Music in psychological operations
Music has been used in psychological operations. The term music torture is sometimes used by critics of the practice of playing loud music incessantly to prisoners or people besieged.
The United Nations and the European Court of Human Rights have banned the use of loud music in interrogations, but it is still being widely used by US interrogators. The term torture is sometimes used to describe the practice. While it is acknowledged by US interrogation experts that it causes discomfort, it has also been characterized by them as causing no "long term effects."
Instances of use
- A BBC News report claimed that music by band Metallica, and from children's TV programs Barney and Sesame Street, was being used to cause sleep deprivation and culturally offend Iraqi POWs.
- Claimed to being used by the United States 361st Psychological Operations Company by Sergeant Mark Hadsell:
"These people haven't heard heavy metal. They can't take it. If you play it for 24 hours, your brain and body functions start to slide, your train of thought slows down and your will is broken. That's when we come in and talk to them."
In the book A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess and the subsequent film based upon it, a rebellious teenager is subjected to brutal experimental brain-washing techniques that as an accidental side-effect cause him to feel physical pain if he listens to certain pieces of classical music.
In an episode of the hit USA television show Burn Notice Sam Axe plays loud music to a prisoner to break his will.
In the TV series Homeland, death metal is used to keep a prisoner awake.
Public awareness of the use of this technique is widespread enough that it can be used in satirical attacks on popular culture:
"Hollywood — Several days after Paris Hilton announced that she will release a music album, the Pentagon has decided to buy 50,000 copies of her upcoming album to use against insurgents in the volatile Anbar province in western Iraq."
On 9 December 2008 the Associated Press reported that various musicians were coordinating their objections to the use of their music as a technique for softening up captives through an initiative called Zero dB. Zero dB is an initiative against music torture set up by legal charity Reprieve, which represents over thirty prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. Zero dB aims to stop torture music by encouraging widespread condemnation of the practice and by calling on governments and the UN to uphold and enforce the Convention Against Torture and other relevant treaties. The initiative is backed by the Musicians Union which is calling on British musicians to voice their outrage against the use of music to torture.
Musicians and the wider public are making their own silent protests against music torture which are being shown on Zero dB. A series of silent protests and actions are planned through 2009. Participating musicians will include minutes of silence in their concerts to draw their audience's attention to the USA's use of deafening music against captives.
According to the Associated Press FBI agents stationed at Guantanamo Bay reported that the use of deafening music was common. According to the Associated Press Guantanamo Bay spokesmen Commander Pauline Storum:
- "...wouldn't give details of when and how music has been used at the prison, but said it isn't used today. She didn't respond when asked whether music might be used in the future."
Among the musicians united in their objections were Christopher Cerf, a composer for the children's show Sesame Street, and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. Others include Massive Attack, R.E.M., The Roots, Rise Against, Rosanne Cash, Pearl Jam, Bonnie Raitt, Trent Reznor, Billy Bragg, Michelle Branch, Jackson Browne, T-Bone Burnett, David Byrne, Marc Cohn, Steve Earle, the Entrance Band, and Joe Henry.
- "I take it as an honor to think that perhaps our song could be used to quell another 9/11 attack or something like that."
On December 13, 2008, Benton issued an apology on the band's MySpace page about his comment on musical torture, stating his comment had been "taken out of context".
- BBC article "Sesame Street breaks Iraqi POWs". BBC. May 23, 2003. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
- A.L. Bardach, Jac Chebatoris (May 19, 2003). "Periscope". Newsweek. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
- "The Love's not mutual". Newsweek. May 26, 2003. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
- "Ret. Lt. Gen. Marc Cisneros to Discuss Capture of Former Panamanian Dictator with A&M-Corpus Christi Students". Texas A&M University. September 19, 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-27.[dead link]
- Ronald H. Cole (Winter 1998-99). "Grenada, Panama, and Haiti: Joint Operational Reform". United States Department of Defense. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
- "Guantanamo Bay Inquiry (released under FOIA)". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
- Dan Eggen, R. Jeffrey Smith (Tuesday, December 21, 2004). "FBI Agents Allege Abuse of Detainees at Guantanamo Bay". Washington Post. pp. Page A01. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
- Josh White, John Mintz (Wednesday, December 1, 2004). "Red Cross Cites 'Inhumane' Treatment at Guantanamo". Washington Post. pp. Page A10. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
- "Iraq: Torture not isolated -- independent investigations vital". Amnesty International. April 30, 2004. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
- Gwen Ackerman (January 12, 1998). "Israel refuses to ban loud music torture". Birminghan Post. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
- "U.S. MILITARY TO ATTACK INSURGENTS WITH PARIS HILTON ALBUM". Dateline Hollywood. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
- "Gitmo's Greatest Hits". Light Reading. 2008-07-21. Retrieved 2008-07-21. mirror
- Sean Michaels (2008-07-09). "Music as torture may incur royalty fees". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-07-21. mirror
- "Zero dB web site". Retrieved 2009-10-29.
- Andrew Selsky (2008-12-09). "Musicians protest use of songs by US jailers". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-12-09. mirror
- You Tube video
- "Musicians Standing Against Torture". New Security Action. Retrieved 2009-10-29.
- "Drowning Pool official MySpace blog (Stevie Bentons Apology)". Blogs.myspace.com. December 14, 2008. Retrieved October 21, 2011.
- Moustafa Bayoumi. 'Disco Inferno.' The Nation December 7, 2005. Available at http://www.thenation.com/doc/20051226/bayoumi.
- Cusick, Suzanne. 'You are in a place that is out of the world . . .': Music in the Detention Camps of the 'Global War on Terror'. Journal of the Society for American Music 2/1 (2008): 1-26.
- Cusick, Suzanne. 'Music as torture / Music as weapon.' Revista Transcultural de Música/Transcultural Music Review 10 (2006). Available at http://www.sibetrans.com/trans/trans10/cusick_eng.htm.
- "Songs forced on detainees by US jailers". Associated Press. 2008-12-08. Retrieved 2008-12-20. mirror
- Andy Worthington (2008-12-17). "A History of Music Torture in the War on Terror". CounterPunch. Retrieved 2008-09-28. mirror
- Justine Sharrock (March/April 2008). "Am I a Torturer?". Mother Jones magazine. Retrieved 2009-01-15. mirror