Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Black Book on Red China, and the Origins of Brainwashing

Picked up a few books in front of the Cambridge post office today, including a copy of Sade's Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man that turned out to be worth a bit - [my amateur antiquarian book hunting continues!] - but more directly relevant to the blog, there was a review copy of The Black Book on Red China, written in 1958 by Edward Hunter for The Committee of One Million, which protested the admission of China into the UN quite successfully for nearly two decades.

Turns out Edward Hunter [all the while a CIA operative. Manchurian Candidate indeed.] was the first person (as credited in the OED) to introduce the term "brainwashing" into the US. From Wikipedia:
"The term xǐ năo (洗腦, the Chinese term literally translated as "to wash the brain") originally referred to methodologies of coercive persuasion used in the "reconstruction" (改造 gǎi zào) of the so-called feudal (封建 fēng jiàn) thought-patterns of Chinese citizens raised under pre-revolutionary régimes; the term punned on the Taoist custom of "cleansing/washing the heart" (洗心 xǐ xīn) prior to conducting certain ceremonies or entering certain holy places, and in Chinese, the word "心" xīn also refers to the soul or the mind, contrasting with the brain. The term first came into general use in the United States in the 1950s during the Korean War (1950–1953) to describe those same methods as applied by the Chinese communists to attempt deep and permanent behavioral changes in foreign prisoners, and especially during the Korean War to disrupt the ability of captured United Nations troops to effectively organize and resist their imprisonment. The word brainwashing consequently came into use in the United States of America to explain why, unlike in earlier wars, a relatively high percentage of American GIs defected to the enemy side after becoming prisoners-of-war in Korea."
Will dig around for the article in 'The New Leader" mentioned - and will be trouncing through this book in the coming week. Also, in another post [trying to establish mini-research projects for myself], will blog up some of this moment of UN representation changing hands from the Republic to the People's Republic, with a focus on the trauma to the Isle Formosa.

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