An American girl went to China as a Fulbright scholar. She was not a Communist, but neither was she an active anti-Communist. After studying for a year or so in Communist China, she was arrested and underwent various mysterious treatments. At the end of this treatment, she confessed that she had gone to China as an imperialist spy, and professed profound repentance for her treachery. She was then allowed to go free.
As she crossed into Hong Kong, she was met by newspaper reporters, and a remarkable story unfolded. She told the reporters she had been a vicious spy on behalf of the American imperialists. Her attitude was a composite of guilt and self-loathing, mingled with hatred of her own country and a passionate love for the Chinese Communists. She was almost lyrical in her gratitude and devotion to her captors. She described how wonderful they were. She had deserved to die, but they had spared her life. In their hands she had been born again. To them she owed an eternal debt of gratitude for the new life she now lived.
The reporters questioned her about her treatment in prison. Had not her feet been in chains? Oh, yes, her feet had been in chains, but what loving, kind, wonderful people the Communists were. Was it not true that her hands had been handcuffed behind her back? Yes, her hands had been handcuffed behind her back, but they had treated her with absolute kindness and wonderful love.
What were the experiences which had brought about this remarkable situation where she believed she had done things she had not done, felt guilt for crimes she had not committed, and loved with a passionate intensity those who had tortured and tormented her? We see in this young woman an end product of the phenomenon known as brainwashing.
A young man joined the armed forces of his country and crossed the sea to fight in Korea. Early in the Korean War, he was taken prisoner by the Communists. He very soon confessed that he had engaged in germ warfare. While in the hands of the Communists, he fell ill and was transferred back to America at operation "Little Switch"-the interchange of sick prisoners. Upon his return, he needed to be institutionalized. In the institution he sat squat-legged in his cell in the grip of a profound, irreducible melancholy, with a tendency towards self-destruction. He was in love with his mistress, Death. This young soldier is a second example of the results of brainwashing.
The word is sometimes used to describe the experience on a mass scale, of American prisoners in the hands of the Chinese Communists. America has fought in a number of wars in which prisoners have been taken. Such prisoners always proved a thorn in the side of their captors. They were very difficult to control, they were courageous, they were subject to the discipline of their officers in the prison, they were gripped with a comradely devotion to their fellow prisoners, and they made numerous attempts at escape. When American prisoners of war fell into the hands of the Communists, however, a disturbing transformation occurred. They were reduced to a selfish, unco-ordinated rabble without discipline or unity. Informing on one another was the order of the day. A handful of Communist Chinese kept large groups of American prisoners under control without brutal bashings, without barbed wire entanglements, and with little apparent difficulty. Of many thousands of prisoners, not one made any attempt to escape during the entire period of the imprisonment. Only a small segment were able to withstand completely the attempts of the Communists to indoctrinate them. Another small group became openly pro-Communist. The remainder were demoralized. Forty per cent of them died. The Turkish prisoners, on the other hand, maintained an excellent record. Their discipline was had completely from top to bottom. Not one Turkish prisoner died, and not one collaborated.
So concerned were American authorities that they instituted an inquiry to seek the causes of this revolution in the conduct of American prisoners. A team of trained medical officers examined the prisoners, collected details of the treatment they had received, and probed for the causes of the debacle. This evidence was published in the book, In Every War but One.(1) Their finding were alarming indeed. In an effort to prevent similar occurrences in the future, the army sought to establish a code of conduct for any soldier so unfortunate as to fall into the hands of the Communists in the future. The Communist assault on the human mind is historically unique and alarming in its effectiveness.
To understand the rationale of this attack we need to understand the Communist concept of the mind itself. The Communists are complete materialists. They believe that matter in motion is the sum total of all being, that there is nothing in the universe but matter in motion. Man is a material machine. Within his body a stomach secretes gastric juice, a liver secretes bile, a brain secretes emotion and thought.
