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Brainwash: The Secret History of Mind Control Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 6, 2007

7 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, March 6, 2007
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Editorial Reviews

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Streatfeild, a documentary film producer and author of a social history of cocaine use (Cocaine: An Unauthorized Biography, 2001), offers an expansive and multifaceted exploration of brainwashing in its multitude of forms. With chapters on hypnosis, sensory deprivation, subliminal messages, religious indoctrination, and a variety of truth serums, this account chronicles the many ways psychology and pharmacology have been enlisted in people's apparently perennial effort to control the minds of other people. Steeped in cold war intrigue, Streatfeild's narrative features the CIA and other intelligence agencies heavily; tales oscillate between the absurdly hilarious (CIA director Allen Dulles dispatching two agents to Switzerland in 1953 to buy up the world's entire supply of LSD for "research") and the profoundly disturbing (CIA agents secretly dosing civilians and analyzing the results). Although the author includes some lengthy jaunts into popular culture to examine films and song lyrics, his core concern is the deadly serious business of mental torture as practiced by today's intelligence services. Sprawling, accessible, and at times quite casual, this book will attract a diverse readership. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


Praise for Brainwash

 “Meticulously researched and superbly readable . . . acutely observed . . . evenhanded and even-tempered.”--The Daily Telegraph (UK)


“A gripping survey of the post-war history of interrogation techniques.”--Telegraph on Sunday (UK)


“Vivid . . . Streatfeild does an important service by bringing [brainwashing] to our attention again. It is especially relevant in the light of Abu Ghraib and the war on terror.”--Financial Times (UK)


“Breathless . . . reads like a spy thriller.”--The Guardian (UK)


“Gripping.”--Time Out (UK)


“Marvelously engrossing. This book is a series of wonderfully detailed and cleverly told stories, each of which debunks the brainwashing myth. Streatfeild’s narrative control cannot be faulted. His research is formidable.”--Sunday Times (UK)


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (March 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031232572X
  • ASIN: B001G7RCAC
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,753,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By rydei goldwords on May 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed the author's writing style, in-depth coverage, and exclusive interviews. The interviews are invaluable because they occur decades after some of the events and the people involved are more forthcoming.

Everything related to mind control is here: the CIA and drugs, subliminal messages, cults, the Judas Priest trial, and so much more that you haven't heard about before.

The book is frightening and a good example of "truth is stranger than fiction". The guys in "1984" are nothing compared to some of these doctors. The fact that some of these experiments were done on unwilling people is even more disturbing. "Hey guys, let's dose this guy with 50x the normal dose of LSD and not tell him!" Or the sleep experiments where they forced people to sleep for months at a time using drugs, waking them up for ECT "therapy".

The final chapter (worth the cost alone) is a graphic step-by-step of how the West is interrogating terrorists in Gitmo and elsewhere.

Highly readable and recommended.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By C. P. Anderson on March 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is great stuff. First of all, mind control's a fascinating topic. (In fact, I've always been surprised there hasn't been more out there on it.)

Second, the author seem to cover the whole gamut - the Moscow show trials of the 30s, sensory deprivation, drugs, cults, crazy psychiatrists, subliminal messages, satanic ritual abuse, Guantanamo ... you name it. (If there was any one theme typing it together, it would have to the use of mind control by intelligence services.)

The author is also a fine writer. Most of the stories read like a good suspense novel. He also seems to be quite a good interviewer, giving the reader a very good feel for the people involved (when they're available).

That said, I actually think the book was a little too journalistic for me. A lot of the chapters focus around a single story, with a very strong emphasis on the characters involved. The chapter on subliminal messages, for example, is all about 2 teenagers who commit suicide after listening to a death metal album - and the resulting trials that ensue. Another chapter, on what the British did to some IRA prisoners, talked very little about what was done and what impact it had, and more on how it all played out in the news.

Overall, I would have liked a lot more on technique, theory, psychology, etc. In this regard, I found it rather ironic that the author used the Eleanor Roosevelt quote that "Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people."

Another annoying tic of the author's was his attempt to shoehorn journalistic balance into every story. In other words, no matter how crazy the topic and the people involved, the author felt compelled to emphasize the two sides of the story. For example, he seems to have no problem equating religious cults like the Moonies and the Family with the deprogrammers and anti-cult organizations. Same deal with the Satanists.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Savo Heleta on June 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Dominic Streatfeild has done an incredible amount of research and conducted numerous interviews with those who used the methods he writes about and also the victims of such methods.

The author does not insist on his point of view, but compares and contrasts available information and leaves the room for the readers to come up with their own conclusions.

This is a must-read book for anyone interested in the history of mind control and the current use of it in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, and elsewhere!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Johns on March 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The title says "The Secret History of Mind Control", but it's not secret at all, as the contents in this book which relate to mind control have been lifted almost solely from The Search for the "Manchurian Candidate": The CIA and Mind Control: The Secret History of the Behavioral Sciences. There are factual errors which made me question the reliability of other material in the book. For instance, reference is made to a Richard Hillenkoetter, who I presume is meant to be either Richard Helms or Roscoe Hillenkoetter. Also the author refers to a Ewen D. Cameron, whose real name was Donald Ewen Cameron.

The book is a bit of a sprawling mess, in my opinion. The cover of the book shows an interrogation scenario, but the title is "Brainwash". It's a bit of an unsuccessful mixture of three separate books on brainwashing, mind control and interrogation. There is also a chapter on psychiatric abuses, which also probably deserves a separate category.

The author can't seem to decide where he stands on brainwashing or mind control. For example, page 156: "Estabrooks seems to have been regarded as a joke by the intelligence community." But on page 352 George Estabrooks is a "master of hypnosis". With regard to brainwashing in general, he states that it is "a comforting bedtime story that made us all feel better" and that it "should have outlived its usefulness years ago." However, in chapter 9, on false memory syndrome, the implication seems to be that people who claim to have suffered abuse were brainwashed. However, only one case is mentioned. If he is making a general point on the basis of just one case then that seems somewhat presumptuous to me.
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