Brainwashing Is Bunk but Some People Are Gullible Fools

Brainwashing is very real and very dangerous as this image proves

By Aristotle’s Sausage

The term “brainwashing” was invented by journalist Edward Hunter in September 1950 for an article in the Miami Daily News.

Brainwashing doesn’t exist. It’s a fable.

It was a Cold War invention, useful for “explaining” how those Red Chinese devils could spread their ideology. Movies like The Manchurian Candidate helped spread the notion of “brainwashing”.

he Manchurian Candidate is a 1962 film about the Cold War and sleeper agents. The plot centers on Korean War veteran Raymond Shaw, who is “brainwashed” by communists after his Army platoon is captured. He returns to civilian life in the United States, where he becomes an unwitting assassin in an international communist conspiracy to subvert and overthrow the U.S. government.

It remains a popular belief, useful for explaining away one’s foolish choices such as joining a cult, getting branded with some asshole’s initials, etc. That way, you’re a victim, instead of a fool.

Many of the women who were branded with his initials were considered victims of Keith Raniere at his trial.

The term “brainwashing” is now often replaced with updated ones like “adult grooming” and “gaslighting”. They mean the same thing though.

Short of a gun to your head, nobody can make you do anything. A lot of people can be convinced to do stupid and damaging things. Some a lot easier than others.

There are plenty of people within Nxivm, and DOS, who didn’t go along. Who said “screw this” and left. Those people had strength of character. They had morals and courage.

Many others collaborated, some to the bitter end. I have no respect and little sympathy for collaborators.

It was the early whistleblowers I respect. People like Frank Parlato and Jessica Joan.

Allison Mack used ‘brainwashing’ as one of her primary arguments for leniency.

Mack Was Not Brainwashed

Allison Mack isn’t crazy. She’s ambitious, self-centered, and vaguely dissatisfied with her life. She’s not too bright, has a limited attention span, has no morals and has unreasonable expectations of what life owes her. Nothing will ever be enough for her. She thinks she’s special and she’s anything but.

In other words, she’s like most people in LA.

Theodore John Kaczynski, 79, also known as the Unabomber, killed three people and injured 23 others in a bombing campaign against people he believed to be advancing modern technology and the destruction of the environment.  After his arrest in 1996, Kaczynski—maintaining that he was sane—tried and failed to dismiss his court-appointed lawyers because they wanted him to plead insanity to avoid the death penalty. In 1998, a plea bargain was reached under which he pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to eight consecutive life terms in prison without the possibility of parole. He is currently residing at the Supermax facility in Florence Colorado.

That Ted Kaczynski was subject to some psychological experiments and would later become the Unabomber does not prove that the experiments made him the Unabomber. This is confusing correlation with causation.

That “b” follows “a” does not prove that “a” caused “b”.

Now if a higher than a random number of those experimented-upon Harvard students became violent crazies, that would be evidence. As it stands, the PT article presents nothing more than an interesting anecdote.

As the article points out, the CIA and military were very interested in brainwashing. They, and a lot of psychologists, believed brainwashing was possible. They also experimented with psychoactive drugs including LSD. It was that research that established that brainwashing is not possible. And while it’s certainly possible to fry your brain on LSD, it sure ain’t the route to making an army of zombie super soldiers.

The Army intensively studied indoctrination too. What they found is that some people can be pressured into doing things they wouldn’t normally do. This is the fallback position taken by the believers in high control group manipulation, “gaslighting”, etc.

Isolate people and harangue them long enough, and you can convince some of them of all sorts of nonsense.

However, all this means is that some people are gullible fools.

Artist’s conception of Keith Raniere sequestering the brains of Allison Mack [orange brain] Nancy Salzman [gold brain], Lauren Salzman [green brain] in order to brainwash them

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  • I’ll have to disagree with this article… The CIA never disproved Brainwashing or Mind Control (whatever you call it) sure there are techniques that work others that don’t… some work better others less… That’s because everyone is different… and everyone has different biological reactions to certain techniques… LSD was only used as a form of testing the individual’s vulnerability to rational thinking, just like was Cannabis, heroin and all other drugs they experimented with… however this is not just my words…. the CIA themselves have declassified documents on American, Czech, Canadian, Scottish and the Soviets development into mind/behavior control.