A materialist scientist built a mechanical dog which he kept in a room in his home. When he opened the door and allowed the light to shine on the eyes of the dog, it moved forward and growled. When he shut the door, it moved back into position. If he stroked the dog along the back, it wagged its tail. If he tickled it underneath, it lay down. Said the scientist, "The only difference between this dog and my pet dog that runs, jumps, barks, and comes with me when I take a walk is one of degree. There is no difference in kind."
The Communists go further. The only difference between the mechanical dog, the living dog, and the human being is one of degree. There is no difference in kind. The human body is simply a material machine. It is as automatic as an automobile. Man is a complex of conditioned behavior. The machinery is very complex, particularly the brain which is so complex that it gives the impression of freedom, choice, and volition. But thought is merely a reflection of certain electronic impulses within the brain. The Communists, therefore, believe that if they can understand brain structure, the building up of brain patterns and brain circuits, they will be able to understand the formation of human thought and will be able to control and direct human thought.
The functional unit within the brain is the conditioned reflex. The Communists have studied the formation, control and elimination of conditioned reflexes. A reflex is an unlearned muscular response to a natural or unconditioned stimulus. At birth a baby has certain remarkable skills. For example, it can cry, and crying is a complex mechanical process requiring the coordination of a number of groups of muscles. Again, a baby can suck. These muscular skills are the external manifestations of certain inborn brain patterns. They are unconditioned reflex actions.
At birth, the process of development and learning begins. Learning is the accumulation of new brain patterns leading to muscular co-ordination of a more complex nature. The baby is taken and laid in a bassinet over which is suspended a little colored ball. The little hands strike at the ball. At first the movements are unco-ordinated and multi-directional, but gradually skill is acquired until at length the little hand can hit the ball at will. The skill is revealed in co-ordinated muscular activity, but the controlling mechanism is the pattern that has been developed within the brain. The skill is a conditioned reflex.
As experience continues, the baby learns to sit up, to walk, to talk, to write, to ride a bicycle, to play the piano, to use a typewriter, to drive an automobile. All these skills are conditioned reflexes. Experience shows itself in intricate patterns of muscular activity, but the real pattern is established within the brain.
The Communists believe that the mind is simply a complex of conditioned reflexes, and that if they can understand the techniques by which these conditioned reflexes are built up and how they can be broken down, they have acquired mastery over the mind itself.
The great scientist who studied the conditioned reflex thoroughly and systematically was the Russian, Pavlov. He began his scientific experiments under the rule of the Czar. Lenin early realized the vast significance of Pavlov's studies for the Communist program of changing the entire mental outlook of the Russian people. Pavlov was therefore given favored treatment by the Communist regime.
The experimental animal that he used was the dog. The basic reflex that he studied was the salivary reflex. When a dog is hungry and is shown some meat, his mouth waters. The sight or the smell of the meat is the normal stimulus for the flow of saliva. In preparation for this experiment, Pavlov operated on these dogs and introduced a tube into the salivary duct to divert the saliva from the intestinal tract into a bottle so that its flow could be measured. When the dogs were hungry, he showed them meat and the saliva flowed. The next step was to associate the ringing of a bell with the viewing of the meat and the flowing of the saliva. At first he rang a bell at the same time as he showed them the meat. Then he rang the bell a few seconds before he showed them the meat. In this way, the ringing of the bell was associated with the normal stimulus in such a way that the ringing of the bell itself was sufficient to start the salivary flow. Gradually the time interval was extended until, finally, the dogs were so conditioned that whenever the bell rang, the saliva flowed. The flowing of the saliva in this situation was a conditioned reflex. The ringing bell was the artificial stimulus that produced the reflex response.
Pavlov experimented with a large range of stimuli to reflex action. He took colored lights that moved in a circular pattern, lights that moved in an elliptical pattern, and, after due training and conditioning, was able to obtain specific responses for each of the lights that he showed. He subjected the dogs to contradictory stimuli and studied their behavior to see which reflexes were more powerful. He had a whole kennel of dogs each of which was conditioned to react to a given stimulus in a fixed manner.
