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The Torture Playlist
February 26, 2008 1:09 PM   Subscribe

Music has been used in American military prisons and on bases to induce sleep deprivation, "prolong capture shock," disorient detainees during interrogations—and also drown out screams. Based on a leaked interrogation log, news reports, and the accounts of soldiers and detainees, here are some of the songs that guards and interrogators chose.
posted by monospace (76 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
22......... cold ............matchbox 20
THOSE MONSTERS!
posted by dersins at 1:13 PM on February 26, 2008


Drop the Barney, "American Pie" and Matchbox 20 and that's a pretty cool mix CD. Pairing Raspberry Beret with Deicide and Eminem ... bold, but it works.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:14 PM on February 26, 2008


The casual acceptance of torture indicated by the fact that we have articles that play up a slightly comic angle on it is really quite depressing.
posted by jaduncan at 1:15 PM on February 26, 2008 [14 favorites]


#9 -- The Meow Mix jingle played on-a-loop would drive anyone crazy!
posted by ericb at 1:15 PM on February 26, 2008


i think david gray would be quite effective

'bulls on parade' is of unintentional irony on the part of the soldiers, i think
posted by sponge at 1:20 PM on February 26, 2008


Jesus Christ. American Pie? Neil Diamond? The Barney theme? THE MEOW MIX JINGLE? That is nightmarishly fucking cruel. The rest of it just looks like random shit people whose best option after high school was the military and who get off on torturin' sand nigras had in their CD player (Eminem, Christina Aguilera, AC/DC, etc.), although Deicide is somewhat inspired. You could have most of the playlist blared at you repeatedly at an uncofortable volume by visiting a few fratboy-oriented shot bars on a Saturday night.
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:21 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]



if played loud enough... i can see why they chose this music. Deicide is just plain creepy.
posted by zach4000 at 1:22 PM on February 26, 2008


What? No Muzak version of The Girl From Ipanema?
posted by SentientAI at 1:22 PM on February 26, 2008


Note to self: If you put the word "America" or "U.S.A." in any of your songs, some mouthbreather with a limited understanding of international law and military ethics may well use it to torture somebody, and why? Because your song is torturous?

No. Because it's about America, and IN YOUR FACE TERRORISTS!

I bet Bruce Springsteen was delighted to discover that his mournful tale of a Vietnam veteran returning to an economically depressed and unsympathetic nation is being used as jingoistic torture by criminals who aren't clever enough to listen to his lyrics, but only clever enough to know that USA is in the title.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:24 PM on February 26, 2008 [17 favorites]


Pales in comparison to some of the suggestions in this thread.
posted by saladin at 1:24 PM on February 26, 2008


Other military applications of blasting music:
Rock as a Weapon - When the U.S. Army drubs an enemy with sound, it wants better speakers.

Troops Blast Music in Siege of Fallujah.
posted by ericb at 1:25 PM on February 26, 2008


Out of my heart, I have always been free,
One with no need all alone and satanic.
Wretched and Vile, fuck your god, de face him.
Who could believe in a lord that’s demanding?
Hard to believe when we die we vanish,
In his deny and for all his creation,
Fuck your god and his righteous hatred.
You and your son, you are nothing but absence,
Something not there that controls this planet,
Only deceit do I see in your hallow
If you believe you will dwell in failure.
Fuck Your God, Holy mother for the whore she is,
Fuck your God, bible thumper preaching threats from hymn,
Fuck your god, his revival and the holy Ghost,
Fuck your god; only tell us what we need to know,
Fuck your god, pointing fingers and then do as me,
Fuck your god, you are nothing and you’ll never be,
Fuck your god; it is Satan who in trusts my soul,
Fuck your god, where the Christians are I will not go.
Fuck your god!!!!!


There is a certain level of irony operating here, but it's simply too massive for me to wrap my head around.
posted by Avenger at 1:26 PM on February 26, 2008


I'm sure The Boss also weeps every time Born comes on during a patriotic moment like the fireworks or parades.
posted by jmd82 at 1:29 PM on February 26, 2008


Wonderful, now I've got "Raspberry Beret" looping through my head. Just fantastic.

