The Engineering of Consent

Tato epizoda zkoumá, jak moc poválečná Amerika používala Freudovy představy o nevědomé mysli, aby se pokusila ovládat masy.

Politici a plánovači věřili, že jsou to nebezpečné a iracionální touhy a obavy. Byli přesvědčeni, že to bylo rozpoutání těchto instinktů, které vedly k barbarství nacistického Německa. Chcete-li zabránit tomu, aby se to stalo znovu a znovu.

Dcera Sigmunda Freuda, Anna, a jeho synovec Edward Bernays poskytli základy public relations. Americká vláda, velké podniky a CIA využily své myšlenky k vývoji technik pro řízení mysli amerického lidu. Ale to nebylo cynické cvičení v manipulaci. Lidé s mocí věřili, že jediný způsob, jak demokracii fungovat, je potlačit divoký barbarismus, který se skrýval těsně pod normálním americkým životem.

Anna Freud speaking: Lets say a word about dreams. We all have thoughts which we never knew we had. They are too uncomfortable or too incompatible with our adult self to be remembered. Yet they are often disturbing rumbling under the surface like lava in a volcano. The dream is the royal road to these thoughts. The royal road to the unconscious.

This is the story about how Sigmund Freud’s ideas about the unconscious mind were used by those in power in post war America to try and control the masses. Politicians and planners came to believe That Freud was to suggest that hidden deep within all human beings were dangerous and irrational desires and fears. They were convinced that it was the unleashing of these instincts that had led to barbarism of Nazi Germany. To stop it ever happening again, they set out to find ways to control this hidden enemy within the human mind.

At the heart of the story are Sigmund Freud’s daughter Anna and his nephew Edward Bernays who had invented the profession of public relations. Their ideas were used by the US government, big business and the CIA to develop techniques to manage and control the minds of the American people. Those in power believed that the only way to make democracy work and create a stable society was to repress the savage barbarism that lurked just under the surface of normal American life.

The Engineering of Consent

The story begins in the middle of the fierce fighting of the second world war. As the fighting intensified the American army was faced by an extraordinary number of mental breakdowns among its troops. Forty-nine percent of all soldiers evacuated from combat were sent back because they suffered from mental problems. In desperation the army turned to the new ideas of psychoanalysis. They made a film record of the experiment using hidden cameras.

Doctor interviewing solider: „It says here on your record that you had headaches and that you had crying spells.“

Soldier: „Yes sir, I believe that your profession is calling it nostalgia.“

Doctor: „In other words, homesickness.“

Soldier: „Yes sir. It was induced when shortly before the war I received a picture of my sweetheart. (begins to cry) I’m sorry I can’t continue. (leaves)“

It was the first time that anyone had paid such attention to the feelings and anxieties of ordinary people. AT the heart of the experiment were a number of refugee psychoanalysts from central Europe. They worked with American psychiatrists to guide and shape the project.

Professor Martin Bergmann – Psychoanalyst, US Army 1943-45:
When I first came to America I worked in the psychiatric service with soldiers trying to rehabilitate them. And I travelled in the train from the east coast to the west coast I was enormously curious what goes on in all of those little towns that the train is passing. After my years in the army I knew exactly what every one was doing in the little towns. Because I saw so many people who came from there and I understood their aspirations, their disappointments and so forth. So it was as if somebody had invited me to a privileged tour into the inner soul of America.

Doctor interviewing crying soldier again:

Soldier: „(crying) I’m not doing this deliberately please believe me.“

Doctor: „This display of emotion is sometimes very helpful.“

Soldier: „I hope so, sir.“

Doctor: „Sure, it gets it off your chest“

Soldier: „Well sir, to be perfectly honest with you I’m very much in love with my sweetheart. She has been the one person that gave me a sense of importance in that through her cooperation with me we were able to surmount so many obstacles.“

The psychoanalysts used techniques developed by Freud to take the men back into their pasts. They became convinced that the breakdowns were not the direct result of the fighting. The stress of combat had merely triggered old childhood memories. These were memories of the men’s own violent feelings and desires which they had repressed because they were too frightening. To the psychoanalyst it was overwhelming proof of Freud’s theory that underneath human beings were driven by primitive irrational forces.

Professor Martin Bergmann – Psychoanalyst, US Army 1943-45:
World War II was a major shattering experience because I discovered the enormous role of the irrational in the life of most people. Now that I can say that I learned that the ratio between the irrational and the rational in America is very much in favor of the irrational. That there’s much greater unhappiness, much more suffering, it’s much more a sad country than one would imagine from the advertisements that you made, a much more problematic country.

