Dark Persuasion – The History of Brainwashing from Pavlov to Social Media

Thank you all for
joining us tonight. It's my pleasure to
welcome a close friend, UC San Diego's distinguished professor emeritus in
psychiatry, Joel Dimsdale. I'm sure many of
you know Joel and his incredible scholarship
and service to UC San Diego. He joined UC San Diego back in 1985 after serving on the faculty of the
Harvard Medical School, and even in his retirement, continues to consult
and engage in research. In addition to being
a respected scholar, Joel's an incredible friend
and supporter of the library. In fact, just last year, job donated a collection of Holocaust survivor
interviews that he collected in the late
1960s and early 1970s, and I'm glad to report
that just this past week, we finished digitizing
those collections. Joel is with us tonight to
speak about his new book, Dark Persuasion, A History of Brainwashing from
Pavlov to Social Media.

In this book, Joel traces the evolution
of brainwashing from its beginnings and torture and religious conversion
into the age of neuroscience
and social media. I just finished reading the
book this past weekend, and just am so excited to
have Joel with us tonight. With that, Joel, thank you so much for joining
us this evening. Thanks Eric. Thank
you very much. It's really a pleasure to
be here at Geisel tonight. I'd like to give a
shout out to Geisel and all the research
libraries in the world. These are repositories
of learning and wisdom that are deeply
valuable for our society. I'd also like to thank all of you who've joined
us this evening. When I tell people that I've been interested in brainwashing, the typical response is, "Joel, this reeks of musty
Cold War stuff and bad science and ethically
challenged scientists, that's partially true, but it's not something that is only
from a 100 years ago." Brainwashing or coercive
persuasion continues to be active and to develop
even a century later. Yes, there were some bad
scientists involved, but there were also Nobel
laureates involved.

Some were ethically challenged, but I think the story of brainwashing is
really the history of those individuals and
the social forces they were caught up in. I'd like to give you an overview of my
book by highlighting some of the 20th century events where brainwashing
has been evoked. Throughout this talk, please consider two questions. Was this event a manifestation
of brainwashing? What aspects of the event
shaped your opinion. Well, in my previous book, Anatomy of Malice, I focused on understanding how state leaders could orchestrate malice on a genocidal level. Subsequently, I
started wondering about how a population could be persuaded to follow such a path where they inherently murderous, as Daniel Goldhagen suggested? Were they hoodwinked by propaganda or were
they brainwashed? What did that term even mean? Where did it come from? Even despite my
interest in the topic, I would probably
never have written the book if it weren't for my neighbors who were members of the
Heaven's Gate commune.

A few miles away from us, our neighbors had themselves
castrated and then committed a mass suicide so they could teleport
to the stars. It's one thing when there's a suicidal cult
half a world away, but when it's your
neighbors, it demand study. I began my work on
Dark Persuasion. Now, before we go
into this very far, we need to ask a question
about terminology. It's a very important topic, particularly with brainwashing. It's such a flamboyant term. What does this term mean? There are lots of
other terms that refer to aspects of persuasion, indoctrination, conversion, propaganda,
or even education. But in its essence, brainwashing involves
duress or intimidation. Frequently, the victim
is isolated and subjected to harm while
being manipulated. The best term is
coercive persuasion, but the word brainwashing vastly dominates
the general usage. People have been coerced
by torture for centuries, but it's not so clear that
torture changes actual belief. Religious conversion,
likewise, is an old process that has
sometimes been coerced, but the beginning of coercive persuasion dates to
the Russian Nobel Laureate, Ivan Pavlov, who brought scientific methods to
changing behavior. For decade, the West was preoccupied that
Pavlov and the Soviets had made some kind of unholy alliance to change
people's beliefs and actions.

