Now, to be blunt.
I don't believe that type of brainwashing even exists.
Even if it did, there are far more efficient, cheaper, subtler methods of brainwashing than those that shows and movies and whatnot would have you believe.
You need only look around you in your daily life: every form of media. Any religious text you follow. The foods you choose to eat. What type of job you have. What type of education you received. Where you live. Who you talk to. All of this and more is a form of brainwashing.
Now it's at about this time that you'd probably be writing me off as a crazy lunatic. There's precedence for this, after all. Any archive binger or long-time follower of my blog will see that I am a really crazy person with some outlandish outlooks on life, and are probably ready to write this off as just another one of those. And to be fair, they're not exactly wrong, but give me some credit here, please! Just listen for a sec.
This belief of mine isn't because I'm some crazy conspiracy theorist. It's because to me, you need to consider what the term brainwashing actually means, and what it means is, essentially, "social conditioning that is not natural", basically. That was me just guessing, but looking it up, the dictionary definition isn't too far off the mark: "make (someone) adopt radically different beliefs by using systematic and often forcible pressure".
So they include "forcible" in there. Eh, I somewhat disagree; it can be forced in that they have no viable options, but doesn't require it. I do agree that it's systematic, though. Basically, brainwashing, forced social conditioning, if you will, is something literally every civilized human being undergoes.
...Because forced social conditioning is inherent to the idea of civilization itself. While humans are tribal creatures by our very nature, this "loyalty" to our tribe naturally only extends so far. We mostly would, left to our own devices, mostly fend for ourselves, and only use others when we're faced with a task we can't conquer alone. That's a little bit of a cynical outlook on life, but that's literally every communal species' evolution process over millions, even billions, of years. That "primal" level of thinking is what life started as.
And anything other than that is a divergence from it. The whole, "top brain, lower brain" thing which you see every once and a while out there. Now, I don't know how valid it actually is, but it does at least hold appeal to my own personal belief in things, that there's a difference between our active, conscious minds and our more instinctive, primal, inactive side. (But that's a subject for an entirely different ramble.)
And over the millennia, tribes coalescing have been cultivating our very nature as human beings. One religion, to unite the people: if everyone holds to these set beliefs, then everyone will feel connected to them. One nation, to unite the people: if everyone feels like they're part of one gigantic tribe, then they are less likely to cause trouble with their neighbors and more likely to help out in times of need.
You see where I'm going with this, right? That brainwashing has been part of what has allowed humans to evolve in the first place. In other words, we lied to ourselves...and when we started believing our own lies, they started to work, and became true. Power of belief, personified. So! From where I stand, I don't believe brainwashing is inherently bad. It's not inherently good, quite obviously. You can be conditioned into doing some really nasty stuff, in a HORRIFICALLY short period of time. Plenty of psyche experiments have proven this much. But it's also not something inherently bad, either; it's just...a part of our lives.
Something which we have effect us every day, without even realizing it. And governments are generally really good at subtly manipulating these factors to make a populace serve their agenda. Want to make the nation go to war? Get the people very mad, so that they are willing to go to war.
Now, I do believe it's been conclusively shown that at least once, this happened, with FDR's administration having known the Japanese were going to attack and also having been partially manipulating things such that the Japanese felt they had no choice but to attack, but even if it hasn't, even if I am mistaken about that, if given the absolute benefit of the doubt of being ignorant about attacks against the US, there's no mistaken what can happen in response to these attacks: media will cover the attack(s) in excruciating detail, making sure the entire nation knows just how atrocious and despicable this enemy was for daring to attack the peaceful, harmless, Americans, and they will DEMAND response, even retribution, for the tragedy.
Of course, the events are in fact terrible. I mean that in sincerity, naturally. They shouldn't have happened, but did anyway. Yet it's undeniable that, time and time again, across the last 100 years, this has been how the US has responded: they felt suffering, and felt personally hurt, as a nation (a grand tribe), so they declared war.
It's really easy once you know how to get people on your side, especially with media control. You need only look at wars like Vietnam and the second Gulf War to see how the populace's opinion shifts with the power of media. Government controlling the media can censor how hellish war is. When the secret leaks out about the suffering of troops, the very thing which riled us up in the first place (outrage at our suffering) turns against them, with demands to bring our troops back home.
It's just one example of many, in how the government can influence us. Corporations have an equal number of dirty tricks up their sleeve to ensure you're addicted to their services, what they provide. In many cases, even if you use a competitor's services, they still win because you're using the service rather than using something else which neither in the duopoly would want. (This still applies even if there's more than two companies in play, just to a lesser extent.)
The amount of the populace which can rely entirely on themselves, be completely self-sufficient, is pathetically small. And for those that need help, the vast majority of them don't need help from neighbors. They need help from those companies out there.
Again, this view might seem a bit cynical, but it's actually just me being realistic. That's how our world is. It's how our world works now. That social conditioning has been forced into us for so long that we can no longer live without it, realistically speaking. And is this a bad thing? I don't think so. It's just a thing. So I'm not complaining, or anything. I certainly don't have any ideas on what would make the world better! It's not perfect. It could use improvement. But we've used it for so long that we've adapted, adjusted, to it such that it works well enough and I'm okay with that.