Victory in the second world war was celebrated as a triumph of democracy, but in private many policy makers were worried about the implications of the analysis of the soldiers. It seemed to show that underneath every American were irrational violent drives. What had happened in Germany seemed to bear this out. The complicity of so many ordinary Germans in mass killings during the war showed just how easily these forces could break through and overwhelm democracy.

Ellen Herman – Historian of American Psychology:
Planners and policy makers had been convinced by their experiences during World War II that human beings could act very irrationally because of this sort of teeming and raw and unpredictable emotionality. The kind of chaos that lived at the base of human personality could in fact infect the society social institutions to such a point that the society itself would become sick. That’s what they believe happened in Germany n which the irrational, the anti-democratic went wild. It is a vision of human nature as incredibly destructive and they were terrified Americans would in fact behave that way or were capable of behaving that way and they wanted to avoid a rerun of that.

Professor Martin Bergmann – Psychoanalyst, US Army 1943-45:
So what is needed is a human being that can internalize democratic values so they are not shaken with the storm and psychoanalysis carried in it the promise that it can be done. It opened up new vistas as to how the inner structures of the human being can be changed so that he becomes a more vital free supporter and maintainer of democracy.

Psychoanalysts were convinced they not only understood these dangerous forces but they knew how to control them too. They would use their techniques to create democratic individuals because democracy left to itself failed to do this. The source of this idea is not only Sigmund Freud but his youngest daughter Anna. She had fled with her father to London before the outbreak of war, and after he died Anna Freud became the acknowledged leader of the world psychoanalytic movement. She saw her job as to fulfill her father’s dream of making his ideas accepted through the world.

Anton Freud – Anna Freud’s Nephew:
At the center of the Freud movement stood only Anna because she managed to work herself into that position. She was recognized as that and not just because she was the daughter, she worked on that. She was rather forbidding and was not to me a warm person, not an Aunt that we could kiss and put your arms around; not at all; and her whole life rotated around the spreading of psychoanalysis.

Freud himself had seen the role of psychoanalysis as allowing people to understand their unconscious drives. But Anna Freud believed it was possible to teach individuals how to control these inner forces. She had come to believe this through analyzing children, above all the children of her close friend Dorothy Burlingham. Dorothy Burlingham was an American millionairess who in the 1920s fled a failed marriage and brought her children to Anna Freud in Vienna. They were suffering terrible anxieties and aggression, but Anna Freud was convinced she could free them from this by changing the world around them.

Michael Burlingham – Dorothy Burlingham’s grandson:
She thought that she could come in and enter their environment essentially, because they were children you see and didn’t have independent lives of their own, she could go talk to the parents or the mother, she could go to the schools she could influence their real world, the actual external world to change their lives to help them. And to change them as people? I think that was part of what her idea was, she felt that she could change them.

From her analysis of the Burlingham children Anna Freud developed a theory of how to control the inner drives. It was simple – you taught the children to conform to the rules of society. But this more than just moral guidance. Anna Freud believed if children like the Burlinghams strictly followed the rules of accepted social conduct then as they grew up the conscious part of their mind, what was called the ego, would be greatly strengthened in its struggle to control the unconscious. But if children did not conform their ego would be weak and they would be prey to the dangerous forces of the unconscious.

Michael Burlingham – Dorothy Burlingham’s grandson:
In my father’s case they were concerned that he would be a homosexual and so a lot of their efforts went into preventing or trying to stop my father from becoming a homosexual. Whether or not he would have or did you know is unknown to me. Why would they want to stop that? Because they felt it was abnormal, it wasn’t a normal way to develop. They wanted to have him develop along lines that society recognized as normal because if you didn’t then you would be under control of forces that you don’t understand, that you are not even aware of.

The analysis seemed to be a great success and in the thirties the Burlingham children returned to America. Hey settled down to happy married lives in the suburbs. What they didn’t realize was that their experience was about to become a template for a giant social experiment to control the inner mental life of the American population.

In 1946 President Truman signed The National Mental Health Act. It had been born directly out of the wartime discoveries by psychoanalysts that millions of Americans who had been drafted suffered hidden anxieties and fears. The aim of the act was to deal with this invisible threat to society.

Newsreel voiceover:
Shocked by the appalling percentage of the emotionally unstable revealed by the World War II draft figures, Congress in 1946 passed The National Mental Health Act which recognized for the first time that mental illness was a national problem. Keenly aware of the tremendous problems ahead is Dr. Robert H Felix, director of the vast new project. Dr Felix: A primary objective of The National Mental Health program is to increase our fund of scientific knowledge about mental health and about mental illness. We’re not doing this. Why? Because there are all too few skilled mental health workers.