As the CIA observed, Soviet psychology is concerned with the concepts of Pavlov. The belief that men can
be deliberately made to develop pre-designed types
of thoughts and behaviors. Some of Pavlov's observations stemmed from an unusual
natural phenomenon, the flooding of the Neva River. Let me read portion from the beginning of my book
to describe what happened. The dogs were restless, penned in their cages
in the basement of the Institute of
Experimental Medicine. They were alone and weary from their daytime jobs in the
professor's laboratory, but it wasn't the dark or the isolation or fatigue
that got to them. It was the incessant dripping and a lapping of water on
the floor of their kennel.

Although it started out as a
fairly typical overcast day, the rain increased
until the Neva River once again flooded and had
headed straight for the dogs. The water level in
the kennel rows, and the dogs started barking. At first, their paws sloshed
around in the chili water. But as the hours went by, the water covered
their bellies and shoulders until they
were half floating in the cages with their
nostrils pressed anxiously against the
wire mesh in the cages.

They howled in fear and
desperately snuffled the air. At the last moment, a dog handler raced through
the flooded streets to the Institute where
he encountered panic dogs and floating cages. One by one, he rescued the dogs, but first, he had to force their heads under the water to get
them out of the cages. The dogs were never the same, their dispositions
changed dramatically, the meek became aggressive, and the gregarious became shy. It was as if an entirely new
being inhabited each dog. This was bad enough, but the researchers were also struck by the fact
that the dogs had forgotten all of the
complex learning they had acquired
in the laboratory. The dog's memories
were wiped clean. The staff talked about the
dog's memory loss for weeks, and the scientists wrote their colleagues about
this strange event. This might have been
dismissed as a curiosity, accepted it took place in the laboratory of the Nobel
Laureate, Ivan Pavlov.

Pavlov built his career on meticulous observation
and experimentation. For the rest of his life, he talked about the flood
and his comments about traumatic stress and memory
reverberated widely, given his relationship with
Russia's communist leaders. This would all have led just to scientific papers except
for Lenin's interests. He visited Pavlov's laboratory
and ask Pavlov's help in molding the news Soviet man to build the new
world of communism. Pavlov asked, "Do
you mean you would like to standardize the
population of Russia, make them all behave
in the same way?" Lenin said, "Exactly, and you will help us." The Soviets handsomely
supported Pavlov, funded him with over 350
researchers for his institutes. Stalin also protected Pavlov, even during the Great
Terror when Stalin attacked so many prominent
Russians, Pavlov was safe. There is always
been a suspicion, the Pavlov influenced how
prominent party officials were interrogated and induced to make unusual confessions
during the show trials. Bukharin was the
principal target of the third show trial, charged with plotting to
assassinate Lenin and Stalin and give Soviet
territories to Japan, Germany, and Great Britain.

He abjectly confessed
to it all saying, "I have no intention of recanting anything,
I have confessed. The monstrousness of my
crimes is immeasurable." Other leading Soviets similarly confessed saying things like, there is no country on earth filled with
such happy people, farewell my beloved country. Observers wondered how the Soviets extracted
such confessions. They used a mixture of techniques including
solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, constant interrogation and
demands for confession. They alternated
brutality and kindness, all imposed methodically and patiently like a
scientific experiment. When Pavlov died in 1949, a glowing obituary in
Pravda commented on his accomplishments in achieving unlimited power over
the work of the brain. It is interesting that in the ensuing cases of coercive persuasion
in the 20th century, Pavlov's name is
invariably mentioned. When World War II broke out, the allies and axis
countries turned away from a preoccupation with show
trials and confession, and focused instead on drugs for interrogation or as they
called it, truth serum.

Could a way be found to extract information from the enemy
rapidly and reliably? Could one protect
one's own agents or soldiers from disclosing
secrets under truth serum? Truth serums were drugs that were redeployed
for new purposes. In obstetrics, various drugs were studied to help
the pain of childbirth. They became popular after John Snow treated Queen
Victoria with chloroform. German doctors found that a combination of scopolamine
and morphine were safe and effective in
eliciting what they called Dammerschlaf
or twilight sleep. In 1916, Ferris,
Texas obstetrician, Robert House, performed
a home delivery in a farmhouse using the
twilight sleep protocol. He observed a
curious phenomenon. After delivering the baby, he looked around for a kitchen
scale to weigh the child. No one knew where it was, when the mother who
was still under anesthesia piped up and said the scales are in the kitchen on the nail
behind the picture. House was intrigued. He became convinced that twilight sedation made
it impossible to lie.