In 1924 Leningrad experienced a major flood. Pavlov's dogs were trapped and, for several days, were cut off from human help. When finally they were rescued, their muzzles were just sticking out of the water. For several days, they had been cold, frightened, hungry, and exhausted. After their rescue, the acute observer, Pavlov, noticed a strange thing. Some of his dogs went into a state of profound depression. They lost interest in food, and in the normal activities of a dog's life. There was no barking and no rushing about. Their movements were slow and infrequent. To them life seemed to have lost its luster. Most interesting of all was the fact that in this state their conditioned reflexes were abolished. Pavlov found that he could then condition them according to an entirely different pattern.
Pavlov applied the information thus accidentally discovered to experiments to destroy conditioned reflex patterns. At first he continued to experiment with dogs but during the last ten years of his life, man became his experimental animal. He developed techniques which could shatter the established pattern of human personality so that the fragments could be integrated into a new structure of memory, judgement, and emotion in line with the desires of the Communist craftsmen.
The first step in the process was to bring about a state of breakdown
similar to that experienced by the dogs. Pavlov called it cortical inhibition
of the higher cerebral function. This is the state commonly known as a
mental breakdown which has occurred naturally in humans for many years.
Pavlov established techniques whereby he could cause an artificial mental
breakdown. The four things necessary to bring about this state were present
in the breakdown of the trapped dogs. They are exhaustion, confusion, chronic
physical pain, and emotional tension or fear.
One of the most frequent accusations made against missionaries in China was that they operated secret radio transmitters to broadcast the fruits of their espionage to Chiang Kai-shek or America. The questioner might suddenly ask, "Are you sorry now that you transmitted this information?" If he answers simply "Yes" or "No," he is admitting association with a "transmitter."
If the mind is alert, the trap is seen and avoided, but this requires clear insight and lucid expression. As exhaustion develops, the defenses of the mind break down. A question containing a trap is asked; a simple answer is given; and the subject is caught. After a few more questions, they confront him with the hidden admission contained in the simple answer he gave. He denies it. They take him back to his original answer and ask, "Isn't this what you said?" He replies that this is so.
"Well, does this not acknowledge so and so?" He has to admit that it does.
Relentlessly they continue. "Previously you acknowledged this; now you deny it. When were you lying, then or now?" He insists that he is speaking the truth now.
"If you were a liar then, how can we believe you now?" they demand.
He becomes so confused that the borderline of truth and falsehood becomes
blurred. The connection between reality and fantasy is lost and he is no
longer sure what is true and what is false. In such a condition, he becomes
an easy prey for the suggestions of the Communist brainwashing therapist.
Exhaustion, confusion, chronic physical pain and emotional tension, employed in scientific balance, finally achieve the first goal. A breakdown occurs. The mind fragments. In Pavlovian language, cortical inhibition of the higher cerebral function occurs.
The characteristics of this breakdown are as follows.
1. Physical retardation. The victim tends to remain almost motionless in the same position for long periods of time. Movements when they do take place are slow and ponderous. There is a total lack of vitality, interest and enthusiasm.
2. Memory fragmentation. The integrated pattern of past experience embracing memory, interpretation and judgment is shattered. Fragments of past experience are remembered dimly but without relation to other memories of events. The time sequence of events is lost. The borderline between fact and fancy, between memory and dream is blurred.
3. Melancholy. The typical pattern is one of deep melancholia. The mind is gripped by a nameless woe. There is deep and enduring depression. Frequently suicidal tendencies develop as the misery appears too heavy to be borne. If the physical means are available, the sufferer will readily end his own life.
4. Increased suggestibility. The barriers of the mind are down. Memory is faded. Logic is impaired. Judgement is impossible. In the absence of the restraints of the healthy mind, the power of suggestion is enhanced.
