Have you ever heard a song that was so bad you said to yourself, "Listening to this is torture!"?
Well, you should probably rethink your choice of words.
On Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the CIA's use of torture in the post-9/11 period.
The report revealed that the CIA deliberately misled the public, the White House and Congress about the efficacy of torture. What's more, it's clear that the torture methods the CIA employed were far worse and more extensive than we previously knew or thought.
The CIA used water-boarding, sleep deprivation, sexual abuse and even Russian roulette to torture prisoners, among other techniques. One prisoner was even tortured to death, and at least 26 innocent people were tortured.
Correspondingly, the report also highlighted the agency's use of "sound disorientation techniques."
In other words, the CIA used music to torture people, and many of the songs it used came from some of your favorite artists.
The CIA Played Loud Music For Hours On End To Drive Prisoners Crazy
Is "White America" one of your favorite Eminem songs?
What if you were forced to sit in total darkness in shackles in an isolated prison cell with the song blaring for 24 hours straight?
This is how the CIA tortured a number of prisoners.
In addition to Eminem, the agency also played songs by Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, AC/DC, Christina Aguilera, David Gray, Tupac and Bruce Springsteen. They even used the theme song from "Sesame Street," among others.
We've known for a while that the agency used music to torture prisoners, but this new report offers more intricate details on this practice.
Some might be tempted to argue that being forced to listen to music isn't really torture. They are wrong.
There is ample evidence that this form of torture had a severe psychological impact on prisoners. It broke them down mentally.
One prisoner who endured musical torture stated it was worse than the physical torture he experienced. He stated, "The CIA worked on people, including me, day and night. Plenty lost their minds.
I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and the doors, screaming their heads off ... Throughout my time I had all kinds of music, and irritating sounds, mentally disturbing. I call it brainwashing."
Likewise, as Kelsey Mickinney notes for Vox:
Being kept in a pitch black room with rap and metal music blaring for weeks on end can have definite effects on the psychology of any formerly stable person. It is the weaponization of music. ... It did drive people crazy. The report counts several detainees who were "broken" by the music, and yet the report finds that enhanced interrogation didn't result in any important intelligence breakthroughs.
In other words, the CIA took some of the greatest music of all time (and arguably some of the worst), used it for terrible purposes and it didn't lead to any valuable information. They took music, something that is meant to bring people peace and joy, and bastardized it for nothing.
Musicians Complain About Piracy, But What About Torture?
In 2000, when Napster emerged as a popular platform to share and download music online, Metallica was one of the most vocal opponents. The band was livid that it wasn't being compensated for its music. It filed a lawsuit for copyright infringement.
This was one a monumental moment for both music and the Internet.
Torture is illegal by US and international law.
When Metallica heard that its music was being used to torture people, however, it wasn't nearly as offended as it had been by Napster.
In 2004, the lead singer of the band, James Hetfield, stated that he was "proud" the US military used his music. At the same time, he didn't hide the fact that he knew it would drive people insane, stating:
If I listened to a death metal band for 12 hours in a row, I'd go insane, too. I'd tell you anything you wanted to know.
It's very telling that the artists, who perhaps love their music more than anyone else, are willing to admit it would be torturous to listen to it over and over.
Moreover, it's also tragically ironic that the music of Rage Against the Machine was used to torture people. This is a band that wrote music about political revolution, anarchy and government oppression.
Not surprisingly, band members, like Tom Morello, were extremely offended that their music had been used to break people down mentally. In 2006, he publicly stated:
The fact that our music has been co-opted in this barbaric way is really disgusting. If you're at all familiar with ideological teachings of the band and its support for human rights, that's really hard to stand.
Music has been present in every culture throughout history. It has the amazing capacity to capture the dynamic and inexplicable range of human emotions.
It's abhorrent that such a beautiful thing was used for such an immensely horrendous purpose. Torture is inhumane, illegal and ineffective. Plain and simple.
Citations: How the CIA used music to break detainees (Vox), The Torture Playlist (Mother Jones ), Sesame Street songs and heavy metal blasted to torture Guantanamo detainees (NY Daily News), A History of Music Torture in the War on Terror (Huffington Post), Metallica Drummer Lars Ulrich Recalls Battle With Napster (Huffington Post)