bear by san

December 2021



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spies mfu ispy he died _ hawleygriffen

raspberry ice cream. not sherbert, but ice cream.

If there's no critical work on why sixties spy shows are so mightily obsessed with mental reprogramming and brainwashing, there really ought to be.



Because it was the only thing that all TV viewers, from screamingly conservative to insanely liberal could agree was absolutely, positively immoral.

Otherwise you had to run the risk of inadvertently exposing yourself as being for or against the war in Viet Nam, something that would cause sponsors and viewers to drop you, regardless of whether you looked liberal or conservative.

Sometimes when you're an eyewitness to history, it's hard to stretch it out to the length of a critical study.
That's not a bad theory, and I bet that part of it--but the good guys do it too, and it's not always so much presented as problematic, just an excuse to get the good guys to fight each other.

I suspect it's some kind of displaced eroticism, in part, like the bondage thing.
The interest in that was probably triggered by all the stuff the US and USSR and "red" China were doing as far as experiments . . . MKULTRA by the CIA here, and the "Manchurian Candidate" stuff going on supposedly in Indochina. I'm sure someone somewhere has done a dissertation on how this affected popular culture or media. If not, it's a prime candidate.

When I was little, though, I believed brainwashing was done with a moist washcloth draped over the top of your head and left there until you capitulated. I think I saw this on "Gilligan's Island" re-runs.
Of course. When any fule no it's actually done with spinny lights.
Agreed. The US originally hoped LSD would be a useful tool for brainwashing and interrogation.
"War on the Mind: The Military Uses and Abuses of Psychology" by Peter Watson, pub. Penguin, 1980, IIRC. Long out of print, it's just about the earliest public book on psywar that I've found. References Milgram and Zimbardo, of course, but also interesting stuff like Paul Linebarger's work, the British Army interrogation techniques in Ulster, and a whole load more besides.

... Ah, yes. here. Out of stock and not showing up on Abebooks, so if you want a copy you'll need to go fishing. (Mine's (a) a bit battered, and (b) irreplaceable, so ...)
For a somewhat more modern mind-control history (includes gulf war stories from the recent one), there's The Men Who Stare At Goats (can't remember the author). Perhaps they grew up watching too much 60s spy shows?
It's by Jon Ronson.

Note that "War on the Mind" is basically a semi-scholarly overview of the entire field of psywar, including everything from how to teach infantry recruits to shoot at the enemy to interrogation techniques, while "The Men who Stare at Goats" is hysterically funny but not, basically, useful research materia.
I'm not sure about 'useful research materia' but it's definitely not a 'quality reference'. Sometimes the wacky anecdotes are more useful than the facts :)
It's not just the spy shows, even. "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" had a brainwashing episode, which, though I would be afraid to view it now, I still remember fondly.

A lot of slashy angst can be had by selecting your brainwashed character with care.


I was just saying to Pat, above, that I think it's in part displaced eroticism.
Discomfort accompanying the transition from looking at the brain as a storage bay for the "soul" to a more mechanistic view?

Nah, too easy.

Fear of communism? Ideologues attempting to explain the rapid growth of other political ideologies by calling them "mind control"? Totally unlike our ideology at home, of course, which we arrived at through Reason and Monologues.
I like those.
Also, nobody else seems to have mentioned this, brainwashing is a convenient way to get your dapper agent into his underpants, therein to commit exciting acts of gymnastics.

I mean, you can't have a screaming mob tear his clothes off every week --! (Shock Corridor notwithstanding.)

I don't know why brainwashing must needs be done almost in the buff, but perhaps there may be something to that eroticism theory. And now I am also flashing back to the French Connection, sequel, which I believe is the originator of the "kidnap tough cop, get him addicted to heroin (which is just like brainwashing!!), and then watch him tear at his hair and suffer manfully" -- as manful suffering episodes go, brainwashing is much easier on the stunt- and wardrobe-budget than having the everliving crap beaten out of you.

When it comes down to it, it's all about the manful suffering.
Yes. manly suffering is a fan win every time.
Well, after buying a couple of DVDs with some old favorites (e.g., The Saint, The Avengers), I happened to notice a seeming over-prevalence of mind-control plots, but I put it down to the same reason such shows used and reused cheesy props and street facades: money (and the desire to conserve it).

I mean, sure, having your spy infiltrate a launch site hidden inside a volcano with a roll-away roof is pretty sexy, but it costs mucho dinero and we've only got an hour (less commercial time) to fill, so maybe we'd be better off having our hero (or his sidekick, or both) fall victim to mind control, eh?

It honestly sometimes seems like it's every third episode, doesn't it?
Eh. They did it because it was a very hot topic at the time, and fit into the show's mythos.

Which is not to say that several PhD's couldn't come of it. It's not like they haven't been written about the obvious before.


There's no such think as "sherbert" anyway. "Sherbet", yes, "sherbert", no.

Re: Um....

That is a common but incorrect belief.


Accepted variant spelling. No gold star for you.
Anime writers have a similar thing with memory loss. Awful lot of convenient memory loss in anime.

It may be that the idea that a person's personality *could* be changed at the whim of someone else was just accepted for the first time during the 1950s and 1960s, and was new and shocking. In the 1950s the idea of psychology as a science was new in popular culture. Everyone who could afford it was being 'analyzed'. Fiction of that era is full of pop Freudianism. Bester's "Fondly Fahrenheit," for example, is all about projection.

It was also a dangerously convenient tool in the scriptwriter's bag o' tricks, which I suspect had a lot to do with its popularity.
And of course there are some things that are always "winners."

Like, er, evil twin episodes....
Hey, Contra Costa Times has a good review of CARNIVAL here
The mind control thing was a sort of corollary to the whole idea of the unconscious and psychoanalysis, which started becoming common tropes in the 30s and 40s. Nothing more hilarious than garbled freudian psychiatry as a plot point.

What's less known is that "Little House On The Prairie" had at least 2 psychedelic episodes -- one a dream sequence where the youngest daughter ate giant strawberries and was chased by a giant mouse, and the other where Ma's leg went septic and she had chilling vision of things to come.