The Communists take advantage of this weak and unresisting state, and, by suggestion, link the shattered fragments of memory into the new pattern. They suggest the new ideas which they want believed. To these ideas they attach the sense of guilt which the victim is already feeling. They remove the excess emotional depression and then identify themselves with measures to alleviate his suffering, but they are careful to leave the delusional beliefs unaltered. They now have their end product-a person with memories of things he has not done, with a sense of guilt for crimes he did not commit, and with a passionate love for those who have persecuted and tormented him.
Suggestion is a powerful force even under normal conditions. This has been discovered by advertisers and used to considerable advantage. I myself have frequently carried out an interesting little experiment on the power of suggestion. One of the problems confronting me in my itinerant life is that perfectly well-meaning, hospitable Americans try to persuade me to drink that dark, viscous, bitter beverage called coffee. Sometimes I drink it, but sometimes I say: "I used to drink it, but I carried out some research and discovered what coffee really is. Do you know what it really is? They take the castor oil bean, soak it in shellac until it is thoroughly impregnated. They put on a great advertising racket and pretend that it comes from Brazil so that they can treble the price. They grind it up and they brew it. The castor oil gives it the flavor, the shellac gives it the color, and the idiots drink it." It is amazing how many people have looked at me with wide open eyes and said: "Is that true?" No matter how stupid the statement, if it is made with an attitude of apparent sincerity and conviction, there are always those who will be convinced of its truth.
Once people are conditioned so that a certain word is associated with emotions of repulsion or anger, that word becomes a trigger by which those emotions may be discharged. Reason and logic are quite unnecessary. That word is used, the trigger is pulled, and out come the emotions. This was brought home to me very powerfully one evening when I was speaking upon the subject of brainwashing at a church. I used my illustration about coffee to indicate how suggestible people are. I reached the climax: the castor oil gives it the flavor, the shellac gives it the color, and the idiots drink it. To my great surprise, the whole audience broke out into loud, sustained applause. I was startled. I had thought I was telling a joke. Suddenly the truth dawned on me. The audience consisted of a group of coffee haters. This was a group to whom drinking coffee was a sin. They did not examine my argument critically; they responded to the trigger. The word became stimulus to a reflex response. Once people are conditioned like that, there is no need for logic, reason or truth. All that is needed is for the word to be said and out will come the emotions.
The Communists have taken the words "Capitalism," "American imperialism," and even the word "peace" and made them trigger words and used them in slogans. "Capitalism" immediately conjures up a picture of greed and exploitation, and releases emotions of scorn and anger. "American imperialism," attached to the most altruistic American actions, make them appear shabby and shameful. The word "peace," associated with Communist treachery, brutality and tyranny, clothes Communism in garments of hope and beauty. To these trigger words, young people throughout the world are being conditioned to respond.
This campaign of the Communists has been so successful that even the most ardent supporters of Capitalism hesitate to use the word and search for some less offensive synonym. It needs to be constantly taught that Capitalism has produced a standard of economic well-being and simultaneously sustained individual liberty to a degree unapproached by any other system. Capitalism is a dynamic system that can adjust to changing conditions and it is infinitely preferable to the tyranny of regimentation under the dictatorship of a self-proclaimed elite, whether this latter system calls itself "Communism" or some more euphemistic name.
Let us return to our victim undergoing brainwashing. He has reached the point of mental breakdown with fragmentation of mind and memory. By a process of suggestion, the Communists link together the shattered fragments of their victim's mind. Certain memories they carefully retain. Others they deliberately confuse and eliminate. A missionary serving with the China Inland Mission when the Communists took over China underwent the experience of brainwashing. He tells how they convinced him that under every church that he had built he constructed a storeroom for ammunition for Chiang Kai-shek's soldiers. It was true that he had built a room under each church where he had been. This room was the baptistry for the baptism of adults by immersion. When the Communists had him thoroughly exhausted, depressed and confused, they filled these rooms with weapons and showed them to him. They had him handle the weapons and ammunition. Later on, they took his finger prints from the ammunition that he had handled in these rooms and used them to convince him that he had built the rooms and filled them with weapons for the use of the forces of Chiang Kai-shek. He remembered building the rooms, and he remembered handling the weapons. By clever suggestion, the Communists were able to weave these scraps of memory together and to convince him of the truth of their accusations. He was then overwhelmed with guilt for his treacherous acts.
