Music in psychological operations
The United Nations and the European Court of Human Rights have banned the use of loud music in interrogations. 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".
Music and sound have been usually used as part of a combination of interrogation methods, today recognized by international bodies as amounting to torture. Attacking all senses without leaving any visible traces, they have formed the basis of the widely discussed torture in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. They were, however, devised much earlier in the 1950s and early 1960s, as a way to counter so-called Soviet "brainwashing". They include:
- sensory deprivation
- stress positions
- sleep deprivation
- food and drink deprivation
- continuous music or sound
Instances of use
- A BBC News report claimed that music by the American heavy metal band Metallica and children's TV programs Barney and Sesame Street, was used for sleep deprivation and to 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 War on Terror, the US used songs "The Real Slim Shady", the Meow Mix theme song, and "Fuck Your God" by Deicide to torture.
- "When the United States invaded Panama in December 1989, Noriega took refuge in the Holy See’s embassy on December 24, which was immediately surrounded by U.S. troops. After being continually bombarded by hard rock music, including Van Halen's hit song Panama, and The Howard Stern Show for several days, Noriega surrendered on January 3, 1990."
"W[itness] observed sleep deprivation interviews w/strobe lights and loud music. Interrogator said it would take 4 days to break someone doing an interrogation 16 hrs w/lights and music on and 4 hrs off. Handwritten note next to typed synopsis says "ok under DoD policy".
"Rumors that interrogator bragged about doing lap dance on d[etainee], another about making d[etainee] listen to satanic black metal music for hours then dressing as a Priest and baptizing d[etainee] to save him - handwritten note says 'yes'."
"W[itness] saw d[etainee] in interview room sitting on floor w/Israeli flag draped around him, loud music and strobe lights. W suspects this practice is used by DOD DHS based on who he saw in the hallway."
"The physical tactics noted by the Red Cross included placing detainees in extremely cold rooms with loud music blaring, and forcing them to kneel for long periods of time, the source familiar with the report said."
"A former adviser to Hillary Clinton hired a Mariachi band to play outside of the White House in an effort to disrupt President Trump's sleep on Wednesday night."
"Detainees have reported being routinely subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment during arrest and detention. Many have told Amnesty International that they were tortured and ill-treated by US and UK troops during interrogation. Methods often reported include prolonged sleep deprivation; beatings; prolonged restraint in painful positions, sometimes combined with exposure to loud music; prolonged hooding; and exposure to bright lights. Virtually none of the allegations of torture or ill-treatment has been adequately investigated by the authorities."
According to recent research, the Greek military Junta (1967–1974) used the above-mentioned combination of interrogation techniques, including music. This took place in the headquarters of the Special Interrogation Unit of Greek Military Police (EAT/ESA), Athens. New interviews with survivors, held there in 1973, talk about the use of songs, popular hits of the time: these were played loudly and repeatedly from loudspeakers as the detainee had to stand without rest, food, drink or sleep.
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 cause him to feel physical pain if he has similar violent thoughts to those that sent him to jail in the first place; as an accidental side-effect, he has the same response if he hears Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Later, a man tortures him by locking him in a room where the symphony is played loudly.
In Apocalypse Now, a helicopter squadron plays classical music, Richard Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries, over loudspeakers on-board their helicopters while attacking a Viet Cong village, as a form of psychological warfare.
In an episode of the U.S. television show Burn Notice Sam Axe plays loud music to a prisoner to break his will.
In Power Rangers Megaforce, Emma sings a song to help the rangers defeat Dischord.
In the series 'Lost', drum and bass music is used to keep an islander's boyfriend awake and indoctrinated and tortured.
In one episode of 'The Flash' Cisco plays 'Never Gonna Give You Up' on repeat to Hartley get him to reveal information they need.
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."
In Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (film) a captured British intelligence officer under interrogation in a Soviet prison is subjected to disturbing sounds being repeatedly played through a pair of headphones
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, Limp Bizkit, System of a Down, Disturbed, the Entrance Band, Skinny Puppy 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".