Furthermore, he was convinced
that the jails were full of people who were
wrongly convicted. Sheriffs, prosecutors, and defense attorneys, sought him out to interrogate prisoners
to learn the truth. His technique rapidly achieved
worldwide prominence. This illustration of Dr. House and a prison
inmate comes from a textbook of
forensic psychiatry published in Spain
almost a century ago. Meanwhile, psychiatrists
were experimenting with drugs to treat
catatonia fugue, or dissociative memory
loss, and battle fatigue. Various barbiturate
compounds could get patients talking
and remembering. My old professor Lindemann noted that after administrating
barbiturates, there was a feeling of
well being and serenity, a desire to communicate, a willingness to speak about very personal problems usually not spoken of to strangers.

These observations
on drugs and truth telling were of
great importance to the military in World War II. The Nazis experimented on Dachau prison concentration
camp inmates, spiking their coffee with mescaline to see if people
would confide their secrets. The Nazis noted that the
prisoners became more talkative, but were unconvinced about the drugs utility for
military purposes. Meanwhile, the United States set up a secret
commission to study if truth drugs could
be developed to speed interrogation
of prisoners of war.

Curiously, they focused a
great deal on marijuana. The OSS worked with
leading academics to study how useful
such drugs were, and to investigate if
people could really be compelled to tell the truth. The drugs were
hardly infallible, and eventually Justice
Potter Stewart ruled that a
confession induced by the administration of drugs is constitutionally inadmissible
in a criminal trial. That doesn't stop
frustrated courts from occasionally
considering their use, most recently in the case of mass shooter James
Holmes in Colorado. After World War II ended, the world sighed with
relief but it was a short sigh terminated by worldwide confrontation
between East and West. It wasn't just about empire, land, and trade, the Cold War was also
a fervent battle about doctrine and efforts
to convert the enemy, thus coercive persuasion
entered the next chapter.

The Cold War started off
with another show trial, this time involving a
Hungarian Cardinal, Jozsef Mindszhenty. This slide shows a before and
after view of the cardinal. He was an ardent
Hungarian nationalist who opposed any encroachment on
the rights of the church. He was imprisoned,
placed in solitary, starved so much that he lost 50 percent of his body weight, beaten, and drugged, but what got to him
most was the solitude. He wrote, the quiet of
solitary destroys the nerves. The monotony shatters
the nervous system and wears the soul thin. He eventually confessed to
a series of unlikely deeds, like trying to steal the
Hungarian crown jewels. The West assumed that the confessions were
elicited through some special communists
breakthrough in coercive persuasion. Meanwhile, 1/2 a world away, the biggest flashpoint of the Cold War took
place in Korea. It was a vicious conflict
fought in extreme conditions. The United States was
unprepared for the war, sent troops to Korea in the
dead of winter dressed in summer tropical
uniform and the front lurched repeatedly
North and South.

In the first year of the war, many American troops
were captured. There were high death rates
[NOISE] amongst the POWs, and many collaborated
with the enemy by broadcasting
antiwar messages. When the armistice
was finalized, all prisoners were
given a choice of where they wanted
to be relocated. We crowed when thousands
of Chinese and North Koreans repudiated going home and preferred to
settle in the West. We were absolutely
flummoxed when about 20 American POWs
refused to come home, preferring instead to
settle in China or Russia. How had this happened? What happened to them
in the prison camps? A retired OSS propaganda agent, Edward Hunter, invented a new term for this
behavior, brainwashing. He wrote, in brainwashing a fog settles over the patient's mind until he loses
touch with reality. Brainwashing is something new, which is contrary
to human nature and inseparable from communism. He didn't exactly
invent the new word, rather he took a complex
Chinese term, xi nao, and repurposed it in a
lard term, brainwashing. US military experts
hated his terminology, found it flamboyant
and misleading. Instead, they preferred
coercive persuasion, a much more accurate term.