But seriously, jesus fuck, shouldn't the message be, "hey, look, the West is actually pretty great!" and not "MEOW MEOW WATERBOARD MEOW MEOW!"?
posted by uncleozzy at 1:29 PM on February 26, 2008


LOLTORTURE.
posted by EarBucket at 1:29 PM on February 26, 2008


How long until soldiers start saying "No."?
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:30 PM on February 26, 2008


What? No Muzak version of The Girl From Ipanema?

If it was "Guantanamera", that would be a total winner.
posted by LionIndex at 1:31 PM on February 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Compiling this list smacks of effort. Just get Yoko Ono's albums and play them in order.

And the notion that music people voluntarily buy suddenly constitutes torture because its loud is odd. Does anyone ever listen to Deicide with the volume down?

Do they have to pay performance fees for this music? How does the invoice read? "$1.40 to Shelly Palmer for "Meow Mix: Commercial Jingle" played 2 times during torture session 74, inmate 13447"
posted by Pastabagel at 1:32 PM on February 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


They forgot all about these two S.O.D classics - 1, 2.
posted by blaneyphoto at 1:33 PM on February 26, 2008


What no Jethro Tull? It worked with Noriega. You know what's torture for me? When people think that Jethro Tull is one of the guys in the band.
posted by Gungho at 1:34 PM on February 26, 2008


"The casual acceptance of torture indicated by the fact that we have articles that play up a slightly comic angle on it is really quite depressing."

Come on man. Hearing Don McLean or "Stayin' Alive" on repeat may be annoying, but it's not exactly "torture."

More broadly, I also question why pain-free measures designed to induce psychological stress, especially in the name of extracting information, should also count as "torture." Isn't much of the point of prison to induce psychological stress? Why is it somehow worse if it's serving a functional purpose rather than merely as some sort of retributive punishment for wrong-doing?
posted by decoherence at 1:34 PM on February 26, 2008


I imagine William Bennett is none too pleased with this.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:36 PM on February 26, 2008


The Girl From Ipanema?

Makes me sad that an awesome songwriter like Antonio Carlos Jobim has such a undeserved smear. Girl From Ipanema is an awesome song. Especially the João Gilberto and Stan Getz version. But I also love the Sammy Davis version.
posted by tkchrist at 1:41 PM on February 26, 2008


I can think of a thousand funny things to say, but when I typed a few of them, they seemed weak, and what I ultimately feel from looking at this playlist is that there are some really intelligent people (playing Meow Mix) doing some incredibly cruel, cruel shit. (Or ordering those lower down to do it for them, in which case, they pick whatever is heavy, and/or has the word fuck, god, or America.)

Enter Sandman? That song INDUCES sleep!

posted by not_on_display at 1:42 PM on February 26, 2008


I'd like to invoke Ono's Corollary to Godwin's Law:

As an online discussion about music and torture grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Yoko Ono approaches one.
posted by jonp72 at 1:45 PM on February 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


I bet Bruce Springsteen was delighted to discover that his mournful tale of a Vietnam veteran returning to an economically depressed and unsympathetic nation is being used as jingoistic torture by criminals who aren't clever enough to listen to his lyrics, but only clever enough to know that USA is in the title.

I doubt he's too shocked-- that was pretty much the reaction the song got when it was released (except for the torture part.)
posted by InfidelZombie at 1:45 PM on February 26, 2008


Come on man. Hearing Don McLean or "Stayin' Alive" on repeat may be annoying, but it's not exactly "torture."

It is when you're trying to sleep.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:46 PM on February 26, 2008


OH. Now it all makes sense. My college roommate, Jim, WAS actually torturing me with his shitty musical tastes.
posted by ColdChef at 1:47 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


What about that stupid music the penguin plays in Wallace and Grommit. That would make me want to blow something up.

