Sunday, May 08, 2011

"The easiest way to get brainwashed is to be born..." - Robert Anton Wilson

"The easiest way to get brainwashed is to be born. All of the... principles then immediately go into action, a process which social psychologists euphemistically call socialization." - RAW
First made my own connection to how brainwashing works, maybe 10 years ago or so, a few years out of the military and just into reading a swath of Robert Anton Wilson's books, particularly Prometheus Rising and Quantum Psychology. One of those realizations that's obvious in hindsight... I mean, they tell you up front what they're going to do to you in military indoc - "Break you down to build you back up." - but they gloss over a bit that they're going to wipe your personal psychology away and repattern you into something they want. Which is, you know, someone who will "charge that hill" when all rationality, common sense and instincts of self-preservation would think that insane.

Wilson's writings, showing step by step, using Leary's circuit model of consciousness, how that's done, was illuminating.  While the books were a great deal more detailed, almost all the main points you can find in two articles widely available online - "How to Wash a Brain" and "I, Robot."  [The latter briefer and more succinct, the former lengthier, but draws some interesting parallels between different contexts like the Patty Hearst kidnapping, Charles Manson and Lt. William Calley.]

The parts that always stuck out for me included, in step one, the biosurvival circuit - you take control of access to food, bodily functions, regulated sleeping schedules - often interrupted to create more disorientation/panic group bonding, bonding with the 'authority' who can increase or decrease your sense of helplessness.  That helplessness feeding into the second level emotional-territorial circuit.  Which feeds into tribe/pack/group ego & dynamics.  You take people just coming into adulthood and a sense of personal responsibility and immediately infantilize them.  They can no longer feed themselves, have to ask permission to go to the bathroom and are no longer even in charge of when they are tired enough to go to sleep.  The third level symbolic circuit is activated by use of in-group language and jargon - you have to learn a whole new language for things you "knew" previously, further wiping your connections to whoever you were in the past and bonding you to your new peer group.  And while military indoc or cult-y religions are these processes magnified and accelerated, as the first quote points out, the most common form of brainwashing is the slow motion brainwashing of socialization and acculturation.  If you don't occasionally remind yourself of that, you will forget.  Brainwash yourself or be brainwashed by others.  Your call.
"...The quickest way to re-imprint the third brain is to detach the victim from those who share the same language, symbols and doctrines by placing the victim in a situation where his usual verbal skills and physical dexterity won’t work, where he has to imprint new signals and skills in order to survive. For example, it is well known that the best way to learn a foreign language is by living with those who speak that language only: Hook the first-circuit survival needs (food, shelter) and the second-circuit status needs (security, recognition) to the third-circuit necessity of mastering the new tongue...

In order to maintain one’s reality bubble, it is necessary to surround oneself with tribal reassurance...

Isolation, the first step in brainwashing, removes this protective bubble. When the subject no longer receives feedback — “We’re all still here; nothing has changed” — the imprints begin to fade. Explorers and shipwrecked sailors who have survived prolonged isolation, Dr. Lilly has noted, are quite shy after being rescued. They are literally afraid of human conversation — sometimes for weeks — because they know that what they will say might sound insane to the domesticated ordinary adult; their imprints have faded and they are in the unconditioned free-floating world of the yogi or the mystic. It takes many days, at least, to re-imprint their social bubble...

[Rusty] joins the Army; during basic training, he is isolated from civilian society and all reinforcers of domesticated-herd imprints; his food, clothing and shelter are provided by the Army; and new authority figures make him feel helpless and inferior. Once Rusty has been reduced to an infant state and made totally dependent on the new father figures, he is allowed to work his way up in the new pecking order and to become one of the elect. After a few weeks of being made to feel one foot tall, helpless and clumsy, he is given weekend leave to explore the new soldier morality of easy camaraderie and socially approved casual sex. (And where else in straight America is casual sex so enthusiastically approved?)
Day after day, Rusty’s third brain is being programmed with military jargon, military concepts, military reality. When he encounters civilians on the street during weekend leaves, they seem alien. Rusty has now been fully incorporated into the Army reality bubble. When his superior officer, Medina, shouts “Kill!,” Calley will not ask about the Articles of War, the Nuremberg precedents, the ethics of Sunday school — they belong to other reality islands. He kills. The whole function of the reimprinting in basic training has been to ensure that Calley will obey in such situations..."

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