Think of an evil time or place. Think of some country that we all condemn as wicked villains. Presumably this country was some variety of fascist or communist. They probably sent their troops to invade innocent countries, kill the locals, and steal their shit. Imagine them in their villainous costumes goose-stepping about in big militaristic parades. Perhaps your historical villains were the kind of murderous racists that picked on some ethnic minority and put them into concentration camps. For the purpose of the exercise, the more villainous the better.
So, do you have that time and place fixed in your head? Excellent.
Now go sideways and wonder at the boys and young men in this place. As sure as eggs is eggs the vast majority would have grooved on the thought of their nation as ass-kicking powerhouse. There were no t-shirts back then but they probably had pictures of their weapons of war on their walls - tanks and fighter planes, that sort of thing. And there was probably no TV at the time but they'd have had some equivalent like the cinema, and they'd have gone to see the movies that made heroes of the soldiers that we now view as the greatest villains who ever lived. And they'd have cheered those villains. Because for them, they weren't villains, they were heroes. That's how it is in evil times and places. If you want to call those boys and young men brainwashed, I won't argue with you. They were brainwashed.
But that's no surprise is it? In those evil times and places, everything would have been like this - the movies, the radio, the newspapers, the comics, everything right down to the cigarette and bubblegum cards. Every single form of media that existed would have been this way. And all those kids would have thought that this was normal. It would never have occurred to these kids that what they were doing was wrong. And yeah sure, there would have been other stuff too, boring stuff for girls and for grown-ups. But the boys wouldn't have been interested. They would have been too busy with all that neat stuff with soldiers, cops, and spies, all with tons of gunfights, chases, and action, action, action.
Imagine if you were able to magically teleport back in time and tell those kids that what they were doing was evil. It's a complete certainty that they'd never have believed you. They'd have told you that you were stupid, crazy, a complete bullshit artist. Even the nice ones would have heaped shit on you. They'd have told you that the 'bad guys' attacked them first. Everyone knows that. The 'bad guys' wanted to destroy their country, whether they were a million miles away, or here at home waiting to fill up those concentration camps. And those brainwashed kids would have defended everything their goose-stepping heroes did, whether it was bombing civilians or torturing innocent men and women.
It's also possible that some of those boys didn't like what their evil government was doing. But they still loved their weekly instalment of Stormtrooper Hero, or whatever it was called back then. "You should see it. It's great!" But you wouldn't have the heart for it. It'd be too sickening, watching these fucking villains bombing those villages and hauling those people off to the concentration camps. Even the best of those kids would have had you shaking your head at how they didn't get it.
So with this picture in your head of this evil time and place and of those brainwashed kids, why don't we try a really crazy experiment? Imagine (it's crazy I know, but just humour me) what it would look like if this was your country, here and now? What would that look like? And what would it be like for the boys and young men? How would they dress? Can you imagine them wearing military camouflage and t-shirts with pictures of tanks or gunships on them?
Imagine if everything, from the movies to the computer games were full of our soldiers, spies, and whomever, going overseas and killing the people there. Imagine if there was some minority back home that every piece of media told you were the bad guys. Imagine we were told that they attacked us first.
Imagine that there were TV shows where the hero actually tortured this minority and that no one thought that that was evil, or weird, or any other thing. They just watched it and grooved on the excitement. Imagine computer games that would have fitted right in with the propaganda of that other evil time and place, with whoever was playing being told to go and kill whomever and them doing it and thinking it was the coolest game ever. Can you imagine that?
And one small step now - imagine some guy zapping in from some other time and place and telling you that the whole fucking thing was evil and that when you wore those t-shirts, and watched those shows, and played those games, that you were participating in something really monstrous? What would you say to that guy? Would you think he was nuts? Would you tell him he was bullshit?
You? Brainwashed? Ha! Those other kids in that other evil time and place, sure - but not you, no way. Go ahead, tell me I'm "stupid, crazy, a complete bullshit artist." You know you want to.