Which brings me to my second point: Don't think of it as torture, think of it as motivation for the terrorists, and a way of ensuring job security for the next generation of anti-terrorist soldiers.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:52 PM on February 26, 2008


Come on man. Hearing Don McLean or "Stayin' Alive" on repeat may be annoying, but it's not exactly "torture."

When it's being played at painful volumes, it is indeed torture.

When it's being played in order to prevent you from sleeping, it is indeed torture.

More broadly, I also question why pain-free measures designed to induce psychological stress, especially in the name of extracting information, should also count as "torture." Isn't much of the point of prison to induce psychological stress? Why is it somehow worse if it's serving a functional purpose rather than merely as some sort of retributive punishment for wrong-doing?

Torture is retributive punishment.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:53 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


So, we torture terrorists, would-be terrorists, and just plain innocent civilians by repeatedly (hours, days, months) blasting songs that scream about America and Satan. And that's supposed to help PREVENT attacks on our country?

I mean, sure, it's fun to totally PWN some A-rab with songs about how awesome We are. (And who's it hurting, really?) But maybe someone out there who's seen Clockwork Orange or who took Psych 101...maybe they'd want to step in and play grown-up torturer?
posted by PlusDistance at 1:57 PM on February 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


"I didn't really catch the lyrics. Something about U.S.A., great, and satan."
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:59 PM on February 26, 2008 [5 favorites]


Isn't much of the point of prison to induce psychological stress?

No. The point of prison is to keep you locked up so you don't hurt any nice people on the outside, and also to punish you for what you did wrong. Psychological stress is merely a byproduct, not the point, of imprisonment.

I'd also argue that having excruciatingly loud music played at you to keep you from sleeping or thinking or praying is hardly "pain-free".
posted by rtha at 2:04 PM on February 26, 2008


Compiling this list smacks of effort. Just get Yoko Ono's albums and play them in order.

FACT: 99% of people who make cracks about Yoko Ono have never listened to her music, and many of the 1% have only heard her earliest stuff. She is much, much better than she is made out to be, and her music has influenced punk rock, avant-garde/noise, electronic music and a generation of girl rockers from Joan Jett to Throwing Muses. She had little to do with breaking up the Beatles (Brian Epstien's death, Allen Klein's mismanagement and Paul attempting to take a leadership role in Epstien's place broke up the Beatles), and it's time her image was rehabilitated.

That aside, Yoko's Plastic Ono Band on repeat at high volume while strapped down and being waterboarded or whatever wouldn't exactly be pleasant, but then most things wouldn't.
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:12 PM on February 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


Somebody help me like America again.

We need to rekindle our love. Remember how it used to be? It wasn't perfect. But there were times when it was great. Remember landing on the moon? That was fun. Remember how we held hand when the Civil Rights Bill was passed? That was awesome. We should do something like that again.

And remember how great the sex was. Crazy. On fire. We hungered for each other. We've both aged.Put on a few pounds but we're still hot. I'm look at you! You're a hot country.

America, let's go out on a date this Friday, whaddya say? Just you and me. It's time to start over. Wear that classy little black number. I'll put on a tie.

You pick the restaurant.


I'll pick the music.
posted by tkchrist at 2:13 PM on February 26, 2008 [10 favorites]


I give them props on the "Bulls on Parade."

Rage's music is such a great satire of the infantile armchair-anarchist mindset that it would hit terrorists right where it hurts. And it sounds like shit too!
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:17 PM on February 26, 2008


Looks like it was just whatever album they had sitting in the humvee.
posted by destro at 2:17 PM on February 26, 2008


Somebody help me like America again.

If only there was some kind of event coming up where we could participate in choosing our leaders and, by extension, our country's policies.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:18 PM on February 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is just stupid; they are obviously going for a pro-American angle (otherwise why the hell is Neil Diamond in the list), and yet they chose 'Click Click Boom' from Saliva when the same band did a song called 'Pride' which is so jingoistic and pointless that it actually tainted me on the couple of songs that they did to well.