But brainwashing to this day is the favored terminology
in popular culture. If you do a Google
search on brainwashing, you discover over 34 million
web pages on this topic. Compare that to
coercive persuasion with its 48,000 web pages. The Chinese treated
prisoners with a mixture of brutality
and kindness. There was an unusual methodical
quality to their efforts. They subjected POWs to
ceaseless propaganda, forced them to write
long confessions, and placed them in groups where they denounced each other. Not only did they get
POWs to confess to war crimes and make anti-war
propaganda broadcasts, but the Chinese seemed to get
better results over time. In the course of just
a year and a half, the percent of POWs
caving into pressure increased from 25
percent to 75 percent. POWs who started collaborating with the enemy were
treated better, and at the time
of the armistice, some declined to return home.

America viewed this
with consternation. On one hand, there was
fear that the Chinese had deployed some secret
weapon invented by Pavlov. On the other hand, our troops were viewed as
cowards for caving in. There was no understanding of
what they had been through. This Herblock cartoon
captures the mood at home. Two executives sit in
their private club discussing world events while drinking and smoking cigars. One says to the other that he
would never have caved in, instead he would've
said to the Reds, "Now, see here." People lost sight
of the fact that the POWs were treated with
extraordinary brutality. Indeed, the POW
death rates in Korea exceeded those found
in Japan or Vietnam. Two critics of the
Korean War were particularly harsh in their
judgment of our soldiers, Major William Mayer and
journalist Eugene Kincaid.

To their mind, the
GIs had no gumption, were victims of momism. The fault was that
liberals had sapped our strength so much that
there was no discipline. It was our fault
that 38 percent of the prisoners carelessly
allowed themselves to die. Other voices were not so
sure about their judgment. They pointed to the
prisoners debility due to starvation and exposure
to severe cold, their total dependency
on their captors, and the constant
dread of execution. In the light of the
Korean War experience, President Eisenhower
was advised to start a brain war offensive
that would bring together the CIA and
academic researchers. Allen Dulles, head of the CIA, felt that there was a
contest with Russia to develop new techniques
of brainwashing. The Russians, take
selected human beings whom they wish to destroy and turn them into humble confessors of crimes
they never committed. New techniques wash the
brain clean of the thoughts. Indirect CIA funding flowed to university researchers through foundations and
research institutes. Harold Wolff and Larry
Henkel at Cornell, received funds and
channeled money through the Society for the
Investigation of Human Ecology.

This MK-Ultra funding supported scores of university
laboratories across the country. Wolff at that time was
America's leading neurologist, and Henkel was a
brilliant internist who studied stress
and heart disease. Henkel worked closely
with the CIA on various projects that raised profound ethical considerations. Here we see how Wolff
answered a delicate question posed by CIA agent
White, who asks, "What is the possibility
of working out a graph indicating the state of panic of the enemy based upon the varying degree
of pressure used?" Wolff replied
smoothly, "Yours is a very provocative notion and I'm sure it could be documented. Warm regards." A shocking response from the tacit head of American
Neurology at the time. Wolff's proposal to CIA
started out pretty ominously. "Potentially useful
secret drugs and various brain damaging
procedures will be tested in order to ascertain their fundamental effect
upon brain function.

As these drugs are investigated, a concurrent search for antidote or countermeasures
will be conducted." Then the proposal veered into an even more shocking direction. "Where any of these studies involve potential
harm to the subject, we expect the Agency to make available suitable subjects and a proper place for the performance of
necessary experiments." In other words, he
wanted the agency to furnish the victims
and then dispose of them. MK-Ultra devoted
enormous efforts at studying LSD,
determining its dose. If there was habituation
with continued use, if there was an antidote, or could it be used to
immobilize an enemy? The studies frequently involved
on witting individuals surreptitiously dosed and
there were casualties. Perhaps the most
notorious experiments involved Frank Olson, a government scientist who was surreptitiously dosed with LSD, dropped into his quatro. In response, he became severely
depressed and agitated. This family photo shows him
as a father in happier times. The CIA took him to see Dr. Abramson and LSD expert who
had ties with the institute. Rather than immediately
hospitalized this VIP patient, Abramson sent him back to the Statler Hotel
with two CIA minders.

