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Intelligence Brainwashing And if the lambs say among themselves: “these birds of prey are evil; and whoever is least like a bird of prey, but rather its opposite, a lamb—would he not be good?” there is no reason to find fault with this institution of an ideal, except perhaps that the birds of prey might view it a little ironically. —Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality Evil media have a history. We have alluded to some elements of this past in the introduction , but such histories need not extend centuries into deep time or sport the names of famed scholars and diplomats; they may also exist in the shallow history of electronic media and echo emptily to the fame of nameless operatives. An example of such is brainwashing, characterized by indoctrination, mind control, the manipulation of thought patterns and brains, characterized as clumps of rewireable stuff. An imaginative construction from the Cold War era, brainwashing is always something that others do, your enemy does. The other, you convince yourself, is an enemy of autonomous rationality, a purveyor of cheap and manipulative ideologies, an ill-willed manipulator of the free-thinking individual. And if the other, in this way, is bad, malevolent, or evil, then we, you conclude, must be good. Any orientation in the field of study of evil media necessarily pays homage to brainwashing. Arising as a polemical phenomenon in an era of acute paranoia, it fixes in our imaginary the panicky affect of the loss of autonomy to some malevolent other forever bent on subliminally directing our thoughts to alien ends. More dramatic and obviously politicized than the various bodies of media-effects research that were popular at the same time,1 brainwashing tries to convince us of the existence of a geopolitical threat that would at the same time launder our thoughts and wipe clean this already too mischievous muscle. 26 Intelligence But in the now tarnished hall of mirrors of the Cold War, the strategic accusation of brainwashing belies the many layers of manipulation and deception to which a public—and those who saw themselves as gaming them—trained to accept the credibility of an appeal to science in the face of totalitarian ideology was subject. Just as exposing the conjurer’s tricks does not necessarily spoil an illusion, examining the effectiveness of brainwashing techniques and polemic does not preclude the continuing exploitation of the creative possibilities of low-level manipulation and mind control: on the condition that we understand the manipulative suggestions of the brainwashing process as so many germs of thought with which to infect their hosts. As with hypnosis and sophistry, what is put into play with brainwashing, when we review its emergence and strategic operation, is an ensemble of forces that no one can pretend to master, short of being taken in by their own dissembling. Shorn of its luridly sensationalist trappings, the polemical and strategic unity of brainwashing as a phenomenon discloses some of the epistemo-technical ruses of modern reason. Brainwashing not only links a set of practices and techniques but also and inseparably offers a tacit commentary on, and an image of, those same practices and techniques and their relationship to the mechanisms by which they may be proved. The real effectiveness of brainwashing as a historical construct lies in the way that it dissociates science from politics within the kingdom of representation, situating good science on one side and the malevolent manipulation of science and reason on the other side of a heavily politicized divide. This dissociation testifies to one of the simple and time-honored rules proposed by Schopenhauer: “The discovery of objective truth must be separated from the art of winning acceptance for propositions.”2 The specific stratagems that one must follow in observing this rule, of course, are as varied as the practices, techniques, and technologies in question, but that the rule is followed is a practical imperative, one that is usefully contrasted with the categorical imperative of Kantian morality, with its universalizing test for actions that respect the autonomy of humanity as an end. Purporting always to be right is crucial, especially in an economy in which cognition, knowledge, and science are central. For the sake of appearances, it is your duty to pretend to truth: respect for the spectacle of purely autonomous rationality demands it.3 Following Schopenhauer’s lead, any study of brainwashing keen to press its techniques into the service of some other form of mind control must accept...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780262305327
Print ISBN
9780262017855
MARC Record
OCLC
809043363
Pages
248
Launched on MUSE
2012-12-20
Language
English
Open Access
N
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