Music as “torture” at Club Gitmo

Once upon a time, the word ‘torture’ meant the real deal. Nowadays, using the language of ‘warfare by other means’, the pawns of our enemies have expanded the meaning of ‘torture’ to encompass such things as playing loud music.

Reportedly this includes making prisoners listen to Britney Spears (OK, this isn’t just torture but a crime against music), to the ‘Barney and Friends’ theme song (admittedly a crime against the huge manatee), to REM,… These artists have their undies in a knot over this and are planning to include moments of silence in their concerts. This should be encouraged, I believe — to be extended over the whole concert.

Not everybody thinks that way. Metal is traditionally a genre that’s fairly tolerant of artists with right-wing views, and “Drowning Pool’s bassist said he’s honored his music ‘could be used to quell another 9/11.'”

Metallica frontman James Hetfield had some fun with the interviewer in this clip. (The Gitmo question starts at about 4m45s in, where the video should start.) He basically says he feels proud the band’s music is so powerful that it might be used for this purpose, but stresses that the band’s lyrics try to remain apolitical. Also, that making him listen to Arabic music would undoubtedly be torture to him.

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One thought on “Music as “torture” at Club Gitmo

  1. I’m currently watching a documentary called “Heavy Metal in Baghdad,” about a metal band composed of young Iraqis that managed to survive and thrive during the last 8 years.

    It’s pretty interesting — these guys are totally swept up in American culture, and love everything about heavy metal — they even learned how to speak English by watching metal videos. And thought they claim to be totally apolitical, the very fact that they like American culture is a political statement of its own.

    Two interesting details from the movie:

    Saddam’s secret police wouldn’t let them perform concerts unless they played at least one song that was an out-and-out paean to Saddam. Otherwise, their sound permit would be denied. The fillmmakers even showed a clip of the band singing pro-Saddam lyrics, which the band members laughed at, and said was “total shit” and “all lies” in order to survive. So, although they claimed to be apolitical, you could tell that they actually preferred the violence-wracked Baghdad with its ideological freedoms to the “safer” but repressive Saddam-era Baghdad.

    Also, they were disappointed that few of their fans would engage in the traditional “head-banging” of metal concerts – – for the most insane reason: Arab metalheads apparently think that headbanging too closely resembles the “davening” prayer rocking back-and-forth of Orthodox Jews, and are fearful that if seen doing “headbanging” during a concert, they’ll be accused of being Jewish. Wow. Anti-semitism apparently runs VERY deep i n Arab culture.

    Anyway, back to the point: Heavy metal need not necessarily be “torture” to Arabs, because at least these guys and their fan base would actually enjoy a bit of Metallica. It all just comes down to cultural preferences. So to call it “torture” is patently absurd, and is no more torture than me being forced to to listen to CNN pundits on the blaring TV at the airport lounge, or hideous Hanna Montana Christmas carols, or any number of involuntary auditory experiences every day.

    Unless we’re talking about what Lord Peter Whimsey experienced in “The Nine Tailors,” it’s not torture.

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