And 'Swan Dive' from (hed) PE? Probably one of that bands more introspective works and a discussion of depression and suicide? From a band that came up with the far more punchy and offensive 'Boom (how you like that?)'?

This list doesn't make any sense. If they want stuff that will keep people up at night or offend them, they should really be asking people who actually listen to music.

I will applaud the inclusion of the Meow Mix theme. That is evil.

And may be a submission on the next MeFi CD swap if we ever do another one...

posted by quin at 2:23 PM on February 26, 2008


no rammstein? no kmfdm? i'm kind of shocked, really.

of course, if you really want to torture people, hook them up with penderecki's threnody for the victims of hiroshima. that is one fucked up piece of music. it's the music nightmares are made of. *shiver*
posted by rmd1023 at 2:33 PM on February 26, 2008


David Gray's Babylon?

I preemptively surrender.
posted by oaf at 2:37 PM on February 26, 2008


If only there was some kind of event coming up where we could participate in choosing our leaders and, by extension, our country's policies.

The Academy Awards?
posted by tkchrist at 2:37 PM on February 26, 2008


Amateurs!

How could they overlook We Built This City on Rock'n'Roll?!??
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:39 PM on February 26, 2008


meowmeowmeowmeowmeowmeowmeowmeowmeowmeowmeowmeowmeowmeowmeowmeow

(Once in sixth grade when my class was being punished for something or other and forced to sit in silence for ten minutes, myself and a collaborator began whispering this at each other until the entire room picked it up, whereupon our teacher (who was slightly deaf, and didn't hear it until it began to build to a crescendo, screamed like she'd suddenly wandered into the Village of the Damned. Good times.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:55 PM on February 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


How long until soldiers start saying "No."?

I think that part of what boot camp is for is to find the one's that would say "no" and see to it that they are not assigned these tasks.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 2:56 PM on February 26, 2008


For years, whenever I had to do a musical audition, I would sing the Meow Mix jingle as operatically as I could muster.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:07 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


You'd think will all their research dollars, they could develop their own. They could put it in the TV commercials, along with controlling drones by playing video games, now you can be in a death metal band... for your country!
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:08 PM on February 26, 2008


Oh, I think you have found your newest MeFi-Music post, Navelgazer.
posted by quin at 3:20 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can't believe they don't use The Four Sergeants' Guantanamo Bay,
At Guantanamo bay,
call her gitmo for short,
not much of a base,
and much less of a port,
one look at the docks
and you know that you're seein
the hottest damn place
in the whole cara-BEE-anne.
...
So ho-rah for old gitmo
on cuba's fair shore
home of the cockroach
the flea
and the whore.

posted by nomisxid at 3:25 PM on February 26, 2008


Man, where do I apply to select playlists for the torturers? I could do such a better job.

Plus, aren't these technically public performances? Doesn't the Army need to kickback to ASCAP?
posted by klangklangston at 3:30 PM on February 26, 2008


“More broadly, I also question why pain-free measures designed to induce psychological stress, especially in the name of extracting information, should also count as "torture."”

Those wouldn’t be. These on the other hand are part of a systematic, pain included, rigorous interrogation scheme. Real interrogation is, in some respects, seduction.

This, the way music is being used here, and how it’s coupled with other documented uses of amateur interrogation techniques on the other hand is a ham fisted foul up on the order of drunkenly crapping your pants as you puke in your lap trying to force yourself on a co-ed sort of effort.

“Why is it somehow worse if it's serving a functional purpose rather than merely as some sort of retributive punishment for wrong-doing?”

A. Because it’s not serving a functional purpose. Examples abound. Greatly prolonged sleep deprivation is torture. The music is just the ‘stupid’ cherry on top.

(plus what’s been said above)

“What? No Muzak version of The Girl From Ipanema?”

