasted with other labels such as Stockholm Syndrome (used to describe the feelings of sympathy and defense that hostages sometimes have towards their captors, so named after a Swedish bank robbery in 1973) which is another way of thinking about his response to coercive cause. The parallels between Hawkins and Morton’s method of exploring the psychological aspect of their life choices, and the many attempts subsequently made to explain the reasons for these decisions raise interesting questions, not only about political decision-making, but also about what concepts such as could mean or hide “Brainwashing” or “extremism”.
What becomes clear from looking at the stories of both men, and the barrage of diagnoses that are said about them, is the intensity of the fears, fantasies and projections involved and the growing doubts that we cannot solve, about the actual and complex motives for human interactions.
Placing the concept of brainwashing or psychological extremism in historical context can serve a number of purposes, at least as a warning about political desires and fears, and how both of them may present neutral concepts. Perhaps the aspirations that can be seen in the Cold War effort to put “brainwashing”, or at least the theory of brainwashing, on a firm scientific basis, push us to pause and think a little.
Attempts at public models of how to attract individuals to extremism, or to separate from it later, may yield some gains, but they also risk underestimating the complexity of the human makeup and the social and political contexts to which it is exposed. Nevertheless, it is important that all policymakers, politicians, and researchers are as transparent as possible about the mental and personality trait model they assume, and why do they assume it?
There may be a greater likelihood of a serious debate about the nature of extremism – preventing and reversing it – only if we begin to look more at the use of the terminology itself, the functions it can perform, and the underlying assumptions it may carry.