    While it is true that an individual has to be willing to be hypnotized (to be vulnerable, to trust, to let their guards down) there are techniques to force an individual into that sleep-like state. With drugs, electromagnetic impulses, sleep deprivation, verbal abuse, food deprivation, phobia, Biochemicals, sound, light, odor, sensory deprivation, hypnosis, autosuggestion… these are only some of the techniques that the CIA has conducted on individuals for the purpose of manipulating their behavior and form of thinking…

    Another example of mind manipulation is what all Advertising companies do nowadays: In 1958, an advertising company, Projection Company, Inc, was accused of using Subliminal perception on the common public. Where they incorporated a tachistoscope, (a film projector with a high shutter speed that flashes messages every five seconds at 1/3000th of a second), that projected the messages, “Hungry? Eat popcorn”, “Drink Coca-Cola”. While our consciousness isn’t able to capture these messages, our subconscious does. The way this works is that once your body does let you know that you feel hungry or that you feel thirsty, our subconscious could remind our consciousness to drink coca-cola or eat popcorn. Which could come as a form of a craving.

    This used to be considered illegal and against Human Rights back in the 50s… But with the passage of time, more and more companies started doing the same and using other techniques. This “new normal” led people to submit to such attacks, to the point where our Justice system does not interpret it as Manipulation of thought anymore.

    Other techniques include the development of dissociative personalities… Many intelligence agencies like the KGB and the CIA used this form to develop what they call “Super spies”. Once a person was in their awake state, they would, for example, make them a loyal patriarchal American, whereas in his sleep/dissociative state (which is implemented through, sleep deprivation, light, sounds, frequency manipulation…etc.). they would develop an anti-American and pro-communist attitude. This was used in order for the “Spy” to infiltrate the Russian regime as naturally as possible. To the point of, even if investigated and prosecuted, he would not know what was happening, therefore not revealing anything about who was behind the act. One could even be programmed to commit suicide soon after the act, just in order to keep the information from being leaked.

    The fact that we tend to deny it, is a form of vulnerability itself. Awareness of what is actually being done to you, is what mainly leads you to not be vulnerable and take a step against it.

    • Subliminal advertising has been thoroughly debunked just like brainwashing has.

      “… do subliminal influences on behavior actually work? Psychologists Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson of the University of California, Santa Cruz examine the question in their 1992 book, Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion. Their conclusion is that subliminal messages do not appear to be able to affect subsequent human behavior, such as buying decisions.

      ‘During the last few years, we have been collecting published articles on subliminal processes, gathering more than 150 articles from the mass media and more than 200 academic papers on the topic (a stack nearly 2 feet tall). In none of these papers is there clear evidence in support of the proposition that subliminal messages influence behavior. Many of the studies fail to find an effect, and those that do are either fatally flawed on methodological grounds or cannot be reproduced. Other reviewers of this literature have reached the same conclusion. ‘

      Whatever one thinks about the relatively small amount of evidence suggesting that subliminal communications play any real role in most advertising messages, there is no denying that the idea is perhaps more significant than the reality. It seems to be an idea that many members of the public want to believe in.”

      Article by:
      William M. O’Barr, Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University

  • Re Brainwashing Denial Disassociation:

    Aristotle sausage and Alonzo are good men who mean well. I mean no disrespect; however, they have obviously, been brainwashed into believing Brainwashing is mystical pseudoscience. The science of Brainwashing has been around since the 1950s. In case you can’t do the math, that’s almost 70 years. The movie the Manchurian Candidate as well as the nonfiction book by the same name were based on brainwashing.

    The available data backs up the brainwashing axiom! The data is good data. The empirical evidence weighs on the side of science.

    Can Alonzo and Sausage provide the data to back up their narrative?

    • Yes, Nice Guy.

