De-trivialising music torture as torture-lite

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De-trivialising music torture as torture-lite
Minerva Access is the Institutional Repository of The University of Melbourne
Author/s:
LIN, NATASHA
Title:
De-trivialising music torture as torture-lite
Date:
2012
Citation:
Lin, N. (2012). De-trivialising music torture as torture-lite. Masters Research thesis,
Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, Faculty of VCA & MCM, The University of Melbourne.
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http://hdl.handle.net/11343/38253
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De-trivialising music torture as torture-lite
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De-trivialising Music Torture as Torture-lite
Natasha Lin
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements
of the degree of Master of Music by Research
November 2012
Melbourne Conservatorium of Music
The University of Melbourne
Supervisor:
Dr. Melanie Plesch
Contents
Abstract………………………………………………………………………………...i
Declaration…………………………………………………………………………….ii
Acknowledgements…………………………………………………………..……….iii
Chapter 1: Introduction……………….…………..…….………………………..……1
Chapter 2: Current understandings on music torture ……………………………...….4
Chapter 3: Torture by music……………………….……………………………..……9
Chapter 4: Torture-lite…….…….………………………………………………...….15
Chapter 5: Music torture: Is it really torture-lite?…………..………………….…….23
Chapter 6: “It’s O.K. – it’s only torture-lite!”………..……………………….……...31
Chapter 7: Facing the music……...….….……………………………………………36
Bibliography……….…………………………............................................................39
Abstract
Music torture is an important interdisciplinary issue in need of great research,
particularly in the wake of the events of 11 September 2001. It is an issue that ties
into the broader context of torture, a topic of heated debate in the US-led “War on
Terror”. Arising from this debate is the concept of “torture-lite”, a term that has
emerged within political, social and academic discourse. Although using music as
torture is not a new phenomenon, its importance as a research topic is heightened
within the current political and social climate sensitive to the ethics of torture. Such
sensitivities have resulted in certain interrogation methods, one of which is music
torture, being loosely categorised as torture-lite. However, this categorisation is
fraught with misconceived ideas on the relationship between sound and body, and
mitigates the destructive potential of music torture. Thus, I am arguing that music
torture is not torture-lite, as the term “torture-lite” trivialises the severity of music
torture and favours the continuation of its use.
i
Declaration
This is to certify that
i.
the thesis comprises only my original work towards the Masters
ii.
due acknowledgement has been made in the text to all other material used,
iii.
the thesis is 10, 763 words in length, exclusive of bibliography.
Signed by
_________________________________
Natasha Lin
ii
Acknowledgements
The process of researching this topic has not been an easy one, and it is with
the help of many that this paper can be completed.
My sincere gratitude extends to the various staff in The University of
Melbourne. I thank Professor Catherine Falk for referring me to my supervisor, Dr.
Melanie Plesch, whose academic guidance, support and encouragement has seen the
completion of this thesis. I also thank Mr. Ian Godfrey and Mr. Benjamin Martin for
the various interesting conversations regarding this topic, and Ms. Lena Vigilante for
directing me to the various university library tools available in aiding my research
process.
I thank the staff members at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology: Mr.
Peter Chambers, for having been a fantastic teacher who is a great inspiration in my
pursuit for more knowledge on issues of social injustices, and for introducing me to
Dr. Robin Cameron, whose advice and suggestions on readings on current US torture
regimes has immensely guided the direction of my topic.
I also extend my gratitude to my family and friends for their support and
encouragement on a research topic that resulted in many sleepless nights. A sincere
thank you to a particular friend who gave up valuable time and shared his editorial
expertise to help me throughout this research and writing process.
iii
Chapter 1
Introduction
Music, as a human phenomenon, has permeated throughout our history, our societies and
traditions. Although to analyse and understand the definition, and the function of music
within our societies and cultures is a scope that is beyond this thesis, what is clear, and
what has been stipulated through sociological research,1 is that the importance of music is
extensive. It promotes and maintains health and wellbeing, it functions as a form of social
cohesion and as an expression of autonomy, and it has symbolic importance in times of
celebration, crisis and war. Overall, music has the “seductive power to caress the skin, to
immerse, to sooth, beckon, and heal, to modulate brain waves and massage the release of
certain hormones within the body.” 2 However, less is known about the effect of music
used for negative and violent purposes, or how the potential of music can be harnessed for
the purposes of creating distress, fear and terror.
One such use of music for violent means is its use as a method of interrogation.
Known as music torture, it is the bombardment of loud, repetitive music into the detention
cell where the detainee is kept. This “treatment” usually lasts for hours, and sometimes up
to days and weeks, as part of the overall interrogation repertoire to sleep-deprive and
sensory-overload the detainee for further interrogation. The concern of this method of
interrogation lies within the broader context in the debate on the use of torture, a
discussion that has become especially prominent after the destruction of the World Trade
Centre in New York City on September 11, 2001 (9/11). Particularly after the worldwide
leaks of photographs evidencing the treatment of detainees in Abu Ghraib since 2004,
there have been many international protests against the United States’ (US) uses of torture,
especially considering the United Nations (UN) prohibition of torture since 1984. As a
result, it is now known that the US has adopted various interrogation techniques to
circumvent the technical definition of torture, and has further devised various memoranda
on torture that stipulate the procedures of interrogation, so that such methods cannot be
legally defined as torture. Public discourses now term these specific types of interrogation
Further details on the positive influence music has on well-being can be found in Robert E. Krout, “Music
listening to facilitate relaxation and promote wellness: Integrated aspects of our neurophysiological responses
to music,” The Arts in Psychotherapy 34 (2007); and Philip Ball, The Music Instinct: How Music Works and
Why We Can’t Do Without It (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).
2
Steve Goodman, Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear (Massachusetts: Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, 2010), 10.
1
1
procedures as “torture-lite”: methods that are considered “lighter” in punishment and,
therefore, a sub-category of torture. It is now popularly accepted that music torture is
considered as a torture-lite method of interrogation, one that is, consequently, more
“acceptable” within the debate on the ethical nature of torture, and within the terrorstricken context of safeguarding national security.
To conveniently categorise music torture as torture-lite is an assumptive
generalisation of what music is, an assumption that ignores the potential of sound and its
effects on a physiological and psychological level. In other words, the impact of sound on
the human body cannot be undermined. This can be best understood through the
destructive impact of excessive sound on the auditory complex. Short, explosive sounds
that exceed 140dB can sever the connection between the Organ of Corti structure with the
basilar membrane of the ear, causing immediate, permanent hearing loss.3 Similarly,
exposure to noise at “relatively high intensity levels (e.g. 85dB or higher) over an extended
period of time” causes a pathological metabolic change in the cilia hair cells of the ear,
which “will lead to the impairment of internal amplification of the travelling waves of the
cochlea”.4 Ultimately, continuous exposure to excessive, intense sound can cause
“diminished intellectual capacity, accelerated respiration and heartbeat, hypertension,
slowed digestion, neurosis, [and] altered diction”.5
However, it is the impact of excessive sound on the human psyche wherein lies the
destructive potential of music as a method of torture. It is the dimension of sound, and
music being part of the larger landscape of sound, which brings “into the field of power the
dimension of unsound, of frequencies just outside the periphery of human audibility,
infrasound and ultrasound, as well as the nonstandard use of popular music, not as a source
of pleasure, but for irritation, manipulation, pain, and torture.”6 The symbolic use of sound
as a form of territorial delineation has been implemented in the deterrence of loitering in
public spaces by certain countries. One can also imagine how such symbolism can be
translated from the use of music as a form of religious and political insult to a detainee in a
Eileen Daniel, “Noise and Hearing Loss: A Review” Journal of School Health 77, 5 (2007), 226.
Fei Zhao et. al., “Music exposure and hearing disorders: An overview” International Journal of Audiology,
49 (2010): 55.
5
Jacques Attali, Noise: the Political Economy of Music, translated by Brian Massumi (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota, 1985), 27. This is also the basis of noise control in countries including the United
Kingdom (UK), Canada, the US and Australia.
6
Goodman, Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the ecology of fear, 17.
3
4
2
military prison. Thus, to conveniently categorise music torture as torture-lite is a
generalisation that assumes what music is, an assumption that ignores the intimate
relationship between sound and the body. As Jacques Attali states, sound, “beyond a
certain limit, becomes an immaterial weapon of death”.7
I am arguing that music torture has only been conveniently, and deceptively,
stereotyped as a torture-lite method in order to continue using it for interrogation purposes
by the US.8 Chapters Two and Three will explain current understandings in scholarship on
the application and rationale of music torture. The definition of torture-lite will be further
discussed in Chapter Four, from which the following chapter will lead to the argument
about why music torture cannot be categorised as a method of torture-lite. Finally, in
Chapter Six, it will be discussed as to why it is now popularly accepted that music torture
is still considered a torture-lite method of interrogation, one that is, consequently, more
“acceptable” within the debate on the ethical nature of torture, and within the terrorstricken context of safeguarding national security and liberty.
Through exploring the rationale on the uses of music torture, the severity from the
effects of music torture and the comparisons between the traditional methods of torture and
contemporary methods of torture-lite, I will argue that using categorical differences for
certain interrogation methods are convenient and crucial for the US in their “War Against
Terror”. I suggest a need for clear, unambiguous legal frameworks and agencies to oversee
current methods of interrogation.
7
Attali, Noise: the Political Economy of Music, 27.
This falls within the general argument that torture-lite methods are, overall, methods of torture. However,
an expansion on this argument will exceed the limited scope of this thesis.
8
3
Chapter 2
Current understandings on music torture
There is consensus in scholarship recognising the severity of the effects of music
torture, despite the relevant literature on this topic being relatively recent. The
literature on this issue also highlights the lack of legal framework that oversees the
application of this interrogation method in the US detention centres. This chapter
provides a summary of the topics considered most relevant to this thesis. It begins
with a discussion on the culturally exploitative nature of music torture, followed by an
outline on the public’s trivial responses to music torture. This is followed by an
exploration of current understandings on the legal ambiguities of the application of
music torture, which will be discussed in relevance to current understandings of
torture-lite methods of interrogation.
