UK-based historian Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison , has a piece up on counterpunch about the use of music in torture sessions at America's finest tax-dollar-funded Caribbean getaway:
There's an ambiguous undercurrent to the catchy pop smash that introduced a pig-tailed Britney Spears to the world in 1999 -- so much so that Jive Records changed the song's title to "… Baby One More Time" after executives feared that it would be perceived as condoning domestic violence.A History of Music Torture in the War on Terror: Hit Me Baby One More Time (Counterpunch, thanks Ned Sublette), and here's an alternate version of the same essay, with images, at Worthington's own blog.
It's a safe bet, however, that neither Britney nor songwriter Max Martin ever anticipated that this undercurrent would be picked up on by U.S. military personnel, when they were ordered to keep prisoners awake by blasting ear-splittingly loud music at them -- for days, weeks or even months on end -- at prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay.
The message, as released Guantánamo prisoner Ruhal Ahmed explained in an interview earlier this year, was less significant than the relentless, inescapable noise. Describing how he experienced music torture "on many occasions," Ahmed said, "I can bear being beaten up, it's not a problem. Once you accept that you're going to go into the interrogation room and be beaten up, it's fine. You can prepare yourself mentally. But when you're being psychologically tortured, you can't." He added, however, that "from the end of 2003 they introduced the music and it became even worse. Before that, you could try and focus on something else. It makes you feel like you are going mad. You lose the plot and it's very scary to think that you might go crazy because of all the music, because of the loud noise, and because after a while you don't hear the lyrics at all, all you hear is heavy banging."
Despite this, the soldiers, who were largely left to their own devices when choosing what to play, frequently selected songs with blunt messages -- "Fuck Your God" by Deicide, for example, which is actually an anti-Christian rant, but one whose title would presumably cause consternation to believers in any religion -- even though, for prisoners not used to Western rock and rap music, the music itself was enough to cause them serious distress.
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Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: email@example.com.