Brainwashing: The Ultimate Weapon - Major William E. Mayer (1956)
mp3 audio & PDF transcript | 1 hr 7 min | 17 MB
This is a recording of a talk given in 1956 on the brainwashing of American POWs during the Korean War. The talk itself is fascinating (and scary). It's just over an hour long, and I've included a professionally made transcript. It's worth listening to though, so don't just read it.
Technical note: The original recording is untouched except for cleaning up all the background hiss. The speech itself was very clear though. There were very few other anomalies so I suspect the original master was a reel tape recording.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Major William E. Mayer, noted Army psychiatrist attached to Brook Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, gave the following address to the officers and supervisors of the San Francisco Naval Shipyard in the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory on the 4th of October 1956. In his introduction, Major Mayer pointed out that during the past 40 years the Communists have gained absolute control over one person in three of the world's population, roughly 900 million people. This control has been gained, in part, by the well known devices of war, purges, Siberian work camps, mass executions, etc. However, more significant is the fact that for every person brought under the Russian banner by violence, many hundreds have been controlled without violence. And yet, this control has been absolute.
“During this period, only two minor outbreaks against this control occurred, and to date, no sustained resistance has ever been organized. On these facts, it appears that Russia has a new weapon of control. What is this weapon? And how does it work? A Chinese newspaperman was the first to call this new control technique by the term "brainwashing." Many definitions have been applied to this term, but Major Mayer chooses to describe brainwashing as simply a well organized educational program. Major Mayer studied the record of over 4,000 returning prisoners of war from Korea in an attempt to better understand this new technique. He now continues his analysis of this new weapon.”
Major Mayer (excerpt):
“Now this weapon has the same general characteristics of any other weapon, be it a nuclear device or be it a shotgun. In the first place, it can be dissected, analyzed, taken apart, laid out on a table, understood. As long as you understand it's a weapon and go about it. And we've been attempting to do this even since before the first prisoner got back from Korea. Secondly, once we understand this or any other new weapon, we start contriving defenses. We have in the services something called the Code of Conduct, one of the most widely misunderstood, underrated documents in history. We have attempted other things in our training to serve as defenses against what we understand about the Communist's best weapon. Finally, we can usually come up with better weapons. And in this case we've got one already made.
“When it comes to an ideological conflict, our ideology on its merit succeeds anything that anybody else has ever created. Certainly, it beats on every point anything the Communist world has to offer. But again, like any other weapon, even a shotgun, this weapon of our ideas and ideology and system and concern for the individual, and so on, this weapon is totally useless to you if you don't understand it, if you don't know how it works or what your duties are in relation to making it work, or if you put it aside temporarily when you go overseas, like some of us have done, or if you just allow it to fall into disuse.
“And this idea was expressed by a great many returning prisoners from Korea, who said, you know, those Communists knew more about our country than we did. And they would tell us things which were obviously true and we couldn't refute it, even in our own minds. And we would say, well, do you think just a formal education in democracy would possibly have helped you? And the soldier would say, well, not necessarily. It's not exactly that simple. And it isn't that simple. It goes a lot farther than a course in civics. When these people first came back after being subjected to this excellent ideological weapon of the Communists, we started our study by making comparisons with what had happened to other Americans in other prisoner of war situations in other wars.” [End of excerpt.]
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