Or, Brainwashing the Highest Stage of Marketing?
Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brainwashing in China
by Robert Jay Lifton
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At the University of Peking, George found the pattern of thought reform similar to that at middle school, but more intensive; not only did criticism and self-criticism within small groups become
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more focused and personal, but students were expected to be instigators as well as followers. During the Three Anti Movement —against waste, corruption, and bureaucracy—the first of a series of campaigns on the campus, it was the students who searched out these evils among all university employees, including faculty members. In fact, a student, as local Communist Party secretary, ran the campaign, and for some time virtually ran the university.
The movement followed the usual sequence: an announcement by Mao Tse-tung, editorials in leading newspapers about its purposes and general methods, and then preparation at the university itself. Posters were prominent everywhere, slogans and cartoon caricatures appeared on all the classroom blackboards (called the “blackboard press”), and loudspeakers broadcasted throughout the university—in dining rooms, dormitories, assembly halls, and department buildings. The campaign achieved its greatest intensity during a two-month period devoted entirely to its activities: students were required to remain at the university for what would ordinarily have been a one-month vacation period, and the beginning of the next term’s classes was delayed for still another month. George served as a “detention guard,” watching over those nonprofessional employees (servants and clerical help) who were detained in special bedrooms or classrooms, each isolated and subjected to a barrage of pressures to confess his past participation in corrupt activities. None of those singled out failed to confess, and some were sent to prison.
For George and the other students, the most impressive events were the public confessions of their professors (here the Three Anti Movement merged with the Thought Reform Campaign). Each faculty member was required to make a “self-examination” before the students of his own department, and criticize his political shortcomings and also his deficiencies in teaching method and outlook. George was impressed by the influence which students could bring to bear upon their professors, especially so in the case of his own department head:
Professor M was the ex-chairman of the Chinese National League of Physicists, a very renowned professor. But the students did not like him too much. He muttered when he spoke, and he was not too sociable a person. . . . All the students were free to give their true opinions about his teaching, their criticism about him.
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