Lessons from the 1950s on mind control

Sarah Marks and Daniel Pick explore the difficulty in pinpointing how radicalization works in practice

The World Today Published 9 February 2017 Updated 24 November 2020 6 minute READ

Sarah Marks

Post-doctoral researcher on the 'Hidden Persuaders' project, Birkbeck, University of London

Daniel Pick

Leader of research group, ‘Hidden Persuaders’, Birkbeck, University of London

Jesse Morton was 16 when he ran away, trailed a Grateful Dead tour and scraped a living from the proceeds of drugs peddled outside concerts in the mid-90s. Caught and jailed for drug offences, he was radicalized in a prison in Virginia. Bin Laden became an idol and he himself a notable recruiter for Al-Qaeda. It is said that he inspired some of those who plotted to send a remote-controlled, explosive-packed plane into the Pentagon.

Following a process of so-called de-conversion and work for the FBI, it is widely reported that today he pursues a new career to win back the hearts and minds of the kind of people he previously cultivated to fight the West. Talking to The New York Times in August, he declared himself ‘100 per cent de-radicalized’.

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