No, I’m not talking about the endless loop of Journey coming from the frat across the street again. While music is usually a positive thing, unfortunately our military and intelligence agencies have decided to use it against “enemy combatants” in the war on terror. The Society for Ethnomusicology, the professional association of ethnomusicologists, condemned this practice in 2007. It took the American Musicological Society (the equivalent for musicologists) until 2008 to get around to taking a stand but hey, better late than never.
It’s been known for a while that American pop music has been projected into battlefields and used in torture chambers to get suspects to crack–both by offending their morals and/or aesthetic taste. It’s usually part of a more sinister and well-honed torture method (laid out in chilling detail in Naomi Klein’s 2007 book The Shock Doctrine, which I’m only now getting around to reading), in which our spooks (or, you know, other countries’ spooks that we subcontract) first deprive prisoners of any sensory input and then flood them with stimulus in the form of strobe lights, electroshocks and loud music. This causes prisoners to regress to a childlike state, lose aspects of their memories and become extremely vulnerable to the power of suggestion–which is how torturers get confessions out of these guys.
That’s where this list from Mental Floss via the WSJ comes in. The CIA’s top choices?
1) Bruce Springsteen, “Born in the USA.” I really don’t like Springsteen either–I think it’s the terrible drum machine. I hope that doesn’t make me a suspected terrorist.
2) Christina Aguilera, “Dirrty.” Apparently the interrogators chose this one because its sexual content would offend the moral views of some of the stricter Muslim suspects. I hadn’t seen this video in a while–I forgot about those horrendous assless chaps she used to wear. Remember when she came on the scene in the late 90s and she was the classy one out of all the teen pop stars (which she kind of is again given the Britney trainwreck)? Like, my grandma bought me the album with “Genie in a Bottle” on it.
3) Nancy Sinatra, “These Boots Were Made for Walking.” I mean, it’s not the greatest song ever, but I don’t think I’d crack after listening to it for a long time (except for maybe that part where the bass line sounds like the bassist is just slowly detuning the instrument…).
4) AC/DC, “Shoot to Thrill” and “Hells Bells.” I dislike AC/DC so much that I am refusing to embed the clips. Take that, Gitmo.
5) Barry Manilow’s oeuvre (so to speak). I will let this quote from the article speak for itself:
The New Zealand town of Christchurch recently blasted the crooner’s tunes throughout their central mall district to drive away the local punks who had been littering the area with graffiti, drinking in public and doing drugs.
I wonder how it feels to be the entire world’s punchline.
6) Barney the Dinosaur, “I Love You.” Given that 90s nostalgia is apparently au courant right now, just watch this clip and party like it’s 1993 (and you’re at preschool). Note the dramatic half-step modulation around 0:31.