Two of the principal architects of the act were the Menninger brothers Carl and Will. Will had run the wartime psychotherapy experiments and now he and his brother begun to train hundreds of new psychiatrists. The Menningers were convinced that it would be possible to apply Anna Freud’s ideas on a wide scale and to adults as well as children. The psychiatrists job would be to teach ordinary Americans how to control their unconscious drives. Psychoanalysis could be used to make a better society.

Dr. Robert Wallerstein – Psychoanalyst, Menninger Clinic 1949-1966:
They said psychoanalytic thinking could make for the betterment of society. Because you could change the way the mind functioned; and you could take the ways in which people did hurtful things to themselves and others and alter them by enlarging their understanding. And this was the vision psychoanalysis brought. That you could really change people. And you could change them almost in limitless ways.

In the late forties a vast project began in America to apply the ideas of psychoanalysis to the masses. Psychological guidance centers were set up in hundreds of towns. They were staffed by psychiatrists who believed it was their job to control the hidden forces inside the minds of millions of ordinary Americans. At the same time thousands of counselors were trained to apply psychoanalysis to marriage guidance, and social workers were sent out to visit people’s homes and advise them on the psychological structure of family life. Behind all this was the fundamental idea of Anna Freuds‘ – that if people were encouraged to conform to the accepted patterns of family and social life then their ego would be strengthened. They would be able to control the dangerous forces within them.

Clip from ‚Control Your Emotions‘ an instructional film:
When your emotions control your actions it affects not only your self but the people around you. And if this sort of flair up is repeated often it might lead to a permanently warped personality. You can control the fire of your emotions so that your personality becomes more pleasant.

Dr. Harold Blum – Psychoanalyst:
So we expected someone who had been through that experience to more insightful, much more understanding, and a much better regulated person. And regulation includes being able to let go as it were, to enjoy a football game or a soccer game. A more understanding, yes rational, but also appropriately emotional person. The regulatory aspects of the human mind would really be in charge, instead of being overwhelmed by our passions and our darker impulses. That one would be master or mistress over ones own passions.

Dr. Neil Smelser – Political Theorist and Psychoanalyst:
They just felt that the road to happiness was in adapting to the external world in which they lived. That people could be uncrippled from their own neurotic conflicts and impulses; that they would not engage in self-destructive behavior, that they would in fact adapt to the reality about them. They never questioned the reality. They never questioned that it might itself be a source of evil or something to which you could not adapt without compromise or without suffering or without exploiting yourself in some way. So there was this fit with the politics of the day.

But it was only the beginning of the rise to power of psychoanalysis in America. Psychoanalysts were about to move into big business and use their techniques not just to create model citizens but model consumers. Last week’s episode showed how Freud’s American nephew Edward Bernays had been the first to convince American corporations that they could sell products by connecting them with people’s unconscious feelings. But now a group of psychoanalysts were going to take what Bernays had begun and invent a whole range of techniques to get inside and manage the unconscious mind of the consumer. They were led by Ernest Dichter. Dichter had practiced next door to Freud in Vienna, but he had come to America and set up The Institute for Motivational Research in an old mansion north of New York.

Promotional Clip:
This is The Institute for Motivational Research, a place devoted to the intriguing business of finding out why people behave as they do. Why they buy as they do. Why they respond to advertising as they do. And this is Dr. Ernest Dichter. „We don’t go out and ask directly why do you buy and why don’t you, what we try to do instead is try to understand the total personality, the self image of the customer; we use all the resources of modern social sciences. It opens up some stimulating psychological techniques for selling any new product.

Like the other psychoanalysts Dichter believed that American citizens were fundamentally irrational beings; they could not be trusted. Their real reasons for buying products were rooted in unconscious desires and feelings. And Dichter wanted to find ways to uncover what he called ‚the secret self‘ of the American consumer.

Fritz Gehagen – Psychologist and employee of Ernest Dichter:
He was trying to get out of people’s mind the unconscious motivations that they had for purchasing. These could be sexual, they could be psychological, they could be sociological, they could be a demand for status a demand for recognition. There were things that people couldn’t verbalize or wouldn’t verbalize because they were too secret to them, they were a part of their nature, and they would be embarrassed if they came out and said things like this.

Hedy Dichter – Ernest Dichter’s wife:
He would interview people but not ask them direct questions but let them talk freely like you do in psychoanalysis, and that was his background.

