Adam Borowski

Hostages and the psychology of fanaticism

There are many more qualified people to opine on fanaticism. Either from first-hand experience with fanatics, cults and all sorts of coercive persuasion or from professional experience as psychologists and psychiatrists. Still, I’d like to add my two cents to the discussion. Maybe someone is going to find my thoughts useful. That’s why I enjoy writing this blog. You can just sit down and write, no censorship.

I was reading about the video surfacing of female IDF soldiers who were threatened with rape and called beautiful by Hamas fighters. The terrorists pointed out that ”these girls can get pregnant.” I watched a YouTube interview with claims that Israeli women are used in some sort of dungeons as sex slaves. It’s easy to dismiss such claims as propaganda. Sadly, history tells us that such scenarios are likely. Not even ancient history, when it was the norm.

Look at ISIS.

In 2015, it was revealed that Kayla Mueller had been held as a personal captive of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. As an American, the arch-enemy, she was likely forcefully assigned to the ISIS leader as his trophy wife. It’s a twisted, tribal, mentality, but I’m convinced the same mentality is widespread in Hamas and all these other shady groups operating in the region. A captive IDF soldier forced to give birth to the new generation of jihadis is the ultimate act of emasculation of the enemy, domination of the enemy, even erasing the enemy’s bloodline. Forcing the captives to respond to new names is also a likely scenario. A forced change of clothes serves two purposes: to disarm and to humiliate into submission. It’s no secret that what we wear at a given time impacts our behavior. These women represent Israel, the terrible ”Zionist entity” and terrible things being done to them are being done in the name of collective responsibility. That way, even a semblance of conscience piercing through the veil of terrorist psychopathy quickly vanishes. We saw the same mechanism during the Second World War.


The question arises: will these hostages manage to keep their identity from breaking down? To survive, they likely need to pretend to accept their fate and change as their captors want them to change. Be submissive if this is what gives them a strategic advantage. But, at some point, pretending isn’t going to be an option anymore and even the toughest of psyches are going to break. These hostages are then going to either start accepting the narrative imposed on them by the twisted terrorist minds or fight back, even if it’s the last fight for honor.

In the Bible, Job’s faith in God is tested by God making Job live through a series of calamities. Some smart Alecs are going to say these women, indeed, these hostages, are like Job, being tested by God. Maybe the ones who spout such nonsense ought to be forcefully placed by God in that position and then they would change their tune. To a high-pitched one. It’s so easy to call a terrible sequence of events God’s will when it happens to someone else. I doubt that I’d have lasted even a day without snapping, being at the mercy of such sadists.

The mentality of Z-patriots and North Koreans – North Korean defectors undergo deprogramming in South Korea – parallels the jihadi mentality. There are differences, of course, as North Koreans don’t put much, if any, emphasis on the afterlife. Be it a Z-patriot calling Americans a nation of demonic Nazis, a North Korean calling Americans bastards or a jihadi calling America the Great Satan, the same underlying brainwashing mechanisms are used. Then maybe, South Korean deprogramming methods can be used on Z-Russians or jihadis? Who knows.

Is there a chance that jihadis, Z-patriots and North Koreans might reclaim their minds or are they lost forever? To me, that kind of mind murder is the worst crime because you’re depriving a person of their identity before they even have a chance to form one. You don’t only control someone’s mind by locking them up in a dungeon. If you live in a society where it’s the unchallenged norm to call Americans – American bastards – then you either don’t know any better or repeat the mantra for fear of being targeted by the regime.

Elite North Korean defectors, while there aren’t many, show us how expertly one can play a role of a loyal regime follower while defecting when a even a small window of opportunity arises.

How many Iranians play the role of royal regime followers just to survive? Their roles are so convincing, it impresses the heck out of me how they don’t fall for their own roles.

Without social stimuli, a child reverts to an animalistic state and we saw it happen again and again with children that had been raised by dogs, for example. Our identities are formed by the people around us. We don’t become their exact copies, of course, but in nations such as North Korea, one could argue that people are essentially copies of one another, even though they obviously differ on a genetic level. Russia, it seems, is going down the same path. Fast.

The question arises: can we develop a truly independent mind when our language, the product of society we’re raised in, shapes our thinking?

Ad infinitum. Leaving you with some food for thought.

About the Author
Adam Borowski is a technical Polish-English translator with a background in international relations and a keen interest in understanding how regime propaganda brainwashes people so effectively. He's working on a novel the plot of which is set across multiple realities. In the novel, he explores the themes of God, identity, regimes, parallel universes, genocide and brainwashing. His Kyiv Post articles covering a wide range of issues can be found at
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