Download video: Agnes Zee Live Hypnosis - Mind Control - Episode 4
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Joost Meerloo, a Dutch psychiatrist, was an early leading proponent of the concept of brainwashing. His view was influenced by his experiences during the German occupation of his country in the Second World War and his work with the Dutch government and the American military in the interrogation of accused Nazi war criminals. He later emigrated to the United States and taught at Columbia University. His best-selling 1956 book, The Rape of the Mind, concludes by saying: "The modern techniques of brainwashing and menticide-those perversions of psychology-can bring almost any man into submission and surrender. Many of the victims of thought control, brainwashing, and menticide that we have talked about were strong men whose minds and wills were broken and degraded. But although the totalitarians use their knowledge of the mind for vicious and unscrupulous purposes, our democratic society can and must use its knowledge to help man to grow, to guard his freedom, and to understand himself." ("Menticide" is a neologism coined by Meerloo meaning: "Killing of the mind.")
In Italy there has been controversy over the concept of plagio, a crime consisting in an absolute psychological—and eventually physical-domination of a person. The effect of such domination is the annihilation of the subject's freedom and self-determination and the consequent negation of his or her personality. The crime of plagio has rarely been prosecuted in Italy, and only one person was ever convicted. In 1981, Italy the Court found the concept to be imprecise, lacking coherence, and liable to arbitrary application.
By the Twentyfirst century the concept of brainwashing had spread to other fields and was being applied "with some success" in criminal defense, child custody, and child sexual abuse cases. In some cases "one parent is accused of brainwashing the child to reject the other parent, and in child sex abuse cases where one parent is accused of brainwashing the child to make sex abuse accusations against the other parent" (possibly resulting in or causing parental alienation).
In his 2000 book, Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and the New Global Terrorism, Robert Lifton applied his original ideas about thought reform to Aum Shinrikyo and the War on Terrorism, concluding that in this context thought reform was possible without violence or physical coercion. He also pointed out that in their efforts against terrorism Western governments were also using some mind control techniques, including thought-terminating clichés.
In 2003 Dick Anthony asserted in the Washington Post that "no reasonable person would question that there are situations where people can be influenced against their best interests, but those arguments are evaluated on the basis of fact, not bogus expert testimony." Dismissing the idea of mind control, he has defended NRMs, and argued that involvement in such movements may often have beneficial, rather than harmful effects: "There's a large research literature published in mainstream journals on the mental health effects of new religions. For the most part the effects seem to be positive in any way that's measurable.