Fritz Gehagen – Psychologist and employee of Ernest Dichter:
And he said why can’t we have a group therapy session about products? And so Dichter built this room up above his garage and he said we can have psychoanalysis of products, they can actually act out and verbalize their wants and needs. And they could be observed and watched and other people could comment and they could talk about it and everybody could join in. He was the first to do this, this was absolutely the first time this was ever done. And he had a movie projector up there where you could show advertisements and people could react to them and he invented the whole technique for mining the unconscious about the hidden psychological wants that people had about products. This became the focus group.

Dichter’s breakthrough came with a focus group study he did for Betty Crocker foods. Like many food manufacturers in the early fifties they had invented a new range of instant convenience foods. But although consumers had told market researchers they would welcome the idea in fact they were refusing to buy them. The worst problem was the Betty Crocker cake mix. Dichter did a series of focus groups where housewives free associated about the cake mix. He concluded they felt unconscious guilt about the new image created of ease and convenience.

Bill Schlackman – Psychologist and employee of Ernest Dichter:
In other words he had understood that the barrier to the consumption of the product was housewives‘ feeling of guilt about using it. They basically on one hand wanted to make it easier for themselves but they felt guilty about it. So what you’ve got to do in those circumstances is remove the barrier, the barrier being guilt. And the way you do that is you give the housewife a greater sense of participation. And how do you do that? By adding an egg. As simple as that.

Dichter told Betty Crocker to put an instruction on the packet that the housewife should add an egg. It would be an unconscious symbol he said, of the housewife mixing in her own eggs as a gift to her husband and so would lessen the guilt. Betty Crocker did it, and the sales soared.

Bill Schlackman – Psychologist and employee of Ernest Dichter:
The consumer may have basic needs that the consumer himself or herself doesn’t fully understand. You have to know what those needs are in order to fully exploit the consumer. Is it wrong to give people what they want by taking away their defenses, helping remove their defenses?

Dichters success led to a rush by corporations and advertising agencies to employ psychoanalysts. They became known as the depth boys and they promised to show companies how to make millions by connecting their products with people’s hidden desires. Dichter himself became a millionaire, famous for inventing slogans like ‚A Tiger in Your Tank‘. Even the marketing of the Barbie doll came from a children’s focus group.

But Dichter was convinced this was far more than just selling. Like Anna Freud he believed that the environment could be used to strengthen the human personality, and products had the power both to sate inner desires and give people a feeling of common identity with those around them. It was a strategy for creating a stable society. Dichter called it the strategy of desire.

Ernest Dichter speaking in a promotional clip: To understand a stable citizen you have to know that modern man quite often tries to work off his frustrations by spending on self-gratification. Modern man is eternally ready to fill out his self image by purchasing products which compliment it.

Hedy Dichter – Ernest Dichter’s wife:
If you identify yourself with a product it can have a therapeutic value. It improves your self-image and you become a more secure person and have suddenly this kind of confidence of going out in the world and doing what you want successfully. And it’s believed that would then improve the whole of our society and become the best society on this planet.

By the early fifties the ideas of psychoanalysis had penetrated deep into American life. The psychoanalysts themselves became rich and powerful. Many had consulting rooms overlooking Central Park in New York. Politicians and famous writers like Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams became their patients. They were seeking not just help, but to understand the hidden roots of human behavior.

Professor Martin Bergmann – New York Psychoanalyst:
We were sought after. Washington was interested in what we think. The important writers, important politicians were undergoing psychoanalysis. We had waiting lists because there were so many patients that wanted to be analyzed. So it gave us a little bit of a swelled head.

And as the psychoanalysts ideas took hold in America, a new elite began to emerge in politics, in social planning, and in business. What linked this elite was the assumption that the masses were fundamentally irrational. To make a free market democracy like America work one had to use psychological techniques to control mass irrationality.

Ellen Herman – Historian of American Psychology:
They actually believed that this elite was necessary because individual citizens were not capable, if left alone, of being democratic citizens. The elite was necessary in order to create the conditions that would produce individuals capable of behaving as a good consumer and also behaving as a democratic citizen. They didn’t see their activities as anti-democratic; as undermining the capacity of individual citizens for democracy; quite the opposite. They understood that they were creating the conditions for democracy’s survival in the future.