Music as a “cultural weapon”
The literature on music torture asserts that it is a culturally offensive method
of interrogation utilised by the US. One of the most prominent scholars in the area of
music torture, Suzanne Cusick, argues that the use of music torture by the US is an
example of a cultural warfare that perpetuates their torture regime.1 She maintains that
the use of Western music to intentionally humiliate and offend detainees from a
different cultural background not only degrades the cultural value of Western music,
but most importantly, that this use of music is an ethnocentric expression for the
“Western domination of the rest of the world”,2 a political dominance of a certain
culture to be imposed and subjected onto another. Furthermore, Moustafa Bayoumi
identifies music torture as an interrogation method whereby “cultural differences are
exploited and multiculturalism becomes a strategy for domination”,3 and states that it
is quite clear that such techniques were only devised “to force, shame and humiliate”
detainees.4 Both authors assert that music torture is an example of political tactic that
Suzanne Cusick and Brendan Joseph, “Across an Invisible Line: A conversation about Music and
Torture,” Grey Room 42 (2011), 15.
2
Cusick and Joseph, “Across an Invisible Line: A conversation about music and torture”, 13.
3
Moustafa Bayoumi, “Disco Inferno,” The Nation (26 December 2005): 34.
4
Bayoumi, “Disco Inferno,” 34.
1
4
is “grimly ironic in a war that is putatively about spreading universal American
values”,5 a sentiment that is also expressed by Thomas Keenan.6
Additionally, Bruce Johnson and Martin Cloonan have identified the culturally
offensive nature of music torture, and have emphasised the irony of this issue in
relation to the trivialisation surrounding the general perception on music torture in the
public. Both researchers details how the media has responded to the issue of music
torture. Such responses ranged from sarcasm and black humour, to vague insult and
humiliation to the victims.7 For instance, in the face of publicising the use of Western
pop and rock as an interrogation weapon, radio stations, newspapers and TV shows
covered the headlines as nothing more than a topic for a moment of humourous
relief.8 On this point, both scholars argue that the control of one’s soundscape is not at
all trivial, given the numerous legal battles that have signified the importance of
sound as part of autonomy for individuals across various demographics from the
United Kingdom, Japan and Australia.9
The misunderstanding of music torture
1. Language
The issue of triviality is also pursued by Cusick and Brendan Joseph. Both
point out that the misinformed perception of music torture being innocuous lies in the
fundamental definitions and general perception of “music” – a word that, in its
everyday use, will not usually be used next to the other, violence-associated
connotations as “torture”.10 They raise the issue that this confounding pair of words is
an example of a form of inherent violence that imposes certain ideologies and
assumptions to the meaning of the terms. This means that acoustic bombardment is
considered only as “torture lite”, or a form of “no-touch torture” in the language of
Bayoumi, “Disco Inferno,” 33.
Thomas Keenan, paper summary delivered for Music Torture: A One Day Conference, Bard
University, 19 May 2009, http://hrp.bard.edu/musictorture/. The paper is not available beyond the
abstract provided.
7
Bruce Johnson and Martin Cloonan, Dark Side of the Tune: Popular Music and Violence (Surrey:
Ashgate, 2009), 190.
8
Martin Cloonan, “Bad Vibrations,” New Humanist (April 2009): 31.
9
Johnson and Cloonan, Dark Side of the Tune: Popular Music and Violence, 161.
10
Cusick and Joseph, “Across an invisible line: A conversation about music and torture”, 9.
5
6
5
torture,11 which problematically perpetuates a mitigating pop-culture notion that the
use of music as torture is somewhat considered a lighter form of punishment in the
torture spectrum.
This sentiment is likewise echoed by one of the most prominent authors in the
field of torture-lite, Jessica Wolfendale. She emphasises the harm of categorising
certain torture methods within a particular language framework, as such framework
disguises the meaning of violence and does little to remove itself from correlations as
minimal or light, and therefore, more tolerable.12 She argues that the term “torturelite” mitigates the severity of consequences from such methods of interrogation and
perpetuates the misguided definitions of such torture acts.13 From this, she asserts that
this form of “clean torture” has thus become widespread during the twentieth century
because the lack of visible forms of pain on the victims “made it easier for
governments to hide their use of torture from human rights monitors”.14 Again, this
sentiment is also expressed by Cusick and Bayoumi, both of whom claim that the use
of music torture is a “perfect vehicle” in current neoliberal states,15 reflecting a
change in political mentality on the state of national security,16 and particularly useful
to democratic states in their “strong interest in maintaining public support and
avoiding the attention of human rights organisations".17
2. Legal ambiguity
Ian Hill, who expresses that such misconception does little to alleviate the
legal ambiguity surrounding music torture, also contends that there exists the
misconception that music torture is a lighter form of torture.18 Hill’s research is
perhaps some of the most detailed in examining how sound became a character of
contemporary political and cultural warfare. Although his research is predominantly
based on the general use of sonic warfare rather than a specific analysis on the use of
Cusick and Joseph, “Across an invisible line: A conversation about music and torture”, 11.
Jessica Wolfendale, “The Myth of ‘Torture lite’”, Ethics & International Affairs 23, no. 1 (2009): 53.
13
Wolfendale, “The Myth of ‘Torture lite’,” 54.
14
Wolfendale, “The Myth of ‘Torture lite’,” 52.
15
Cusick and Joseph, “Across an invisible line: A conversation about music and torture”, 13.
16
Branden Joseph, “Biomusic,” Grey Room 45 (2011): 131.
17
Wolfendale, “The Myth of ‘Torture lite’,” 48.
18
Ian E. J. Hill, “Not Quite Bleeding from the Ears: Amplifying Sonic Torture,” Western Journal of
Communication, 76, no. 3 (2012): 231.
11
12
6
music in psychological operations, his research has contributed to the overall
understanding of the legal ambiguity surrounding the issue of music torture. In what
he describes as “definitional chaos”, Hill argues that ambiguity in legislation
regarding the use of sonic torture has led to the permission, perpetuation and overall
irresponsibility in its use,19 and points out that the attempts by the US to justify the
mistreatment of detainees are a demonstration of the ambiguity using “the
circumlocution of sonic torture’s pain”.20 His discussion leads to an analysis on a
2002 report prepared by Jay S. Bybee, “Standards of Conduct for Interrogation” and
asserts that even if there may be testimonials evidencing suffering caused by sonic
torture, such methods of interrogation used by the US military do not fall under the
same purview as implied by the report, because “an exact measurement of the
intended suffering produced by the noise cannot be calculated.”21
The use of legal ambiguity to allow the US to circumvent international antitorture laws was similarly asserted by Philippe Sands, who contended that the US
intentionally ratified their signatory to the 1984 United Nations Convention against
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Punishment, to enable the
government to evade certain methods of interrogation. He also emphasises that it is
the highest levels of administration that have allowed the perpetuation of certain
methods of interrogation that are otherwise illegalised by the United Nations, as well
as Article No. 3 of the Geneva Conventions.22 This was a rhetoric that was also
echoed by Cusick, who argue that the “ambiguity confirms that such use of music is
subject to guidance from high levels in the chain of command.”23 Although the
research by Sands predominantly focuses on the use and ethicality of torture, it
nevertheless highlights the general state of legal ambiguity framing the applications of
interrogation by the US.
Hill, “Not Quite Bleeding from the Ears: Amplifying Sonic Torture,” 231.
Hill, “Not Quite Bleeding from the Ears: Amplifying Sonic Torture,” 231.
21
Hill, “Not Quite Bleeding from the Ears: Amplifying Sonic Torture,” 231.
22
Philippe Sands, “The Green Light,” May 2008,
http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/05/guantanamo200805. My sincerest gratitude
extends to Dr. Robin Cameron, who directed me to this reference.
23
Suzanne Cusick, “ ‘You are in a place that is out of the world…’: Music in the Detention Camps of
the Global War on Terror,” Journal of the Society for American Music 2, no. 1 (2008): 16.
19
20
7
3. A change in political mentality
One of the most prominent researchers in the field of torture is Alfred McCoy,
whose scholarship into the history and application of torture in the US has contributed
to the understanding of current ethical debates on the issue of torture. His work
suggests that a change in political mentality since the Cold War has enticed the US to
increase their investment into the field of psychological manipulations for
interrogation purposes. McCoy also suggests that the changing methods of
interrogation have led to the severing of physical contact between the interrogator and
the victim, which he argues has the added effect of delusions of power for the torturer.
The use of sensory deprivation and stimulation with a turn of a knob, for example,
allows the interrogator to “delude himself that he is using no force or coercion.’’24 In
addition to this, Wolfendale states that a torturer who “does not feel responsible for
the victim’s pain…is more likely to continue torturing, and less likely to question the
morality of his actions”, 25 a concept that is also expressed by Cusick and Joseph.26
Overall, the scholarship on the issue of music torture signifies a need for legal
framework to oversee the application of this method of interrogation – a need that is
important for human rights organisations as its consequences are severe. The
literature also suggests that this method of torture has become embedded within the
overall political scheme for the US to circumvent their use of questionable
interrogation methods. However, concern must be raised about whether its
categorisation as torture-lite indeed perpetuates its trivialisation, as such trivialisation
already exists within the language of torture-lite – a matter that is yet to be further
explored in literature.27 Indeed, considering that scholarship on the issue of music
torture has only been active in the last decade, and given that research in this area is
fraught with red-tape and opacity, progress in answering this question would be
greatly hindered.
24
Alfred McCoy, A question of torture: CIA interrogation, from the Cold War (New York:
Metropolitan Books, 2006), 47.
25
Wolfendale, “The Myth of ‘Torture lite’,” 56.
26
Cusick and Joseph, “Across an invisible line: A conversation about music and torture”, 14.
27
This was expressed by Jonothan Pieslak, Sound Targets: American soldiers and music in the Iraq
War (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009), 98.
