Friday, November 6, 2009

Can Music Really Be Used to Torture People?

As “reliable sources” recently bared that works by prominent American Rock musicians are being used as “instruments of torture” in Gitmo, one wonders can music be used to torture people?

By: Ringo Bones

As an art form, music really has the ability to shock. Just as I was shocked to learn back in the 1980s that Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser Festmarsch was routinely played in NAZI-era concentration camps as captive Jews were sent to the gas chambers. Fast forward George W. Bush’s “War on Terror” and we are once again witnessing history repeating itself.

Lately, prominent American Rock musicians had been recently demanding accountability via the Freedom of Information Act that the Bush Administration and the US Central Intelligence Agency should reveal whether or not their musical works are being used to torture terror suspect detainees in the now notorious Guantànamo Bay Prison. Ah yes, Guantànamo Bay, a US Navy and Marine base at the eastern end of Cuba. Affectionately named Gitmo, it had unfortunately become the 21st Century’s version of an American toned-down version of Auswichz.

One of those prominent American Rock musicians demanding accountability from the Bush Administration on the use of their music as a torture device is Metallica lead singer James Hetfield. Hetfield was somewhat divided over the use of Metallica’s music as a torture device when played at sound pressure levels above 120dB to “torture” terror suspects / detainees. Hetfield says that he’s proud to do his “patriotic” duty – i.e. his music being used against America’s enemies – but not to the point of violating the Geneva Convention (or maybe alienating long-time principled fans?).

Another prominent American Rock musician concerned over the use of his music as a torture device in Gitmo is Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. An artist whose musical works gained notoriety for containing ridiculous amounts of low frequency information sufficient to damage loudspeakers not designed to play it at high decibel levels. Reliable informants revealed that terror suspects were held in stress positions reminiscent that of Apartheid-era South African political prisoners making them unable to protect their ears against the sonic onslaught.

As of late, Pearl Jam, REM and The Roots are forming a coalition to investigate on the use of music as a torture device at Gitmo. While Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against the Machine plan to sue the Bush Administration and the US Central Intelligence Agency for misuse of product liability reasons. While a recently released Gunatànamo Bay Prison detainee on interview stated that the music often used to torture terror suspects to cause sleep deprivation was Born In The USA by Bruce Springsteen. While Roseanne Cash – daughter of the legendary country singer the late, great Johnny Cash – is also leading a coalition to close Gitmo. Which everyone can check out at

Most forms of art really have a funny way of protesting against unnecessary wars. Even something as inanimate as the tapestry replica of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica was draped by UN staff when then US Secretary of State Colin Powell asked the United Nation’s Security Council to invade Iraq to destroy Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction back in 2003. Even Richard Wagner’s estate had since allowed prominent Jewish conductors to perform the great Classical composer’s works in order to distance his legacy from anti-Semitism and Adolph Hitler. Making Bayreuth even friendlier than George W. Bush-era America.

Using music to torture people to me at least is a form of a cruel and unusual punishment. Which – according to most civilized countries – is against the law. Even the Geneva Convention has a proviso against cruel and unusual punishment against enemy combatants. This is why you’ll never see Judge Judy play Tori Amos songs at dangerously high decibels at convicted rapist - even if she has been probably tempted many times in the past. Or do the same to paedophiles and child molesters using the music of Avril Lavigne and / or The Veronicas. Not to mention Aloha From Hell.