The rise of psychoanalysis to power in America was an extraordinary triumph for Anna Freud and her tireless promotion of her ideas. She remained in England living with Dorothy Burlingham. On the surface it was an idyllic life. She and Dorothy had bought a weekend cottage on the Suffolk coast. But in the summers Dorothy’s children came from America to visit with the grandchildren. And underneath things were going badly wrong. Both Bob and Mabbie Burlingham whom Anna Freud had analyzed in the early 1930s had suffered personal breakdowns and their marriages were collapsing. Bob was drinking heavily and Mabbie suffered terrible anxieties. The real reasons for the visits to England were yet more analysis with Anna Freud.

Michael Burlingham – Bob Burlingham’s son:
The problem was that it didn’t look very good did it? Because here you somebody who’s having nervous breakdowns and is having alcoholic binges and this doesn’t really sit well. From a humane standpoint obviously this is not desirable, you know you want to help these people, but it also had the wider ramifications of everybody in analysis, in analytic circles knew that Bob and Mabbie were guinea pigs they were the living proof that this is a wonderful process. It was very much swept under the rug, it really didn’t get out. I mean these people had such, their power and influence was such that you were very careful. Anna Freud was a very powerful person and you were the grandchildren and she knew a great deal more about what went on in your parents‘ lives and so forth and it’s not something you were going to tangle with, and you were a product of the whole situation. But at the same time we knew that something was really out of whack.

Anton Freud – Anna Freud’s nephew:
As he grew older she became more and more important politically and scientifically but she didn’t know when to stop. She was a bit too righteous that what she did was always the thing and she would never to my knowledge acknowledge that she could make a mistake or be wrong. That was my feeling.

But the power and influence of the Freud family in America was about to grow even more. Politicians were about to turn to Anna Freud’s cousin Edward Bernays for help in a time of crisis. He was going to manipulate the inner feelings and fears of the masses to help Americas politicians fight the cold war.

In 1953 the Soviet Union exploded it’s first hydrogen bomb and the fear of nuclear war and communism gripped the United States. Those in power became concerned with how to reassure the population. Committees were set up and public information films made appealing for calm in the face of new threats like nuclear fallout.

At this point Edward Bernays was living in New York. In the 1920s he had invented the profession of Public Relations and was now one of the most powerful PR men in America. He worked for most of the major corporations and advised politicians, including President Eisenhower. Like his uncle Sigmund, Bernays was convinced that human beings were driven by irrational forces. The only way to deal with the public was to connect with their unconscious desires and fears. Bernays argued that instead of trying to reduce people’s fears of communism, one should actually encourage and manipulate the fear. And in such a way that it became a weapon in the cold war. Rational argument was fruitless.

Ann Bernays – Daughter of Edward Bernays:
What my father understood about groups is that they are malleable. And that you can tap into their deepest desires or their deepest fears and use that to your own purposes. I don’t think he felt that all those publics out there had reliable judgment; that they may very easily might vote for the wrong man or want the wrong thing, so that they had to be guided from above.

One of Bernays‘ main clients was the giant United Fruit Company. They owned vast banana plantations in Guatemala and Central America. For decades United Fruit had controlled the company through pliable dictators. It was known as a ‚banana republic‘. But in 1950 a young officer, Colonel Arbenz was elected president. He promised to remove United Fruits‘ control over the country and in 1953 he announced the government would take over much of their land. It was a massively popular move but a disaster for United Fruit and they turned to Bernays to help get rid of Arbenz.

Larry Tye – Journalist, Boston Globe:
United Fruit brings in Bernays and he basically understood that what United Fruit Company had to do was change this from being a popularly elected government that was doing some things that were good for the people there into this being, very close to the American shore, a threat to American democracy. This being at time in the cold war when Americans responded to issues of ‚the red scare‘ and what communism might do, he was trying to transform this and brilliantly did transform it into an issue of a communist threat very close to our shores; taking United Fruit again, as a commercial client out of the picture and making it look like a question of American democracy, American values being threatened.

In reality Arbenz was a democratic socialist with no links to Moscow, but Bernays set out to turn him into a communist threat to America. He organized a trip to Guatemala for influential American journalists. Few of them knew anything about the country or its politics. Bernays arranged for them to be entertained and to meet selected Guatemalan politicians who told them Arbenz was a communist controlled by Moscow.

During the trip there was also a violent anti-American demonstration in the capital. Many of those who worked for United Fruit were convinced it had been organized by Bernays himself. He also created a fake independent news agency in America called the Middle America Information Bureau. It bombarded the American media with press releases saying that Moscow was planning to use Guatemala as a beachhead to attack America. All of this had the desired effect.

Newsreel clip:
In Guatemala the Jacob Arbenz regime became increasingly communistic after his inauguration in 1951. Communists in the congress and high governmental positions controlled major committees, labor and farm groups, and propaganda facilities. They agitated and led in demonstrations against neighboring countries and the United States.

