Sign-languaging: “Everyone does it…”, even (gulp) artfolks

There they were again in 1962’s Manchurian Candidate, in spades. But this time around not as doors awaiting opening, but as implants designed to elicit a pre-calculated response. The queen of hearts/spades taught us to do as told, replaced our heads to make sure we would.

 

Queen of Diamonds or Tarot?

Stalin to the right of Mao

Manchurian candidates and image implant (before the dental version)

Second reprises re-open unfinished discussions, but then leave them hanging. The novelty of Frankenheimer’s take was that he reminded us that this kind of symbolically activated psychomanipulation (dream by design) for state/patriotic uses has roots fertilized by hot wars in abeyance, in rehearsal. The elaboration of this insight in the film of course implicates both Mao and Stalin as practitioners-in-chief: true as far is it goes in Korea.(fn 1).*

But the man who’ genius created the story in the first place (Richard Condon – interestingly himself a mid-career defector from the PR/adworld himself) is rightfully absorbed into the doings of image-power in the Cold War (plenty enough material, McCarthy had just been thrust aside): his book is not offered as a history of the technology, merely as snapshot: in fact as very good raconte of forgotten times when Freudian everything was the rage and our political landscape was in a state of hysteria over the Red-ening of Asia. It is quite sufficient as a de-cloaking of psycho-manipulation as mechanized in those first years of Stalin-dread, and on both sides (“brainwashing”, and counter-implant surgery). But it needs perspective.

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(1) For an updated list of enormous how-to as well as scholarly literature on the subject of mental manipulative technologies (esp. as related to semiotics): see
http://www.amazon.com/Social-Communication-Advertising-Products-Well-Being/dp/0415903548
I find the best among these to be:
William Leiss (Author), Stephen Kline (Author), Sut Jhally (Author), Jacqueline Botterill (Author) Social Communication in Advertising: Persons, Products and Images of Well-Being (NY/London Routledge 1997)

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