TunesDay: Can music violate the Geneva Conventions (or the 8th Amendment)?

Yow. If you missed the story, US PsyOps personnel are using music as a torture tactic on captives in Iraq. How silly, you say? Torture someone with music? Well, check out the playlist.

  1. “Fuck Your God” – Deicide
  2. “Die MF Die” – Dope
  3. “Take Your Best Shot” – Dope
  4. “White America” – Eminem
  5. “Kim” – Eminem
  6. “Barney Theme Song” – Barney
  7. “Bodies” – Drowning Pool
  8. “Enter Sandman” – Metallica
  9. “Meow Mix” jingle
  10. “Sesame Street Theme”
  11. “Babylon” – David Gray
  12. “Born in the USA” – Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
  13. “Shoot to Thrill” – AC/DC
  14. “Stayin’ Alive” – The Bee Gees
  15. “All Eyes on Me” – Tupac
  16. “Dirty” – Christina Aguilera
  17. “America” – Neil Diamond
  18. “Bulls on Parade” – Rage Against the Machine
  19. “American Pie” – Don McLean
  20. “Click Click Boom” – Saliva
  21. “Cold” – Matchbox 20
  22. “Swan Dive” – HedPE
  23. “Raspberry Beret” – Prince

Sweet fancy square-dancin’ Jesus.

Sergeant Mark Hadsell, of Psy Ops, told Newsweek magazine: “These people haven’t heard heavy metal.”

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.”

I’ll talk! I’ll talk! Anything you want to know! Just, please, for the love of all things sacred, no more Bee Gees.

A quick perusal of this mixtape from Hell no doubt presents you with some songs you kinda like, but the idea of hearing it over and over and over and over and over and over again? Damn, that would be like non-stop exposure to Rock 92 in Greensboro, only worse. Puts a whole new spin on the term “extreme rendition,” huh? (And by the way, years of exposure to said Rock 92 have me wondering how Bob Seger didn’t make the cut.)

Of course, the story gets better.

However, human rights organisation, Amnesty International, said such tactics may constitute torture – and coalition forces could be in breach of the Geneva Convention.

You think? Amnesty’s allegations have proponents of musical torture saying some pretty silly shit in defense of the approach, too.

Rick Hoffman, vice president of the Psy Ops Veterans Association, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that such a tactic would have no long-lasting effect on prisoners.

Bitch, please. I heard “Playground in My Mind” once back in the ’70s and I’m still in therapy.

Suffice it to say that I can see the merits of both arguments. On the one hand, I have no doubt that this is an effective no-touch interrogation technique. On the other, turning a guy’s brains to mush has to be a violation of something.

Still, guests at our detention facilities in Iraq should be happy that the program is being run by amateurs. Sure, the playlist above is a good one, but … it could be so much worse. If I were in charge, we might add a few things:

  • “It’s a Small World After All”
  • “Copacabana” – Barry Manilow
  • “Your Body is a Wonderland” – John Mayer (right about here is where the prisoner would begin begging for death)
  • “Achy Breaky Heart” – Billy Ray Cyrus
  • “The Chicken Dance”
  • “Da Da Da” – Trio
  • “Tom’s Diner” – Suzanne Vega (just the first couple measures on endless loop)
  • “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” – Meatloaf (actually, I’d just use the section where he repeats the title about 65 times in a row – on loop)
  • “The End” – The Doors (stop teasing me – please let it be the end)
  • Soundtrack from episode one of “Cop Rock”
  • “Hollaback Girl” – Gwen Stefani
  • “The Hamster Dance”
  • “Ice Ice Baby” – Vanilla Ice
  • “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” – William Shatner
  • “Someone’s Knockin’ at the Door” – Paul McCartney
  • “Muskrat Love” – Captain & Tennile
  • “The Macarena”
  • “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” – Vicki Lawrence
  • “Coconut” – Nilsson
  • “Mambo No. 5” – Lou Bega
  • “Glory of Love” – Chicago (hearing Peter Cetera sing the lines “I am a man / who will fight for your honor” will make the detainee laugh so hard he’ll hack up his own gall bladder)
  • “Two Princes” – Spin Doctors (especially effective if captives are from a culture that has invented musical phrasing)
  • “Mr. Roboto” – Styx
  • “Hot Rod Lincoln” – Commander Cody & the Lost Planet Airmen
  • “The Star-Spangled Banner” – Roseanne Barr
  • “The Star-Spangled Banner” – Carl Lewis
  • Any five-second snippet of Mariah Carey hitting her dog-slayer note – on a loop
  • “YMCA” – The Village People
  • “Mickey” – Toni Basil
  • “I’m Too Sexy” – Right Said Fred
  • “What’s Up?” – 4 Non-Blondes (Jesus, I just threw up in my mouth a little)
  • “Don’t Worry Be Happy” – Bobby McFerrin (also effective when torturing captives with irony)
  • “If You’re Happy and You Know It”
  • “Kumbaya” – any youth praise choir in America

I could go on. Literally – I’m not even getting warmed up yet.

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that if we could put a satellite with insanely powerful speakers in low orbit over the Middle East, we could use a playlist like this to blast them evil Arab terrorists into permanent submission in a matter of days.