Larry Tye – Journalist, Boston Globe:
What was profoundly new in terms of what Bernays did was he took this menace to our backyard in Guatemala. For the first time we saw reds a couple hundred miles from New Orleans, who Eddie Bernays had us believing were a true threat to us. There was going to be a Soviet outpost in our backyard.

But what Bernays was doing was not just trying to blacken the Arbenz regime, he was part of a secret plot. President Eisenhower had agreed that America should topple the Arbenz government, but secretly. The CIA were instructed to organize a coup. Working with the United Fruit Company the CIA trained and armed a rebel army and found a new leader for the country called Colonel Armas. The CIA agent in charge was Howard Hunt, later one of the Watergate burglars.

Howard Hunt – Head of CIA Operation, Guatemala, 1954:
What we wanted to do is have a terror campaign; to terrify Arbenz particularly, terrify his troops, much as the German Stuka bombers terrified the population of Holland, Belgium and Poland at the onset of World War II and just rendered everybody paralyzed.

As planes flown by CIA pilots dropped bombs on Guatemala City, Edward Bernays carried on his propaganda campaign in the American press. He was preparing the American population to see this as the liberation of Guatemala by freedom fighters for democracy.

Larry Tye – Journalist, Boston Globe:
He totally understood that the coup would happen when conditions in the public and the press allowed for a coup to happen and he created those conditions. He was totally savvy in terms of just what he was helping create there in terms of the overthrow. But ultimately he was reshaping reality, and reshaping public opinion in a way that’s undemocratic and manipulative.

On June 27th 1954 Colonel Arbenz fled the country and Armas arrived as the new leader. Within months Vice President Nixon visited Guatemala. In an event staged by United Fruit’s PR department he was shown piles of Marxist literature that had been found it was said in the presidential palace.

News clip showing Nixon speaking in front of piles with Armas: This is the first time in the history of the world that the communist government has been overthrown by the people. And for that we congratulate you and the people of Guatemala for the support they have given. And we are sure that under your leadership supported by the people whom I have met by the hundreds on my visit to Guatemala that Guatemala is going to enter a new era in which there will be prosperity for the people together with liberty for the people. Thank you very much for allowing us to see this exhibit of communism in Guatemala.

Bernays had manipulated the American people but he had done so because he, like many others at the time believed that the interests of business and the interests of America were indivisible. Especially when faced with the threat of communism. But Bernays was convinced that to explain this rationally to the American people was impossible. Because they were not rational. Instead one had to touch on their inner fears and manipulate them in the interest of a higher truth. He called it the engineering of consent.

Ann Bernays – Daughter of Edward Bernays:
He was doing it for the American way of life to which he was devoted, sincerely devoted. And yet he felt the people were really pretty stupid. And that’s the paradox. If you don’t leave it up to the people themselves but force them to choose what you want them to choose, however subtly, then it’s not democracy anymore. It’s something else, it’s being told what to do, it’s that old authoritarian thing.

But the idea that it was necessary to manipulate the feelings of the American population in the interest of fighting the cold war now began to take root in Washington. Above all in the CIA who were going to take it much further. They were concerned that the Soviets were experimenting with psychological methods to actually alter the memories and feelings of people. The aim, being to produce more controllable citizens. It was known as brainwashing. Psychologists in the CIA were convinced that this really might be possible and that they should try do it themselves.

Dr. John GittingerCIA Chief Psychologist 1950-74:
The image of the human being that was being built up at that time was that there was a great deal of vulnerability in every human being and that vulnerability could be manipulated to program somebody to be something they I wanted them to be and they didn’t want to be. That you could manipulate people in such a way that they could be automatons if you will for whatever your purposes were, this is the image that people thought was possible.

In the late fifties the CIA poured millions of dollars into the psychology departments at universities across America. They were secretly funding experiments in how to alter and control the inner drives of human beings. The most notorious of these experiments was run by the head of the American Psychiatric Association, Dr. Ewen Cameron. Like many psychiatrists at that time Cameron was convinced that inside human beings were dangerous forces which threatened society. But he believed it was possible to not just control these forces but actually remove them.

Dr. Heinz Lehmann – Psychiatrist and colleague of Dr Cameron:
He thought that psychiatry should not just concentrate on sick people and the mentally ill, but should actually go into government, that politicians should listen to psychiatrists; psychiatrists should be in every parliament and should direct and monitor political activities because they knew in a rational and scientific way what was good for people.

