"How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?"

40. Electric Shock Brainwashing

He was rolling down a mighty corridor, a kilometre wide, full of glorious, golden light. There was a period of blackness and then the cell, or room, in which he now was had gradually materialized round him. He was lying on something that felt like a camp bed, except that it was higher off the ground and that he was fixed down in some way so that he could not move. His body was held down at every essential point. Even the back of his head was gripped in some manner. Even after his eyes were open he took in his surroundings only gradually. He had the impression of swimming up into this room from some quite different world, a sort of under-water world far beneath it. How long he had been down there he did not know.

Since the moment when they arrested him he had not seen darkness or daylight. He was starting up from the plank bed in the half-certainty that he had heard O'Brien's voice. O'Brien was looking down at him gravely and rather sadly. At the other side of him stood a man in a white coat, holding a hypodermic syringe. O'Brien's face, seen from below, looked coarse and worn, with pouches under the eyes and tired lines from nose to chin. He was older than Winston had thought him; he has perhaps forty-eight or fifty. Under his hand there was a dial with a lever on top and figures running round the face.

"I told you," said O'Brien, "that if we met again it would be here."

"Yes," said Winston.

Without any warning except a slight movement of O'Brien's hand, a wave of pain flooded his body. It was frightening pain, because he could not see what was happening, and he had the feeling that some mortal injury was being done to him. He did not know whether the thing was really happening, or whether the effect was electrically produced; but his body was being wrenched out of shape, the joints were being slowly torn apart. Although the pain had brought the sweat out on his forehead, the worst of all was the fear that his backbone was about to snap. He set his teeth and breathed hard through his nose, trying to keep silent as long as possible.

"You are afraid," said O'Brien, watching his face, "that in another moment something is going to break. You especially fear that it will be your backbone. You have a vivid mental picture of the vertebrae snapping apart and the spinal fluid dripping out of them. That is what you are thinking, is it not, Winston?"

Winston did not answer. O'Brien drew back the lever on the dial. The wave of pain receded almost as quickly as it had come.

"That was forty," said O'Brien. "You can see that the numbers on this dial run up to a hundred. Will you please remember, throughout our conversation, that I have it in my power to inflict pain on you at any moment and to whatever degree I choose? If you tell me any lies, or attempt to prevaricate in any way, or even fall below your usual level of intelligence, you will cry out with pain, instantly. Do you understand that?"

"Yes," said Winston.

O'Brien's manner became less severe. He resettled his spectacles thoughtfully, and took a pace or two up and down. When he spoke his voice was gentle and patient. He had the air of a doctor, a teacher, even a priest, anxious to explain and persuade rather than to punish.

"I am taking trouble with you, Winston," he said, "because you are worth trouble. You know perfectly well what is the matter with you. You have known for years, though you have fought against the knowledge. You are mentally deranged. You suffer from defective memory. You are unable to remember real events and you persuade yourself that you remember other events which never happened. Fortunately it is curable. You have never cured yourself of it, because you did not choose to. There was a small effort of the will that you were not ready to make. Even now, I am well aware, you are clinging to your disease under the impression that is a virtue. Now we will take an example. At this moment, which power is Oceania at war with?"

"When I was arrested, Oceania was at war with Eastasia."

"With Eastasia. Good. And Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia, has it not?"

Winston drew in his breath. He opened his mouth to speak and then did not speak. He could not take his eyes away from the dial.

"The truth, please, Winston. Your truth. Tell me what you think you remember."

"I remember that until only a week before I was arrested, we were not at war with Eastasia at all. We were in alliance with them. The war was against Eurasia. That had lasted for four years. Before that--"

O'Brien stopped him with a movement of the hand. "There is a Party slogan dealing with the control of the past," he said. "Repeat it, if you please."

"Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past," repeated Winston obediently.

"Who controls the present controls the past," said O'Brien, nodding his head with slow approval. "Is it your opinion, Winston, that the past has real existence?"

Again the feeling of helplessness descended upon Winston. His eyes flitted towards the dial. He not only did not know whether "yes" or "no" was the answer that would save him from pain; he did not even know which answer he believed to be the true one. O'Brien smiled faintly.

"You are no metaphysician, Winston," he said. "Until this moment you had never considered what is meant by existence. I will put it more precisely. Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects, where the past is still happening?"


"Then where does the past exist, if at all?"

"In records. It is written down."

"In records. And--?"

"In the mind. In human memories."

"In memory. Very well, then. We, the Party, control all records, and we control all memories. Then we control the past, do we not?"

"But how can you stop people remembering things?" cried Winston again momentarily forgetting the dial. "It is involuntary. It is outside oneself. How can you control memory? You have not controlled mine!"

