The Living Dead

The Living Dead: Three Films About the Power of the Past is a series of films that investigate the way that history and memory (both national and individual) have been manipulated and distorted by politicians and others for various means of control…


Examines how the various national memories of the Second World War were effectively rewritten and manipulated in the Cold War period. For Germany, this began at the Nuremberg Trials, where attempts were made to prevent the Nazis in the dock—principally Hermann Göring—from offering any rational argument for what they had done. Subsequently, however, bringing lower-ranking Nazis to justice was effectively forgotten about in the interests of maintaining West Germany as an ally in the Cold War. For the Allies, faced with a new enemy in the Soviet Union, there was a need to portray World War II as a crusade of pure good against pure evil, even if this meant denying the memories of the Allied soldiers who had actually done the fighting, and knew it to have been far more complex. A number of American veterans related how years later they found themselves plagued with the previously-suppressed memories of the brutal things they had seen and done.

In this episode, the history of brainwashing and mind control is examined, particularly the way in which psychiatry pursued ‘Tabula rasa’ theories of the mind, initially in order to ‘set people free’ from traumatic memories and then later as a potential instrument of social control. The work of Ewen Cameron and the CIA’s mind control programme MKULTRA is surveyed, with particular reference to Cold War theories of communist brainwashing and the search for hypnoprogammed assassins.

Finally, the Imperial aspirations of Margaret Thatcher are examined, particularly the way in which Mrs Thatcher used public relations in an attempt to emulate Winston Churchill in harking back to Britain’s “glorious past” to fulfil a political or national end.