8
Chapter 3
Torture by music
Definition
Music torture is a method of torture that exploits the use of music to intentionally humiliate
and mentally exhaust another individual. According to the UN Convention Against Torture
and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, torture is “any act by
which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a
person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a
confession”.1 Music torture has been an interrogation method utilitised by the US foreign
agencies since the Cold War; however, it has become particularly prominent as a method
of torture post-9/11 for the “War on Terror”.2 Ex-detainees from their testimonials have
stated its use in various U.S. detention centres: Bagram Air Force Base, Afghanistan;
Camp Nama (Baghdad), Iraq; Forward Operating Base Tiger (Al-Qaim), Iraq; Mosul Air
Force Base, Iraq; Guantanamo, Cuba; Bagdad Central Prison (Abu Ghraib), Iraq; Camp
Cropper (Baghdad), Iraq, as well as in other various CIA “black-site” detention centres.3 In
these sites, loud music is often used to cause sleep deprivation as part of the interrogation
procedure, and as such is used in conjunction with other methods of torture – such as
subjecting the individual to stress-positions, extremes in temperatures, strobe lighting and
arduously long interrogation sessions.4 In other instances, blasting music into their cells is
alternated with verbal interrogation sessions, as the intention of prolonged exposure to the
music is thought to “soften up” or “fry them” for subsequent interrogation sessions.5
Ultimately, the function of music for such purposes is to “break” the mental willpower of
1
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Dec. 10,
1984, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1465, 85. Due to the limited scope of this thesis, the definition of
music torture will be understood as part of the overarching theme of “acoustic” torture, however, with a
specific focus on the use of “music” for torture purposes. Examples of music torture include the forced
singing and listening to enemy’s songs, the latter being the central focus of this paper. For more information
on the different types of music torture, see Steve Goodman, Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect and the ecology of
Fear (Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2010), and Bruce Johnson and Martin Cloonan,
Dark side of the tune: Popular music and violence (Surrey, Great Britain: Ashgate, 2009).
2
Moustafa Bayoumi, “Disco Inferno,” The Nation, 26 December 2005, 32.
3
Suzanne Cusick, “ ‘You are in a place that is out of the world…’: Music in the Detention Camps of the
Global War on Terror,” Journal of the Society for American Music 2, no. 1 (2008): 1.
4
International Committee of the Red Cross, “ ICRC report on the treatment of fourteen ‘high value
detainees’ in CIA custody,” February, 2007, http://assets.nybooks.com/media/doc/2010/04/22/icrcreport.pdf.
5
See Ian E. J. Hill, “Not Quite Bleeding from the Ears: Amplifying Sonic Torture,” Western Journal of
Communication, 76, no. 3 (2012): 218; and Marshall Sella, “The sound of things to come,” New York Times,
23 March 2003, www.nytimes.com/2003/03/23/magazine/23SOUND.html.
9
detainees.6
A historical perspective
There have been various examples throughout history whereby music has become a
site for power to be exerted over another. The earliest example of the use of music as a site
of power – and one of the most violent of its early examples – can be dated to the sixth
century, Sicily. Victims of the dictator, Phalaris, would be put inside a bronze bull –
specially made with reeds coming out of its nostrils – so that when roasted alive, the
screams of their pain will be played out through these reeds for the enjoyment of the
dictator.7 A more subtle tone of power interplay through music occurred in 1945, when
Winston Churchill was elected to speak to Britain’s House of Commons. His party greeted
him with “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”, to which the opposition party retaliated with
“The Red Flag”, an encounter that Roy Jenkins referred to as “competitive community
singing”.8 However, one of the most prominent and perhaps the most politically successful
use of music as a form of ‘combat’ was in 1989, when the Panamian President, General
Noriega, was forced out of hiding from the Vatican embassy in Panama City after music
was played by the United State troops loudly for several days.9
More harrowing examples of utilising music as a means of dominance are its use to
humiliate and deprecate human worth, as was evidenced in the treatment of Jewish
prisoners in the Sachsenhausen and Auschwitz concentration camps during World War II.
Prisoners were forced into playing, singing and listening to patriotic National Socialist
music, with immediate threats of death and punishment if processes of the music-making
were in any way “incorrect” in the eyes of the officials (such as poor pronunciation and
sheer exhaustion from singing during hard labour).10 A 1970s Government enquiry also
found similar use of music as a form of abuse onto another individual in Northern Ireland,
Physicians For Human Rights, “Leave no marks,” August 2007, http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/wpcontent/uploads/pdf/07801-etn-leave-no-marks.pdf.
7
John Hamilton, paper summary delivered for Music Torture: A One Day Conference, Bard University, 19
May 2009, http://hrp.bard.edu/musictorture/. The paper is not available beyond the abstract provided.
8
Roy Jenkins, Churchill: A biography (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001), 803.
9
Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in
Panama,” November 1995, 58, http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/doctrine/history/justcaus.pdf.
10
Juliane Brauer, Musik im Konzentrationslager Sachsenhausen (Berlin: Metropol, 2009), 152. Note that
using music to torture Jewish prisoners was already a developed practice. See Guido Fackler, “Music in
Concentration Camps 1933 – 1945”, http://www.music.ucsb.edu/projects/musicandpolitics/archive/20071/fackler.html.
6
10
whereby security forces had physically mistreated detainees by placing hoods on them,
making them stand up against walls, depriving them of food and sleep, and subjecting
them to such methods of torture for the purposes to disorientate prisoners. 11
The potency for music to be used as a means to politically dominate another
throughout history is particularly highlighted during the Cold War. It was during this
period that the use of music became a part of the prominent pursuit of psychological
warfare. In 1968, an electronic-music researcher by the name of Manfred Eaton
accidentally tumbled on the proof that “the use of muscle stimulation” can “control facial
expressions or eye movements” and has the potential as a “technique [for] both sensory
deprivation and sensory bombardment”.12 He hypothesised that “music in the future…will
become an art of induced psychological [and] physiological state”, and gradually geared
his research to the experimentation of psychological manipulations via sensory
deprivation, bombardment, stress, and other external effects or “stimulus”, all to
disorientate the psyche of an individual to “achieve a desired state” – whichever this
“desired” state may be.13 As Eaton’s research was conducted during a particularly
politically volatile time of the Cold War, this research (and other psychological
experiments concerning the use of various drugs and the Central Intelligence Agency’s
(CIA) fascination over mind control experiments) nevertheless reflected what musicologist
Branden Joseph refers to as the “larger cultural imagery through which official policies of
torture are legitimised today”.14 Furthermore, as aptly summed up by Keenan,
Torture and music have long been connected and nothing in the history or nature of
music prevents it from being put to terrible uses due to its very force of its capacity
to transport our thoughts and move our feelings makes it a perfect instrument for
sensory deprivation, madness, or worse.15
See “Report of the enquiry into allegations against the security forces of physical brutality in Northern
Ireland arising out of the events of 9 August, 1971,” London, 1971, prepared by Edmund Compton. HMSO,
Cmnd.4823, p. 16
12
Manfred Eaton, Electronic Music: A Handbook of Sound Synthesis and Control (Kansas City: ORCUS,
1971), 67.
13
Eaton, Electronic Music: A Handbook of Sound Synthesis and Control, 67.
14
Branden Joseph, “Biomusic,” Grey Room 45 (2011): 143.
15
Thomas Keenan, paper summary delivered for Music Torture: A One Day Conference, Bard University, 19
May 2009, http://hrp.bard.edu/musictorture/. The paper is not available beyond the abstract provided.
11
11
Into “the Disco”
The calculated use of music torture in US military detention centres is difficult to
trace, as evidence of its uses are primarily based on either “debriefings of released
detainees by international human rights organisations and reporters”, on the accounts
detained persons have given to their lawyers, or “on urban legends that circulate on the
internet, some of which are corroborated by the other two kinds of accounts”.16 To make
matters more difficult, recounts of torture from U.S. detention are generally restricted. All
released persons are required to “sign a non-disclosure agreement, pledging to reveal
nothing about the detention”,17 which is further compounded by discretional threats to
detainees’ future safeties to ensure that such silences will be maintained.18
Despite such difficulties, humanitarian work by international organisation such as
the United Nations and Amnesty International have revealed the psychologically
destructive nature of music used for interrogation. Music is said to be “blasted” loudly into
individual cells where the detainee are held, during transit while the detainee is being
transported to and from detention centres, or featured within a specially designated room
referred to as “the Disco”.19 Frequent types of music used are pop music such as those of
Christina Aguilera, Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, Nine Inch Nails’ “Mr. Self Destruct”
and “March of the Pigs”, Queen’s “We Are The Champions”; soundtrack to the movie
XXX, “Devil in the smoke” theme, “9/11 theme”, “songs in Arabic”, loud rap and heavy
metal music, and also to genres of rock, country, hard-rock and hip-hop songs;20 as well as
the “I Love You” song from Barney and Friends and songs from Sesame Street.21 It is
important to note that the process of music torture is almost always coupled with physical
Suzanne Cusick and Branden Joseph, “Across an invisible line: A conversation about music and torture,”
Grey Room 42 (2009): 6.
17
Cusick, “ ‘You are in a place that is out of the world…’ ,” 5.
18
Cusick, “ ‘You are in a place that is out of the world. . .’,” 5.
19
More information can be found in Ian E. J. Hill, “Not Quite Bleeding from the Ears: Amplifying Sonic
Torture,” Western Journal of Communication 76, no. 3 (2012); Stephen Grey and Ian Cobain, “Suspect’s
Tale of Travel and Torture,” The Guardian, August 2, 2005,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2005/aug/02/guantanamo.humanrights; and Richard Norton-Taylor, “US
Troops Face New Torture Claims,” The Guardian, September 14, 2004,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/sep/14/iraq.richardnortontaylor.
20
Cusick, “ ‘You are in a place that is out of the world…’: Music in the Detention Camps of the Global War
on Terror,” 21.
21
Adam Zagorin and Michael Duffy, “Inside the Interrogation of Detainee 063,” Time Magazine, June 12,
2005, http://www.time.com/time/2006/log/log.pdf; and Jon Ronson, The Men Who Stare at Goats (London:
Simon and Schuster, 2004), 121.
16
12
brutality.22 The consequences experienced by these detainees from music torture were
violent physical response (vomiting), mental stress (sleep deprivation, spatial
disorientation) and psychological detriments (feelings of hopelessness, severe posttraumatic stress disorders, hypersensitivity to noise, and psychologically damaging
thoughts of self-harm and suicide attempts).23 Thus, the function of music torture is to
overwhelm the senses of the victim to render him or her psychologically vulnerable to
external stimuli.24
Behind the music
In his book, The Men Who Stare At Goats, journalist Jon Ronnon observes that
using music for mental torture had been popularised and perfected by Jim Channon, who,
in the late 1970s, was a visionary Army colonel who started a division called the “First
Earth Battalion”.25 Channon wrote a 125-page manual for the division, and adopted ideas
from the Californian “Human Potential Movement” as a template to alternative military
warfare, laying out the foundations from practices of spirituality and altered states of
consciousness – the latter of which he mentions the use of music as a carrier wave of
consciousness, an idea that was initially postulated by Steven Halpern.26 Accordingly,
Channon proposed the effectiveness of using loudspeakers in battlefield to broadcast
“discordant sounds” such as “acid-rock music out of sync” in order to confuse the mindstate of the enemy, as well as the use of similar sounds in the interrogation arena.27
22
Physical brutality is the severe gross negligence to the wellbeing of the individual. Testimonials from
tortured detainees reflect a range of physical abuse such as heavy beating, penis slashings, body being hung
up and exposure to extreme temperatures. More information can be found in Grey and Cobain, “Suspect’s
Tale of Travel and Torture”; and Zagorin and Duffy, “Inside the Interrogation of Detainee 063”; and
International Committee of the Red Cross, “ ICRC report on the treatment of fourteen ‘high value detainees’
in CIA custody,” 10.