      I’ve been doing that for weeks now. From Scientific Studies that Debunk the Brainwashing Myth, to articles and the work of expert scientists, such as Eileen Barker, who have studied claims of ‘brainwashing’ their whole careers.

      But you seem to not have seen or read any of that.

      So I tell you what: present the science that positively supports your claim that there are certain techniques that cult leaders use to make you believe what they want against your own power of choice, and I will read it and report back to you.

      Over to you.


      • Alonzo-

        My apologies! I should have been more specific.

        I asked for data (i.e., empirical evidence) – not philosophical or psychological discourse.

        • You missed my references to Eileen Barker then, and Moonie brainwashing?

          Have I missed any empirical evidence you’ve presented that positively supports your claim of brainwashing?

          Extraordinary claims of brainwashing (no matter how widely believed) do require extraordinary evidence to support them, wouldn’t you say?

    • No, brainwashing is nonsense. The vast majority of people in re-education camps are recidivist and hate their captors. Some people are weak minded and dumb, conformist and irresponsible with their thinking, but that’s not brainwashing, it’s a truisn.

  • What is FR’s fascination is with this topic/term? There is no charge related to “brainwashing.” I doubt very much that it appears in the Gov’t sentencing recommendation or any submission related to sentencing, or the judge’s order sentencing Alison. Authors seem to like it because it can be given whatever definition they like, and then “debunked,” thus showing how smart they are. Its fun to demolish a straw man.

    What are these modern day inquisitors trying to say, other than “I’m much smarter and wiser than Judge Garaufis”? I think their point is that the social pressures, coercive methods and traumas built into the NXIVM system should not count in mitigation. If they just said that, we could have a sensible discussion of these things and draw meaningful contrasts and comparisons. Or we could talk about the Unabomber and how this mentally ill person’s conspiracy theory was not accepted by courts or psychologists. Take that, Alison Mack. Case closed.

    Of course, social pressures, coercive methods and traumas are routinely considered by judges in our system of justice. They typically don’t present to this degree, and when they do, the facts are tremendously complicated, so apples-to-apples comparisons are tricky. Courts sentence a person based on the totality of the circumstances and principles of justice, of which comparisons are only one piece of the puzzle. There is much, much more to this than asking “brainwashed or not?”

    It certainly seems like the inquisitors are misunderstanding the importance of knowledge and intent in sentencing. One of the core considerations in crafting a sentence is the intent to harm. This is why a drunk driver can get 10 years for hitting a pedestrian, but someone who intentionally runs a guy over will get 50. Specific intent to harm is critical in sentencing.

    The evidence of NXIVM teachings, pressures, and coercions are incredibly relevant here because they go directly to that point. The defendants believed (or, at least, say that they believed) that what they were doing was good. And not just good for Keith or themselves, but for the other members and recruits. They believed their teachings were helpful, not harmful. This renders the argument about “brainwashing” pretty immaterial. What matters for sentencing is their genuine, good faith belief about the harm they were causing. And beyond doubt, beliefs are shaped by things like societal pressures, selective teachings, and the like. Considering these things is necessary to evaluate the genuineness of their beliefs.

    There is a ton of evidence on these points, but here is the best evidence in my opinion. Alison, Lauren and the rest wanted, at bottom, to recruit people into the same life that they had. They didn’t ask anyone to give what they weren’t giving, or to assume any burden that they hadn’t already assumed. Money on demand, sex on demand, slavish devotion to authority – Alison Mack thought this was a GREAT life because, if she didn’t, she wouldn’t want it for herself. Of course, she didn’t want her recruits to rise higher than she did, but she certainly wanted them to be just like her – a slave to the higher power.

    We might compare this to other criminal organizations, like a street gang. The gang sells drugs. Members don’t think that customers will be improved by taking drugs. Or maybe the gang hijacks trucks. They don’t think it helps the truckers. And so we don’t care, particularly, why they are a member of the gang. Many gang members will tell judges that they are in gangs because they need money, or because they grew up in the gang and were taught that gangs are good. These things don’t matter much unless they negate knowledge or intent to harm. But if someone was taught that heroin was medicine, and could prove that to a judge’s satisfaction, this would be evidence in mitigation.