Forgive my circumspection, but I do have a bit of knowlege on this. Not the Nifty Package thing, this is something else. Some interrogators used Zamfir’s pan flute music at a nearly inaudible volume. Everyone pretended not to hear it, but there was this constant fluting going on which influenced the guy being questioned. Zamfir was big in his country. The other guys being talked to not so much and they just wrote it off because it was just at the threshold of hearing and if you couldn’t recognize the song, you’d ignore it as squeaky background noise (or so I surmise).

Pont being - aint it odd how people can use music without putting someone’s gonads in a vice, figuratively or literally, yet still get information.

Wacky how one would use music the principles know to influence them versus the Ugh! Blast music at them so they can’t sleep! sort of...I hesitate to call it method. I don’t see any method at all.

Using psychological pressure, noise, et.al. in a stand off situation, that’s one thing. Using it, like this, on someone absolutely under your control?
Good ol’ hammer. Hammer works on all problems. Pound a nail? Hammer. Turn a screw? Hammer. Put in a light bulb? Hammer.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:32 PM on February 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure the music selection matters much when you've been stripped naked, chained to a floor, had water tossed on you, the a/c set to 55 degrees and music and lights are blaring. For a day or two. They play your favorite song ever and it would still be torture.
posted by ryoshu at 3:44 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


bum bum bumble bee bumble bee tuna
bum bum bumble bee bumble bee tuna
posted by casarkos at 5:03 PM on February 26, 2008


I'm sure The Boss also weeps every time Born comes on during a patriotic moment like the fireworks or parades.

I was so thoroughly sick of the song the first time I heard the chorus blaring out someone's stereo speakers that I never bothered to learn, until this thread, that it was about a Vietnam veteran. And considering that the Boss had no problem getting paid to have it used in truck commercials, I doubt he really cares how people perceive it.
posted by pax digita at 5:41 PM on February 26, 2008


They're also considering torturing the prisoners by making them get boring 9 to 5 jobs with lousy medical insurance plans and making sure they work in the cubicle next to the stinky guy who listens to hip hop on his headphones just loud enough for them to hear it. And then they're going to make them all go through the first year of law school over and over and over . . .
posted by The World Famous at 6:17 PM on February 26, 2008


But it is nice to see that they're at least respectful enough not to play The Carpenters' Christmas album on infinite repeat. That would be cruel and unusual.
posted by The World Famous at 6:20 PM on February 26, 2008


Faced with creating a playlist myself, I'd go with the 3500 Hz square waves of YTMND.
posted by Tube at 6:55 PM on February 26, 2008


Diamanda Galás' The Litanies Of Satan.
posted by exlotuseater at 7:31 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think the terrorists should get together and mount some resistance by singing Britney's 'Hit me baby, one more time.'
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:16 PM on February 26, 2008


This on infinite loop would send anybody around the bend.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:22 PM on February 26, 2008


God Bless America. The country that uses 9/11 to still justify its use of torture... And pretend its not torture.

At least this is not the 60s, 70s, 80s or 90s, where torture happened and everyone denied it, at least everyone knows about it and jokes about it... That makes it better, right? right?
posted by subaruwrx at 9:42 PM on February 26, 2008


How did they forget Seven Little Girls?
posted by Afroblanco at 9:44 PM on February 26, 2008


I wonder if they pay the RIAA for the public performance?
posted by niccolo at 9:50 PM on February 26, 2008


And considering that the Boss had no problem getting paid to have it used in truck commercials, I doubt he really cares how people perceive it.

From Wikipedia:

Springsteen refused Chrysler Corporation CEO Lee Iacocca's request to use "Born in the U.S.A." in commercials for Chrysler cars, turning down an offer that would have been worth several million dollars. Instead, the company used the Kenny Rogers-Nikki Ryder song, "The Pride is Back".
posted by Optamystic at 1:24 AM on February 27, 2008


Smedleyman: "I don't see any method at all."