23
Further details can be found in Carlotta Gall and David Rohde, “New Charges Raise Questions on Abuse
at Afghan Prisons,” The New York Times, Sept. 17, 2004; Rory McCarthy, “They abused me and stole my
dignity,” The Guardian, May 13, 2004; Cusick, ‘“You are in a place that is out of the world…”: Music in the
Detention Camps of the “Global War on Terror”, 23; Cusick and Joseph, “Across an invisible line: A
conversation about music and torture,” 5 and Hill, “Not Quite Bleeding from the Ears: Amplifying Sonic
Torture,” 227.
24
Bayoumi, “Disco Inferno,” 32. So traumatic were the victims’ experiences that many have singled out
music torture as one of the most unbearable interrogation method they have ever endured. More details can
be found in Hill, “Not Quite Bleeding from the Ears: Amplifying Sonic Torture,” 227.
25
Ronson, Men Who Stare At Goats, 122.
26
More information can be found in Jon Ronson, Men Who Stare At Goats, 122.
27
Ronson, Men Who Stare At Goats, 123.
13
It was during this volatile period of the Cold War that the US government was in a
competitive pursuit for many forms of psychological and mind-altering experiments.
“Truth serums”, hypnosis and mind-altering drugs such as LSD, mescaline and morphine
were just some of the substances that were experimented with in various military and
university laboratories in both northern America and Canada. These experiments were in
line with the government’s keen interest to possess brain-washing, mind-altering
techniques to maximise the effectiveness of interrogation and torture, and findings from
these experiments solidified one of the first CIA interrogation manual, the 1963 KUBARK
Counterintelligence Handbook. Furthermore, the government also showed interest in the
work of Manford Eaton, who concluded that music is capable of being utilised as “an art to
induce psychological and physiological states” and as a “technique [for] both sensory
deprivation and sensory bombardment”,28 thus further contributing to the gradually popular
idea of using sound as a means to disorientate the enemy.
The concept of using music as a method of dominance in warfare is not a new one.
The act of using music as torture has revealed “music’s destructive possibilities as an
enduring and powerful reality within our historical past and present”,29 owing to the
concept that music can be used to render an individual powerless and vulnerable.
Currently, in the so-called “War on Terror”, music is used as part of the US Psychological
Operations (PsyOps) as it is believed to be effective in disrupting a person’s spatial
orientation, sense of balance and physical coordination. However, despite the severe
symptoms expressed by victim testimonials, the US government continues to utilise music
torture. This is a concerning issue that needs to be discussed alongside the issue of ‘torturelite’.
28
Eaton, Electronic Music: A Handbook of Sound Synthesis and Control, 67.
Lily E. Hirsch, “Do you really want to hurt me? Music as Punishment in the United States Legal System,”
Popular Music and Society, 34, no. 1, 2011: 35.
29
14
Chapter 4
Torture-lite
Definition
The term “torture-lite” first appeared in public discourses of journalists, military
intelligence personnel and academics, and has since become a widely discussed topic in
the broad scheme of torture. Also described as “enhanced interrogation techniques”, “stress
and duress methods”, “non-lethal” or “non-coercive” interrogation, torture-lite refers to
interrogation methods that are claimed to be more restrained and less severe than fullblown torture. Such methods include extended sleep deprivation, prolonged exposure to
noise and light bombardment, forced standing or kneeling in painful positions, forced
nakedness, sexual humiliation and the manipulation of heat and cold (sensory overstimulation).1 Conditions of sensory deprivation have also been documented, with
detainees forcibly hooded and wearing goggles that have been spray-painted to prevent
vision.2
No-touch torture
Torture-lite methods of interrogation refer to a range of techniques that “do not
physically mutilate the victim’s body”, in that the mutilation does not leave immediate
superficial evidence of the abuse.3 This is the primary difference in the general
understanding of torture, which involves methods of interrogation that cause physical pain
and is inflicted through grievous bodily harm, so that the body will be left with
immediately visible marks from the abuse. The differences between full-blown torture and
torture-lite are ambiguous as the differences are fraught with technicalities: full-blown
torture, or torture in general, as defined through the United Nations Convention Against
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Punishment or Treatment, is the
intentional infliction of pain, physically and mentally, for the purposes of obtaining
information. Torture-lite, on the other hand, is characterised by the apparent absence of
1
Further information on various types of torture-lite methods of interrogation can be found in Duncan
Campbell, “ U.S. interrogators turn to torture-lite,” The Guardian, 25 January 2003,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/jan/25/usa.alqaida.
2
Shannon Bosch, “ ‘Torture-lite’ in the ‘wild-zone of power,’” Comparative and International Law Journal
of Southern Africa, 38, no. 2 (2005): 187.
3
Jessica Wolfendale, “The Myth of ‘Torture lite’,” Ethics and International Affairs 23, no. 1 (2009): 47.
15
any “serious physical injury”, or the absence of the “threat of immanent death.”4
According to the U.S. Department of Justice Memorandum on the use of torture (now
commonly known as the “Torture Memos”),5 by limiting the repeated use of methods such
as walling, facial slap, facial holds, cramp confinement, stress positions, and sleep
deprivation, will only cause “physical discomfort” and feelings of startledness, fear and
insult to the receiver, rather than inducing physical and/or mental pain.6 Arguably, it is
conclusive that effects of torture-lite methods predominantly focus on the psychological
aspect of the interrogation procedures,7 and by doing so involve the manipulation of the
body in order to alter its perception of being – a much more dangerous effect than the
immediacy of visible pain imprinted onto the body.
The focus on the psychology of the victim is reflected through the torture-lite
‘model’ of interrogation: that harsh, direct methods of abuse cannot force detainees to tell
the truth – rather, this effect is achieved through inducing feelings of hopelessness, despair
and futility.8 To achieve this state of disrupted mentality, besides the methods already
mentioned, general sensory deprivation is used to induce feelings of depression, so that the
detainees become psychologically weak and dependent on any human contact.9 This means
that sensory deprivation produces learned helplessness in detainees, which aims to
demoralise them and to induce feelings of utter despair and dependency on their
US Department of Justice, “Memorandum for John Rizzo: Interrogation of al Quaeda Operative,”
Washington D.C. 20530, 1 August 2002, p. 12.
5
The “Torture Memos” is a set of legal memoranda issued from the US Department of Justice as a response
to address the legal opinion of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and the US torture statute, 18
U.S.C. sections 2340 – 2340A. John Yoo, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General, drafted the memorandum,
which was signed by Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee. The memorandum stated that acts that may be
largely regarded as torture may be legally permissible under Presidential authority during the “War on
Terror”, and has subsequently raised much controversy and has since been repudiated since the Obama
presidency in 2009.
6
The 18 U.S.C. 2340A makes it a criminal offence for any person “outside of the United States to commit or
attempt to commit torture”. Section 2340(1) defines torture as: “an act committed by a person acting under
the colour of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain
or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody of physical control.”
7
Further discussions on the psychological differences between torture and torture-lite, please refer to David
Sussman, “Torture-lite: A Response,” Ethics and International Affairs 23, no. 1 (2009): 63 – 67.
8
M. Gregg Bloch, “Torture-lite: It’s wrong, and it might work,” Washington Post Opinions, 28 May 2011,
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/torture-lite-its-wrong-and-it-mightwork/2011/05/19/AGWIVzCH_story.html.
9
This concept derived from the theories of “learned helplessness” in psychology, which was initially
influential in the treatment of depression and was later developed by the military in survival training and in
refining their interrogation methods. Further information on this topic can be found from Scott Shane, “2
U.S. Architects of Harsh Tactics in 9/11’s wake”, 11 August 2009,
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/12/us/12psychs.html?pagewanted=all.
4
16
interrogators.10 Whether or not this constitutes the same definition of cruelty, degradation
and other inhumane treatment is a matter for legal debate;11 however, it is clear that
methods of torture-lite do involve the degradation of victims’ sense of self worth through
psychological and sensory manipulations.
History
Concepts of torture-lite interrogation are not a post-9/11 phenomenon. As
mentioned in the previous chapter, one of the first interrogation manuals that was
published by the US was the KUBARK interrogation manual, which specified methods
that focused on psychological torture as the most effective in extracting information. Such
methods, dubbed as “non-coercive” interrogation techniques, include psychological
manipulations through creating an “unsettling effect”, feelings of guilt, isolation and
disorientation. The manual “spel[t] out a revolutionary two-phase form of torture that
relied on sensory deprivation and self-inflicted pain for an effect that, for the first time in
the two millennia of this cruel science, was more psychological than physical”.12
Additionally, in 1983, another interrogation manual, the “Human Resource Exploitation
Training Manual”,13 also detailed methods to humiliate and disorientate detainees through
stripping, blindfolding, imprisonment in a windowless cell and sleep deprivation. Both
manuals are examples of the history of torture that illustrated a change in the political
mentality about torture since the Cold War, as it began to focus on psychological
alterations, deprivation and the stimulation of senses and other forms of methods that
induces and maintains ‘pain’ on a psychological level, regardless of the moralality or
ethics of the procedures.
The concept of torture-lite is not confined to the US. In 1971, an enquiry was made
before the European Court of Human Rights on the treatment of suspected Irish
Campbell, “ U.S. interrogators turn to torture-lite”.
According to the “Torture Memos”, feelings of hopelessness, depression and suicidal tendencies do not fall
within the legal definition of “mental pain”. As a result, such methods of interrogation fall outside the
definition of torture. This is an assertion clearly stated by the US Department of Justice, “Memorandum for
John Rizzo: Interrogation of al Quaeda Operative,” Washington D.C. 20530, 1 August 2002, particularly p.
12 - 15.
12
Alfred McCoy, A question of torture: CIA interrogation, from the Cold War (New York: Metropolitan
Books, 2006), 50.
