Brainwash The Secret History of Mind Control

Dominic Streatfeild




Trade Paperback

432 Pages



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With access to formerly classified documentation and interviews from the CIA, the U.S. Army, MI5, MI6, and the British Intelligence Corps, acclaimed journalist Dominic Streatfeild traces the history of the world's most secret psychological procedure. From the cold war to the height of today's war on terror, groups as dissimilar as armies, religious cults, and advertising agencies have been accused of brainwashing. But what does this mean? Is it possible to erase memories or to implant them artificially? Do heavy-metal records contain subliminal messages? Do religious cults brainwash recruits? What were the CIA and MI6 doing with LSD in the 1950s? How far have the world’s militaries really gone? From the author of the definitive history of cocaine, Brainwash is required reading in an era of cutting-edge and often controversial interrogation practices. More than just an examination of the techniques used by the CIA, the KGB, and the Taliban, it is also a gripping, full history of the heated efforts to master the elusive, secret techniques of mind control.


Praise for Brainwash

"A gripping survey of the post-war history of interrogation techniques."—Telegraph on Sunday (UK)
"Streatfeild does an important service by bringing [brainwashing] to our attention again. It is especially relevant in the light of Abu Ghraib and the war on terror."—Financial Times (UK)

"Marvelously engrossing. This book is a series of wonderfully detailed and cleverly told stories, each of which debunks the brainwashing myth. Streatfeild's narrative control cannot be faulted. His research is formidable."—Sunday Times (UK)
"Streatfeild, a documentary film producer and writer hailing from London, examines the many different brainwashing techniques utilized by governments, religions, and other groups throughout history. Among the topics he discusses are truth drugs (via chemical use), 'eating the flesh of God' (psychedelic mushrooms), 'hooding,' advertising, music, sensory deprivation, hypnosis, and the Unification Church. Streatfeild puts particular emphasis on the role of the CIA, especially its attempt to develop various types of truth serums. People . . . interested in . . . historical aspects of brainwashing techniques will be pleased with the abundance of historical examples it provides."—Tim Delaney, Library Journal

"Streatfeild, a documentary film producer and author of a social history of cocaine use, offers an expansive and multifaceted exploration of brainwashing in its multitude of forms. With chapters on hypnosis, sensory deprivation, subliminal messages, religious indoctrination, and a variety of truth serums, this account chronicles the many ways psychology and pharmacology have been enlisted in people's apparently perennial effort to control the minds of other people. Steeped in cold war intrigue, Streatfeild's narrative features the CIA and other intelligence agencies heavily; tales oscillate between the absurdly hilarious (CIA director Allen Dulles dispatching two agents to Switzerland in 1953 to buy up the world's entire supply of LSD for 'research') and the profoundly disturbing (CIA agents secretly dosing civilians and analyzing the results). Although the author includes . . . jaunts into popular culture to examine films and song lyrics, his core concern is the deadly serious business of mental torture as practiced by today's intelligence services. Sprawling, accessible, and at times quite casual, this book will attract a diverse readership."—Brendan Driscoll, Booklist

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DOMINIC STREATFEILD is a writer and documentary filmmaker, and the author of Cocaine, which The Sunday Times described as "a definitive history."

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  • Dominic Streatfeild

  • Dominic Streatfeild is a writer and documentary filmmaker. His television work includes the Discovery Channel’s series Age of Terror, which examined the roots of political violence. Airing in over 150 countries, Age of Terror featured interviews with members of eighteen terrorist groups, including FARC, the IRA, the Shining Path, and Hezbollah, and won a British Broadcast Award in 2003. He is the author of Cocaine, which the Sunday Times (UK) described as "a definitive history."
  • Dominic Streatfeild