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Brainwash: The Secret History of Mind Control 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0312325725
ISBN-10: 031232572X
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

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
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312325725
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #740,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are several great reviews on here that detail the minutiae of this book, but I believe this book is, indeed, excellent as a "one book" primer.

This book covers so much ground in under 330 pages that subjects cannot be given the proper treatment they deserve. I really enjoyed the read as it mostly reads like fiction.

Also, I really loved the book recommendations in the back of the book as it is quite extensive!

Buy this book if you're looking for a general overview or as an advanced primer.
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Format: Paperback
U.S. interest in brainwashing began shortly after WWII - after the public false confessions of Hungarian Cardinal Mindszenty and , his personal secretary Andras Zakar, prior Moscow Show Trials (1936-38) in which others similarly falsely confessed, and then the two pilots captured after being shot down in North Korea also confessing falsely to activities they had not committed were enough to worry produced compelling evidence the Soviets could induce confessions and make hostile prisoners pliable without torture. They even wanted to be friends with their captors.

Analyses concluded that these interrogations initially involved a great deal of solitary confinement designed to persuade the prisoner he was alone, unloved and abandoned. The individual was also subjected to routines designed to induce stress - standing for prolonged periods, sleep in specific positions, and verbally and physically abused if he wavered from the routine. He was not allowed contact with the outside world and kept in a cell with no natural light so that he lost all track of time. Mealtimes and other routines were varied to further confuse him. They were also underfed and kept cold to weaken them physically and emotionally, and sleep patterns were disrupted.

After prolonged softening-up, the nervous wreck, terrified, isolated and confused prisoner would then be interrogated. The victim was asked to name his crimes and repeatedly ordered to write an account of them - only for it to be ridiculed and torn up in front of him. Refusal to comply or inconsistencies between stories led to abuse , until the subject was unsure what he was supposed to be confessing to and what he'd already confessed to.
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