13
This manual was used in at least seven US training courses conducted in Latin America between the years
1982 to 1987. The document was later de-classified in 1989.
10
11
17
Republican Army (IRA) members by the UK. It was found that suspected persons were
subjected to a myriad of sensory deprivation and disorientation practices, all within a range
of stress and duress techniques that were labeled the “Five Techniques”. Detainees
subjected to these techniques showed a variety of disturbing effects: some could not recall
simple facts (including the names of their own children) or articulate coherent sentences.
Others wept continually, suffered from headaches and recurring nightmares, and most
showed gross symptoms of anxiety.14
There is no research into comparing the psychological detriment from torture
and/or torture-lite interrogation techniques, due to their questionable ethical nature.
However, an interesting qualitative research was conducted in 2007 by a team of
psychologists led by Metin Basoglu on the psychological distinctions between torture and
other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments as recounted by 279 war survivors from
former Yugoslavia. These former war prisoners were subjected to methods of torture-lite:
psychological manipulations, humiliating treatment, exposure to detrimental environmental
conditions and forced stress positions. Their findings showed that there is considerable
overlap with physical torture stressors in terms of associated distress and uncontrollability.
Most interestingly, they concluded that the traumatic stress impact of torture (physical or
nonphysical torture and ill treatment) seemed to be determined by the perceived
uncontrollability and distress associated with the stressors – which coincide with the
rationale behind methods of torture-lite. Overall, they concluded that ill treatment during
captivity does not seem to be substantially different from physical torture in terms of the
severity of mental suffering they cause, nor is there substantial difference in the long-term
psychological outcome.15 In other words, the effects from both psychological and physical
torture were equally traumatic in outcome.
The debate
Torture-lite has generated much debate in regard to the degree of its severity as an
interrogation method. Scholars such as Luban, Bowden and Rejali believe that the severity
Bosch, “ ‘Torture-lite’ in the ‘wild-zone of power’”, 195.
Metin Basoglu et. al., “Torture vs. Other Inhuman, Cruel and Degrading Treatment: Is the distinction real
or apparent?” Archive of General Psychiatry, 64 (2007): 277-285.
14
15
18
of traditional torture outweighs techniques considered as torture-lite.16 In their view,
torture-lite techniques “do not involve serious physical mutilation and rarely leave scars or
other visible physical evidence”, and connote “minimal harm, minimal force, and minimal
violence”.17 This form of “clean torture” thus became the widespread stereotype of torturelite during the twentieth century. Yet, “clean” methods of torture do not necessarily
guarantee a lighter form of torture, nor do they guarantee the preservation of life.18
Categorising certain methods of torture as torture-lite is deceptive in its lack of
acknowledging immediate bodily effects. The emphasis here is on the immediacy of the
physical effect, as much of torture-lite methods cause such effects after the accumulation
of repeated exposure. Unlike traditional torture techniques, it usually “takes time for these
techniques to cause the victim severe suffering.”19 For example, within one day of being in
forced standing, as the 2007 report by Physicians for Human Rights states, “ankles and feet
of the prisoner…swell to twice their circumference”, “the skin to becomes tense and
intensely painful”, “large blisters develop which break and exude watery serum”, and the
victim usually develops “a delirious state … delusions and visual hallucinations.”20. It is
also important to note here that, as mentioned in Chapter Three, music torture is also not
exempt from immediate visible physical symptoms – vomiting from the feelings of
disorientation has also been documented.21
To mitigate the severity of torture-lite through deception in language is best
theorised by Žižeck. He discusses how the nuances of language pre-determine our
perception of meaning, and that various nuances behind the choice of words can affect our
understanding of violence in our world. Žižeck states:
At the forefront of our minds, the obvious signals of violence are acts of crime and
terror, civil unrest, international conflict. But we should learn to step back, to
Wolfendale, “The Myth of ‘Torture lite’,” 48.
Wolfendale, “The Myth of ‘Torture lite’,” 53.
18
An Afghani prisoner froze to death after being stripped naked and left in an interrogation cell without
blankets; and Manadel al-Jamadi, whose body was photographed at Abu Ghraib, died after being beaten and
then placed in a stress position. More information can be found in Wolfendale, “The Myth of ‘Torture lite’,”
50.
19
Wolfendale, “The Myth of ‘Torture lite’,” 55.
20
Physicians For Human Rights, Leave no marks, Physicians for Human Rights and Human Rights First
(August 2007): 9. http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/07801-etn-leave-no-marks.pdf.
21
Moustafa Bayoumi, “Disco Inferno,” The Nation, 26 December 2005, 32.
16
17
19
disentangle ourselves from the fascinating lure of this directly visible ‘subjective’
violence, violence performed by a clearly identifiable agent. We need to perceive
the contours of the background which generates such outbursts. A step back
enables us to identify a violence that sustains our very efforts to fight violence and
to promote tolerance. 22
There is an important correlation between Žižeck’s theory on the understanding of
violence through language, and Wolfendale’s claim that current misunderstandings of
torture-lite are inguistically misconstrued. Wolfendale argues that the harm of categorising
certain torture methods within a particular language framework disguises the meaning of
violence by implying that these methods are “minimal”, not visible and therefore, more
tolerable.23 This not only limits public awareness of the actual severity and permanency of
some of the consequences of torture-lite, but such use of language potentially has a
“profound impact on how an individual understands the morality of his or her actions, and
even on an individual’s willingness to commit violent acts”.24 Here, Wolfendale pointedly
states that “neutral or positive language [used] to describe aggressive actions, for example,
has been found to increase an individual’s willingness to engage in such acts and decrease
his or her feelings of responsibility”.25 From such claim, it can be argued that it is due to
the lack of immediate, clear physical evidence for torture-lite methods that the term
“torture-lite” has generated particular usefulness for democratic states, as “these states
have a strong interest in maintaining public support and avoiding the attention of human
rights organisations".26 This likewise echoes Cusick’s view that the use of music torture is
a “perfect vehicle” in current neo-liberal governments in democratic states, where the shift
of labour has “reduced the perchance of blame.”27 Thus, it can be considered that such acts
of ‘moral categorising’ are convenient for "liberal democracies [to] attempt to justify [the
use of torture-lite techniques] in a way that separates it from its traditional associations
with tyranny, cruelty, and repression"28, essentially perpetuating a diminished public
Žižeck Slavoj, Violence: Six Sideways Reflections (Great Britain: Profile Books, 2009), 1.
Wolfendale, “The Myth of ‘Torture lite’,” 53.
24
Wolfendale, “The Myth of ‘Torture lite’,” 54.
25
Wolfendale, “The Myth of ‘Torture lite’,” 54.
26
Wolfendale, “The Myth of ‘Torture lite’,” 48.
27
Suzanne Cusick and Branden Joseph, “Across an invisible line: A conversation about music and torture,”
Grey Room 42 (2009): 13.
28
Wolfendale, “The Myth of ‘Torture lite,’” 48.
22
23
20
perception on the severity of methods of torture-lite.29
Despite its gruesome consequences, torture-lite is still “not one that is recognised in
any of the international conventions dealing with torture”.30 Conclusively, the term
“torture-lite” does little to refer to the distinction that is made “in international conventions
between torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment”,31 and is a direct result of
the need for democratic states to use such techniques to find more successful and less
visible ways of effectively “breaking’’ the victim’.32
When the gloves come off…
Despite deaths resulting from the prevalent use of torture-lite methods in US
military prisons, the US has yet to be held accountable for such actions.33 Certainly the
deaths indicate the severity of these interrogation methods and thereby contradicts the idea
of these methods as being “non-lethal”, or a lighter form of torture. The misunderstanding
or ignorance of the term “torture-lite” also means that this “variation” of torture is yet to
fall within the current international legal definitions of torture. The deliberate ambiguity of
categorisation and the definition of torture-lite mean that certain techniques are enabled to
be carried out beneath the visibility of traditional “torture”. This is further exacerbated by
the lack of international statutes or treaties to oversee this method of interrogation. Here is
an example to illustrate the convenience of using torture-lite interrogation methods. At a
hearing in September 2002, Cofer Black, then head of the CIA counterterrorist centre,
stated in front of the House and Senate intelligence committees on the treatment of terrorist
suspects:
this is a very highly classified area, but I have to say that all you need to know is
there was a 'before 9/11', and there was an 'after 9/11'. After 9/11 the gloves come
Such intentions are clearly evident from the “Torture memos”, whereby the Memorandum concludes that
all of these methods of torture-lite predicate outside the meanings of the US torture statute, 18 U.S.C. 2340A.
See U.S. Department of Justice, “Memorandum for John Rizzo: Interrogation of al Quaeda Operative,” p. 12.
30
Wolfendale, “The Myth of ‘Torture lite’,” 47
31
Wolfendale, “The Myth of ‘Torture lite’,” 47.
32
Wolfendale, “The Myth of ‘Torture lite’,” 52.
33
No criminal charges has been brought forward to any CIA officials over the deaths of two terror suspects
held in Abu Ghraib and what is known as the “Salt Pit”, a secret CIA “black-site”. Further details on this can
be found in Anonymous, “U.S. Justice department rules out prosecutions over C.I.A. prison deaths”, 31
August 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/aug/31/us-cia-detainee-prison-deaths.
29
21
off.34
In another statement expounded by another US state agent: “If you don't violate someone's
human rights some of the time, you probably aren't doing your job.”35 Such sentiments
disturbingly reflect the double-standard nature of the supposed US international position
against torture: being a state that proudly holds itself as one of the epitomes of democracy
and liberalism, and one that partook both the signage of the United Nation and Geneva
Convention treaties against torture, it has yet to uphold its responsibilities as an
international member of anti-torture due to its utilitarian use of torture-lite methods to
justify intelligence gathering for the safeguard of national security.
Thus, the concept of “torture-lite” is a misnomer that is fraught with many
controversies.36 A re-definition, or the abolishment of the term “torture-lite” should be in
order given in light of the evidence, and prevalence, of interrogation methods that are used
by the US. Although these stress and duress methods of interrogation have attracted
international condemnation by human rights organisations,37 such attention has only drawn
attention to (and yet to minimise) the prevalence of torture-lite interrogation methods. As
stated by Bosch, “in the arena in which the security state operates, wild undomesticated
abuse of power is everything and civil liberties are sacrificed on the altar of secrecy.”38
Campbell, “ U.S. interrogators turn to torture-lite”.
