‘Not Just Washed but Dry-Cleaned’: Korea and the ‘Brainwashing’ Scare of the 1950s

  • Susan L. Carruthers


The fear that our thought processes may be infiltrated by external agents, human or extraterrestrial, has permeated postwar popular culture. The ‘brainwashing’ theme has flourished as Enlightenment confidence in humans as autonomous exercisers of ‘Free Will’ has waned. In the 1950s, the increasing technologization of society, the rise of mass communications media, and particularly the growth of commercial advertising all helped fuel anxiety that individuals were mere cogs in ‘the system’:‘hidden persuaders’ had burrowed under the skin of modern ‘mass society’.1 Terms such as ‘brainwashing’ gave graphic expression to this ‘loss of confidence in our capacity as individuals to master our world’, as one social scientist wrote in 1959.2


False Confession Western POWs Black Book Communist Ideology American POWs 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan L. Carruthers

There are no affiliations available

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