Olson died that night after falling out of his hotel window. It's not clear if
it was an accident, if he jumped, or
if he was pushed. The family was not told about the secret LSD
dosing for decades. Perhaps some of you are
familiar with Robert Ludlum, Jason Bourne books and
movies recall the plot. A young soldier played by
Matt Damon goes to see an avuncular psychiatrist who agrees to radically restructure
the young man's life. The doctor destroys
the man's memories and trains him to become
a consonant assassin. It's a compelling story
and one that is partially based on one of the most notorious CIA
sponsored brainwashing studies.

It's all true. Memory obliteration with LSD and electroconvulsive
treatments, and memory restructuring
during sleep. The assassin training
was not part of the CIA endeavors in actuality. The work was done in Montreal. Psychiatrist Ewen Cameron, headed up the Allen
Institute of Psychiatry. Dr. Cameron believed that
psychotherapy could be speeded up if you simply obliterated old memories
and started a new. He repeatedly played tapes to patients about how they
should think and feel. He obliterated memory with massive doses of
electroconvulsive therapy, as well as cocktails of
LSD and other drugs.

pexels photo 267367

After weeks of this, he played tape loops up to a quarter million times
while his patients slept. He succeeded in
destroying memories, but could not show
that his patients learned from tape reputations. The lawsuits are still
being adjudicated. From roughly 1915 to 1965, governments and
universities tried to develop tools for brainwashing. They weren't exactly successful. Torture didn't
persuade people to adopt a different
political beliefs, nor did it elicit
information reliably. Any number of drugs
could sedate, stimulate, or confused people,
but they weren't effective in interrogations
or persuasion. Group pressures,
sensory isolation, sleep deprivation
we're promising tools for coercive persuasion, but these required
time and finesse. In the 1970s and 1980s, two unlikely players emerged, demonstrating new techniques in dark persuasion,
kidnappers and clerics.

On August 23rd, 1973, John Eric Olson robbed the Credit Balkan
bank in Stockholm. He took the bank's staff hostage and held them in the vault, while negotiating
with the police. Over the ensuing days, the hostages started
collaborating with their captor, developed fondness for him and began to
distrust the police. He didn't torture, shoot, or rape the hostages. He was solicitous of
them and caressed them. As one hostage put it, "When he treated us well, we could think of him as God." When the police eventually
liberated the hostages, they hugged the bank robber and shook hands in for
well, calling out. I'll see you again.

This wasn't just some
Scandinavian liberal aberration. Similar events have
been seen off and on, all over the world, sometimes involving terrorists, sometimes kidnappings for
money, or sexual exploitation. These situations have
become known as HOBAS, or hostage and
barricade situations. We have data on a dishearteningly large
number of such situations. To a certain extent, the hostage is correct to
distrust to the police. In a kidnapping situation, he or she is more likely to be shot by the police than
by the kidnappers. Ultimately, 50 percent of hostages form some positive
bond with their captor. The extent of the full blown Stockholm Syndrome is unclear. Considerable work from all over the world has attempted to divine what hostage situation or what victim is more likely
to be associated with these paradoxical fondnesses
for the hostage taker. Stockholm like phenomenon appear during
longer-term captivity, and children appear to be
singularly vulnerable. The Patricia Hearst
kidnapping could be considered a
variant of Stockholm. Another bank robbery,
half a world away and half a year after
the Stockholm robbery. Her autobiography describes
very we'll her life prior to the
kidnapping and since, "I grew up in an atmosphere
of clear blue skies, bright sunshine,
rambling open spaces, longer green lawns, country
clubs with swimming pool, and I took it all for granted.

