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Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of “Brainwashing” in China

Posted in psychoterreur with tags , , on 31 januari 2011 by notallone


Werkwijze gebaseerd op het boek: Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of “Brainwashing” in China

In the book, Robert Jay Lifton outlines the “Eight Criteria for Thought Reform”:

  1. Milieu Control – the control of the environment including information, associations, time, and energy work to exclude any opportunity for opposition while also promoting the ‘party line’.
  2. Mystical Manipulation – this is the ‘higher calling’ for the follower to be a part of a utopian goal which requires his full devotion. The followers see the leaders as having achieved this higher calling hence they are worthy to be followed.
  3. Demand For Purity – the utopian goal can only be achieved by purity of devotion. Any failure to succeed means impurity exists somewhere and will be searched out by those in control.
  4. Cult of Confession – Failure to succeed means confessions must be made. Any weakness or failure, real or perceived, are to be confessed for the sake of the group. Even confessions where no wrong was actually done can spur the group to more purity.
  5. Sacred Science – The ideology, doctrine and mission of the group are so sacred that they must not be doubted or questioned. To do so is one of the worst offenses possible. However, without the option of questioning, a lie cannot be uncovered.
  6. Loading the Language – Certain words and phrases are so loaded with meaning that stark choices are implied leading to the end of critical thinking.
  7. Doctrine Over Person – What you see, hear or think is irrelevant in the face of the groups doctrine. You must submerge your opinions in the group’s worldview.
  8. Dispensing of Existence – Only those who are committed to the group are valued. Those who oppose or betray the group can be dismissed, defamed, disfellowshipped, or killed.

Thought-terminating cliché. Lifton said, “The language of the totalist environment is characterized by the thought-terminating cliché. The most far-reaching and complex of human problems are compressed into brief, highly reductive, definitive-sounding phrases, easily memorized and easily expressed. These become the start and finish of any ideological analysis.”

Milieu control is a term popularized by psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton to describe tactics that control environment and human communication through the use of social pressure and group language; such tactics may include dogma, protocols, innuendo, slang, and pronunciation, which enables group members to identify other members, or to promote cognitive changes in individuals. Lifton originally used “milieu control” to describe brainwashing and mind control, but the term has since been applied to other contexts.

Milieu control involves the control of communication within a group environment, that also may (or may not) result in a significant degree of isolation from surrounding society. When non-group members, or outsiders, are considered or potentially labeled as less valuable without basis for stated group-supported and group-reinforced prejudice, group members may have a tendency to then consider themselves as intellectually superior, which can limit alternate points of view, thus becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy in which group members automatically begin to devalue others and the intellect of others that are separate from their group, without logical rationale for doing so.

Additionally, Milieu control “includes other techniques to restrict members’ contact with the outside world and to restrict being able to make critical, rational, judgments about information.” Proponents of such methods claim that group solidarity and preference compared to “outsiders” unifies a subculture into a community.

Critics claim that this isolates people from their society and family, and that engaging in shared cult-like behaviors and actions within a group can have a tendency to limit human cognition amongst those group members. In this respect, intentional actors whom actively engage in stated milieu controlling behaviors begin to habituate those distinctly abnormal behaviors as normative, which then become ingrained into their subsequent behavior patterns through the use of frequent repetition.