- Psychological torture
- Loud music
- High Anxiety
- Music and political warfare
- Gitmo playlist
- Psychic driving
- Acoustic harassment
- "Sesame Street breaks Iraqi POWs". BBC. May 23, 2003. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
- UN Committee Against Torture 1997 "Concluding observations: Israel. 09/05/1997." "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-07-28. Retrieved 2014-07-20.
- McCoy, Alfred W (2006). A Question of Torture. CIA Interrogation. From the Cold War to the War on Terror. New York: Henry Holt and Co.pp.
- 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.
- Tom Barnes (April 22, 2014). "11 Popular Songs the CIA Used to Torture Prisoners in the War on Terror".
- "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 1998–1999). "Grenada, Panama, and Haiti: Joint Operational Reform" (PDF). United States Department of Defense. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-12-11. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
- "Guantanamo Bay Inquiry (released under FOIA)". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
- Dan Eggen, R. Jeffrey Smith (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 (December 1, 2004). "Red Cross Cites 'Inhumane' Treatment at Guantanamo". Washington Post. pp. Page A10. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
- Morgan Gstalter (July 19, 2018). "Former Clinton adviser hires mariachi band to play at anti-Trump protests outside White House". The Hill(newspaper). Retrieved 2018-07-19.
- "Iraq: Torture not isolated -- independent investigations vital". Amnesty International. April 30, 2004. Archived from the original on 2007-10-13. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
- Gwen Ackerman (January 12, 1998). "Israel refuses to ban loud music torture". Birminghan Post. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
- Papaeti Anna (2013). “Music, Torture, Testimony: Reopening the Case of the Greek Military Junta (1967–74).” the world of music (special issue): Music and Torture | Music and Punishment 2:1(2013), guest edited by M. J. Grant and Anna Papaeti, pp. 73–80.
- "U.S. MILITARY TO ATTACK INSURGENTS WITH PARIS HILTON ALBUM". Dateline Hollywood. Archived from the original on 2006-06-15. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
- "Gitmo's Greatest Hits". Light Reading. 2008-07-21. Archived from the original on 2011-05-19. Retrieved 2008-07-21.
- Sean Michaels (2008-07-09). "Music as torture may incur royalty fees". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2008-07-21. Retrieved 2008-07-21.
- "Zero dB web site". Retrieved 2009-10-29.
- Andrew Selsky (2008-12-09). "Musicians protest use of songs by US jailers". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2008-12-12. Retrieved 2008-12-09.
- You Tube video
- "Musicians Standing Against Torture". New Security Action. Archived from the original on 2009-10-26. Retrieved 2009-10-29.
- "Drowning Pool official MySpace blog (Stevie Bentons Apology)". Blogs.myspace.com. December 14, 2008. Archived from the original on February 7, 2009. 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 https://web.archive.org/web/20070207092801/http://www.sibetrans.com/trans/trans10/cusick_eng.htm.
- "Songs forced on detainees by US jailers". Associated Press. 2008-12-08. Archived from the original on 2008-12-19. Retrieved 2008-12-20.
- Andy Worthington (2008-12-17). "A History of Music Torture in the War on Terror". CounterPunch. Archived from the original on 2011-06-04. Retrieved 2008-09-28.
- Justine Sharrock (March–April 2008). "Am I a Torturer?". Mother Jones magazine. Archived from the original on 2009-01-15. Retrieved 2009-01-15.
- M. J. Grant and Anna Papaeti (guest editors), the world of music (new series): Music and Torture | Music and Punishment vol. 2 no. 1 (2013).
- Anna Papaeti and M. J. Grant (guest editors), Torture: Journal on Rehabilitation of Torture Victims and Prevention of Torture: Special Thematic Issue ‘Music in Detention’ vol. 23 no.2 (2013). http://www.irct.org/media-and-resources/library/torture-journal/archive/volume-23--no.-2--2013.aspx
- Jon Ronson. The Men Who Stare at Goats. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.