I live now in a private
protected street, in a house equipped with the best electronic
security system available. I do not live in fear. It's just that I feel
older and wiser now. I am aware of the stark
reality that I am vulnerable, that there are forces out there which are
ever threatening." She had the
misfortune to come to the attention of
Donald DeFreeze. I'll let you read for
yourselves his manifesto.

DeFreeze was a violent
criminal who nicknamed himself General Field
Marshal Cinque Mtume. He headed a small group called the Symbionese Liberation Army. Most of his rantings ended in the trademark death to
the fascists insect, who preys upon the people. Ms. Hearst was a Berkeley
undergrad when she was violently abducted
from her apartment. She was seized and hurled in
the trunk of a car and then shoved in a closet while the SLA tried to
extract a ransom. Her family agreed to
distribute food to the poor and they were riots as the
food was being distributed. Within weeks of being abducted, Patricia changed her name to Tania and joined the
group as a revolutionary, ultimately robbing
a bank with them. It's important to look at the compressed
timeline of events. Ten weeks after kidnapping, she robs the Hibernia bank, three and-half months
after the kidnapping, she engaged in a shootout at
Mills Sporting Goods Store.

When she was
eventually captured, she asserted that she had
become a revolutionary. At trial, the defense
claimed that she had been forced to do these
things against her will. People wondered,
how was she forced? Did it relate to her
violent kidnapping and sensory isolation in the closet? The trial essentially focused on psychiatric expert
witness testimony. On the defense side, psychologist Margaret
Singer observed that her speaking and writing style had changed during
her captivity. That her IQ had dropped
due to extreme stress, and that she wasn't herself
while being held by the SLA. Jolly West said that
Hearst manifested chronic classic signs
of coercive persuasion. That she was debilitated, had total dependency
on her captors, and was living in
constant dread. Martin Orne said that she was telling the
truth as she saw, that she had dissociated
during her time with the SLA or unconsciously split off those
memories and actions. Robert Lifton recalled his
experience with victims of Chinese thought reform and
pointed out that she caved in under gilt group
pressure and terror.

The prosecution psychiatrist
attacked this testimony, Joel Ford denied there was any such thing as brainwashing, and stated that
Hearst had merely converted her beliefs and joined the SLA robberies
voluntarily for excitement. Harry Kozol described her
as a frustrated, angry, confused girl who was
ripe for the plucking, in a rebel in search of a cause. The jury had to struggle
with two questions. Was she guilty? That is, was it coercion? Or was it her own choice? Secondly, did they want to
consider the circumstances of her kidnapping is
a mitigating factor. The jury found her guilty, and the judge gave her
no slack whatsoever. Her sentence was the typical
first offense sentence for armed bank robbery. However, subsequently, she received presidential
clemency and pardon. I've touched on how coercive
persuasion evolved in the hands of government
and government agencies, academia and criminals. I'd like to finish
by discussing how religious cults have used
coercive persuasion. Heaven's Gate began
in Houston and was led by Marshall Applewhite
and Bonnie Nettles, who renamed themselves
Bo or Do and Ti or Dee. They were convinced that they literally belong
with the stars, and that they were trapped
on earth in bodies that were actually archaic
vessels from space.

They started wandering and proselytizing about
UFOs and redemption. They formed a group
called Heaven's Gate and preached a life
of asceticism. "Get your vehicle under
control" was their motto. They preached eating pure
food and avoiding sexuality, which they felt
corroded their vessels. Some even had themselves castrated to stop
sexual temptation. They emphasize conformity and renamed themselves
with peculiar names. They discouraged contexts
with family and friends. They had very precise rules to help them find their
way in the world. Major offenses were things
like deceit or sensuality. Lesser offenses including having private thoughts
or being curious. Over the years, the membership dwindled and the feel
of the group darkened.

