The Dark Side of Music:
Music as a Tool of Torture
Kingsborough Community College
The Dark Side of Music: Music as a Tool of Torture
Music is more fundamental to human life and to our identity as a species than most of us realize. It not only touches the heart, but also establishes the implicit humanity and sensitivity, which has separated man from animal. Music has the ability and power to influence human thoughts and behaviors. It is used to soothe, to hype up, to educate, for entertainment, as a medium to remember the information, for medical purposes, and so much more. Music is used in many ways to improve the lives of people. It is so influential that it can ...view middle of the document...
Through examining many researches and studies, this paper looks at complexities surrounding the use of music as a tool of torture, and its neurological as well as psychological effects on humans.
Although this concept came to mainstream attention only around 1989, when US troops blast loud music to induce Panamanian president Manuel Norriega’s to surrender, the concept of music torture is by no means new. It was used in the past to make prisoners confess of their guilt, and induce horror, dread and despair. We have evidence of it being practiced in the ancient times in torture chambers in combination with other sadistic techniques. (Basoglu et al., 2007) Perhaps, it has a longer history than what we can prove at this moment. Music torture is practiced in many other countries including US. In fact, the use of acoustic bombardment has become standard practice in US to torture detainees of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo. The most recent and scandalous practice of music torture as well as other interrogation techniques in US were held under G. W. Bush administration at Guantanamo Bay detention camps after 9/11 attack.
Many interrogators from Guantanamo Bay were trained by Survival-Evasion-Resistance-Escape instructors. SERE was a program designed to train military personnel who had been caught as prisoners to survive torture during questioning if they were to be caught by an enemy. Military personnel went through a program of beatings, starvation, stress positions, being stripped naked and thrown into small cages for days (US Congress, 2008). Initially SERE was designed to train members of the US military to resist enhanced interrogation techniques if they were to be captured and tortured, in order to avoid making a false confession. However, in 2002, Bruce Jessen, a SERE psychologist started using SERE tactics to use by interrogators against Guantanamo detainees (US Congress, 2008).
The implication that these torture methods used by SERE and other US military personnel are somehow softer or easier to withstand than traditional methods is an interesting but dangerous fallacy. The persistent misconception of music being more civilized and humane torture tool clearly demand further clarification. From neurological point of view such psychological torture techniques have severely damaging effects on biology of the human brain. Dr. Claudio Catani (2008) explains that these are so called non-injurious or no-touch techniques can result in a loss of brain form by constraining the rebirth of brain cells. They can also produce abnormal slow wave activity in the brain, which indicates brain malfunction. Researchers have documented that such techniques can cause damage of the hippocampus which plays an important role in three-dimensional navigation and long-term memory.
Sound environment plays a vital role in the ability of the brain to control the nervous system, to send and receive billions of nerve characters, convert signals into mental imageries, and...