O'Brien's manner grew stern again. He laid his hand on the dial. "On the contrary," he said, "you have not controlled it. That is what brought you here. You are here because you have failed in humility, in self-discipline. You would not make the act of submission which is the price of sanity. You preferred to be a lunatic, a minority of one. Only the disciplined mind can see reality, Winston. You believe that reality is something objective, external, existing in its own right. You also believe that the nature of reality is self-evident. When you delude yourself into thinking that you see something, you assume that everyone else sees the same thing as you. But I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes: only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Party holds to be truth, is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party. That is the fact that you have got to relearn, Winston. It needs an act of self-destruction, an effort of the will. You must humble yourself before you can become sane. "Do you remember," he went on, "writing in your diary, "Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four?"

"Yes," said Winston.

O'Brien held up his left hand, its back towards Winston, with the thumb hidden and the four fingers extended.

"How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?"


"And if the Party says that it is not four but five - then how many?"


The word ended in a gasp of pain. The needle of the dial had shot up to fifty-five. The sweat had sprung out all over Winston's body. The air tore into his lungs and issued again in deep groans which even by clenching his teeth he could not stop. O'Brien watched him, the four fingers still extended. He drew back the lever. This time the pain was only slightly eased.

"How many fingers, Winston?"


The needle went up to sixty.

"How many fingers, Winston?"

"Four! Four! What else can I say? Four!"

The needle must have risen again, but he did not look at it. The heavy, stern face and the four fingers filled his vision. The fingers stood up before his eyes like pillars, enormous, blurry, and seeming to vibrate, but unmistakably four.

"How many fingers, Winston?"

"Four! Stop it, stop it! How can you go on? Four! Four!"

"How many fingers, Winston?"

"Five! Five! Five!"

"No, Winston, that is no use. You are lying. You still think there are four. How many fingers, please?"

"Four! Five! Four! Anything you like. Only stop it, stop the pain!"

Abruptly he was sitting up with O'Brien's arm round his shoulders. He had perhaps lost consciousness for a few seconds. The bonds that had held his body down were loosened. He felt very cold, he was shaking uncontrollably, his teeth were chattering, the tears were rolling down his cheeks. For a moment he clung to O'Brien like a baby, curiously comforted by the heavy arm round his shoulders. He had the feeling that O'Brien was his protector, that the pain was something that came from outside, from some other source, and that it was O'Brien who would save him from it.

"You are a slow learner, Winston," said O'Brien gently.

"How can I help it?" he blubbered. "How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four."

"Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane."

He laid Winston down on the bed. The grip of his limbs tightened again, but the pain had ebbed away and the trembling had stopped, leaving him merely weak and cold. O'Brien motioned with his head to the man in the white coat, who had stood immobile throughout the proceedings. The man in the white coat bent down and looked closely into Winston's eyes, felt his pulse, laid an ear against his chest, tapped here and there; then he nodded to O'Brien.

"Again," said O'Brien.

The pain flowed into Winston's body. The needle must be at seventy, seventy-five. He had shut his eyes this time. He knew that the fingers were still there, and still four. All that mattered was somehow to stay alive until the spasm was over. He had ceased to notice whether he was crying out or not. The pain lessened again. He opened his eyes. O'Brien had drawn back the lever.

"How many fingers, Winston?"

"Four. I suppose there are four. I would see five if I could. I am trying to see five."

"Which do you wish: to persuade me that you see five, or really to see them?"

"Really to see them."

"Again," said O'Brien.

Perhaps the needle was at eighty - ninety. Winston could not intermittently remember why the pain was happening. Behind his screwed-up eyelids a forest of fingers seemed to be moving in a sort of dance, weaving in and out, disappearing behind one another and reappearing again. He was trying to count them, he could not remember why. He knew only that it was impossible to count them and that this was somehow due to the mysterious identity between five and four. The pain died down again. When he opened his eyes it was to find that he was still seeing the same thing. Innumerable fingers, like moving trees, were still streaming past in either direction, crossing and recrossing. He shut his eyes again.

"How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?"

"I don't know. I don't know. You will kill me if you do that again. Four, five, six - in all honesty I don't know."

"Better," said O'Brien.

A needle slid into Winston's arm. Almost in the same instant a blissful, healing warmth spread all through his body. The pain was already half-forgotten. He opened his eyes and looked up gratefully at O'Brien. At sight of the heavy, lined face, so ugly and so intelligent, his heart seemed to turn over. If he could have moved he would have stretched out a hand and laid it on O'Brien's arm. He had never loved him so deeply as at this moment, and not merely because he had stopped the pain. The old feeling, that at the bottom it did not matter whether O'Brien was a friend or an enemy, had come back. O'Brien was a person who could be talked to. Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood. O'Brien had tortured him to the edge of lunacy, and in a little while, it was certain, he would send him to his death. It made no difference. In some sense that went deeper than friendship, they were intimates: somewhere or other, although the actual words might never be spoken, there was a place where they could meet and talk. O'Brien was looking down at him with an expression which suggested that the same thought might be in his own mind. When he spoke it was in an easy, conversational tone.

