content="Media influence wields tremendous sway over your thoughts and feelings. Here’s how it works – and how to take back control.">
In Mao Zedong’s communist China, in the late 1940s, a new approach
to encourage ‘right-thinking’ emerged, termed style="font-style: italic;">xǐ năo, which means “wash brain”.
This washing of the brain was designed to scrub out bad thoughts and
ideas, freeing the now-cleansed brain to think about things ‘correctly’.
The term ‘brainwash’ entered the English vernacular in the early
1950s and became a dreaded boogeyman during the Cold War era. 1962’s style="font-style: italic;">The Manchurian Candidate made
brainwashing the subject of a popular film, and in 1974 the United
States’ own mind control program, dubbed MKUltra, came partly to light
(though only after the CIA destroyed most of the project’s records a
Chinese brainwashing and American reprogrammed assassins are
interesting examples, but they’re just new takes on an age-old
principle, one that’s been a central tenet of states, religions, rites
of passage, and social groups of all shapes, colors, and sizes, since
That principle is at work in everything you see, read, listen to, or
It’s even at work right now as you read this page.
That principle, of course, is that every
message you let into your
eyes or ears informs your href="/content/reference-points-and-changing-worldviews">worldview
and alters your mental
model ever so slightly...
or sometimes so much.
And if you’re not careful about whom you let play switchboard
operator in your brain, you may end up with a set of beliefs about the
world that lead you all kinds of places you’d rather not go.