Kurtz: Did they say why, Willard, why they want to terminate my command?
Willard: I was sent on a classified mission, sir.
Kurtz: It's no longer classified, is it? Did they tell you?
Willard: They told me that you had gone totally insane, and that your methods were unsound.
Kurtz: Are my methods unsound?
Willard: I don't see any method at all, sir.
Kurtz: I expected someone like you. What did you expect? Are you an assassin?
Willard: I'm a soldier.
Kurtz: You're neither. You're an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill.

Dunno if you were making a reference, Smedleyman, but if you were, it's pretty damn fitting...
posted by roombythelake at 1:38 AM on February 27, 2008


It's interesting that several of these tunes are on Clear Channel's "no-play" list, but they're ok to torture POW's with.
posted by spirit72 at 5:35 AM on February 27, 2008


The Barney theme song??

The Barney theme song???

I'm assuming no-one here has drawn attention to this particular horror becase they are ignorant of it. I will take waterboarding over 5 hours of that, thank you.
posted by Jilder at 5:43 AM on February 27, 2008


Yuck, yuck. Hey, if they played (insert song) that would really be torture!!! AMIRITE???? TORTURE IS LOLZ!!!!



morons.
posted by signal at 6:28 AM on February 27, 2008


They don't want to get too outrageous. The last Paris Hilton album would cross the line into sheer torture, and is likely to prompt mass suicide.
Just like her career.
posted by drstein at 7:22 AM on February 27, 2008


And considering that the Boss had no problem getting paid to have it used in truck commercials, I doubt he really cares how people perceive it.

Back in the day, Ronald Reagan used it during his platform speech and after that, Bruce didn't play Born in the USA at concerts until a few years ago because he felt people were missing the message.
posted by jmd82 at 7:27 AM on February 27, 2008


More broadly, I also question why pain-free measures designed to induce psychological stress, especially in the name of extracting information, should also count as "torture."

Using music to interrupt sleep or rob people of their sanity is painful, even though the pain doesn't leave marks on the body. To see my point, you should look at two really good movies, Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent and Billy Wilder's One, Two, Three. In Foreign Correspondent, there's a scene where a Dutch politician is kidnapped by fascists and forced to stare into bright lights and listen to loud music that keeps him awake. Hitchcock is very effective in this scene, and it's quite a horrific scene for a movie made in 1940. In One, Two, Three, Jimmy Cagney plays a Coca-Cola executive in West Berlin who has to deal with the fact that the CEO's southern belle daughter has fallen in love with an East German communist. Cagney first tries to deal with the situation by manipulating events so that the East German communist gets detained by East German border guards. After the East German communist gets detained, he is tied to a chair and the guards force him to listen to "Itsy-Bitsy Teeny-Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini." Unlike Hitchcock, Wilder plays the scene for laughs. But both Wilder and Hitchcock start from the same premise. Torture, even allegedly "pain-free" musical torture, is something that the other guy does, something that Communists and fascists do, not something that Americans do. This is not a partisan issue. I was taught that there are levels of moral decency, below which an American should not sink. The fact that our popular culture is now making heroes out of torturers (e.g., 24's Jack Bauer) is a symptom of how sick our politics have become.
posted by jonp72 at 9:14 AM on February 27, 2008


The fact that our popular culture is now making heroes out of torturers (e.g., 24's Jack Bauer) is a symptom of how sick our politics have become.

For someone familiar with Hitchcock and Wilder, I'm surprised that you think that this is a new thing. I realize that they are not very good as 'film,' but you should get out and watch some old Bond movies, at least.
posted by The World Famous at 11:15 AM on February 27, 2008


Most of the time in older movies the torturers were the bad guys, TWF.
posted by tkchrist at 12:08 PM on February 27, 2008


They don't get the Led out ?? omg....
posted by Mardigan at 12:43 PM on February 27, 2008


Depends on what you mean by "older," I think.
posted by The World Famous at 12:48 PM on February 27, 2008


LionIndex, Guantanamera indeed.

Now, I do have to admit that I get sucked into other versions of The Girl from Ipanema--it's the Muzak version of it that drives me nuts.

Just sayin'.
posted by SentientAI at 7:25 AM on February 29, 2008


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