Bosch, “ ‘Torture-lite’ in the ‘wild-zone of power’, ” 186.
36
Even if the US did violate international law on torture, it is very difficult to enforce it against the state
according to the Military Commission Act, which is a domestic law that exempts all US soldiers from the
UN convention. My gratitude to Dr. Robin Cameron for this information.
37
Bosch, “ ‘Torture-lite’ in the ‘wild-zone of power’,” 186.
38
Bosch, “ ‘Torture-lite’ in the ‘wild-zone of power’,” 186.
34
35
22
Chapter 5
Music torture: is it really torture-lite?
To ascertain whether or not music torture is, or should be, considered as torture-lite, it is
important to understand how music can function as a part of social control. However,
understanding the rationale behind the application of music torture by the US in their “War
on Terror” is a highly contentious subject owing to the overarching question in its relation
to the general use of torture. Thus, due to the limited scope of this thesis, questions on the
applicability, morality or the rationale of torture will not be discussed,1 although references
to the definition of torture will be made in order to illustrate the broader understanding of
where music torture stands within the scope of torture-lite. In this chapter, I will discuss
concepts that correlate the relationship between the body and its acoustic environment,
drawing upon Peta Malin’s theory of “spatial-folding” and Michel Foucault’s theory of
discipline and punishment. I will be arguing that categorising music torture as torture-lite
not only diminishes the potency of this type of torture, but misinforms about the rationale
and severity of its use.
As described in the previous chapter, methods of torture that are categorised by
popular discourse as torture-lite are, by its methods, of a no-touch nature; that is, the lack
of physical contact between the interrogator and the detainee. Thus, there is the absence of
immediate physical evidence from such methods of torture. Stress positions, sensory overstimulation and deprivation are just some of the methods that subject the body of the
detainee in an environment whereby they will have no control over their senses, as the
psychology of the detainee is the main focus for target in this type of torture. It is therefore
convenient to correlate the similarities of music torture with that of torture-lite, as music
torture does not involve any direct physical-physical contact between the interrogator and
the detainee; nor does it express immediate physical symptoms as its effectiveness lies on
targeting the psychological balance of the victim.
However, music torture does not constitute a method of torture-lite due to the
detrimental psychological effects from one subjected to it. I will argue this based on the
For more discussion on the use of torture in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, see Philippe Sand, “The Green
Light”, May 2008, http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/05/guantanamo200805.
1
23
theories underlying the relationship between the body and the environment within which it
is immediately situated.
Music and the body
Music is a multi-dimensional medium that incorporates the body to interact
intimately within its physical space through acoustic vibrations. The relationship between
music and the body exceeds unisensory perception, and “impresses on but is exterior to the
sonic”.2 Thus the body is influenced and contexualised by the environment and the space
within which it exists, and the interwoven relationship between the body and the space
surrounding it mediates the body’s reaction to outer-body mediums – as the line between
the two is blurred when the space outside the body becomes absorbed as the “personal’’
space within the body.3 In other words, “the world around us folds into our bodies; shaping
not only our movements, postures, emotions and subjectivity, but also the very matter of
which we are composed.”4 Thus, as Peta Malins states, particular assemblages can
“enhance or diminish a body’s life force”, whereby the assemblages have the potential to
increase or reduce “the body’s power to act and its potential to go on forming new
relations”.5 If one considers “acoustical energy” as a type of assemblage that has the
potential to “change [the] body”6 on which it is subjected, then this concept certainly
reflects the violent encounters of victims from music torture. Victims compare their
experiences as being beaten “with a hammer”, whereby “every bone in the body [is] being
bombarded with sound”; and that the body “has no choice but to vibrate sympathetically
with the sound”.7 Just as Foucault theorises, the body of the condemned is “the place
where the vengeance of the sovereign” is to be applied, the body being the “anchoring
point for a manifestation of power”.8 In this regard, the body of the detainee is the receiver
on which sound acts as the “manifestation of power” for the state. In this sense, the sound
and the vibrations of music become the very tool that violates the body.
2
Steve Goodman, Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear (Massachusetts: Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, 2010), 9.
3
Peta Malins, “City Folds: Injecting Drug Use and Urban Space,” from Deleuzian Encounters: Studies in
Contemporary Social Issues (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2008), 151 – 169.
4
Malins, “City Folds: Injecting Drug Use and Urban Space,” 157.
5
Malins, “City Folds: Injecting Drug Use and Urban Space,” 157.
6
Suzanne Cusick and Brendan Joseph, “Across an invisible line: A conversation about music and torture,”
Grey Room 42 (2009): 13.
7
Cusick and Joseph, “Across an invisible line: A conversation about music and torture,” 13.
8
Foucault, Discipline and Punish: the birth of the prison, 55.
24
Music and the mind
Based on this theory, music torture involves the body being physically subjected to
the acoustic vibrations from sound. Therefore, to categorise music torture as a “no-touch”
torture is severely flawed, as the acoustic vibrations not only violate the physical state of
the body, but also cause intense psychological pain for the victim. The evidence from
victims’ testimonials indicates that music torture does have a profound, and severe, effect
on the psychology of the victim. Consider that the overall rationale of torture is based not
only on the sensations of pain in order to “destroy a person’s self and the world”, but also
that the intensity of the pain destroys the language within which the person constructs their
world.9 In this way, not only does torture act to contort the physical being of the person to
render them mentally vulnerable to the external world, but it also renders them deaf to their
own thoughts. This concept, as proposed by Elaine Scarry, suggests that the tortured body
– through music torture – becomes both the receiver and the amplifier of pain, so that the
body is then “objectified and made visible to those outside the person’s body”.10 In this
way, the sound from one subjected to music torture acts to silence the mind of the person,
robbing him of the autonomy of thought. From this, the boundary “between the inside and
outside world” of the person is dissolved,11 nullifying the identity of the victim, thus
robbing him of his sense of self. In other words, the type of psychological “pain” is a literal
result from the violation of the physical body – the body which absorbs this pain on a
psychological level that “[denies] victims any power over their lives” – a statement that
echoes the ideologies of the KUBARK Interrogation Manual.12 As understood from
testimonials from victims of music torture, the evident expressions of mental pain suffered
from sleep deprivation – feelings of futility, hopelessness, depression and suicide – is
contraindicative to the “Torture Memos”, which define sleep deprivation as merely
“disruptive” to the victim.13 Such markedly different accounts of torture-lite methods
9
Elaine Scarry. The Body in Pain. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), 35.
Scarry, The Body in Pain, 29.
11
Scarry, The Body in Pain, 53.
12
As stated in the KUBARK interrogation manual, “[i]t has been plausibly suggested that, whereas pain
inflicted on a person from outside himself may actually focus or intensify his will to resist, his resistance is
likelier to be sapped by pain which he seems to inflict upon himself.” (Central Intelligence Agency,
KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation, July 1963: 94). See also Alfred McCoy, A question of torture:
CIA interrogation, from the Cold War (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006), 10.
13
US Department of Justice, “Memorandum for John Rizzo: Interrogation of al Quaeda Operative,”
Washington D.C. 20530, 1 August 2002, p. 14.
10
25
certainly is a concern to the opacity surrounding the legality in the application of torture.
By conveniently evading the legal definition of sleep deprivation as “torture”, it has led to
the continual perverse use of music (and sound) as a form of torture, which is now
considered to be one of the most effective interrogation tools by the US government. 14
Music as power
It is important to understand the concept of dominance in relation to the broader
notion of control and discipline of the tortured body. This is an important concept to
understand as it contribute to the continuing argument that music torture does not fall
within the category of torture-lite. The scope of dominance extends beyond the physical to
that of the psychological, in that music torture embodies pain within the physical and
metaphysical space of the detainee, a type of pain that manifests itself through the
restricted amount of ‘personal space’ left within the control of the victim. This limitation
of ‘space’ for individual autonomy is precisely one of the many facets within which music,
used for such purposes, functions as a form of psychological control or dominance over an
individual. In other words, if the body is susceptible to being manipulated by its interaction
and relationship with its environment, it is thus susceptible to external dominance. This
Foucauldian concept, which draws from the theory that the body is an object for discipline
and governance, further describes that the body can be manipulated, shaped, and trained,
thus becoming docile to obey and respond to such external factors.15 The docile body is
therefore controllable, “analysable” and “manipulable”, and then may be subjected, used,
transformed and improved to target the psyche of the individual.16
Music, culture and religion
The symptoms of psychological manipulation from music torture are thus
indicative of music as destructive potential for dominance. Considering that the most of
the music chosen for torture purposes by the CIA is a reflection of the American culture,
the choice of music to be used as torture assumes and targets the religious and cultural
Moustafa Bayoumi, “Disco Inferno,” The Nation (26 December 2005): 34.
Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The birth of the prison (New York: Random House, Inc., 1977),
138.
16
Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The birth of the prison, 138.
14
15
26
beliefs of the victim.17 As described in Chapter Three, the types of genre chosen for such
purposes ranged from heavy metal, patriotically-themed rock n’ roll, and themes from TV
shows. In this regard, not only is music used to acoustically infiltrate the physical being of
the body as a form of sound, it is the choice of music that manifests the mental pain within
the victim. Scholarship emphasises that music torture is thus one of the “crudest kind[s]”
of cultural imperialism18 and a religiously offensive weapon,19 based on the belief that
prisoners cannot tolerate music from a culturally different background or of explicit nature
– all to “shock the religious sensitivities” of the tortured.20 Insight into the ethnocentricity
in the choices of music chosen is reflected in a statement provided by an US army
interrogator, Sergeant Mark Hadsell. He states:
These people haven’t heard heavy metal before. They can’t take it. If you play it for
24 hours, your brain and body functions start to slide, your train of thought slows
down and your will is broken. That’s when we come in and talk to them.21
The rationale behind subjecting detainees to heavy metal music is based on the
assumption that detainees will be unfamiliar with the choice of music, which presents as a
challenge to the integrity and self-identity of the victim.22 Based on this reasoning, music
is intended as a culturally offensive weapon, whereby “cultural differences are exploited
and multiculturalism becomes a strategy for domination” for interrogation.23 This method
of torture is disturbingly unique, in that it targets cultural and religious humiliation and
shaming.24 To put it into perspective, music torture, applied in combination with other
17
According to the interrogation log obtained by Adam Zagorin and Michael Duffy, most of music chosen
for torture purposes falls to the discretion of the interrogator (Adam Zagorin and Michael Duffy, “Inside the
Interrogation of Detainee 063,” Time, 12 June 2005, http://www.time.com/time/2006/log/log.pdf). However,
according to David Preisner, the choices of music to be played require the approval from a legal, written
consent from CIA administration. More details can be found in David Preisner, “Music as Torture: War is
Loud”, 30 November 2006, http://www.spin.com/articles/music-torture-war-loud.
