The Manchurian Crooner

Friday A/V Club: When country music tackled brainwashing


The Vanguard Press

It was the Korean War—I mean the war they fought in the '50s, not the nuclear holocaust that various idiots are proposing now—that brought the word "brainwashing" into the common lexicon. Introduced in Edward Hunter's 1951 book Brain-Washing in Red China, whose cover declared that "an entire nation" was under "hypnotic control," the word's popularity exploded when the public learned that the American POWs who had recorded propaganda messages for North Korea had been subjected to intense indoctrination sessions. The idea took hold that the Communists had actually reprogrammed their captives' brains, perhaps permanently.

As science, this turned out to be false—the mind is not so malleable. As fuel for pop culture, on the other hand, it has given us everything from The Manchurian Candidate to the record I've embedded below. Eddie Hill's "I Changed My Mind," released in 1954, may well be the only country song ever written about brainwashing. In this particular spin on the subject, the cure for mind control turns out to be prayer; that isn't quite as exciting as the end of The Manchurian Candidate, but I suppose it was better suited for radio airplay.

Trivia: Joan Javits, co-composer of the song, made more of a mark when she co-wrote "Santa Baby." She was also the niece of Sen. Jacob Javits, which I guess makes this record the lost bridge between Nashville and the Rockefeller Republicans.

(For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)

NEXT: For Airline Employees, TSA Insider Threat Program Is Little More Than Random Molestation

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  1. Eddie Hill’s “I Changed My Mind,” released in 1954, may well be the only country song ever recorded about brainwashing.

    Behold, the greatest living country music artist.

    1. They absolutely crushed it on that show.

      1. They did indeed.

        I’ve seen him with Dap Kings 4 times, they’ve murdered it every show. As good of a show as there is. If you can catch them in a small theater especially, it’s an almost unbeatable concert experience. Driving up to St Louis for a show next month.

        It’s been said, though I have absolutely no proof, that when he sang the words “they send their sons and daughters off to die for some war to control the heroine”, it was the first time anyone had ever articulated that fact on a major network.

  2. In this particular spin on the subject, the cure for mind control turns out to be prayer; that isn’t quite as exciting as the end of The Manchurian Candidate,

    I’ll say it again: our current political situation will end up combining both The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days in May, because our brainwashed president (brainwashed by Putin and his lackeys, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone), will be overthrown by John Kelly, James Mattis, H.R. McMaster, and the rest of the generals in the White House, and America will be saved.

  3. Nothing from Jesse or Reason on Glen Campbell’s death re his contribution to American music?

    1. I unfortunately didn’t have time to write a Campbell post. I did tweet a bunch of stuff, though…

      1. Appreciate you must be busy but that’s a shame, your article/essays on American music are one of the highlights of Reason. Always read them and profit from doing so, really appreciate your eclecticism and knowledge here. Was checking out some of Campbell’s past performances on YouTube and behind that ah shucks persona lay a ferocious musical talent.

        Will check your twitter feed for those mentions…

  4. Very nice guitar on that record.

  5. Of all of the captured NATO troops subject to the propaganda camp (90 days worth, iirc) only 21 US and 1 Brit refused repatriation. 336 other NATO soldiers refused repatriation at some point too.

    All but two or three of the Americans eventually returned to the West.

    In contrast, of the Chinese POWs nearly 7,500 refused repatriation and 15,000ish North Koreans refused repatriation. The Chinese were settled in Taiwan (many of them were Nationalist Chinese captured by the Communists during the revolution anyway, and impressed into the ‘volunteer force’ to invade Korea). The Koreans were settled in South Korea. Of the Chinese and Koreans, 88 refused repatriation to South Korea or Taiwan and were settled in India.

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