From some brilliant, disturbing and downright hilarious film plots ("Zoolander," anyone?), to worrying and disturbing events in the real world, brainwashing has long held our attention as a fascinating and complex topic. From the Manson family murders to the suicide cult at Jonestown, and from the CIA’s controversial MKUltra program to the recent focus on disillusioned Muslim youths-turned-militants, the topic of brainwashing has loomed large over recent Western history.
The idea that people could be tricked, coaxed, or reasoned out of their right minds is an understandable worry (how does one reason with people who are beyond the reach of reasonable thought?) but the reality of brainwashing is a great deal more complex, a great deal more involved, and a great deal more interesting than the common perception of this dark art of behavioral control might suggest.