Music in psychological operations
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Music can be used as a tool of psychological warfare. The term "music torture" is sometimes used to describe the practice. While it is acknowledged by United States interrogation experts to cause discomfort, it has also been characterized as having 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". Methods of "noise torture" or "sound torture", which include the continuous playing of music or noise, have been paired with sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, food and drink deprivation, and stress positions.
Instances of use
- A BBC News report claimed that music by the American heavy metal band Metallica, along with the children's television programs Barney the Dinosaur 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 the songs "The Real Slim Shady" by Eminem, the Meow Mix theme song, and "Fuck Your God" by Deicide to torture.
- "When the United States invaded Panama in December 1989, Manuel 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.
South Korea has broadcast K-pop music across the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) into North Korea using loudspeakers. These operations were halted in 2018 following a thaw in inter-Korean relations.
In popular culture
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 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."
A 1996 episode of This Hour Has 22 Minutes featured a comedic sketch in which Canada was taken over by terrorists who in turn were promptly defeated when the Canadian Armed Forces deployed Dan Hill's "Sometimes When We Touch" as their secret weapon.
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.
In the TV series "Alex Rider", Alex is kidnapped and subjected to music torture by the SAS to gauge his abilities in the field. Alex sings in a loop to fight against it.
In the episode "White Christmas" of the anthology TV series Black Mirror, the episode ends with a character being subjected to the song "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" by Wizzard while trapped in a virtual space with distorted time so that they experience time at 1,000 years per minute.
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
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- 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.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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- "The Love's not mutual". Newsweek. May 26, 2003. Archived from the original on December 15, 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
- Tom Barnes (April 22, 2014). "11 Popular Songs the CIA Used to Torture Prisoners in the War on Terror". Archived from the original on June 29, 2016. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
- "When van Halen was used to drive General Noriega out of Vatican protection". 2010-04-30. Archived from the original on 2011-03-09. Retrieved 2011-05-06.
- "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]
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- Morgan Gstalter (July 19, 2018). "Former Clinton adviser hires mariachi band to play at anti-Trump protests outside White House". The Hill(newspaper). Archived from the original on July 19, 2018. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
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- 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.
- Bacon, John (23 April 2018). "South Korea stops blasting K-pop at North Korea across the DMZ ahead of nuclear talks". USA TODAY. Retrieved 14 January 2021.
- "U.S. MILITARY TO ATTACK INSURGENTS WITH PARIS HILTON ALBUM". Dateline Hollywood. Archived from the original on 2006-06-15. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
- Hill, Dan (January 14, 2010). "You'll never guess what Dan Hill thinks of his own song". Macleans. St. Joseph Communications. Retrieved 27 October 2020.
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- 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.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
- "Zero dB web site". Archived from the original on 2009-09-09. 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". Archived from the original on 2016-08-06. Retrieved 2016-12-01.
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- "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.
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- 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.