Doesn't mean it's any less brainwashing, though.
...Okay. So maybe I am a liiiiiiiittle bit crazy even with the above. My perspective is never going to be perfect, especially given that I don't bother to research these subjects. I mostly just view them from feel, and the above makes sense to me as being how things are.
But would you believe I'm only at the half-way point in my ramble?
Because another thing the series Chuck makes me think about is spies, in general.
I imagine that in real life, real spies probably only go on something like 2-3 missions over the course of their career. This is just me guessing. Obviously, spies being, well, spies, this sort of information isn't exactly something governments would just be willy-nilly open about.
But three factors contribute to my low figure in comparison to literally every spy show/film ever:
One is the danger associated with the assignment. A spy in a high-risk field is...in a high-risk field. Let's say you're a spy in a warzone. Any moment, you could be killed, be it by a friend or a foe. Or let's say you're a spy in, saaaaaaaaaay, the mafia. Any moment, you could be exposed and killed, or any moment, you could be killed by some form of gang rivalry. I don't imagine people in this line of work exactly have the longest longevity while on duty.
Plus, there's always the risk that if your cover is exposed, you can't be extracted and hidden fast enough, with you being tracked down/killed before you are put under protection.
A related, albeit slightly less likely in the modern world where such charges I imagine aren't so common, possibility is that if you're a spy in another government, when caught, you could be charged with treason and executed. This would probably be a political nightmare in the current world, but I guess it could still happen in some countries.
The second factor is the longevity of the assignment. It takes time to build an effective cover. You can't just materialize out of nowhere and expect it to work. I mean, to some extent, this depends on how good governments are at planting false records: media would have us believe they can do so nigh-flawlessly, but whether that's an exaggeration or not, only the people in the business would know. But I imagine regardless of whether they can or can't, it's much easier to build up a false identity over time than it is to build up a false identity instantly.
Furthermore, these assignments can be long-term. Sleeper agents are something we generally associate with fiction, but they exist in real life, on both sides, with things like spies who were in the US for twenty years waiting activation. If one assignment lasts that long, how many can a spy realistically go on over their lifetime?
And the third factor is in familiarity. This one, spy shows actually occasionally touch upon, albeit rarely. If you're constantly out in the field carrying out missions...well, it won't take too long before people begin to recognize you. You can do a lot to disguise yourself: alter your voice, alter your appearance, use padding to alter your body build and height, but there's only so many tricks you can use before using tricks becomes a hazard. (No matter the strength of the disguise, there are just as many ways to expose one as there are of creating one, and chances are, if you're spying on someone, the person you're spying on is likely to be paranoid they're being spied on and will attempt countermeasures.) So, the only way to efficiently ensure you're not recognized, not spotted, is to change locations of assignment in some combination with disguises, and further make sure you can't encounter the same people.
And, I imagine, the risk of encountering someone goes up the more missions you'd go on, because I'll stick to my non-cynical view that real-life spies are not going to be constantly assassinating person after person after person and thus, they let live plenty of people who can and will recognize them.
Buuuuuuuuuuuuut, all the same, in spite of my belief above that real-life spies probably operate something more like the above, subtly rather than so overtly, all the same, I can't help but enjoy shows like Chuck, and films like Bond, for one simple reason:
Spies, as displayed, are a lot like a game of mafia.
They require the exact same set of skills, if you think about it: they may be briefed on the situation at hand, depending on how good their information is. (How "open" the setup is, and their alignment going into it.) They will have a set assignment with a set goal (their wincon), even if they're not entirely sure of the specifics. And upon the start of the assignment, they have to employ mad improvisation skills.
There's a trope that all spy shows/films use, called Bavarian Fire Drill. You'd know it as the one where they act like they belong in the place they are, and so, nobody suspects them. They just walk in with confidence, can even change outfits, and as long as they give the aura of belonging in the role they are playing, nobody will question them.
And while this is clearly an exaggeration, it has basis in fact and is seen in every game of mafia: players will try to figure things out, and the mafia/werewolves will act like they belong even though they know they don't. Then, you enter into the stage of spy films/shows, where the spy faces people and must interact with them in detail. Here, they cannot use a facade.
Just like in games, where players interact with each other. So, the spy must combine three factors: the lie they are currently putting themselves in, a touch of their real life to add believability to their story, and a psychological profile of who they are talking to (which they must form on the spot), in order to tailor their story to the target, as to receive the information they are after.
Regardless of how realistic that may be, I love it because it's a perfect comparison to mafia games, since in a mafia game, both sides will do this. The mafia will tell the lie they are town, interlaced with their natural persona to add believability, while psychologically profiling the other players and tailoring select ones to their side while eliminating those that they deem less controllable.
In contrast, the town players will know the role they are living is legit, though they still add in their own persona (a piece of their life) because it's impossible not to. They psychologically profile players they are talking to, but in their case, they're looking for something being "off": they are looking for the 'spy', who has infiltrated their ranks, someone whose profile doesn't seem to add up.
It's a game of information and deceit, the staples of the spy genre, with the touch of psychology that many spy films and shows touch on (even if they don't know they've touched on them), so is it any wonder I enjoy them?