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worth a careful read

This is an important article for everyone, but especially for musicians. Hopefully more research is underway.

Music as Torture/Music as Weapon

One of the most startling aspects of musical culture in the post-Cold War United States is the systematic use of music as a weapon of war. First coming to mainstream attention in 1989, when US troops blared loud music in an effort to induce Panamanian president Manuel Norriega’s surrender, the use of “acoustic bombardment” has become standard practice on the battlefields of Iraq, and specifically musical bombardment has joined sensory deprivation and sexual humiliation as among the non-lethal means by which prisoners from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo may be coerced to yield their secrets without violating US law.

The very idea that music could be an instrument of torture confronts us with a novel—and disturbing—perspective on contemporary musicality in the United States. What is it that we in the United States might know about ourselves by contemplating this perspective? What does our government’s use of music in the “war on terror” tell us (and our antagonists) about ourselves?

This paper is a first attempt to understand the military and cultural logics on which the contemporary use of music as a weapon in torture and war is based. After briefly tracing the development of acoustic weapons in the late 20th century, and their deployment at the second battle of Falluja in November, 2004, I summarize what can be known about the theory and practice of using music to torture detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo. I contemplate some aspects of late 20th-century musical culture in the civilian US that resonate with the US security community’s conception of music as a weapon, and survey the way musical torture is discussed in the virtual world known as the blogosphere. Finally, I sketch some questions for further research and analysis.




( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 21st, 2007 12:35 pm (UTC)
God Bless America
All I have to say is this -- I should not be afraid at all. But I am deeply troubled by the rare glimpses into the inner workings of our World War on Dissent.

Now, since the FBI can wield "The Patriot Act" against American citizens residing domestically for crimes as broad and vague as copyright infringement, there is no protection from this kind of treatment for most Americans with a computer.

Sans habeus corpus. Indefinitely.

Call it a stretch if you will. But [insert analogy: "The Visible Portion or 'Tip' of the Iceberg"].

God bless America.
Nov. 21st, 2007 02:21 pm (UTC)
Re: God Bless America
Gosh-I-tire-of-hearing-my-opinion-on-this. I can't be the only one.
Nov. 21st, 2007 02:29 pm (UTC)
Re: God Bless America
Oh, you probably are... ;) Or others are just too shy/scared to speak up.
Nov. 21st, 2007 03:07 pm (UTC)
Re: God Bless America
I don't know. Hopefully not.
Nov. 21st, 2007 04:07 pm (UTC)
Re: God Bless America
You're not. hehe
Nov. 21st, 2007 04:09 pm (UTC)
Re: God Bless America
If I didn't suspect the same, I'd be inclined to disagree.
Nov. 21st, 2007 01:39 pm (UTC)
I've always been interested in the idea of acoustic bombardment. I think it's fascinating.

Let it be shown on the record that I count being forced to listen to Britney Spears as torture.
Nov. 21st, 2007 02:13 pm (UTC)
Fascinating and terrible. We are little children wielding these toys: we know not what we do. As a musician, the idea of perverting the use of music and making it an object of terror is extremely offensive to me. I know all too well how potent its power is, even when used for good.
Nov. 21st, 2007 02:43 pm (UTC)
I can say the same for words. As a writer, the idea of twisting language into propaganda and lies is extremely offensive to me. Anything can be perverted; sadly a product of our fallen world. =\
Nov. 21st, 2007 02:44 pm (UTC)
Nov. 21st, 2007 04:12 pm (UTC)
I agree!
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )