John Frankenheimer, dir. The Manchurian Candidate, 1962.

Raymond’s mother manipulates and controls newspaper and television images that affect the whole nation.


The Sleeper Effect: Hypnotism, Mind Control, Terrorism
STEFAN ANDRIOPOULOS Anxieties about clandestine terror cells have been prevalent in popular culture and political discourse since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Television shows such as Sleeper Cell: American Terror and 24 center on the frightening figure of the “sleeper”—a terrorist who lies dormant in our midst, living an ostensibly normal life while secretly plotting acts of destruction and mayhem. Corresponding to and possibly inspired by these fictional scenarios was the real-life but failed attempt to explode a bomb-packed car in New York’s Times Square by Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen who lived in a small town in Connecticut. But the fear-provoking figure of the sleeper has a long prehistory—in Cold War culture and at the end of the nineteenth century. The Manchurian candidate Raymond Shaw seems to be a patriotic American, a war hero who earned the Medal of Honor fighting Communist North Korea. But as readers of Richard Condon’s best-selling novel know, he is in reality under “remote control,” waiting to be activated by his “operator” who will compel him to commit murder and to participate in an elaborate plot that is meant to destroy American democracy.1 This fictional Cold War scenario of a brainwashed clandestine assassin coincided with contemporaneous warnings against the hypnotic power of advertising and theories of propaganda that described the delayed and clandestine workings of unreliable information as the so-called sleeper effect. But even earlier, at the end of the nineteenth century, medical researchers, legal theorists, and literary authors raised similar concerns, anticipating fantasies of absolute mind control by invoking the ostensibly unlimited power of hypnotic suggestion. During the 1880s French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot legitimized hypnosis as a subject of serious medical study. Charcot’s interest lay in a detailed clinical description of the “grand hysterical attack,” and he asserted a constitutive link between hysteria and hypnotism. According to Charcot, only hysterics could be hypnotized. But this assumption of a constitutive link between hypnosis and a

Grey Room 45, Fall 2011, pp. 88–105. © 2011 Grey Room, Inc. and Massachusetts Institute of Technology


pathological state of our nervous system was vehemently contradicted by other medical researchers. In diametrical contrast to Charcot, the doctors of the “Nancy School” defined hypnosis not as a disease of the nervous system but as a state akin to sleep. This conception was first formulated in Ambroise Liébeault’s study Of Sleep and States Analogous to It (1866) and was then adapted in Hippolyte Bernheim’s works, which found enormous resonance in the 1880s.2 In the preface to his On Suggestion and Its Therapeutic Applications (1886), Bernheim directly opposed Charcot, insisting that the hypnotic state was “not a neurosis analogous to hysteria.”3 Bernheim asserted that the “induced sleep” did not differ from a “natural” one.4 The affinity of hypnosis to natural sleep also explained why “the overwhelming majority of persons” were “suggestible” even though they did not suffer from hysterical symptoms. But to account for the role of suggestion, Bernheim expanded Liébeault’s notion of hypnosis. In a circular equation of hypnosis and suggestion, Bernheim wrote, “To define hypnosis as an induced sleep, is to give a too narrow meaning to this word. . . . I define hypnotism as inducing a specific psychic condition of increased suggestibility. . . . It is suggestion that generates hypnosis.”5 Whereas Charcot and his disciples characterized hypnosis as a physical condition of “heightened neuro-muscular excitability” (l’hyperexcitibalité neuro-musculaire), Bernheim conceived of hypnosis as a mental or “psychic condition,” marked by an increased suggestibility.6 The emerging rapport between hypnotist and hypnotized subject was alleged to constitute a relationship of unlimited power on the hypnotist’s part. Even Charcot asserted, in his description of the somnambulist phase of “grand hypnotism,” “Our power does not encounter any limits in this domain; for we can extend our influence almost toward the infinite.”7 Bernheim in turn represented the hypnotized subject as an “automaton controlled by a foreign will.”8 As Bernheim and numerous other physicians affirmed, the hypnotized subject functioned as a sort of medium who could even be compelled to commit crimes, against his or her own will. Anticipating Cold War anxieties of absolute mind control, the medical theories of the école de Nancy thereby raised the “terrifying specter of hypnotic crime.”9 Because no unequivocally verified cases of crimes committed under hypnosis were known, many medical researchers staged simulated hypnotic crimes in order to prove their possibility. Auguste Forel, who taught in Switzerland, described one such experiment:


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To an older man of good suggestibility, whom I had just hypnotized, I gave a revolver that Mr. Höfelt himself had previously loaded with blanks only. Pointing to H., I explained to the hypnotized that the latter was a thoroughly evil person and that he should shoot him dead. With utter determination he took the revolver and fired a shot directly at Mr. H. Mr. H., simulating an injured person, fell to the floor. Then I explained to the hypnotized man that the fellow was not quite dead yet and that he should shoot him again, which he did without hesitation.10 In addition to Forel, the physicians Bernheim, Edgar Bérillon, Henri-Étienne Beaunis, Albert von Schrenck-Notzing, and the young Arthur Schnitzler staged similar “performances” (Vorstellungen)—all for the ostensibly scientific purpose of proving to their largely judicial audiences that hypnotic crimes were feasible.11 But the notion of sleep was central not only to Liébeault’s definition of hypnosis, which was extended by Bernheim to include phenomena of waking suggestion. A different, less conspicuous deployment of the term can also be observed in Bernheim’s description of so-called posthypnotic suggestions. In addition to his experiments on the therapeutic and criminal use of hypnosis, Bernheim explored “suggesting to a somnambulist actions . . . which were to be carried out not during hypnosis but after awakening.”12 Bernheim conceived of such a suggestion as secretly hatching in the subject in whom it had been implanted under hypnosis. When the time arrived for its execution—which could be months later—the embedded suggestion took control of the body and was promptly carried out. Transferring the notion of sleep from the somnambulist or sleeper to the hypnotic command itself, Bernheim writes in his 1886 treatise De la suggestion, A suggestion can thus be sleeping unconsciously in the brain into which it has been implanted during sleep and will not emerge before the day assigned in advance for its emergence. Further research is necessary in order to elucidate this curious fact of psychology and to establish how long a hypnotic suggestion can thus, according to hypnotic order, remain latent before its realization.13 Bernheim’s description of this “curious fact of psychology” highlights the latency of the implanted hypnotic suggestion that is dissociated from our waking consciousness and that does not manifest itself before the time for its execution has arrived. The hypnotized subject therefore has no way of detecting hidden suggestions that might be lurking in his or her brain. In 1915, Sigmund Freud described these posthypnotic suggestions as an early experimental demonstration of the

Andriopoulos | The Sleeper Effect: Hypnotism, Mind Control, Terrorism


boundary that separates our unconscious from our ego: “Incidentally, even before the time of psychoanalysis, hypnotic experiments, and especially posthypnotic suggestion, had tangibly demonstrated the existence and agency of the mental unconscious.”14 But in the late nineteenth century, many physicians were less interested in the theoretical implications of successful posthypnotic suggestions, focusing instead on fictional scenarios of criminal suggestion, which they presented as real. The Swiss researcher Forel came to see a particular danger in the employment of posthypnotic suggestions in which, in addition to a crime and the time set for its execution, the idea of “free volition” was implanted, causing the hypnotized person committing the crime to believe in his or her own free will. As Forel wrote, One of the most insidious ruses of suggestion, however, lies in the use of timing along with implanting amnesia and the idea of free volition in order to prompt a person . . . to perform a criminal act. That person then finds himself in a situation that is bound to create in him every illusion of spontaneity while in reality he is only following the command of someone else.15 The belief in perfectly camouflaged suggestions produced the powerful paranoia that an unlimited number of hypnotic crimes could be committed without being recognized as such. In later editions of his textbook Forel shifted from asserting the reality of such hypnotic crimes to indicating their mere possibility. In 1907 he wrote, “One of the most insidious ruses of suggestion, however, would be the not impossible use of timing along with implanting amnesia and the idea of free volition in order to prompt a person . . . to perform a criminal act.”16 But Forel never renounced the plausibility of this scenario, which emerged from a reciprocal exchange between medicine, law, and literary fiction. Medical researchers invoked the terrifying specter of an unknown number of actual hypnotic crimes that could not be recognized as such. But empirical evidence for this anxiety was restricted to theatrical simulations and literary tales, which were equated with reality.17 One especially powerful narrative that enacted the scenario of being controlled by a foreign will was Guy de Maupassant’s “Le Horla” (1887). The diary of the unnamed narrator minutely documents how the narrator gradually submits to the control of an invisible being that eventually drives him to suicide. Within the diegetic universe of the literary text, the representation of being possessed by an external force is lent scientific credence by the figure of Dr. Parent. As the narrator notes in his diary after returning from a dinner party given by his cousin,


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I found myself seated next to two young women, one of whom was the wife of a physician, Doctor Parent, who has a considerable interest in nervous disorders and the unusual phenomena which are currently being generated by experiments in hypnosis and suggestion. He told us at some length about the startling results obtained by English researchers and the doctors of the Nancy School.18 Parent tries in vain to refute the objections of his skeptical listeners. Finally, he hypnotizes the narrator’s cousin and orders her to obtain, under false pretenses, five thousand francs on the next day, after being awakened from hypnosis: She [Sablé] sat in an armchair, and he [Parent] began starring hypnotically into her eyes. . . . I saw Mrs. Sablé’s eyes grow heavy, her mouth tense up and her chest begin to heave. Ten minutes later she was asleep. . . . The doctor commanded, “You will get up tomorrow at eight o’clock. Then you will pay a visit to your cousin in his hotel and implore him to give you five thousand francs that your husband wants from you and that he needs before his next trip.” Then he woke her up.19 Sablé promptly carries out the order received under hypnosis and persists in the belief that she is acting on behalf of her husband, even after the narrator tells her that she is only executing Parent’s posthypnotic command: I went on: “Do you have any recollection of what happened yesterday at your house?” “Of course.” “Do you remember Doctor Parent hypnotizing you?” “Yes.” “Well, he ordered you to come here this morning and borrow five thousand francs from me, and you are now merely obeying that suggestion.” She thought for a few moments and then answered: “But you must understand it is my husband who is demanding the money.” For a whole hour I tried persuading her, but I failed utterly.20 Maupassant’s narrative highlights the secrecy of Doctor Parent’s posthypnotic control. The hypnotic implantation of amnesia is so powerful that it cannot be overcome. Even though Sablé is “dominated by the irresistible order she has received,” she continues to believe that she is acting of her own volition.21 Instead of calling the reality of hypnotic crimes into question, the absence of clearly verified cases could thus be read as testifying to the unlimited power of

Andriopoulos | The Sleeper Effect: Hypnotism, Mind Control, Terrorism


posthypnotic suggestion. Hellmut Ivers wrote in his treatise on Hypnosis in German Criminal Law, “Cases of this nature have . . . certainly come to trial in the past. But the court is unable to recognize the real cause of the criminal act . . . when free volition or amnesia have been suggested.”22 According to Ivers, the hypnotic crime cannot be detected, and the court will “find the acting person guilty.”23 Legal, medical, and literary representations of posthypnotic suggestion were accordingly marked by a paranoid phobia about the power of clandestine hypnotic commands controlling the actions of the hypnotized subject for an indefinite period. These anxieties extended almost unchanged into the 1910s and 1920s, when “crime and suggestion” advanced to the “most popular subject” of cinema.24 Films such as Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler (1922) enacted the ostensibly unlimited power of the hypnotist on the cinematic screen, subjecting the viewer, via close-ups and point-of-view shots, to the hypnotic power of the cinematic apparatus. At the same time, numerous physicians employed suggestion in order to produce visual filmlike hallucinations in their hypnotized patients, and early theories of film described the new medium as exerting an irresistible hypnotic influence over its spellbound audiences. Some even raised the prospect that cinematic suggestions could compel susceptible viewers to commit crimes after leaving the movie theater, an anxiety that replicated Forel’s warning against crimes committed under the influence of posthypnotic suggestion.25 A similarly paranoid scenario of clandestine control emerged in the 1950s when Cold War anxieties about brainwashed sleeper agents coincided with ominous warnings against the insidious power of advertising and the delayed “sleeper effect” of propaganda. Like Maupassant’s citation of contemporaneous scientific research, Richard Condon’s 1959 novel The Manchurian Candidate refers to a number of scientific texts in order to lend credibility to its representation of conditioning or brainwashing. The text blends theories of hypnotism with behaviorist notions of conditioning, describing this Cold War method of mind control as a “radical technology for descent into the unconscious mind.”26 Toward the beginning of the novel, the figure of Yen Lo gives a lecture on the topic of brainwashing, telling his audience of Soviet and Chinese Communist functionaries, I am sure that all of you have heard that old wives’ tale . . . that no hypnotized subject may be forced to do that which is repellant to his moral nature. . . . That is nonsense of course. . . . The conception of people acting against their own best interests should not startle us. We see it occasionally in sleepwalking and in politics every day.27


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Before invoking sleepwalking and politics as empirical proof of his assertion, Yen Lo quotes a number of scientific articles and books that support his claim that the hypnotized subject can be compelled to commit crimes. These texts include Margaret Brenman’s “Experiments in the Hypnotic Production of Antisocial and Self-Injurious Behavior,” published in the journal Psychiatry in 1942, and Wesley R. Wells’s “Experiments in the Hypnotic Production of Crime,” which was printed in 1941 in The Journal of Psychology.28 Yen Lo also cites Andrew Salter’s Conditioned Reflex Therapy (1949) and Fredrick Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent (1954), a book about the pernicious influence of cartoons on children.29 The scientific texts quoted in The Manchurian Candidate date from the 1940s and early 1950s. But Condon’s 1959 novel itself constitutes one of the most compelling articulations of a cultural fantasy that pervaded both literary fiction and contemporaneous medical research. Condon’s representation of Raymond Shaw as a docile automaton who kills his platoon members, his father-in-law, and even his own wife became the shorthand for a widespread anxiety that justified, or even engendered, further scientific experiments that set out to implement similar scenarios. In 1958 and 1959, while Condon wrote and published his novel, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency funded clandestine research programs that explored the limits of brainwashing under the code name MK-ULTRA. As Rebecca Lemov and others have shown, the Scottish-American psychiatrist D. Ewen Cameron experimented with drugs, hypnosis, and extreme stress as means of “depatterning” and mind control. Without referring to contemporaneous narrative fiction, Lemov has described these experiments as emerging from “a commonly held fantasy perceived as an impending reality of exerting absolute control over someone.”30 But the role of literature was not restricted to Cameron reading “science fiction each night before going to bed.”31 Literary texts such as The Manchurian Candidate played a constitutive role in the emergence of this scientific fantasy. As in the late nineteenth century, literary tales did not just unilaterally adapt established scientific knowledge. Instead, Condon’s novel and comparable fictional scenarios served as a catalyst for further research into the ostensibly unlimited possibilities of mind control and psychological warfare. William Sargant’s Battle for the Mind (1957) thus quotes literary texts by George Orwell and Aldous Huxley as if these novels constituted scientific accounts of real-life experiments.32 In Condon’s novel, the figure of Yen Lo blends the fantasy of absolute mind control with contemporaneous anxieties about Communist sleeper agents. Claiming that he is able to “prolong posthypnotic amnesia into eternity,” Yen Lo develops a

Andriopoulos | The Sleeper Effect: Hypnotism, Mind Control, Terrorism


scenario of clandestine assassinations that are marked by absolute “secrecy and control.”33 As Yen Lo asserts, “If a normally conditioned Anglo-Saxon could be taught to kill and kill, then to have no memory of having killed, . . . he would remain an outwardly normal, productive, sober and respectful member of his community.”34 Without explicitly introducing the term, Condon’s novel thereby alludes to contemporaneous anxieties about the invisibility or latency of the “sleeper agent,” a phrase that emerged concurrent with the introduction of the term brainwashing in order to describe long-term clandestine Communist agents who lie dormant within the United States. The first use of the term remains elusive, but it was well established by 1955 when Holly Roth published The Sleeper, a novel that revolves around a covert Communist agent who succeeds in infiltrating the cryptographic section of the U.S. Army. As a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent in the novel says, “Hollister, we realize now . . . was a sleeper—a member of the Communist Party whose life was dedicated to the one big moment.”35 The novel does not describe how Hollister has been recruited by the enemies of the United States. But brainwashing and mind control are mentioned toward the end of the text. Its closing pages describe a clandestine U.S. operation that seeks to infiltrate Communist China with Asian-American sleeper agents who have been trained in camouflage and psychological warfare. A military general justifies this recourse to methods that are “quite worthy of the Chinese” by describing them as an “antidote” to the poison of Communist “brainwashing.”36 The novel furthermore introduces a different mode of persuasive communication. The one female protagonist of the text is not only under suspicion of being an accomplice to the Communist sleeper; she also works as a copywriter for an advertising agency on Madison Avenue.37 A similar contiguity of brainwashing and advertising can be observed in The Manchurian Candidate where Senator Iselin finally puts the number of alleged members of the Communist Party who work in the Department of Defense at fiftyseven. According to Raymond’s mother, that is a number that everybody can remember “as it could be linked so easily with the fifty-seven varieties of canned food that had been advertised so well and so steadily for so many years.”38 In addition to this reference to advertising, the novel also presents television as a medium of conditioning and manipulation. For years, the Soviet Union and Raymond’s mother have been plotting an elaborate plan to assassinate a presidential candidate during his televised party convention. A blood-splattered Senator Iselin is then supposed to “really hit that microphone and those cameras . . . rallying a nation of television viewers into hysteria . . . which will sweep them right into the White House under

John Frankenheimer, dir. The Manchurian Candidate, 1962.


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powers which will make martial law seem like anarchism.”39 In John Frankenheimer’s cinematic adaptation of the novel, the new mass medium of television moves even more clearly into the center of attention. At the beginning of the film, the return of the decorated war hero Raymond Shaw turns into an arranged photo op as Raymond’s mother makes a press photographer take a picture of Raymond, who finds himself flanked by his stepfather, Senator Iselin, under a banner that reads “Johnny Iselin’s boy.” The contrast between the wide frame of cinema and a tightly and deceptively framed news image that has been arranged by Raymond’s mother is emphasized even more strongly in a later sequence, which shows Senator Iselin attending a press conference held by the secretary of defense. The film image shows in a medium shot Raymond’s mother in the left part of the frame, seated next to a control television screen that shows the secretary of defense. Unnoticed by anybody but the viewer of the film, Raymond’s mother gives a signal to her husband. Iselin gets up to announce a serious question that concerns “the safety of the whole nation,” shouting that he has proof that 207 members of the Communist Party work in the Department of Defense. The deep staging of the right part of the frame allows the viewer of the film to compare the close-up of the television screen in the lower part of the image with a wider view of the mise-en-scène than is captured on the tiny screen. The director or enunciator of this staged television image, Raymond’s mother, remains visible in the left part of the frame as she approvingly observes the image of her husband on the television screen. A cut to the right renders visible the television camera that captures the image of Iselin, again contrasting his agitated body with the close-up of his face on the control screen. The film cuts back to the left, showing Raymond’s mother hovering over the television set, thereby revealing the puppeteer who is in charge of the television image. The widescreen film highlights the material apparatus of television cameras and control screens, revealing the lack of background information that the narrow frame of the television set imposes on its viewer. The close-up of television allows for Senator Iselin’s campaign of misinformation. The wider shot of cinema, by contrast, reveals Raymond’s mother as the person who is truly in control of what can be seen by a nation of television viewers. In Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler (1922), extended point-of-view shots force the viewers of the film to adopt the perspective of Mabuse’s hypnotized victims, thereby establishing the hypnotist as an embodiment of the cinematic apparatus. But in this sequence of The Manchurian Candidate, the newer medium of television is presented as a dangerous source of mass manipula-

Andriopoulos | The Sleeper Effect: Hypnotism, Mind Control, Terrorism


tion, whereas cinema functions as a medium of insight and knowledge. Nonetheless, contemporaneous discursive representations of Cinerama and CinemaScope ascribed a “frightening” immersive power to these new wide-screen technologies, one that went so far as to allow for the “condition[ing]” of cinematic audiences.40 Within Frankenheimer’s film, this implication of cinema in a wider mediatic network of mind control becomes visible in a sequence that visualizes Bennett Marco’s recurring nightmares about Yen Lo’s terminal experiments. The dream sequence opens with a long circular pan, possibly alluding to the curved screen of Cinerama, which needed to be scanned by the viewer because its entirety could not be apprehended in a single glance. The image alternates between showing the Communist functionaries to whom Yen Lo presents his lecture on the unlimited power of brainwashing and a meeting of the Ladies Garden Club in a New Jersey hotel lobby, where Bennett Marco and the other members of Raymond Shaw’s platoon believe themselves to be. By partially aligning the cinematic audience with Yen Lo’s brainwashed test subjects, the scene comments on the conflict between viewers’ awareness of sitting in a movie theater and their “conditioned” immersion into the film’s diegetic universe. In Cold War culture, television, advertising, and new technologies of wide-screen cinema were thus placed in proximity to Communist techniques of brainwashing and propaganda. Timothy Melley has highlighted the structural affinity that connects texts from opposite ends of the political spectrum, such as Edward Hunter’s Brain-Washing in Red China (1951), J. Edgar Hoover’s Masters of Deceit (1958), and Vance Packards’s The Hidden Persuaders (1957).41 Hunter’s focus is on Communist propaganda, whereas Packard reveals how the clandestine mechanisms of advertising control the American consumer in the shopping mall. But both texts present the same scenario of a docile subject who has been brainwashed into following external commands. Quoting a study by the “motivational analyst” James Vicary, who installed hidden cameras in supermarket aisles to record the eye-blink rate of female shoppers, Packard describes advertising as exerting a hypnotic influence: The ladies fell into what Mr. Vicary calls a hypnoidal trance, a light kind of trance that . . . is the first stage of hypnosis. . . . [M]any of these women were in such a trance that they passed by neighbors and old friends without noticing or greeting them. Some had a sort of glassy stare. They were so entranced as they wandered about the store plucking things off shelves at random that they would bump into boxes without seeing them.42

John Frankenheimer, dir. The Manchurian Candidate, 1962.


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Packard’s description of the sleepwalking female shopper is sensationalist and sexist. But the resurgence of notions of hypnotic trance within Cold War theories of advertising speaks to a pervasive anxiety about invisible sources of deception and external control. The title of Packard’s book on “hidden persuaders” emphasizes this concern about being controlled without being aware of the external coercion. In the 1960s, Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media reiterated this Cold War view of advertising when describing ads as “not meant for conscious consumption. They are intended as subliminal pills for the subconscious in order to exercise a hypnotic spell.”43 McLuhan thereby repeats a conceptualization of advertising that he first put forward a decade earlier. In The Mechanical Bride (1951) he asserted, “the ad agencies flood the daytime world of conscious purpose and control with erotic imagery from the night world in order to drown, by suggestion, all sales resistance.”44 Like Packard, McLuhan explains the power of advertising by drawing on the notion of hypnotic suggestion, simultaneously highlighting the loss of autonomy and free volition that characterized the “other-directed” consumer.45 Accordingly, McLuhan’s chapter on “Freedom—American Style” exposes the uniformity of American Cold War consumer culture, implicitly comparing Communist and consumerist standardization. In McLuhan’s words, “Does ‘freedom’ mean the right to be and to do exactly as everybody else? How much does this kind of uniformity depend on obeying the ‘orders’ of commercial suggestion?”46 Two years prior to the publication of McLuhan’s The Mechanical Bride, the clandestine agency of “persuasive communications” was emphasized in Carl Hovland, Arthur Lumsdaine, and Fred Sheffield’s Experiments on Mass Communication (1949), a volume that describes experiments on the efficacy of propaganda.47 One experiment conducted in 1943 compared the immediate and long-term effects of Frank Capra’s “Information Film,” The Battle of Britain, which embellished British successes in the war against Nazi Germany and was presented to three companies of U.S. soldiers as a source whose credibility was questionable. The experimental results showed that viewers’ positive evaluations of British accomplishments increased with the passage of time after seeing the film—a phenomenon that Hovland and his coauthors called the “Sleeper Effect.” The surprising findings could not be explained by a lack of education in test subjects. As Hovland wrote, “it is apparent that the ‘sleeper’ effects were confined neither to uninformed opinions nor to the less well educated.”48 Hovland at first surmised that the “forgetting of an initially discounted source”

Andriopoulos | The Sleeper Effect: Hypnotism, Mind Control, Terrorism


might be the cause of the phenomenon.49 But during the following years further experiments showed that—upon explicit questioning—viewers did remember that their source of information was questionable or biased. Yet, at the same time, researchers reconfirmed that “communications ostensibly written by untrustworthy sources produced a greater net-opinion change after one month than immediately after.”50 Consequently, Hovland and Weiss rejected their initial explanation and invoked dissociation of information and its source rather than forgetting as the cause of the sleeper effect. In a 1953 volume entitled Communication and Persuasion, Hovland asserted, “there is a decreased tendency over time to reject the material presented by an untrustworthy source.” He continued, “while the subjects were able to recall the source when questioned about it directly, they may not have thought of it when they were merely asked their opinion concerning the issue.”51 This explanation remained hypothetical, but the delayed effect of biased or unreliable information was firmly established as a scientific fact in the 1950s, and the speed with which the notion of the “sleeper effect” of propaganda or advertising became an established technical term within the psychology of opinion change is remarkable. In current psychological research, the sleeper effect is still a widely used concept, especially within accounts of the efficacy of negative advertising in political campaigns.52 Scientific articles in the Journal of Consumer Research and in the Journal of Advertising thus talk about a sleeper effect without framing the term with quotation marks that would highlight the underlying metaphor.53 The first descriptions of the phenomenon, by contrast, marked their rhetoricity by introducing the term with quotation marks. In the 1949 volume Experiments on Mass Communication, Hovland described the delayed effect of propaganda in the following terms: “some of the effects of the film may be ‘sleepers’ that do not occur immediately but require a lapse of time.”54 Weighing possible explanations, he similarly wrote, “it is apparent that the ‘sleeper’ effects were confined neither to uninformed opinions nor to the less well educated.”55 In describing the delayed effect of propaganda, Cold War psychological theories thus resemble Bernheim’s late-nineteenth-century account of posthypnotic suggestions that “are sleeping unconsciously in the brain” of the hypnotized subject. Bernheim employed this metaphor to emphasize the latency of posthypnotic suggestion and the time lag between the act of implanting a suggestion and the time set for its execution. In both respects, Cold War psychology comes surprisingly close to these earlier theories of hypnotism and posthypnotic suggestion. But the invocation of “the ‘sleeper’ effects”56 of propaganda in 1949 resonated, above all, with contem-

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poraneous anxieties about Communist sleeper agents who lie dormant in the fabric of U.S. society—until the moment for the sleeper’s activation arrives. As the FBI agent in Roth’s The Sleeper says, “Hollister, we realize now . . . was a sleeper—a member of the Communist Party whose life was dedicated to the one big moment.”57 Psychological theories of propaganda and Cold War scenarios of clandestine sleeper agents draw on the same tropes of latency. Both versions of the metaphor describe an invisible enemy who acts from within, an alien body that lies dormant inside our mind or inside our social fabric before it gets activated. Two distinct but related notions of the sleeper thus emerged simultaneously around 1950: the brainwashed Manchurian candidate and the insidious long-term effects of propaganda and advertising that affect our opinions even if we initially discount them as unreliable and biased. The term sleeper is seeing a contemporary resurgence within political and popular representations of terrorism. The paranoid invocation of an invisible enemy, a sleeper who lurks within, has unfortunately become an all-too-common strategy in justifying the so-called war on terror. Brainwashing is still cited as an explanation of why and how young men and women become suicide bombers or tools of terrorist organizations. But in our time the “sleeper” or “sleeper agent” has morphed into the “sleeper cell,” a figure that is not only linked to fantasies of brainwashing and mind control but also resonates with a notion of cellular networks. However, this current anxiety about clandestine sleeper cells revolves around a potential or fictional scenario, one that is summoned in television shows and fear-mongering political statements that highlight the difficulty of identifying the enemy before he or she executes a terrorist master plan. In contrast to these exaggerated invocations of potential and fictional scenarios of terrorism, the “sleeper effect” of negative advertising is very real, and it produces tangible effects. In a way, one could say that the electoral success of George W. Bush in 2004 was due to the sleeper effect—in both meanings of the term: the perfectly timed “Swift Boat” campaign against John Kerry in August 2004, three months before the election, and the fear-mongering invocation of terrorist sleeper cells and their impending attack on the homeland.58 Today we are still witness to the sleeper effect of negative advertising and the unsettling acceptance and success of disinformation campaigns—against socialist government, death panels, and softness in the war on terror—campaigns that seem worthy of Senators Iselin and McCarthy.

Andriopoulos | The Sleeper Effect: Hypnotism, Mind Control, Terrorism



1. Richard Condon, The Manchurian Candidate (1959; New York: Avalon, 2003), 32, 49, 147. 2. Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault, Du sommeil et des états analogues considérés surtout au point de vue de l’action du moral sur le physique (Paris: Masson, 1866). According to Maria Tatar, just five copies of Liébeault’s book were sold between 1866 and 1871. However, it was reissued in two volumes in 1889 and 1891: Ambroise A. Liébeault, Le sommeil provoqué et les états analogues (Paris: O. Doin, 1889); and Ambroise A. Liébeault, Thérapeutique suggestive: Son mécanisme: Propriétés diverses du sommeil provoqué et des états analogues (Paris: O. Doin, 1891). See Maria M. Tatar, Spellbound: Studies on Mesmerism and Literature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978), 33; and Alan Gauld, A History of Hypnotism (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 320. 3. Hippolyte Bernheim, De la suggestion et ses applications à la thérapeutique [1886], deuxième édition corrigée et augmentée (Paris: O. Doin, 1888), iii; Hippolyte Bernheim, Hypnosis and Suggestion, trans. Christian A. Herter (New York: University Books, 1964), 418. 4. Bernheim, De la suggestion, ii/417. Throughout this essay, page references that are divided by a slash (/) indicate first the page number in the original version of the quoted text and then the corresponding number in the published English translation. An asterisk (*) after the second number indicates that I have modified the translation. 5. Bernheim, De la suggestion, 22/15*. 6. Georges Gilles de La Tourette, L’hypnotisme et les états analogues au point de vue médico-légale (Paris: E. Plon, 1887), 82; and Bernheim, De la suggestion, 22/15*. 7. Jean-Martin Charcot, Leçons sur les maladies du système nerveux, faites à la Salpêtrière [1886]: Recueillies et publiées par MM. Babinski, Bernard, Féré, Guinon, Marie et Gilles de la Tourette, vol. 3 of Oeuvres complètes (Paris: Bureaux du Progrès Médical, 1890), 340; and Jean-Martin Charcot, Clinical Lectures on the Diseases of the Nervous System, Delivered at the Infirmary of La Salpêtrière: Third Volume, trans. Thomas Savill (London: Sydenham Society, 1889), 293*. 8. “Automate dirigé par une volonté étrangère.” Bernheim, De la suggestion (1886), 84/60*. 9. Albert v. Schrenck-Notzing, “Die gerichtlich-medizinische Bedeutung der Suggestion,” Archiv für Kriminalanthropologie und Kriminalistik 5 (1900): 12. 10. Auguste Forel, Der Hypnotismus, seine psycho-physiologische, medicinische, strafrechtliche Bedeutung und seine Handhabung, Dritte verbesserte Auflage mit Adnotationen von Dr. O. Vogt (Stuttgart: Enke, 1895), 198–199. 11. Arthur Schnitzler, Jugend in Wien: Eine Autobiographie (1920), ed. Therese Nickl and Heinrich Schnitzler (Frankfurt: Fischer, 1981), 313. 12. Bernheim, De la suggestion, 45/31*. 13. “Ainsi, une suggestion peut dormir inconsciente dans le cerveau où elle a été déposée pendant le sommeil et n’éclore que le jour assigné d’avance pour son éclosion. De recherches ultérieures sont nécessaires pour bien élucider ce curieux fait de psychologie, pour établir combien de temps une suggestion hypnotique peut ainsi, par ordre, rester latente avant d être réalisée.” Bernheim, De la suggestion, 54/38*. 14. Sigmund Freud, “Das Unbewußte,” in Gesammelte Werke (London: Imago, 1946), 10:267; and

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Sigmund Freud, “The Unconscious” (1915), in Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. and trans. James Strachey (London: Hogarth, 1957), 14:168–169*. 15. Auguste Forel, “Der Hypnotismus und seine strafrechtliche Bedeutung,” Zeitschrift für die gesamte Strafrechtswissenschaft 9 (1889): 184. Schrenck-Notzing wrote in nearly identical terms, “One of the most insidious ruses of posthypnosis is the suggestion of free volition in committing the deed.” Schrenck-Notzing, “Die gerichtlich-medizinische Bedeutung der Suggestion,” 9. See also Albert Moll, Der Hypnotismus (Berlin: Fischers medizinische Buchhandlung, 1889), 119; and Albert Moll, Der Hypnotismus: Mit Einschluß der Psychotherapie und der Hauptpunkte des Okkultismus, Fünfte umgearbeitete und verstärkte Auflage (Berlin: Fischers medizinische Buchhandlung, 1924), 523. 16. Auguste Forel, Der Hypnotismus oder Die Suggestion und Psychotherapie: Seine psychologische, psychophysiologische und therapeutische Bedeutung, Fünfte umgearbeitete Auflage (Stuttgart: Enke, 1907), 258. 17. For a more comprehensive version of this argument, see Stefan Andriopoulos, Possessed: Hypnotic Crimes, Corporate Fiction, and the Invention of Cinema (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2008), 30–41, 66–73. 18. Guy de Maupassant, “Le Horla” [second version, 1887], in Contes et nouvelles II, Texte établi et annoté par Louis Forestier (Paris: Gallimard, 1979), 922; and Guy de Maupassant, “Le Horla,” in A Day in the Country and Other Stories, trans. David Coward (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1990), 284–285. 19. Maupassant, “Le Horla,” 923/286. 20. Maupassant, “Le Horla,” 925/288. 21. Maupassant, “Le Horla,” 925/288. 22. Hellmut Ivers, Die Hypnose im deutschen Strafrecht (Leipzig: Wiegandt, 1927), 68. 23. Ivers, 23. See also Adolphe Belot’s novel Alphonsine (1887) in which the innocent medium is convicted, because the court does not realize that Berthe Mauclair acted under a foreign will when following the irresistible hypnotic command to murder. Adolphe Belot, Alphonsine (Paris: E. Dentu, 1887). 24. Victor Klemperer, Leben sammeln, nicht fragen wozu und warum: Tagebücher 1918–1924, ed. W. Nowojski (Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag, 1996), 432. 25. See Andriopoulos, 91–127. 26. Condon, 30. On the persistent invocation of Pavlov in Cold War representations of brainwashing, see Killen, in this issue of Grey Room. 27. Condon, 40–41. 28. Margaret Brenman, “Experiments in the Hypnotic Production of Antisocial and Self-Injurious Behavior,” Psychiatry 5 (1942): 49–61; and Wesley Raymond Wells, “Experiments in the Hypnotic Production of Crime,” The Journal of Psychology 11 (1941): 63–102. 29. Andrew Salter, Conditioned Reflex Therapy (New York: Creative Age Press, 1949); and Fredrick Wertham, Seduction of the Innocent (New York: Rinehart, 1954). 30. Rebecca Lemov, The World as Laboratory: Experiments with Mice, Mazes, and Men (New York: Hill and Wang, 2005), 212.

Andriopoulos | The Sleeper Effect: Hypnotism, Mind Control, Terrorism


31. See Rebecca Lemov, in this issue of Grey Room. 32. See Timothy Melley, in this issue of Grey Room. William Sargant, Battle for the Mind: A Physiology of Conversion and Brain-Washing (New York: Doubleday, 1957), 157. 33. Condon, 45. 34. Condon, 45. 35. Holly Roth, The Sleeper (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1955), 57. Later Hollister is described as “nothing but a tool—a tool of unknown, unestimated usefulness” (58–59). 36. Roth, 169–170. While Roth’s novel suggests that these covert American agents will themselves employ practices of mind control, the neurologist Harold Wolff attempted to condition American agents who were recruited from the exiled Chinese community, “preconditioning” them against Communist brainwashing before sending them back into Communist China. See John Marks, The Search for the “Manchurian Candidate”: The CIA and Mind Control (New York: Times Books, 1979), 150–151. 37. Roth, 45. 38. Condon, 132. 39. Condon, 306. 40. See Philip T. Hartung, “The Screen: Better with a Dramamine,” Commonweal 57, no. 7 (21 November 1952): 165. “Cinerama may be a novelty now, but it certainly presents unlimited possibilities for the motion picture industry, once they start making fictional and biographical films in this new medium. The idea is almost frightening; and the observation of Robert E. Sherwood gives one food for thought: ‘You’ve put into the hands of a playwright a tool by which we can submit the audience to any experience we want to give them, and what is more, condition them for that experience.’” I owe this reference to Ariel Rogers, “Moving Machines: The Experience of New Technologies from Widescreen to Digital Cinema” (Ph.D. diss., The University of Chicago, 2010), 52. 41. Edward Hunter, Brain-Washing in Red China: The Calculated Destruction of Men’s Minds (New York: Vanguard Press, 1951); J. Edgar Hoover, Masters of Deceit: The Story of Communism in America and How to Fight It (New York: Holton, 1958); Vance Packard, The Hidden Persuaders (New York: David McKay, 1957); and Timothy Melley, Empire of Conspiracy: The Culture of Paranoia in Postwar America (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000), 2–6. 42. Packard, 106–107. 43. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964; Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994), 228. 44. Marshall McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man (New York: Vanguard Press, 1951), 97 (emphasis added). 45. David O. Riesman’s The Lonely Crowd (1950) defines the “other-directed” personality as “sensitized to the expectations and experiences of others,” but I use the term here in its more sinister sense as denoting a state of being controlled by external forces. David Riesman, The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1950), 8. 46. McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride, 117. Further invocations of hypnosis and trance in McLuhan’s account of advertising are to be found on pages 10, 42, 101, and 123.

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47. Carl I. Hovland, Arthur Lumsdaine, and Fred D. Sheffield, Experiments on Mass Communication, vol. 3 of Studies in Social Psychology in World War II (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1949). 48. Hovland, Lumsdaine, and Sheffield, 192. 49. Hovland, Lumsdaine, and Sheffield, 197. 50. Walter Weiss, “A ‘Sleeper’ Effect in Opinion Change,” The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 48, no. 2 (1953): 178. 51. Carl I. Hovland, Irving L. Jenis, and Harold H. Kelley, Communication and Persuasion: Psychological Studies of Opinion Change (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953), 256. 52. See, for instance, R.A.W. Lariscy and S.F. Tinkham, “The Sleeper Effect and Negative Political Advertising,” Journal of Advertising 28, no. 4 (Winter 1999): 13–30. 53. See Lariscy and Tinkham, 13–30; and D.B. Hannah and B. Sternthal, “Detecting and Explaining the Sleeper Effect,” The Journal of Consumer Research 11, no. 2 (September 1984): 632–642. 54. Hovland, Lumsdaine, and Sheffield, 182. 55. Hovland, Lumsdaine, and Sheffield, 192. 56. Hovland, Lumsdaine, and Sheffield, 192. 57. Roth, The Sleeper, 57. 58. For a description of the Swift Boat campaign in terms of the “sleeper effect,” see Drew Weston, The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation (New York: Public Affairs, 2007), 344.

Andriopoulos | The Sleeper Effect: Hypnotism, Mind Control, Terrorism