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Friday, August 31, 2007 

Is brainwashing not a way of causing mental insanity?

In a little followup to one of yesterday's posts, I've pieced together a few more puzzle parts regarding Jean Loring's "mental illness" by realizing just why anyone might be confused. A few days ago, Every Day Is Like Wednesday, which is maintained by a Las Vegas Weekly writer, wrote up a post about Justice League of America #156 from 1978, in which Ray Palmer talked with his fellow Leaguers about if he should let Jean Loring know about his secret identity as the Atom, as he contemplates their upcoming marriage at the time. Naturally, they all had the differences of opinion, but here's a few points to be made from the following panels:
Now yes, as Atom says, Jean had "shaky mental health", but you know what that was in connection with? Another story published at the time, that I think was published in Super-Team Family #11, June/July 1977, a few months earlier, in which she suffered a second brainwashing at the hands of another alien race besides than the Jimberen. She was also kidnapped and the Atom had to travel across the galaxy to rescue her.

And this begs the question: how can anyone who's defending the actions of Identity Crisis fail to take that into consideration?

Finding this info, now I understand what the problem is: that anyone who not only doesn't know the clear history, but also doesn't care about clear history either, whether in continuity or not, takes panels like these completely for granted. Yes, it could be described to some extent as "mental heath" or "breakdown", but in this case, it's important to note that here, it was sci-fi machinery that caused both of Jean's states of madness. Sci-fi, as a product of imagination, is a powerful tool, and anything can be caused by it, including say, if the victim of the sci-fi weapons were to become a blank-brained vegetable.

Mental insanity though, is still not the way to really describe it if it was a case of brainwashing. There is a book written called Journey Into Madness: The True Story of Secret CIA Mind Control and Abuse, that tells about how some corrupt operatives (in Beirut, Lebanon), tortured another operative named William Buckley (not the former editor of National Review) with mind control techniques that were virutally meant to render the victim as insane as possible. And when you take that into consideration, you realize that yes, insanity via brainwashing is possible, just like with mind control and hypnosis.

And I guess that sums up the biggest problem with writing like the contributor at Comicon whom I brought up earlier. Seems like quite a few people are using more than a few unclear ways of describing what happened to Jean and/or Ray, or they're not telling the whole story. The brainwashing or the exact methods aren't being brought up, if at all. There may have been a serious article on major sites like Comicon that tell about this, but I have yet to see any of them.

In fact, even the part about mental health could've been an awkward description, since it didn't clearly explain the circumstances.

I'd had many of the historical details on these two tampering-by-aliens stories for a while now, but until now, I don't think I'd ever fully put it together in a post like this and it's not like I'd thought about them in the past several months. I'd like to thank Caleb Mozzocco for helping me to think of it.
Let's also note that Atom's concerns about letting Jean know that he was the Atom were likely because he was worried that she might have a hard time accepting it after what she'd been through (though if there was anyone's secret ID he'd have to worry about, it'd only be his - contrary to what Identity Crisis might've insinuated, he'd never tell anyone the other Leaguer's IDs any more than the Flash would). For she might've thought that this was what led to her victimization even if it wasn't Ray's fault.* And the dissenting Leaguer's concerns were that, if any villains deduced that Jean or any other superhero's squeeze knew the secret, that they'd attack them on those grounds in order to find out as well.

Either way, Green Lantern was right: she may have been the only person he could trust completely on the secret ID, because it had nothing to do with why they later broke up! Rather, it was Ray's own negligence that did.

* This was a concern that even some superheroes in the Marvel universe could've had, if it would only wreck their personal relations rather than to strengthen them. It's pretty much the reason why Bruce Banner, when his ID as the Hulk was still shrouded, was reluctant to let Betty Ross know, because even if she didn't blow the whistle on him, it could still ruin their relationship.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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