18
Bayoumi, “Disco Inferno,” 33.
19
Bayoumi, ‘Disco Inferno,” 33.
20
Thomas Keenan, paper summary delivered for Music Torture: A One Day Conference, Bard University, 19
May 2009, http://hrp.bard.edu/musictorture/. The paper is not available beyond the abstract provided.
21
Julian Borger, ‘‘Metallica Is Latest Interrogation Tactic,’’ The Guardian, 20 May 2003,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/may/20/iraq.julianborger.
22
Cusick and Joseph, “Across an invisible line: A conversation about music and torture,” 17.
23
Bayoumi, “Disco Inferno,” 34.
24
Particular choices of music genres are also the driving force behind using music as a tool for territorial
delineation for the purposes of deterring public nuisance (such as hooliganism and homelessness). This point
is explained further in Chapter Six.
27
torture methods such as the use of military working dogs to “exploit Arab fear of dogs”,25
as well as alongside other torture techniques that are heavily racially construed based on
the out-dated “trash scholarship”, The Arab Mind, further perpetuates the culturally
exploitative mindset in the US “War on Terror”.26 Essentially, not only does music torture
cause mental pain for the victim through the forcible bombardment of sound, but this pain
is also a symptom of the culturally manipulative intentions behind the choices of music
used to manifest senses of humiliation, degradation and shaming – all as a part of the
broader spectrum of torture.
From sound to silence
The repetition of music also acts as an imposition against the autonomy of the
victim. As Jacques Attali explains, “any music, any organisation of sound is…a tool for the
creation or consolidation of a community, of a totality. It is what links a power centre to its
subjects, and thus, more generally, it is an attribute of power in all its forms”.27 In Noise,
Attali outlines the three zones within which music can function as a form of power: music
to forget, to believe, and to silence. It is in the third zone that music can be harnessed as a
bureaucratic tool to “silence those who opposed it” through repetition.28 It is precisely the
blasting of loud, repeated music – in addition to the cultural offence intended through the
choice of music played – that accumulates to the silencing of the tortured victim. Thus, the
body of the tortured becomes the victim of the mind, the mind which “betrays” the body as
it communicates the intensity of this pain.29 By categorising music torture as a method of
torture-lite, this diminishes and undermines the overall severity of music torture,
discounting its destructive potential to overpower another individual on a psychological,
cultural and religious level.
Cusick and Joseph, “Across an invisible line: A conversation about music and torture,” 15; and Bayoumi,
“Disco Inferno,” 34.
26
Bayoumi, “Disco Inferno,” 33. Ironically, the use of music for torture is the ultimate degradation to the
Western belief by diminishing the function of music as “an experience that gives human beings access to the
sublime and to an experience of transcendence” (Cusick and Joseph, 12). What was once the subjugating
power that is the definition of music and used for enlightening mankind of subliminal beauty is now
diminished as a disciplinary tool to punish and to be used as a political expression for the “Western
domination of the rest of the world” (Cusick and Joseph, 13). More of this is discussed in Cusick and Joseph,
“Across an Invisible Line: A Conversation about Music and Torture,” 13.
27
Jacques Attali, Noise: the Political Economy of Music, translated by Brian Massumi (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota, 1985), 6.
28
Attali, Noise: the Political Economy of Music, 19.
29
Cusick and Joseph, “Across an invisible line: A conversation about music and torture,” 15; and Bayoumi,
“Disco Inferno,” 34.
25
28
The blasting of loud, repeated music also functions as a form of enforcing silence
within this torture process. According to Johnson and Cloonan, the imposition of music of
a particular culture onto another destroys the autonomy of those subjected to it – as those
subjected to this are deprived of the choice of music, and their inability to control the
hearing of sound is a statement of their imprisonment – a “particularly savage imposition,
long recognised as an ultimate triumph in the attempt to disintegrate a subjectivity”.30
Thus, the inability of the victims to control what they hear is symptomatic of the state’s
control of the individual. Ironically, the absence of sound, or silence, in this sense, once
dominated contemporary prison systems since the enactment of the 1779 Penitentiary Act
in England, whereby the presence of silence represented obedience, control and discipline
of those confined within the walls of the prison. Thus, as Goodman has astutely pointed
out, contemporary modes of punishment have expanded from the concept of the panoptics
to that of the pansonic.31 No longer is control and dominance limited to the “all-seeing”
concept of the prison system as was envisaged by Jeremy Bentham (his vision of the
Panopticon has revolutionised contemporary modes of imprisonment) – but that
dominance can also be manifested, whereby the “ubiquitous modulation of control” is
effective on limiting the mental space of the detainees.32 In the context of music torture,
therefore, the enforcement of sound – to control the external and psychological space of
the victim – is an important characteristic of music torture in that it silences the victims’
ability for individual thought and completely deprives them of autonomy.
Music torture is neither “ineffable” nor something that “cannot harm the body”, as
it is often misconceived.33 Although it is predominantly a method of psychological
warfare, the body is also involuntarily violated in this process due its existence within this
acoustic environment. The psychological effects o victims from music torture undermine
the misconception that methods of torture-lite pertains to lighter symptoms. Such
misconstrued understandings of torture-lite unfortunately permeate the overall
30
Bruce Johnson and Martin Cloonan, Dark Side of the Tune: Popular Music and Violence (Surrey: Ashgate,
2009), 158. More on the history of silence in prisons can be found in Norval Morris and David J. Rothman
(ed.), Oxford history of the Prisons: The Practice of Punishment in Western History (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1995), 90.
31
Goodman. Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear, 9.
32
Goodman. Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear, 9.
33
Cusick and Joseph, “Across an invisible line: A conversation about music and torture,” 13.
29
misconceptions of music torture, and does little to inform the public of its abhorrent
consequences.
30
Chapter 6
“It’s O.K. – It’s only torture-lite!”
It is now popularly considered that music torture is part of the US method of torture-lite
interrogation procedures. However, it has been emphasised by prominent scholars – such
as Cusick, Joseph, Bayoumi, Johnson and Cloonan – that the severe psychological
consequences from music as torture do not pertain to this type of categorisation. I argue
that the perpetuation of the use of music torture is also affected by the continuing dismissal
and trivialisation by the media – such as newspapers and television shows – which
commonly adopts a light-hearted, humourous and frivolous attitude to the severity of this
issue.
Media
The sarcastic responses to the issue of music torture in the media misinform the
public the severity of this torture method. Aside from referring to music torture as “mood
music for jolting your jihad”,1 the internet is popular with people making suggestions on
what songs are to be used for this purpose.2 Newspapers such as the St. Petersburg Times
in Tampa Bay, Florida, asked its readers which songs they would use to “drive the
insurgents out of Fallujah, break down Iraqi prisoners or just drive their neighbours nuts”.3
Likewise, the UK leading liberal newspaper, The Guardian, headlined an article with the
title “Not the Barney song” and suggested that “if Barney had been walking the earth when
the Geneva conventions were drawn up, there would be laws against this sort of thing”.4 It
further concluded:
So pity the poor prisoners, but we parents are made of sterner stuff. Still, I suspect
that the coalition forces have not yet made full use of their potential psy-ops
Mark Steyn, “Facing the Music,” New York Sun, 20 June 2005, http://www.nysun.com/opinion/facing-themusic/15711/.
2
Danny Gallagher, “6 songs used to torture and intimidate,” June 25 2009,
http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/27123. See also Darren Garnick, “Gitmo’s Boombox: Does an
official “Music Torture” song list actually exist?” October 28 2009,
http://darrengarnick.wordpress.com/2009/10/28/gitmo-boombox-music/.
3
Lane DeGregory, “Anything but “MacArthur,”’ St. Petersburg Times, 21 November 2004,
http://sptimes.com/2004/11/21/Floridian/Anything_but_MacArth.shtml.
4
Michael Hann, “No, not the Barney song!” Guardian, 21 May 2003,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2003/may/21/familyandrelationships.comment.
1
31
armoury. You had better believe that no one will be able to keep Saddam Hussein's
whereabouts secret once the British interrogators deploy their secret weapon: a
battered audio tape of the theme to Merlin the Magical Puppy. 5
When it was reported that the “I Love You” song by Barney the Purple Dinosaur was used
as part of US foreign interrogation, the NBC’s “Stars and Stripes” the reporter played a
clip of Barney, and assumed a tone of voice that drew laughter from the studio audience.
Weatherman Al Roker joined in the joke: “And if Barney doesn’t get ‘em, switch to the
Teletubbies, and that crushes ‘em like a bug”.6 Furthermore, when Newsweek broke the
story, the editor added a last line to the article – “It broke us too!”7 The disclosure that the
“I Love You” song was being used to torture prisoners in Iraq is considered so absurd that,
in Jon Ronson’s words, using such songs is “the funniest joke of the war”.8
Artists
The lack of concern on music torture is not limited to newspapers and television
shows. Some artists were also amused when it was made known to them that their music
was used as part of US psychological operations method. For instance, when Metallica’s
James Hetfield discovered that the US military was using his music to torture detainees, he
responded with: “We’ve been punishing our parents, our wives, our loved ones with this
music forever…Why should Iraqis be any different?”9 So too, did Christopher Cerf, the
composer of Sesame Street songs, downplay the seriousness of using his music for such
purposes. When he was asked on the UK documentary, Crazy Rulers of the World, about
what royalties he might be owed due to his music being used in this way, Cerf joked about
the morality of accepting money for the use of his music in torture: “Why not? It’s an
American thing to do. If I have the knack of writing songs that can drive people crazy
sooner and more effectively than other, why shouldn’t I profit from that?”10 Even the UK
human rights activist Clive Stafford Smith was unable to restrain from suggesting that if
Hann, “No, not the Barney song!’”.
Bruce Johnson and Martin Cloonan, Dark Side of the Tune: Popular Music and Violence (Surrey: Ashgate,
2009), 190.
7
Hann, ‘No, not the Barney song!”
8
Jon Ronson, “The Road to Abu Ghraib,” The Guardian Weekend, 30 October 2004, p. 18.
