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The Covert SphereSecrecy, Fiction, and the National Security State$
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Timothy Melley

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801451232

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801451232.001.0001

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(p.44) 1 Brainwashed!
The Covert Sphere

Timothy Melley

Cornell University Press

This chapter looks at the brainwashing discourse. Brainwashing—a theme of countless novels and films, congressional hearings, and government research projects—has been a persistent vehicle through which citizens and government officials have imagined global ideological conflict. Insofar as “cold” warfare implies a conflict of ideas and persuasion fought not on the battlefield but through propaganda, psychological warfare, and other ideological weapons, brainwashing is the essence of cold warfare. Indeed, brainwashing was both the sign and the engine of an epistemological crisis. It unsettled a stable sense of reality and formulated a generalized paranoia in which not even sworn testimony could be trusted. This led to a kind of experience that would later become a goal of some postmodern fiction—the deliberate conflation of fact and fiction, reality and fantasy.

Keywords:   brainwashing, cold warfare, psychological warfare, ideological conflict, ideological weapons, epistemological crisis, paranoia, postmodern fiction

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