LSD project at CIA uncovered (administered LSD & electric shock to unwitting human subjects). Washington Post, Jun 22, 2005 & LSD A CIA PROJECT. National Post, Jun 22, 2005

TORTURING TO FIND GOD (people to be tortured & brain scanned to see if faith is there). MSNBC, Jan 12, 2005. Go to 42.The Party Tells Why & ORWELL SAW GOD IN MAN

Is every memory worth keeping? (pills to make you forget). Washington Post, Oct 30, 2004. Go to PILL TO FORGET JFK

Brain operation performed live on TV (patient given an amnesiac agent so he wouldn't remember surgery). Telegraph, Oct 30, 2004. Go to 43.Winston Talks in Sleep & 45.Chestnut Tree Cafe

POW flies out of North Korea (faces court martial in USA). CNS News, Jul 21, 2004. Go to 7.Systems & 22.Doublethink UNLCE SAM SAYS POW DESERTED

Remake of Manchurian Candidate coming (Sinatra's daughter Nancy produces). National Post, Jul 21, 2004. Go to 16.Minitrue & 25.Prolefeed & THE MANIRAQIAN CANDIDATE

Brain implants ok'd for depression (19-million Americans suffer sadness-guilt-physical pain-thoughts of suicide-change in appetite or sleeping). SmartMoney, Jun 16, 2004. Go to 14.Scientific Experimentation & BRAIN IMPLANTS IN USA

Hypnotized by sober second thoughts (visualize horror of car accident & imagine you are dead etc). Globe & Mail, Jun 14, 2004. Go to 14.Experimentation & HYPNOTIZING STUDENTS TO DEATH

Lindh's killler is mentally ill (he did not mean to kill her, heard "voices in his head"). BBC, Jun 9, 2004. Go to MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE MOVIES

RFK assassinated 36 years ago (women in campaign straw hats would scream blood-curdling screams). Press Democrat, Jun 5, 2004. Go to 4.Old World Destruction & RFK DEATH COINCIDENCES

50,000 volts: Suspect usually complies (if not they get another shot of 'electro muscular disruption'). Independent, Mar 27, 2004. Go to 3.Weapons & ANIMAL FARM DOGS

JULIA'S FATE (reader asks about Party doctrine on Julia's kind of thinking). Mar 17, 2004. Go to 27.Goodthink & 26.Rebellion & 37.We Are The Dead

Police chief wants Star Trek weapons (that switch peoples' brains off so that officers can move in). Birmingham News, Feb 16, 2004. Go to ANIMAL FARM DOGS

Brainwashing expert Singer dies at 82 (exposed how mind control works). NewYorkTimes, Dec 7, 2003. Go to MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE MOVIES

Shocking jacket hits street (touch a woman wearing it & get 80,000-volt jolt). Wired, May 22, 2003. Go to 14.Experimentation & 30.Love Instinct & ELECTRIC SHOCK IN BNW

Shock therapy for 100,000 Canadians? (fixes depression by wiping memory). National Post, Mar 7, 2003

Patient defies forced electroshocks ('doesn't want head plugged into the mains' says lawyer). Independent, Feb 17, 2003

The guilty mind (can't keep thoughts to self). National Post, Feb 9, 2003. Go to 14.Experimentation & 21.Crimestop & THOUGHTCRIME TO CRIMESTOP

Model who outed sex-abusers (while on tv, now in coma). Telegraph, Dec 11, 2002. Go to 10.Rulers

Brain surgery created terrorist (of leader of Meinhof gang). Toronto Star, Nov 13, 2002. Go to MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE

Electric shock to rat brains stops fear (anxious-stressed-depressed humans next). Globe & Mail, Nov 7, 2002. Go to ELECTRIC SHOCK IN BNW

Dissenters "poltical maniacs" in China (given electric shock & drugs). London Telegraph, Aug 28, 2002. Go to 7.Systems of Thought

Magnetic pulses relieve depression (but metal coils burn scalp). UPI, Aug 26, 2002. Go to 40.Electric Shock Brainwashing

China sends dissidents to asylums (with "political abnormality illness"). London Times, Aug 13, 2002

Mutation tilts men to violence (Youth to be given psychotropic drugs). National Post, Aug 2, 2002 and Bad behaviour linked to gene - BBC. Go to 21.Crimestop


Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
website: www.orwelltoday.com