Cameron had set up a clinic in a hospital in Montreal called the Allen Memorial. It has now long since closed down. Cameron took patients who suffered a wide range of mental problems. His theory was that these resulted from forgotten or repressed memories. But he was impatient with the theory of using psychotherapy to uncover them. Instead, he would simply wipe them. Cameron used drugs including LSD and the technique of ECT, electro-convulsive therapy. It was conventionally used at that time to relieve depression. But Cameron was going to use it in a new way – to produce new people.

Laughlin Taylor – Assistant to Dr Cameron 1958-60:
He was really using it to try and change the fundamental function of the individual. To alter their past memories, their past ways of behaving, and as I think he said at one point, to just sort of erase everything from their past so that you then had a slate in which you could record new ways of behavior. And so he used massive doses of shock, people receiving several shocks a day and over a course over time hundreds of ECT treatments so that they were just reduced to sort of a primitive vegetable state.

Linda MacDonald – Patient of Dr. Ewen Cameron:
I don’t remember what happened to me. I was introduced to Dr. Cameron and I don’t remember Dr. Cameron at all. I don’t remember any of that. They shipped me up to what they call ‚the sleep room‘ and they gave me all of these electro-convulsive shock treatments and mega doses of drugs and LSD and all of that and I have no memory of any of that. Nothing of that time at the Allen Memorial or any of my life previous to that. All gone. Wiped.

Laughlin Taylor – Assistant to Dr Cameron 1958-60:
And then after having depatterned somebody or brought them down to where basically nothing but the essential functions of the body were going on in terms of breathing and things of this nature, then he would begin to feed material into these individuals; positive material such that the brain would be programmed in a positive way so that the individual would be completely altered.

Linda MacDonald – Patient of Dr. Ewen Cameron:
Then he put these tapes under our pillows called psychic driving. He would then put back into this empty brain a program of whatever sort he decided upon. And the people like myself would wake up another person I guess.

In fact Cameron’s experiments were a complete disaster. All he managed to produce were dozens of people with memory loss and the ability to repeat the phrase ‚I am at ease with myself‘. And it was not an isolated case, almost all the experiments the CIA funded were equally unsuccessful. Despite their ambitions American psychologists were beginning to find out how difficult it was to understand and control the inner workings of the human mind.

Dr. John GittingerCIA Chief Psychologist 1950-74:
We had really been chasing a phantom, if you will, an illusion – that the human mind was more capable of manipulation from the outside, by outside factors than it is. We found out that the human being is an extremely complex thing. There were no simple solutions. But you’ve just got to bear in mind that these were strange times.

The psychoanalysts had come to power in America because of their theory that they knew how to control the dangerous forces inside human beings. But now the psychoanalysts were about to face a high profile failure that would lead people to begin questioning the very basis of their ideas. It began in Hollywood.

The film industry had become fascinated with psychoanalysis, and Anna Freud was a powerful influence on dozens of analysts in Los Angeles. They treated film stars, directors, and studio bosses. Anna Freud’s closest friend was the most sought after of all, Ralph Greenson. And in 1960 the most famous star in the world turned to Greenson for help. Marilyn Monroe was suffering from despair and had become addicted to alcohol and drugs.

Celeste Holm – Actress and former patient of Dr. Ralph Greenson:
When I walked in to dinner here was Marilyn Monroe. And I made a picture with her called All About Eve. This was dinner at Ralph Greenson’s? Yes. And the only thing was that Ralph was trying to show her the way a family life ought really to be. So we were walking the dog after and I said ‚what the hell are you doing here?‘ I said, ‚You never invited me to dinner!‘ And he said, ‚you weren’t that sick.‘ And I said ‚oh.‘ He said ‚this child has no, NO frame of reference.‘ In other words she has no idea what the goal is.

What Greenson did is follow Anna Freud’s theory If Marilyn Monroe could be thought to conform to what society considered a normal pattern of life. That would help her ego control her inner destructive urges. But Greenson pushed it to an extreme. He persuaded Monroe to move into a house nearby that was decorated like his own. He then took her into his own family life, and he, his wife and his daughter played at being Monroe’s own family. Greenson himself would become the model of conformity.

Dr. Leo Rangell – Los Angeles psychoanalyst:
And so this someone she regarded as important and she idealized , if he turned out to be a very gratifying father figure her ego would benefit from it, that was the theory. His wife and children, everyone was involved in it. They were strengthening the person, they were strengthening the mind, they were strengthening the agent that controls inner life; against adversity, against insufficiency, against too much frustration, so that Marilyn Monroe would no longer be a helpless person looking for love, she’d have enough love.