By that time they were
living in a mansion here in Rancho Santa Fe. We might never have
heard of them, and they might never
have killed themselves. Except for the bad luck
of the Hale-Bopp comet. In 1996 and 1997, this was the brightest and longest lasting comet
in known history. It came upon us as a surprise, and Bo was convinced
that trailing the comet was a spaceship coming to
take them home to the stars. He persuaded the group that
if they killed themselves during the comet's
closest pass to Earth, they would teleport finally
to the stars and immortality. The group vowed to
kill themselves, but videotaped
farewells in advance. Sitting tranquilly in the
grounds of their mansion, they talked about their joy in anticipating the next step.

Some tried to head
off criticism, anticipating that
the press would paint them as disturbed. In their words,
"This is my family, laying down this vehicle
is going to be great. I'm shutting it like a husk." Others stared into
the camera and said, I'm the happiest person on
the world to be doing this. " or I have such joy and wonder if the thought
of going home. Over the course of one day they killed themselves
in three waves. All were dressed identically. They ingested vodka, mixed barbiturates
into their pudding, and put plastic bags
over their heads. Then they were all gone. When the bodies were
discovered and autopsied, pathologists were
astonished to find that many of the men had
been castrated.

I've focused on brainwashing
in the 20th century. Well, what's tempting to talk about current events
and controversies. I think we need more distance in time to have a
dispassionate perspective. However, I do have
some thoughts on things that might
develop in the future. The first challenge
will be neuroscience. We were able to do some
surprising things in the 1960's. Robert Heath pioneered in
deep brain stimulation, studying how implanted
electrodes could modify complex
behavior in people. The CIA asked that he work with them on pleasure
and pain circuits, but he spurned them saying, I'm a doctor, not a spy. We can do much more today with safer and more precise surgery. We are restrained by a sense of professional ethics by focusing
on clinical conditions. Would that restraint be
evident in times of war? I think the bigger challenge
will come from social media. Social media offers
so much promise, but there is a dark side. We need to ask ourselves, if social media can
be weaponized as a tool for coercive persuasion.

If social media is
associated with bullying, coercion, surreptitious
monitoring, and restricted information. One has to wonder if it is a tour for coercive persuasion. In this sense, social media is just
another social intoxicant. As we know so well from the example of
drinking and driving, it takes many decades
for cultures to develop expectations for how one interacts with new
social intoxicants. George Orwell soberly observed, if you want a picture
of the future, imagine a boot stamping
on a human face forever. From my point of view, if we ignore the potential of brainwashing and the
developments in the 21st century, then we are defenseless and
or will have been right.

But I do believe
we have a choice. We need to look back and consider how brainwashing
developed in the 20th century to prepare ourselves
for the new century. We need to listen to H.G. Wells who warned that human history becomes
more and more, a race between education
and catastrophe. We are in such a race now. It's up to us to define the emerging contours of
dark persuasion. Thank you. Thank you so much, Joel. That was a fascinating
and very timely topic.

If I may, I thought
I would get us started with something
I've been wondering about. Your book contains
so many examples of the challenging role
that psychiatry's played in exploring or aiding
our course of persuasion. Brainwashing, I guess I'll say it's easier for me to say. How do you see the
field of psychiatry responding to those
ethical dilemmas today? Well, it wasn't just psychiatry, it was psychiatry and
it was psychology, it was neurology, neurosurgery.

This was a vast
academic endeavor in the social behavioral sciences and in all of the
health sciences. I think it continues
to be that way. I don't think psychiatry is singularly vulnerable to
the allure of brainwashing. It just happened that psychiatrists and
psychologists have been involved in this very
actively from the beginning. I'm reflecting on the changes just in medical
research in general that lead to institutional
review boards. I mean, I think that
the training we all get says we learned from those past mistakes and now
we've reached a new era, where we engage a more
ethical research. This is maybe a
rhetorical question, but it's interesting to
think about the studies that students will look
back on 20 years from now, and how that might influence the notion
of ethical research. I think the ethical restraints are going to be
terribly important, so that we don't recapitulate this in times of travail
and times of war. It's natural to look for things. But one also has to
ask questions about, what is the ethics
of investigation? The things that happened. An advocate were under MK Ultra studies were
just inexcusable.