After the experience of brainwashing, the victim suffers from severe emotional depression. The excessive elements of this depression are removed in various ways. They allow time to do its healing work. It is possible that they use electric shock treatment. The advantage of shock treatment is that is can remove emotional depression without affecting the ideas associated with the depression. If an individual is convinced that his grandmother left him a million dollars and that his wicked step-sister stole it from him, he is likely to be exceedingly miserable in his delusional state. After shock treatment, he remains convinced that his grandmother left him the million dollars and that his wicked step-sister stole it from him, but can now face this fact with a measure of equanimity. Moreover, shock treatment is followed by an amnesia, and there is no memory of the treatment's being received. It could be given privately and the individual would never remember that he had received it.
In time, the victim of brainwashing is brought out and presented in court. He makes his confession. He is observed and interviewed by the reporters. No apparent physical damage is noted, and his confession goes out to all the world.
It is possible to recover from brainwashing just as recovery is possible
in cases of mental collapse induced by the pressures of society. For a
cure to be effected, the victim must be removed from the environment containing
the pressures that produced the collapse. The missionary who believed himself
guilty of building ammunition storerooms in the churches was kept quiet
in a dark room, after his release from China, and allowed to talk. As he
released his tensions, the real became disassociated from the false, and
he returned to a normal mental and spiritual state. Most people do recover,
but not all. In any case, the scars of their ordeal remain.
This, of course, is a principle which has long been practiced by advertisers. There are some particularly remarkable examples in the field of tobacco advertising. There is little attempt at a reasoned, logical argument. They seek a catchy slogan to repeat over and over again. Some years ago when a certain company was promoting an especially long cigarette, the slogan adopted was: "Screens out irritants but never screens out flavor." The idea apparently was that the length of the cigarette acted as a filter. The question which should arise at once is: What happens when the cigarette burns down to the normal size? Yet this obvious lack of logic and common sense apparently made no difference to the effectiveness of the advertising campaign. The slogan was repeated so many times that large numbers of people unquestionably assumed its truth.
Driving back one night from Milwaukee to Chicago, I listened to a remarkable interview on the radio. The man being interviewed was a prosecuting attorney. He was discussing drinking drivers. He was devastating. He said, "Anyone who drinks and drives an automobile is a potential murderer. Anyone who drinks, drives an automobile and kills is an actual murderer. There is no difference between killing as a result of drunken driving, and killing with a gun. Since everybody drives, nobody should drink. One drink lowers your efficiency and increases your reaction time. There is only one place for drinking drivers and that is prison. By God's grace, that's where I intend to put them!"
No sooner had he finished than the announcer's voice was heard: "The foregoing interview was sponsored by a well-known brand of beer." There followed a specious statement that since this beer was the best of all beers, you owed it to yourself and your friends to pick up a carton of it on the way home and to keep it in the refrigerator as you never knew when your friends might drive by and call on you. If you did not have a drink there to welcome them, you were certainly a poor host and no gentleman.
The sponsors of this program were not trying to ruin their business. They doubtless knew very well that the program would do them no harm, for they were well aware that repetition would conquer reason. The listening audience would hear the prosecuting attorney once, and perhaps they would agree with him; but they would hear the beer announcement a hundred times. Reason may reach the conscious mind while repetition influences the unconscious mind which is the source of so much human conduct.
