Musicians Fight Back Against Music Torture

Dec 11th, 2008 // 10 Comments

I don’t want to get on a soapbox here, but the Bush Administration’s authorization of torture and rendition is one of the most shameful episodes in our country’s recent history.* One of the methods interrogators have for making detainees “talk” consists of playing music at super-loud volumes, sometimes for over 20 days at a time. That would drive anybody crazy. Reprieve, a group that represents 33 Guantanamo detainees, has banded together with concerned musicians to create a campaign called Zero dB:

The campaign urges supporters to help bring to an end the “brutal practice of music torture”. It will feature minutes of silence during concerts and festivals while a petition will call on governments and the UN to uphold their obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture.

Of course, Tom Morello is involved.

Other bands involved: Elbow, The Magic Numbers, James Lavelle of UNKLE, and Massive Attack. Morello takes things too far when he calls for George W. Bush to be locked in a room with Rage’s music for a while—I know that sounds funny, dude, but the point of standing up against torture is that it’s a morally repugnant practice that rarely if ever generates quality intelligence. It’s a grotesquerie in all forms. Man, Morello. That guy gets me so worked up!

Anyway, here is a list of some of the jamz that have been used in Iraq, Guantanamo, Afghanistan, and parts unknown:

“Enter Sandman” – Metallica
“Bodies” – Drowning Pool
“Shoot to Thrill” – AC/DC
“Hell’s Bells” – AC/DC
“I Love You” – from the “Barney and Friends” children’s TV show
“Born in the USA” – Bruce Springsteen
“Babylon” – David Gray
“White America” – Eminem
Sesame Street theme

Other artists on the playlist include Aerosmith, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Don McLean (wonder what song they played), Lil’ Kim, Limp Bizkit, Meat Loaf, Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Tupac Shakur.

David Gray has rightfully spoken out against this, as has Christopher Cerf, composer for Sesame Street. Can you imagine composing songs beloved by children everywhere and having them twisted and perverted for such monstrous purposes? Hopefully more of the musicians involved will take a stand against this odious practice.

Bands complain about their songs being used in torture [Telegraph]

* Watch Taxi to the Dark Side or read Jane Mayer’s The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals for probably the two best distillations of the issue.


  1. jt.ramsay

    You’re missing the best part! Drowning Pool are actually honored to be part of this:

    “People assume we should be offended that somebody in the military thinks our song is annoying enough that played over and over it can psychologically break someone down,” he told Spin magazine. “I take it as an honor to think that perhaps our song could be used to quell another 9/11 attack or something like that.”

  2. NeverEnough

    1. I love Elbow
    2. Being a flaming liberal, I find the use of torture inhumane and ghastly… but I could make an exception for the Joe Satriani vs. Coldplay case.

  3. Sniffle

    Anyone with a toddler knows how torturous that Sesame Street or Barney Theme can be on repeated listening. I promised my kid candy for a month just so he would turn it off.

  4. Lucas Jensen

    @blackmailismylife: Yeah. Depressing.

  5. encyclopediablack

    I wonder why the military left “Crank Dat” off their playlist.

  6. Audif Jackson Winters III

    @encyclopediablack: They didn’t want to give Soulja Boy the opportunity to thank the U.S. military for spreading his music to Muslim audiences, thereby allowing him to purchase additional tats and chains.

  7. encyclopediablack
  8. Anonymous

    Is there a petition that I could sign to have Metallica and AC/DC to not be played on radio here in the states?

  9. Lucas Jensen

    You try to be all serious about something and you jokers show up! ;)

  10. moomintroll

    Wait, is it the regular Sesame Street theme or Smart E’s Sesame’s Treet? Not that it really makes any difference torture-wise…

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