Of course, at that point we’d probably be in violation of some space-based weaponry treaty or another…

Thanks to Dr. Mike Pecaut for the story tip and links.

26 replies »

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  2. At the risk of initiating a “song that causes pain” war, I’d suggest a couple of additions for your list:

    “Feelings” – Morris Alpert
    “The Pina Colada Song” – Rupert Holmes

    You know, now that I think about it, one could simply play old episodes of Casey Kasem’s show…that should do it….

  3. Great playlist and suggestions.
    More suggestions:

    The Trashmen – Surfin’ Bird
    Bryan Hyland – Itsy Bitsy Yellow Polka Dot Bikini
    Cookie Monster – C Is For Cookie
    And ANYTHING sung by Wing

  4. What about the (Jefferson?) Starship all time classic “We Built this City on Rock and Roll?”
    And where’s the Toby Kieth?
    I also think these two should be included:

  5. Yes, LibrariPagan, Celene Dion will induce madness. But if we’re talking about a full psychic split, Mariah Carey’s your lady.

    A commenter to this article on one of the social network sites took Dr. S. to task for even joking about this. Let me clear about this: Mariah Carey should be reserved for use on members of the Bush administration.

  6. “Yes, LibrariPagan, Celene Dion will induce madness. But if we’re talking about a full psychic split, Mariah Carey’s your lady”

    Point taken… but can you imagine if they ever do a duet?

    Topping the charts (of mental anguish)!

  7. LP: I doubt that divas like that would consent to a duet.

    Meanwhile here’s quote I referrred to by one Fontleroy at

    What is truly horrifying is the list of SUGGESTED songs for torture. How can this be? If you are blogging about an atrocity and then you turn around, tongue in check and list twice as many more songs. WTF?

  8. I agree that a Mariah and Celene duet would be a back breaker. That’s just not even fair.

    That said, Van Halen “Panama” deserves a spot on the easy listening list there. I want to see Bush and Cheney after 48 hours of listening to that.

  9. It probably wouldn’t work on terrorists, but if I was subjected to Pat Boone’s “In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy,” I’d lose it. A swingin Crazy Train just ain’t right.

    Here’s a few more “artists” to add to your list Twisted Sister, Boy George, Villi Manilli, and who ever sings that damned Umbru-ella song thats on the charts now.

  10. Music and sounds have always been tools in the PSYOP arsenal. They’re used in deception, force multiplication, diversion, and other operations.

    In interrogation and detainee situations, music and sounds are used to demoralize and disorient captives, or to “break” a captive’s resistance to cooperation. Additionally, music and sounds work well to block out potentially unique background sounds that could provide a captive with knowledge of his current location, or other outside sounds that might provide information that we would rather the captive didn’t have.

  11. Makes sense to me. 🙂 I think Otep and Marylin Manson might find it a bit ironic, though. Hehehe.

  12. I can personally attest to the ability of Mambo #5 to destroy the will to even live. Back in the mid/late 90’s, when Western pop culture was so new and all to Russians, there was something like a five month stretch where every store, every minibus, every bar…really everywhere…was playing that damned song. I never did find just the right rusty instrument for puncturing my own eardrums…but i thought about it.

    Binge and Purge by Clutch should be on any torture mix tape. Though i wouldn’t make it through the first playing of American Pie before i said whatever was wanted.

  13. Who Stole The Ding-Dong, Who Stole The Bell? by Liberace and his brother. Alice in Wonderland, by Neil Sedaka. The Little White Cloud That Cried, by Johnny Ray. Puppy Love, by whatever kid sang it. Mr. Sandman. Ballin’ The Jack, by Guy Lombardo. The list could be almost infinite…

  14. Dr. Slammy, I am thankin every god in every pantheon there is right now that you are not in charge of interrogations anywhere. Dude, “Someone’s Knocking at the Door” + “Muskrat Love” + “Achy Breaky Heart” + “Copacabana”? You are in defiance of the Geneva Conventions and should be prosecuted at Den Hague. Seriously.

  15. There is a song missing, Crash Test Dummies “Mmm mmm mmm mmm”.

    Put that song in repetition and expect a mass suicide.

    “Oooonce there was this kiiiiiiiid whooooooooo
    Got into an accident and couldn’t come to schoooooooool
    But wheeeeeeeen he finally caaaame baaaack
    His har had turned from black into briiiiight whiiiiiite
    He said that it was from when
    The cars had smashed him soooooooo haaaaaaaard”

    Now, that was painful to read, wasn’t it? Imagine it on repeat for 5 days nonstop. That’s mental torture.

  16. While i think the incredibly catchy/annoying melodies idea is great, wouldn’t it be better to subject them to something more…noisy? Say some ridiculous Scandinavian ultra br00tal death metal or something. As much as Its a small world after all would make me want to rip my ears off, i think the screamo would be much worse.

  17. You know, looking at your list again, I wonder how many of those were fine listening to them the first dozen times, but after hearing them over and over and over again they became torture. Because I like many of them in small doses, but could totally see how I’d come to want to tear my ears off if I heard them four or 10 times a day on the radio or in a college bar.