    So the whole idea of “brainwashing” is a red herring. It relieves the person of the tiring task of considering all the evidence in light of the statutory and constitutional factors, like the judge had to, and enables an easy judgment purportedly justified by science.

  • Well you know, when Cathy o Brien says that when she was really little they make a Blood ritual that fragmented her mind or when Regina louf tells how she was trained to be complelty obedient, even to rape herself with objectos if she recieved a phone called or a instruction, i cannot imaginé that experience . Because both of them had horrible care takers, both of them where rapped by both parents, and endure an abuse that Drive insane kids,, pack of food, love , education etc and most important, they where expose to an incredible amount of pain. Daily . Or almost daily . You can adoctrinate a kid, a kid cannot know a different reality from what his care takers teach, right? At least for a while and i am.talking years , if they are Lucky .And the flight of right response hacks the more rational part of the brain, of the brain has enough pain, It hacks itlself, these with the múltiple personality disorder is a thing. But Regina and Cathy broke these somehow, so you have a point. Free Will is an absolute, but i just found cruel to judge ritual abuse víctims, becasue i had a hard Life ,but i was never rapped with razor Blades or had 4 babys being killed in front of me like Regina or was involved in a snuff video/ had to see.human sacrifices like Cathy o Brien. I wonder why when you see how common is these cruel trainning in the militar y or the mafia and make conclusions that are very well cruel

    • Actually, lots of children doubt their parents from an early age and routinely reject authority figures. Just because most people are gullible and conformist doesn’t mean everyone is.

      Being intelligent and critical are both influenced by genetic factors. That means there will always be a small portion of people who refuse to believe anything on the word of anyone else and don’t accept that anyone else has a right to order them around.

      Sadly, most people are stupid losers.

  • In Allison Mack’s case to be brainwashed you first need a brain.

    Edward Hunter, the man who invented the word brainwashing, was actually a CIA operative.

    Edward Hunter (July 2, 1902 – June 24, 1978)
    According to Hunter’s 1958 testimony, he served for two years during World War II as a “propaganda specialist” for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the wartime predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency.[6] After the war, Hunter joined the CIA.[1][2]

    Hunter is widely acknowledged as having coined the term brainwashing.[8] He first used it publicly in an article for the Miami News on September 24, 1950.[9] In this article and in later works, Hunter claimed that by combining Pavlovian theory with modern technology, Russian and Chinese psychologists had developed powerful techniques for manipulating the mind.[9] It was Hunter’s variation of the Chinese term “xinao”, meaning “cleaning the brain.” As author Dominic Streatfeild recounts, Hunter conceived the term after interviewing former Chinese prisoners who had been subjected to a “re-education” process.[10] He applied it to the interrogation techniques the KGB used during purges to extract confessions from innocent prisoners, and from there, variations were conceived – mind control, mind alteration, behavior modification, and others.[10]

    A year later, Hunter’s magnum opus Brain-Washing in Red China: The Calculated Destruction of Men’s Minds was published, warning of a vast Maoist system of ideological “re-education.”[11] The new terminology found its way into the mainstream in the The Manchurian Candidate novel and the movie of the same name in 1962.[10]

    Historian Julia Lovell has criticized Hunter’s reporting as “outlandish” and sensational. By 1956, US government psychologists largely concluded after examining files of Korean War POWs that brainwashing as described by Hunter did not exist, but the impact of his reporting was significant, and helped shaped public consciousness about the threat of Communism for decades.[12] Lovell argues that Hunter created “an image of all-powerful Chinese ‘brainwashing’ … [that] supposed an ideological unified Maoist front stretching from China to Korea and Malaya”, but declassified US documents show a much more complicated and contested picture of Chinese influence and international aspirations in Asia.[13]

    Most American POWs who were brainwashed were actually subjected to severe physical torture.
    Far more severe than listening to Raniere lecture.

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” Parlato was also credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

IMDb — Frank Parlato

Contact Frank with tips or for help.
Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083