9
Lane DeGregory, “Iraq n’ roll”, Tampa Bay Times, 21 November 2004,
http://www.sptimes.com/2004/11/21/Floridian/Iraq__n__roll.shtml.
10
Jon Ronson, The Men Who Stare at Goats (London: Simon and Schuster, 2004), 137.
5
6
32
Toby Keith’s music was used on him, “this kind of torture would be on-message and much
more effective: I, for one, would confess after enduring the first verse.”11
An indifferent attitude
The ignorance of the severity of music torture among the general public is the
result of the trivialisation of music within the politics of war – which is ironic given that
such trivialisation conflicts with the growing use of music (and sound) as a method of
social control. The use of acoustics to deter, educate and discipline is becoming a part of
the growing use to prevent and minimise crime by governments in the UK, Canada, US
and Australia. In these countries, various authorities employ classical music as a crime
deterrent in order to reduce hooliganism – such as the playing of classical music at lightrail stops in Oregon, crime-ridden streets of Florida and the London Underground – and in
some cases, to deter the loitering of the homeless.12 Other uses of music as social control,
such as Australia’s “Manilow Method”13 and Britain’s “Mosquito” acoustic device,14 are
some of the contemporary examples of the literal use of acoustic signature as a territorial
marker for social delineation.15 Furthermore, uses of music for disciplinary means have
also been introduced in the US as part of an education program for acoustic-related crimes
– such as the “Music Immersion Program” that was introduced in 1998 in the city of Fort
Lupton, Colorado,16 and the compulsory attendance to and listening of classical music
Clive Stafford Smith, “Torture by music,” New Statesman, 6 November 2006,
www.newstatesman.com/200611060029.
12
Lily E. Hirsch, “Weaponising classical music: Crime prevention and the symbolic power in the age of
repetition,” Journal of Popular Musical Studies 19, no. 4 (2007): 342.
13
This was a six-month trial program that was implemented by the council of Rockdale, a suburb in Sydney,
Australia. In July 2006, music of Barry Manilow was played through loud speakers located at a local car park
every night between 9pm and midnight on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Further details on this can be found
in Hirsch, “Weaponising classical music: Crime prevention and the symbolic power in the age of repetition,”
343.
14
The Mosquito device emits a high-frequency sound that can only be heard by 15 – 25 years olds. It
functions to deter loitering of youths in certain public spaces. Further details can be found on Moving Sound
Technologies, http://movingsoundtech.com/.
15
This concept of social delineation through urban planning is part of the CPTED program (Crime
Prevention for Environmental Design), which is a concept coined by criminologist C. Ray Jeffrey. CPTED is
based upon the assumption that the “proper design and effective use of the built environment can lead to a
reduction in the fear of crime and the incidence of crime, and to an improvement in the quality of life.” More
information can be found in Timothy Crowe, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design:
Applications of Architectural Design and Space Management Concepts (Woburn: Butterworth-Heinemann,
1991), 3.
16
“The Music Immersion Program”, designed for defendants who have been convicted of violating noise
ordinance, is conducted four times a year in the Colorado City Hall on a Friday night—when participants
might otherwise be out socialising. During the session, an average of ten noise violators sit for one hour,
without talking, chewing gum, sleeping, or breaks, and listen to a compact disc (when the program began, a
11
33
performances for students who commit minor infractions at the Eastern Connecticut State
University.17
Whether or not the use of music and sound should be used as a method of social
control is important in understanding the overall function of music in society; however,
due to the limited scope of this thesis, it is a topic reserved for a different discussion. What
is conclusive, however, is that the ridiculing of music torture is symptomatic of a deeply
embedded ideology that misplaces the importance of music in our society.18 Thus, even
though if “we’re able to laugh off the form of abuse on the account of the associations of
its content” – contents such as the use of Christina Aguilera’s music or the theme song
from Barney the Purple Dinosaur19 – it likens to us as a culture that “accept[s] a form of
torture as something we can think about without horror”.20 The fact that music torture is
nothing more than “amusing” in the eyes of the public21 has certainly misconstrued the
reality of the effects of music torture.
Essentially, society’s indifferent attitude to music torture is reflected from, and
perpetuated by, the overall lack of agency to oversee methods of interrogation. This is an
absence that gravely undermines the values of international anti-torture laws. According to
Section 1(1) of the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment, it is forbidden to inflict pain in order to obtain
information.22 Simply put, if music torture is intentionally used as an interrogation tool in
US military prisons – and testimonials from victims express the excruciating psychological
pain they have endured – the application of music torture directly violates the UN antitorture law. It is a serious concern to see that the US administration circumvents
international conventions by exploiting loopholes that assist and perpetuate the use of
tape) of classical, country and pop music. See Johnson and Cloonan, Dark Side of the Tune: Popular Music
and Violence, p. 190.
17
Anne Midgette, “Classical music as a weapon,” Sydney Morning Herald, 25 January 2012,
http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/classical-music-as-a-weapon-20120124-1qfnu.html.
18
Johnson and Cloonan, Dark side of the tune: Popular music and violence, 190.
19
Cusick and Joseph, “Across an invisible line: A conversation about music and torture,” 17.
20
Cusick and Joseph, “Across an invisible line: A conversation about music and torture,” 18.
21
More information can be found from Martin Cloonan, “Bad Vibrations,” New Humanist, April 2009, 31;
Cusick and Joseph, “Across an invisible line: A conversation about music and torture,” 18; and Steyn,
“Facing the Music”.
22
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Dec.
10, 1984, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1465, 85.
34
torture under the guise of torture-lite.23 This is furthermore exacerbated by the ambiguities
surrounding the vague and convoluted legal technicalities defining and prohibiting torture.
Within this broader context of torture, music torture has now become part of the US’s
“legitimate” use of violence in the name of state security.
23
Even if the US did violate international law on torture, it is very hard to enforce it against the US. More
details can be referred from Philipe Sands, “The Green Light,” May 2008,
http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/05/guantanamo200805.
35
Chapter 7
Facing the music
Throughout history, music has been shown to be used for destructive purposes. From
the documented forced music-making of Jews by the Nazis during World War II; the
blasting of loud music to sleep-deprive British prisoners by the IRA in the 1970s or
the playing of loud rock music to drive President Noriega out of Panama City in 1986
– all these examples indicate how music can be used to terrorise, instill fear and
humiliate adversaries. It is particularly disconcerting to see the part music plays in the
US “War against terror”, as the ‘effectiveness’ of music torture has resulted in it being
one of the key interrogation methods against detained terror suspects.
The experiences of victims subjected to music torture are not easily simplified.
This method of torture is predominantly psychological – the invasion of acoustic
vibrations through the body into the mind, compounded with the consistency and
repetition of the music, has driven many of the victims to the point of insanity,
disorientation, and loss of self-worthlessness. The consistency of the sound, which
constricts the victims’ autonomy of thought, robs victims of their sense of identity;
the loudness of the sound further compounds this loss of spatial disorientation, to
mentally exhaust and alter their sense of balance. Most concerningly, testimonials
have shown the attempts at self-harm and suicide as a result of the psychological
imbalance victims experienced from this method of interrogation.
Therefore, music torture is not a light form of punishment justifiable to evade
the ethical concerns of torture. As discussed in Chapter Five, whether or not questions
of “mental pain” are legally definable was a matter that was highly contended by the
“Torture Memos” (and subsequently defended as such); however, what is clear is that
the state of psychological wellbeing of these victims subjected to music torture has
been tremendously altered to the point that certainly exceeds “mental discomfort”.
Extremely loud and repetitive music (and sounds) are blasted into the cells of the
detainee, rendering them vulnerable to psychological symptoms and restricting
him/her of any independent thought. The consequence of eliminating the victim’s
autonomy of thought, as theorised by Scarry, is an indicator of mental pain that is far
more excruciating than any form of physical pain. Furthermore, drawing from the
36
Foucauldian theory of the body being a manipulable being for state dominance, it has
been suggested that music, in the context of music torture, is an effective instrument
for state control due to the cultural imposition of the genres and types of music that
are deliberately chosen to be loudly and repetitively played to the detainees. Evidence
from victim testimonials shows the harrowing and deleterious effects of music used
on the body and mind in such manner.
The common perception that music torture is merely a method of torture-lite is
fraught with cultural and social ignorance that has been, unfortunately, perpetuated by
the media and the government. The trivialisation of music torture by newspapers,
television shows, and even by some of the artists whose music has been used for such
purposes, does little to mitigate the already underestimated severity of this
interrogation method.1 Thus, not only does media trivailisation of music torture
perpetuate the continual use of this method of torture, but it also encourages its
continual usage by democratic, liberal states, which conveniently relieves them of any
responsibilities to uphold against the international anti-torture laws. Considering that
the US is a member of the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture, and Other Cruel,
Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, this evasion is a serious breach of
the values of human rights and to the preservation of life.
I suggest that to categorise music torture as torture-lite is a highly problematic
issue. Not only does this pertain to the trivialisation of music torture – as it is already
evident in public discourse – but also it further mitigates the severity of this type of
interrogation. As theorised by Žižeck, meanings of violence that are embedded in
language become an imposition to the value of the language, which can misdirect the
organic understanding of the language. Music torture, likewise torture-lite, is not light
in punishment in comparison to other forms of torture. Essentially, without the
confounding jargon of what is and is not, torture-lite is torture; and music torture is
torture. Certainly, for this abhorrent practice to be repealed is through legislation
1
Such trivialisation of music torture certainly does not reflect the growing use of sound, and music, as
a means of social control in countries such as the UK, Canada, the US and Australia – as evidenced in
the use of classical music to deter hooliganism, loitering and general public nuisance; and as an
education and disciplinary tool in certain US schools. Although it is outside the scope of this paper to
debate on the use of music as a means for controlling the use of public space, the mentioning of such
use of music is important to illustrate the great versatility in how music is currently utilised as a tool for
social and state control.
37
backed by scientific proof on the effects of music used in this way.2 There is also the
need for either the abolishment or the re-definition of the term “torture-lite”. Only
when such changes occur will there be a change to the perception of what music
torture truly is.
2
Ian Hill addresses the issue on the difficulty of measuring suffering produced by noise. He further
states that it is due to this inability to measure pain that has aided in the legal ambiguities on the
definition of music used as an interrogation method. See Ian E. J. Hill, “Not Quite Bleeding from the
Ears: Amplifying Sonic Torture,” Western Journal of Communication, 76, no. 3 (2012): 231.
38
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