In the LSD studies, many people were
surreptitiously dosed and became psychiatric
casualties who had no idea what had
happened to them. They'd be at a bar, someone would drop something in a drink. These things happened
in the 50's and 60's. I will say that your chapter describing the work that
Miguel was eye-opening for me, that was a new area. It is interesting. People just don't remember this and
it's not that long ago.

I think it's for this
reason that it's important to look
back in history. I must say that referring
back to some of my comments about research
libraries and archives, studying this was a challenge and a pleasure because of the excitement of the
hunt for archival data. Much of the data about the things that
went on in Montreal oddly enough are hidden in the archives at
UCLA of all places, had nothing to do with UCLA. Similarly, the stuff that
went on in Montreal, was accessible in New
York Hospital at Cornell. Of course, there's some logic
for why it would be there. But going into the archives, I would encourage people to do this if you've got
a research question. It's a matter of
sleuthing and it's fascinating to look
for these information. I think you've just expertly
answered the question that Phyllis asked to have you tell us a little bit more
about your research. We've got a couple of questions asking about the
Manchurian Candidate, the novel and movie.

Somebody asks, "Could that brainwashing depicted
in that movie actually result in
the intended aim?" I don't know if
you know the work, but if you do, I would
welcome your reflection. It's a wonderful movie. Just a great tale. I find little evidence to
suggest that is possible. The CIA certainly
looked hard for that. We've had a few folks wanting to explore
a little bit more about the role of social
media in persuasion. Somebody asks, "Could a numerically high number
or volume of messages with certain messaging aggressive
support have an impact on an individual's similar
to what might happen in the Stockholm Syndrome
those examples you gave?" I think that's the question. It's a question that oddly
enough in our polarized times, there are few things that Republicans and
Democrats agree on, but the concern about social
media is one of them. Any thoughtful person is
concerned about this. People are persuaded
by social media, that's the whole point.

The question is, under what circumstances can
social media be coercive? That's the question
for all of us as citizens to ask ourselves. Is there something surreptitious going on in social media? Are algorithm's going on behind the screen that
we're unaware of? Is bullying going
on on social media? Is there something addictive
about social media? In other words, asking all the questions
that one asks about any other circumstance of
alleged or coercive persuasion. That's fair game
for social media. The solution is a
challenging one, particularly in a democracy. But on some level social media already is regulated and
probably needs more regulation. How that will come about in the future remains
to be determined. Your response makes me think of the work that studies bias
and data and algorithms. Just how a small
piece of bias coded into a software program has
really negative outcomes. Your response is
making me think of Twitter bots and other
activities where there's so much automations going
into news generation or news filtering that we actually lose the ability to see
outside the boundaries. As an individual you
can't see the world beyond the social media
landscapes created.

I'm curious if this is a
new phenomenon for you or it's very similar
to the studies in the past where the world
of an individual under a high level of influence
has been so contained that perception becomes
their entire world? Well coercive persuasion becomes all the more powerful in
restricted environments. When you are isolated from
former friends and family, when you are selectively exposed to only
certain information, it becomes harder to struggle against coercive
persuasion in those senses. Going back to Pavlov. Pavlov loved his dogs. Pavlov demonstrated
that dogs learn, we all know that. But Pavlov also made a comment, a very shrewd one that
we sometimes overlook. That is that dogs
learn best when they are in a
restricted environment where they're not distracted. The best way of training a dog, persuading is in a quiet,
restricted environment. I guess I'd say that to the extent that the
algorithms behind social media result in ever
more restricted access to information and
skewing information, we are in jeopardy.

Well, thank you so much
Joel for your time tonight. Just want to express
appreciation and actually I'll read a quick comment
from Douglas who says, "No question, just applause. The interest in and effort
in this research is clear. We can infer so
much from Professor Dimsdale's [LAUGHTER]
teaching just from his talk." Douglas goes on to say,
"I'm here because of his service to the
entire campus, well outside his own field and beyond medicine or
health sciences." With that, I hope all of
our audience joins us in virtual applause for Joel. With that, thank you so much
all and have a good evening. [MUSIC].

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