The Communists know that if they want something accepted without question, they must say it, say it, and say it again. Therefore they are repeating day and night by radio, by television, by literature of every type, two simple lies: one is that wherever Communism is in power, the people are prosperous, healthy, happy and free; the other is that America is vile and evil beyond measure, a land of hunger, malnutrition, depression, exploitation, poverty and fear, and a desperate threat to the peace of the world. An evidence of this Communist technique is a book which they have published in Australia called This is America. There is not one word in this book which is not quoted directly from the non-Communist American press. Out of the tremendous quantity of material published, the Communists have taken any statement which can help to build a picture of a poverty-ridden, oppressed America. All the articles and statements that suggest otherwise, they have ignored completely. The following are some quotations from the book.
"One third of the city's babies, born and unborn, suffer from malnutrition as a result of high prices, the Right Rev. Charles K. Gilbert, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, told the Congressional Committee." New York World Telegram, September 25, 1947.
"We feed our hogs better than our children." Heading on an article in the American Magazine, October, 1947, by Fred Bailey, Executive Director of National Agricultural Research, Inc.
"Approximately 2,500,000 residents of New York face undernourishment and deficiency diets due to the inflated costs of food. This is the grim, outstanding evidence produced by a four-day hearing on food prices by the eastern sub-committee of a joint Congressional Committee." Quoted in the Christian Science Monitor, September 26, 1947.
"Three fourths of the nation's children suffer from undernourishment, a study of Pennsylvania State College established." Quoted by Associated Press on December 20, 1950.
The Communists do not need to tell lies in order to create the picture they desire. All they need to do is to select from the total picture those things that fit into their pre-conceived pattern. As Tennyson said:
A lie that's half a truth is the wickedest lie of all,
For a lie that's all a lie can be met with and fought outright,
But a lie that is half a truth is a harder matter to fight.
The Communists are creating a picture of America which is completely false and are projecting this picture into the minds of the people of the world. What America does or does not do makes little difference to this picture. It is easy to say, "Let the facts speak for themselves." Unfortunately facts have a very soft voice, and their message is not heard by those who are not in the immediate environment. The United States-Canadian border is a fact. The absence of military establishments, the frequency and ease of two-way transportation are indisputable facts. They have not been able to contradict for millions of people the constantly reiterated Communist lie that the United States is viciously imperialistic, threatening the peace and integrity of all the people of the world.
In the formation of public opinion, it is not what you do that counts, but what people believe you do. Opinions vary concerning the wisdom of the action of President Eisenhower in sending troops into Little Rock, Arkansas, in September, 1958. The fact is indisputable that they were sent to enable Negro children to attend school. However, competent observers report that the majority of people in Africa believe that they were sent in to prevent Negro children from attending school. The attitude of these people towards America is formed from their erroneous beliefs, not from the facts. The Communists spare no expenses and make prodigious efforts to print and distribute literature giving a completely false picture of life and character in the United States. The falsity of this picture of America is only surpassed by the picture they present of alleged universal happiness and contentment under Communism.
The difference between life under Communist rule and life in America is well illustrated by the fact that whenever Communism comes to power, in spite of the glory of their promises, the fearful reality proves the magnitude of their deception and people flee by the million. At every Communist border in the world where there is any possibility of escape, this exodus continues. The United States, on the other hand, is a magnet to her neighbors. A million people a year risk their lives not trying to get out, but trying to get in, not to live at the highest standard, but at the lowest standard. Great numbers cross the Rio Grande River and enter illegally from Mexico. Conditions in Mexico are certainly very poor, but this alone would not account for the influx. Conditions in Turkey are far from ideal. Poverty there is rife also. Yet there is no stream of refugees from Turkey into Russia. These facts must be told till they are known in every nook and cranny of the earth. America should mobilize her remarkable skill with the means of communication to achieve this end. The alternative is to become an island of unease in a surrounding sea of hatred.
The phenomenon of brainwashing is one of the manifestations of the true nature of Communism. It is rebellion against God; it is rebellion against the human mind; it is rebellion against the purpose, significance and value of the individual. The way to defeat it is to defeat the program of Communist expansion. When the door closes behind you in the brainwashing chamber, it will be too late.
1. Eugene Kinkead, In Every War but One, W. W. Norton & Co., New York, 1959.
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