Thursday, June 19, 2008

For Tortured Evening Play A Little Torture Lite

Excerpts from "Welcome to 'the disco'" article in UK Guardian.

According to US military authorities, it was God himself who first wrote the strategy of "torture by music" into the field manual - by turning the amplifier up to 11 on the enemy. "Joshua's army used horns to strike fear into the hearts of the people of Jericho," retired US Air Force Lt-Col Dan Kuehl told the St Petersburg Times. "His men might not have been able to break down literal walls with their trumpets, but the noise eroded the enemy's courage." Kuehl, who teaches psychological operations (or psyops) at Fort McNair's National Defense University in Washington DC, added, "Maybe those psychological walls were what really crumbled."

Despite this, to date, the Pentagon's semanticists have achieved their purpose, and many people think that torture by music is little more than a rather irritating enforced encounter with someone else's iPod. Binyam Mohamed, the British resident who is still held in Guantánamo Bay, knows a bit about such torture. The CIA rendered him to Morocco, where his torturers repeatedly took a razor blade to his penis throughout an 18-month ordeal. He could anticipate physical pain, he said, and know that it would eventually end. But the experience of slipping into madness as a result of torture by music was something quite different. One Guantánamo interrogator blithely estimated that it would take about four days to "break" someone, if the interrogation sessions were interspersed with strobe lights and loud music.

It is time that those musicians who oppose the use of music to torture fellow human beings made some noise - and they are beginning to. This year's Meltdown festival at London's South Bank, which Massive Attack are curating, has highlighted the issue of torture by music. Projections showing the horror of renditions and secret prisons will be used on their world tour.

Deicide's Fuck Your God is said to be a favourite for military interrogators, and the song topped the infamous "torture playlist" compiled by the American investigative magazine Mother Jones. It is worth noting that the lyrics are in fact anti-Christian, just as Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA and Eminem's White America, also claimed as torture tracks, contain anti-establishment messages. Sometimes, people simply misunderstand lyrics: in 1984, Ronald Reagan tried to co-opt Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA as a patriotic anthem to get himself re-elected, despite the song being about government betrayal of Vietnam veterans. The Barney theme song is also a Guantánamo favorite.

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