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

2.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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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
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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: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,509,921 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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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