But despite all his efforts, Greenson was unable to help Marilyn Monroe. On August 5th 1962 she committed suicide in her house. The suicide shocked many in the analytic community, including Anna Freud. And high profile figures in American life who had previously been enthusiasts for psychoanalysis now began to question why psychoanalysis had become so powerful in America. Was it really because it benefitted individuals or had it in fact become a form of constraint in the interests of social order. The critics included Monroe’s ex-husband, Arthur Miller.

Arthur Miller – Interview 1963:
My argument with so much psychoanalysis these days is the preconception that suffering is a mistake, or a sign of weakness, or a sign even of illness. When in fact, possibly the greatest truths we know will have come out of people’s suffering. That the problem is not to undo suffering or to wipe it off the face of the earth but to make it inform our lives, instead of trying to cure ourselves of it constantly and avoid it. And avoid anything but that lobotomized sense of what they call happiness. There’s too much of an attempt it seems to me at controlling man rather than freeing him; of defining him rather than letting him go. And it’s part of the whole ideology of this age which is power mad.

At the same time an onslaught was launched on the way psychoanalysis was being used by business to control people. The first blow came with a bestseller, The Hidden Persuaders written by Vance Packard. It accused psychoanalysts of reducing the American people to emotional puppets whose only function is to keep mass production lines running. They did this by manipulating people’s unconscious desires, to create longings for ever new brands and models. They had turned the population into unwilling participants in the system of planned obsolescence. The second blow came from an influential philosopher and social critic, Herbert Marcuse. He had been trained in psychoanalysis.

Herbert Marcuse – Interviewed 1967:
This is a childish application of psychoanalysis which does not take at all into consideration they very real political systematic waste of resources of technology and of the productive process. For example this planned obsolescence; for example the production of innumerable brands and gadgets who are in the last analysis always the same; the production of innumerable different models of automobiles; and this prosperity at the same time, consciously or unconsciously leads to a kind of schizophrenic existence. I believe that in this society an incredible quantity of aggressiveness and destructiveness is accumulated precisely because of the empty prosperity which then simply erupts.

Marcuse’s argument is not simply that psychoanalysis had been used for corrupt purposes, it was more fundamental. Marcuse said that the very idea that you needed to control people was wrong. Human beings did have inner emotional drives, but they were not inherently violent or evil. It was society that made these drives dangerous by repressing and distorting them. Anna Freud and her followers had increased that repression by trying to make people conform to society. In so doing, they made people more dangerous not less.

Dr, Neil Smelser – Political theorist and psychoanalyst:
Marcuse challenged that social world and he said that’s a world that should not be adapted to. And in fact what the individual was adapting to was corrupt and evil and corrupting. In other words he switched the source of evil from inward conflict to the society itself. That the sickness in society lay at the society level not at the sickness of human beings in it. And if people did not challenge that then they were in fact submitting to evil.

Martin Luther King 1967:
Modern psychology has a word that is used probably more than any other word in psychology, it is the word maladjusted. It is the ringing cry of modern child psychology, maladjusted. Now of course we all want to live the well adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic and schizophrenic personalities. But as I move toward my conclusion I would like to say to you today in a very honest manner that there are some things in our society and some things in our world to which I am proud to be maladjusted and I call upon all men of good will to be maladjusted to these things until the good society is realized. I must honestly say to you that I never intend to adjust myself to racial segregation and discrimination. I never intend to adjust myself to religious bigotry. I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions to take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. Never leave millions of God’s children smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society.

The political influence of the Freudian psychoanalysts was over. Instead they were now accused of having helped to create a repressive form of social control. Anna Freud and Dorothy Burlingham lived on in Sigmund Freud’s old house in London. In 1970 Dorothy’s son Bob died of alcoholism, and in 1973 his sister Mabbie returned for yet more analysis with Anna Freud.

Michael Burlingham – Bob Burlingham’s son:
She went back for more analysis; she was living at 20 Maresfield Gardens in the Freud house, as I guess she did when she wasn’t with her husband, and she committed suicide. She took an overdose of sleeping pills. In Freud’s own house, right. So obviously there are a lot of implications one can draw from that and I just happened to think she reached the end of the rope there. Although it would seem to be a very pointed act. Obviously suicide is a very politicized act and to do it in Sigmund Freud’s own house is certainly different from doing it Riverdale back in New York.

Next episode will tell the story of the rise to power of the enemies of the Freud family. They believed the way to build a better society was to let the self free. But what they didn’t realize was that this idea of liberation would provide business and politics yet another way to control the self, by feeding its infinite desires.